How can I get a job in the Civil Service?

Written by Kim Bailey, Careers Consultant at the Careers Service

What are the main routes into working for the Civil Service?

Fast Stream

The Fast Stream is described as the ‘fastest route to real leadership,’ and is typically a three year programme where you move round departments, working on varied projects.

Sadie graduated from the University of Manchester in 2017 with BSc (Hons) Management and is now on the Project Delivery Fast Stream

“The best thing about the Fast Stream is the wide variety of roles, teams and departments that you will be involved in, whilst being given responsibility to work on projects that make a real difference in society. My first placement was in HMRC working on the EU-EXIT Contingency Programme within Customs and Borders. Following this, I went on secondment to a women’s charity and became responsible for progressing their regional development strategy and opening a centre in a new city. The scheme is challenging due to the diversity of roles, but it is always rewarding and ensures I am continually developing new skills and capabilities.”

Some of you may have applied for the Fast Stream last semester, but try not to be too downhearted if you didn’t get in this time, as the Fast Stream had 40,570 applications last year for 1,330 vacancies. It is very common for students to try again in subsequent years and have more chance of success with more work experience under their belts. If you want to apply in 2019, for a Sep/Oct 2020 start you can pre-register your details here for a notification when the application window opens, which is highly recommended so you don’t miss out

Direct Entry

However, a less frequently known route is to enter the Civil Service by applying directly for a job here You may choose this route for many different reasons. Perhaps you want to ‘try before you buy’ and get some exposure to the Civil Service before you apply for the Fast Stream, or you want to gain more experience before applying for the Fast Stream a second time, which you can do as an internal candidate.

Or perhaps the Fast Stream isn’t of interest to you and you want to know about alternatives. A little known fact is that once you get your foot in the door and get your first job at the Civil Service, all the internal vacancies will be open for you, meaning you can create your own path in the Civil Service, and move onto new jobs at a pace you are comfortable with.

Ben is currently studying his MSc in International Disaster Management at the University of Manchester on a career break from the Civil Service, where he works in the Crown Commercial Service

“For me, direct entry has worked perfectly. I wanted to develop a career in my own vision rather than on a set programme. Direct entry has allowed me to develop skills that will be crucial as I progress in my career, in commercial and project management, but also soft skills such as building relationships with your managers and colleagues, public speaking, and networking. Also, holding a permanent role has allowed me to become a specialist in my area of work and make great contacts in the sector. Importantly, building these strong relationships allowed me to take a year off to study for my Masters here at Manchester – if I was on the Fast Stream this may have been less certain. Direct entry is great if you are driven and want flexibility in your future options – if you put the work in, you can go to the very top – and the first step is to get your foot in the door!”


Keep your eye out for internships to gain experience! The Civil Service Fast Stream offers an Early Diversity Internship and a Summer Diversity Internship Programme and you’ll need to check eligibility to apply. However, many departments across the entirety of the Civil Service offer internships too, but you’ll need to check regularly to find them!

Events on Campus

Want some exposure to the Civil Service this semester? These two opportunities are open to all students!

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Roadshow, 19 February 13:00-15:00

  • Would you like the opportunity to live and work overseas? Would you like to work at the cutting edge of Government policy? Are you looking for a challenging and rewarding career? Then the FCO could be for you…!
  • Panel Session with diplomats and FCO staff: 13.00-14.00
  • Informal networking opportunity and skills workshop: 14.00-15.00
  • Confirm your attendance here and use the following password: FCO@manchester2019

Behind the Black Door: Win a trip to Westminster, competition takes place on campus 06 March 13:00-17:00 but you need to APPLY by 22nd February

Behind the black door 2019 digi screen jpeg.jpg

  • Now into its fifth successive year, enter this competition to win a day in Westminster, exploring Britain’s corridors of power and meeting Senior Civil Service professionals. You’ll even get the chance to stand in front of the famous No.10 Downing Street door! Trip to be held during Easter break (date TBC)
  • Working in teams, students will be given a real life government problem to solve and suggest a solution for. Apply as an individual or as a team of 5 people (no more, no less) by sending a written statement stating why you want to take part to by midnight on Friday 22nd February (max 250 words for individuals, max 500 words for teams)
  • Search CareersLink events, event ID 5126 for more information

One of our former winners said:

“I would sincerely recommend applying to this competition because it offers a great opportunity to understand what a career in the civil service entails and the variety of roles available. The trip to Downing Street is a great experience (particularly standing outside of No. 10). And the competition itself is interesting, thought-provoking, and fun”.

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