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About GCHQ

Company HQ location: Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Other locations: Bude, Cornwall;

Industry: Public Sector

No of employees: 6000

Our company in a nutshell

Our Mission is to keep Britain safe. We bring intelligence and technology together to counter more and more sophisticated threats. GCHQ intelligence helps keep our forces safe, prevents terrorism and crime, and defends against cyber attack.

It takes a variety of different people in different roles to help us to achieve that. Some are linguists; others are mathematicians. Some work in cryptography; others in project management. Some hold PhDs, others A-levels. Simply put, everyone here is different. What unites us is our dedication to providing intelligence, protecting information and informing relevant policy to keep UK society safe, secure and successful.

It’s complex, technically challenging work that demands a range of dedicated people. People who are enthusiastic about tackling interesting and varied projects. People with the creative intellect and energy to develop the right solutions. And people with a commitment to protecting existing systems and defending against evolving threats.

As a graduate, you’re welcome to apply for any of our roles – check out our current vacancies to see if any of them appeal to you.

We also run our Future Leaders Programme:

This is a unique leadership development programme – intensive, challenging, rigorous and hugely diverse. You’ll gain experience and knowledge of the work we do at GCHQ, while developing your skills and competencies, by taking a sequence of challenging business placements, each taking 6-12 months. We offer world-class training and mentoring support, as well as hands-on experience working on complex projects. The full programme can last up to five years. If you hold at least a 2:2 undergraduate degree in any subject or a postgraduate certificate (PGC) with a business or management focus, you will be a eligible to apply for a place on this sought-after programme.

Life at GCHQ for graduates

As a graduate at GCHQ, you can expect to work on Challenging projects, receiving early responsibility, outstanding professional development and a series of unique experiences. Some positions require a specific technical degree. Other roles, including our leadership development scheme, are open to graduates from any discipline. No matter which route you join us, we can offer you a rewarding and challenging career in a supportive culture.

At GCHQ, we believe that success depends on great minds not thinking alike. Our work depends on the constant sharing of knowledge and developing fresh ideas. Therefore our collaborative approach identifies people’s individual strengths, respects their expertise and supports them to develop a variety of innovative solutions.

You will discover an atmosphere which encourages open minds and attitudes, supported by a welfare and benefits structure that allows you to be at your best. From extensive training and development that enables you to grow your skills, to the flexibility to explore a variety of roles, and the tools and technologies that enable you to do your job effectively, we’ll assist you to achieve your full potential.


Flexible Working

Broad range of Health and Support services available

We are an Investor in People (IIP), and offer extensive learning and development to support your specific role.

We also encourage our people to explore new opportunities, offering the appropriate training.

Case studies

Graduate Researcher

I was primarily attracted to GCHQ by the opportunity to continue researching and work with applications that matter in the real world. There are plenty of training opportunities… and I’ve had the chance to learn an enormous amount, both in terms of technical skills, such as new programming languages… and broader skills, like learning to tailor my research to produce the best outcome for the business.

It’s been a steep learning curve… especially as I didn’t know a huge amount about the very technical side. You need to pick up technical skills… the subject expertise… and an understanding of how the business works, all at the same time… which can be a bit overwhelming. But fortunately, everyone’s very understanding and supportive. The nature of the work means you have to keep an eye on what’s going on, too… But there’s a huge number of resources to help you, from news articles to formal training, or talking to experts around the department – and the world!

Everyone in my team and the department have been very friendly and encouraging. They’ve given me a lot of on-the-job training to supplement my formal training courses. And the buddy scheme means there’s always someone there to answer your stupid questions… which always helps when you’re new and trying to make a good impression! My managers have also been great at supporting other things I’ve got involved with, such as outreach and diversity activities.

I think the main thing you need as a graduate here is a willingness and ability to learn. However much of an expert you are, things move on so quickly that everyone has to keep learning and doing new things. But I think the thing that’s most impressed and surprised me is just how much we actually do! Out of necessity, a lot of what we do goes unreported and unrecognised, so it’s not until you join that you discover just how wide-ranging and important our work actually is.

Future Leaders Programme

I joined GCHQ in December 2013 on the Future Leaders Programme. I really wanted to work within security and intelligence, having studied Languages and International Relations, but more than anything I wanted to ensure my work had wider purpose. It was important for me that my work contributed to protecting national security – stopping terrorists, serious criminals and cyber criminals from attacking the UK is a real motivator.

I applied under the Future Leaders Programme to both develop my leadership potential, and gain a broad view of GCHQ’s activities.

Through this programme, I’ve been able to experience life as an analyst, as a staff officer to a senior official informing national cyber policy, and have worked alongside some of our brightest technical minds. I’ve since built on my analytical background to undertake a series of operational management roles, most recently leading counter-terrorist operations. I’ve even experienced the corporate side of GCHQ’s business, which has helped me understand the valuable behind-the-scenes work that goes on, without which GCHQ wouldn’t be able to function.

Being on the programme has allowed me to build credibility in operations, where I aspire to have a senior leadership position in the future, it has also allowed me to experience other aspects of GCHQ work, and meet a whole range of talented and committed people along the way.

The programme is fast-paced and challenging, and you’re constantly pushed to keep learning and developing. I’ve found the rest of the Future Leaders community really friendly and helpful, and we’re also supported by mentors and buddies, which helps you settle in. There’s also a bespoke programme of training and development, which helps you understand the context in which GCHQ operates. The programme offers a whole range of varied opportunities both within and outside Cheltenham, and also offers flexible working. I’ve found it a really good grounding in intelligence and I’m proud to contribute to GCHQ’s mission.

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