Becoming a spy in the UK

How do you become a spy in the UK?

How amazing would it be to become a spy? Using the coolest technological gadgets, driving the most expensive supercars in the world, or drinking martinis at the bar wearing a fancy tailored suit…

Well, forget all you’ve seen in the movies and tv shows: none of that is remotely close to what a real secret agent does. Still up for the task? Then read our handy guide that outlines the ways you can become a spy in the UK.

Spy central – MI6, MI5 and GCHQ: What’s the difference?

There are three intelligence agencies operating in the United Kingdom and, even though each one does their own thing, they all work very closely together.

MI6, also known as the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service), is responsible for gathering data and information outside the UK. MI5, commonly known as the Secret Service, deals with threats to national security, and GQCH, the Government Communications Headquarters, is in charge of securing the UK’s communications and everything related to cyber-security. 

ITB MI6 spy HQ in London

How do I get into the UK Intelligence Service agencies?

So, you’ve made up your mind and decided to go for a job as a spy, great! But what’s next? Are there any impossible tasks to complete, like getting a silver hair from an extinct unicorn or fighting a shaolin Kung Fu master on a mountain in Tibet?

Nope, none of that. In fact, the application process is quite straightforward. Simply go to their website, check out their vacancy positions to see if your skills could fit with what they’re looking for and apply for it! 

Just be aware: the process could take a long, long time. After all, you have to be fully vetted. In other words, they have to make sure you haven’t been up to no good, like stealing Creme Eggs from Tesco.

Are there any special requirements to work for MI16 and MI5?

Due to the sensitive nature of the job, there are a few requirements to meet if you apply. These can vary from agency to agency but to cover the basics: be a British citizen (born or naturalised), at least 18 years old, must have been living in the UK for a minimum of 10 years. You also have to go through a rigorous security clearance (that could take up to 9 months, so be aware!).

Last but not least: remember that discretion is the key to success. There’s no going to social media boasting about your “spy job application” or bragging in front of your mates.

Spies come from all walks of life

Spies come from all walks of life

What type of person do they recruit?

We know what’s going through your head right now: “Why would they choose me? I’m sure they’re already full of super smart and bright graduates from the UK’s best universities, or people who worked in prestigious companies”. That couldn’t be further from the truth! As long as you have the right skills, you could be the perfect candidate!

For example, MI5 states on their recruitment website that the agency aims to recruit talented and unique individuals from a range of different backgrounds and cultures, which, in return, provides them with more diverse contributions, perspectives and working styles. 

What sort of work would I be doing as a spy?

There are loads of different roles the intelligence agencies are looking to fill. Some of the jobs are for graduates only, whilst others are specifically designed for applicants with more experience in specific fields. 

Roles are varied, covering everything from Language Analysis and IT services, to Human Resources and Project Management. So the real answer is: absolutely anything, because there are so many different career paths you could potentially follow.

The work of a modern spy

Any extra perks if I become an intelligence agency employee?

If being a secret agent wasn’t cool enough already, the intelligence services also offer some great benefits to their staff. 

First of all, employees are given (almost) full autonomy when it comes to their careers and most of them move jobs every 2-3 years, with the possibility to change to a totally different role. 

They offer a flexible working policy to help you balance your personal and family life, as well as great training and development programs to expand your skills. 

Become a spy…for the day

There you have it, the perfect guide to help you through the first steps to become the next greatest spy in history. 

We know that a secret agent’s life is not for everyone, so don’t feel guilty if you just prefer to go for a one day spy experience instead. Just remember, it’s not all drinking Martini’s (shaken, not stirred) and introducing yourself with your last name first!

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