Do you want to fight hackers and cyber terrorists? How to work for GCHQ
Reckon you could take on the hackers and recognise terror threats before the bad guys have a chance to strike?
Then maybe a career with GCHQ is for you.
GCHQ, or Government Communications Headquarters, is tasked with keeping Britain safe from cyber attacks and using technology to find the warning signs. You’d be taking on hackers, searching communication networks for evidence of organised crime and catching fraudsters in the act.
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Think you need an Oxbridge degree to join the service? Maybe not, there is no template for GCHQ staff
GCHQ says it takes “all sorts of different people in different roles to keep the country safe”.
“Some are linguists; others are mathematicians. Some work in cryptography; others in project management. Some have PhDs, others have A-levels. Some of them have worked in this field before; others haven’t come close. Put simply, 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.”
Well here’s what you’ll need to do.
DON’T TELL ANYONE
GCHQ, like the other intelligence services, asks applicants to keep quiet about their mission to join the service. If you must tell anyone, restrict it to close family, and don’t shout about it on social media.
Your life will be put under the microscope
Clearly, as you’d be working for a Government security department, you can expect a rigorous background check after applying.
They will look into your character, family history and personal circumstances. It’s safe to assume they can find out a lot about you, so if you’re confident that you’ve lived a clean, crime-free life and have no skeletons in your closet, apply away. The process takes around three months.
GCHQ says: “We’ll assess your risk of being put in a compromising position due to conscience or undue influence, and our security process includes a criminal records check as well as a drugs test. You’ll also need to complete a number of questionnaires covering your medical record and to ensure you meet our Developed Vetting requirements. Developed Vetting is the highest level of security clearance in the UK.”
They take drug use very seriously, and you can’t get top security clearance if you’ve recently taken illegal drugs or psychoactive substances.
Other things which won’t work in your favour
- If you have an addiction for gambling or alcohol and have been treated in the last year
- If you suffer from bipolar disorder or a psychotic illness
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- Have been made bankrupt
Do I have to be British?
Yes, UK nationality is essential, and at least one of your parents must also be a citizen, have a clear connection to the UK, or be a citizen of a country that is “favourable disposed” towards Britain.
If your spouse isn’t a British citizen, your case will be judged on your partner’s ties to Britain.
It is also preferable to have been living in the UK for the 10 years before you apply, but there are exceptions for armed forces service, Government work abroad, studying away or living overseas with your parents.
Where is GCHQ based?
Its headquarters are in Cheltenham, in the “Doughnut” building.
Elsewhere, GCHQ is based in Bude, Cornwall; Harrogate and Scarborough, Yorkshire; and Manchester.
What roles are there?
GCHQ has sample tests for each role on its website. Visit to see if you have the brains: www.gchq-careers.co.uk/life-at-gchq.html
Mathematics and cryptography
Technology and Engineering
Computer Network Operations