How to become a MI5 Security Service Personnel. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about MI5 careers.
What does a MI5 security service personnel do?
The Security Service protects the UK against threats to national security. This means working to safeguard the economic well-being of the country, and to counter threats from:
- terrorism (national and international)
- serious crime
- proliferation – attempts to acquire materials, technology and expertise which could be used to develop chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
The Service also provides security advice for key national infrastructure such as power, water and transport systems.
You could work in a variety of roles within the Service, including:
- surveillance officer – watching and reporting on the movements and actions of people under investigation
- intelligence officer – using intelligence data to assess and investigate threats to national security
- linguist – translating and transcribing intelligence information from intercepted telephone calls, emails and post, and interpreting its political and cultural context
- IT specialist – providing protection and IT support to the government’s computer systems, networks and communication systems.
You could also work in a number of specialist posts as well as support roles such as administrator, security guard, driver and building services personnel. Visit the MI5 Careers website for more details about all job roles.
In most surveillance and some investigative and support roles, you would work a shift rota which can include weekends. You may need to work extra hours during certain operations, although this may be followed by quieter periods.
Most jobs are based in London, although some national or international travel may be involved.
How much does a MI5 Security Service Personnel earn?
Starting salaries can be between £24,500 and £41,00 a year, depending on previous experience and specific job role .
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Entry Requirements for MI5
To work for the Security Service, you need to meet strict residency and nationality criteria and you must be at least age 18. There may also be additional requirements you need to meet which are specific to the job you are applying for. For example:
- surveillance officers – you will need a full driving licence but you do not need any formal qualifications as recruitment is based on personal qualities and work experience
- intelligence officers – you will normally need a degree in any subject at grade 2:1 (a lower classification may be considered if you have three years’ relevant work experience)
- linguists – your language ability will be tested during the selection process; preferred languages include Arabic, Sorani, Pushto, Somali, Dari, Kurdish Central and Tamil
- IT specialists – the experience and IT ability you need will vary according to the job role, and you will need to pass the service’s IT test
- administrative and clerical jobs – you will need at least two years’ relevant experience.
For further details see the MI5 Careers website.
Training and Development
All new staff attend an initial induction which lasts for up to eight days. Most roles involve on-the-job training and programmes of professional development.
If you start as a surveillance officer, you will also complete a 75-day course that tests your mental and physical ability. You must pass this phase in order to remain in your post and move on to the professional training stage. It can take around two years to be considered fully competent in a surveillance role. You could go on to specialise in an area such as photography.
Your training as a linguist would include a mixture of on-the-job and classroom-based training, and you would also learn to use specialist language centre equipment.
Whichever post you are in, you will be encouraged throughout your career to attend further internal or external training courses to keep your skills and knowledge up to date.
Skills and Knowledge
- personal integrity, honesty and discretion
- openness to new ideas and ways of working
- a flexible approach to duties
- the ability to make decisions
- the initiative to work alone and as part of team
- excellent communication skills
- the ability to recall and record events accurately
- balanced judgement
- an awareness of your own self development, training and support needs.
The Security Service employs around 3,000 people. For current vacancies and information on how to apply, please visit the MI5 Careers website.
Your ability to progress within the Service will depend on the needs of the organisation as well as your performance record, skills and potential to work at a higher level.
You may also be interested in the work of similar agencies, such as MI6 (also known as the Secret Intelligence Service or SIS) and GCHQ.