What is a Civil Servant?


Civil servants are the unsung heroes of government and the backbone of running a country. They advise elected officials on policy and work with them to implement these policies. Working in a wide range of government departments, they work on solving the problems that today’s society faces. Civil servants can work in everything from Healthcare and Education, to Transport and Energy.

As a civil servant you are expected to remain politically neutral and provide impartial advice and guidance to the elected officials of the public you serve. Policy creation, evaluation, and research is a large part of the job of a civil servant and so an attention to detail, a logical mindset and a hardworking attitude are crucial to success.

The British Parliament buildings, Palace of Westminster

What subjects do you need to become a Civil Servant?

There are many departments within which civil servants work, and each department will require people with different skill-sets, so you can enter the civil service with expertise in any subject. Scientists and artists alike are valuable assets to the service, so you really can study whatever subjects most interest you. Just think about what area of the civil service you might like to work in and tailor the subjects you study to be relevant to that area.

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How do I become a Civil Servant?


Becoming a civil servant is extremely competitive, particularly at graduate level. The UK Civil Service offers a Fast Stream placement for up to 1,000 graduates each year with a 2:2 degree or higher. This scheme offers successful candidates a four year training programme consisting of placements in various departments leading to a fast-tracked leadership position upon completion of the training. The application process for the Fast Stream is a long and drawn-out process involving initial assessments, online testing and video interviews, assessment centres, and final interviews. With 20,000 applicants each year, it is an extremely competitive process and so many highly intelligent and competent individuals just miss out on the opportunity.

However, the Fast Stream is not the only way into the Civil Service as a graduate. The Civil Service is a big recruiter and many graduates apply through a more traditional job application process. They enter with a slightly lower seniority status than Fast Streamers but opportunities for promotion and personal development are just as great, with employees quickly catching up with (and overtaking) their Fast Stream colleagues. The main difference is that by applying through a more traditional route you work within a particular department, whereas as a Fast Streamer you are on a pre-determined rotation. Both systems have their pros and cons but ultimately lead to the same end-goal.

You can also enter the Civil Service without a degree. They offer a Fast Track Apprenticeship scheme where school leavers complete a two-year, Level 4 higher apprenticeship whilst being paid a sizeable salary and learning on the job. Upon completion, many apprentices go on to take up roles higher up in the Civil Service. It can be an excellent way in to an exciting career.

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The Gherkin building in London
civil servant team work
Big Ben London