graphic illustration with people profiles and infographics multi-coloured

This is a
CyberFirst
World

Let’s open it up

We live in a digital age. Technology powers everything from phones and laptops to hospitals, airports and banks. To defend the UK, we need to defend that digital world – so the UK government are training young people like you to become future cyber security specialists.

Cyber security might sound like a secretive sector. But the truth is, we’re a diverse network of supportive people – both tech and non-tech roles – united by our mission to keep the UK safe and protect the world we love. And with our university bursaries and degree apprenticeships, you can join us.

Who are CyberFirst?

Like our film says, our digital world needs a new generation to defend it. Enter CyberFirst: a government outreach and education programme run by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ. Together with industry and government members from Tesco to IBM; from HMRC to the Bank of England, we’re training the next generation of cyber security specialists, offering wide-ranging opportunities for students aged 11-19. Our degree apprenticeships and university bursaries are just one part, and you can find out more about us.

Some of our industry members

The university bursary

Applying to study a degree in 2021? Or already at university, with at least two years of full-time study left to go in September 2021? Put your studies to good use on our university bursary programme.
First, you’ll get £4,000 per university year, tax-free. It’s not means-tested, so you can apply no matter your financial situation. You’ll use the money on whatever you need – whether it’s buying the latest laptop or to help you pay your rent.
Then, there’s your work experience. You’ll spend each summer at our CyberFirst Academy or building your network on eight-week placements with government bodies or well-known industry brands. You could pick anywhere from GCHQ to Rolls Royce to Lloyds – and you’ll be paid an extra £2,000 for your summer work, with a contribution to your accommodation and living costs too.
All sound great so far? Here’s the cherry on the top. When you graduate, we’ll look to place you in a degree-level cyber security role in government or industry. So, from your first year onward, you’re working towards a career path you can be proud of.
The key facts
  • The bursary isn’t means-tested: you can apply no matter your financial situation
  • The bursary is flexible – you can be studying or planning to study any degree course at any UK university
  • You don’t need to be a tech genius or know how to code: if you have the ability, our Academy gives everyone that foundation knowledge
  • With industry members from Thales to Airbus, you’ll work with well-respected brands
What you’ll need
  • You don’t need to be a coder, but you do need the drive and aptitude to protect our digital world
  • Our bursary students must have UK national or dual UK national status
  • We look for exam grades or predictions of BBB at A Level (or equivalent to 120 UCAS points) in any subject, as well as a GCSE (or equivalent) in Maths at 6 or above
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The bursary scheme opens a lot of doors, and it’s made applying for graduate jobs so much easier. The hands-on experience and support is invaluable.”

Aliya, Bursary student

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It’s been so nice joining a community of experts who treat all us students as equals – and, of course, the £4,000 bursary has been beyond helpful.”

Ethan, Bursary student

The degree apprenticeship

About to leave school and wondering what to do next? On the CyberFirst degree apprenticeship, it isn’t about choosing between university and work. With us, you’ll have both: you’ll get a paying job with a prestigious organisation and you’ll earn your degree for free too.
We make sure you’re well-supported financially while you work for us. For a start, you’ll earn around £20,000 a year in your new role. Then, at the same time, we’ll also pay the tuition fees of your degree. So, you’re earning from the start, and you can avoid student debt too.
You’ll be working for GCHQ; the UK’s largest intelligence agency and a leading organisation in the cyber security field. With plenty of support and mentoring, you’ll protect our digital world, pick up practical skills as you go, and get a lifelong career off to a flying start.
At the same time, you’ll also be studying for a cyber security degree, with all your tuition fees paid for by us. Over three years, you’ll cement your day‑to‑day work with academic study – and at the end, you’ll earn the same kind of degree any university student would get.

But how will you balance your degree and your work? Well, you’ll complete a series of learning and work placements. Some might be completed virtually at home and some might be at our sites in Cheltenham, Manchester or Scarborough. It means variety in what you do, where you work and study, and the chance to grasp both the academic and the practical sides of your role.

The key thing is, at every step, you’ll have our full support as you learn and grow, both in your role and in your course.
It’s a strong start to your career and it doesn’t stop there: if you complete your degree apprenticeship and are successful in gaining your degree then, subject to business needs, you may be offered a full-time role when you finish, with either GCHQ or the NCSC.
The key facts
  • You’ll gain a BSc (Hons) degree in Cyber Security from a respected UK university, with no tuition fees to pay
  • You’ll earn a starting salary of around £20,000 a year, working on live projects for GCHQ
  • You get exactly the same degree as any university student – but with the advantage of extensive work experience
  • With plenty of paths and a constantly evolving industry, your career has huge potential
What you’ll need
  • You don’t need to be a coding genius: in fact, you don’t even need to know how to code yet, but you do need to have the aptitude and be willing to learn
  • You need the drive and passion to learn to protect our digital world
  • Our degree apprentices must have UK national or dual UK national status
  • You usually need to have been resident in the UK for ten years before applying (but we do assess each case individually)
  • We look for exam predictions of BBC at A Level (or equivalent to 112 UCAS points), as well as a GCSE (or equivalent) in Maths at 5 or above
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As a CyberFirst Degree Apprentice, there are loads of opportunities to learn and everyone wants to see you succeed.”

Daniel, Degree Apprentice

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I didn’t really know what to expect beforehand, but we’ve been integrated so well within the business. I feel really valued as an apprentice, everyone’s been so supportive.”

Isabelle, Degree Apprentice

Podcasts

Cyber security can seem closed off – but our podcasts give you an inside view. With professionals from the NCSC and industry member Marie Curie, as well as some of our bursary students and a former apprentice, they’re essential listening for beginners in our industry.

Episode 1: Tackling tricky tech terms

Episode 2: Surprising roles in cyber security

Episode 3: Opening up our opportunities

Episode 4: How cyber security supports our world

Get to know our world

Hear more from our people and our supporters
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Why are the security checks important for the application?
1 min
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What is cyber security?
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Why is cyber security important at IBM?
1 min
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What’s a firewall?
1 min
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Why is cyber security important at Microsoft?
1 min
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What are phishing scams?
1 min
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What attributes make a Bursary student stand out? (Marie Curie)
1 min
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Why is cyber security important?
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What’s malware?
1 min
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Does cyber security offer varied career paths?
1 min
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Let’s bust some myths: Are cyber security specialists isolated?
1 min
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How have CyberFirst Bursary students impacted Microsoft?
1 min
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Why is cyber security vital to businesses success?
1 min
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Application advice
1 min
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Do you need a computer science degree to succeed?
1 min
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Let’s bust some myths: Are cyber security careers elite?
1 min
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What attributes do you look for in Bursary students? (Lloyds Banking Group)
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What attributes do you look for in Bursary students? (Tesco)
1 min
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How have Bursary students impacted IBM while on summer placement?
1 min
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Why is cyber security important for insurance companies?
1 min
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Why is cyber security so vital to Marie Curie?
1 min
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What’s a VPN?
1 min
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What Tesco teams could Bursary students join?
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Aliya
1 min
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Ethan
1 min
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Taren
1 min
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Daniel
1 min
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Isabelle
1 min
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Rose

Let’s bust some myths

You have to be a coder to apply.

False! We ask for an aptitude for tech and the will to learn, but you don’t have to know how to code yet. If you’re a beginner, why not start with the NCSC’s cyber glossary?

Only hackers work in cyber security.


False! From project managers to legal experts to technical writers, cyber security is home to all kinds of vital non-technical roles.

Cyber security is essential to day‑to‑day life in the UK.


True! Whether it’s protecting flight paths, securing bank accounts, or preventing power outages, cyber security protects every aspect of modern life.

Cyber security is a recent fad; not a stable career path.


False! The more we rely on tech, the more we need cyber security. That means it’s a forever growing sector – with an increasing skills shortage. You’ll always be in high demand.

Cyber security is a diverse industry.


True! We’re an inclusive network of employers for people of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds and for people of all gender identities. You’ll find room to be yourself here.

My soft skills will matter in cyber security.


True! Your soft skills will be vital here. If you can take a tricky concept and make it simple, or talk easily to all kinds of people, you’ll do well.

I could work with all kinds of businesses through CyberFirst.


True! We’re a government scheme but with plenty of industry members – from Deloitte to BT; HMRC to the Bank of England – so you’re starting a career with huge potential.

It’s difficult to apply for CyberFirst.


False! Because we’re a government scheme, there are a few more steps – like security clearance – but we’ll support you and make it a straightforward process.

I can apply for both the bursary and the apprenticeship.


True! As long as you meet the eligibility for both schemes, you can apply for either or both. Of course, if you gain a place on both, you’ll need to choose one!

How to apply

Click on the numbers below to find out more about each stage of our assessment process.
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
Fill in the online application form

As long as you’re eligible, you can apply for either or both schemes, , and you’ll start with the application form. This is where we’ll ask you to provide information that confirms your identity, nationality, where you live, your age, academic qualifications and expected grades. It’s also your opportunity to say more about you in your own words. It takes a bit of time to complete but you can save the information and come back to complete it.

We’re proud to say that we’re a Disability Confident employer, dedicated to providing guaranteed interviews to all candidates with disabilities who meet our minimum criteria, so please let us know if that applies to you.

Complete the online assessment

Once you’ve successfully completed the application form and met all the eligibility criteria, you’ll be invited to take part in an online assessment. It sounds daunting but previous applicants have really enjoyed this part of the application process. The assessment is looking to test your aptitude alongside what you already know. We’re also looking at how committed you are to finding out information to solve problems. Our top tip is to try these practice exercises. You’ll need to create an account first, read the instructions carefully and take your time to work through the challenges.

Attend the assessment centre

Normally, this will take place either in Gloucester or Scarborough and usually lasts half a day. Dependent on the COVID-19 situation though, you might be invited to a virtual assessment centre. Either way, you’ll have a personal interview and a number of short assessments. We try and make it as relaxed as possible so we get to see the real you and all that you have to offer. Good luck!

Receive a conditional offer

If you do well in your assessment, we’ll give you a conditional offer, meaning you’ll join us if you pass security clearance.

Vetting begins

You’ll find more on why we need vetting in the next section, but for now, please note that bursary students will only need Security Check vetting (point 6) while apprentices, who’ll be based on site at GCHQ, will need Developed Vetting (points 6-8).

Fill in the online vetting questionnaire

Vetting helps us check we can trust you with sensitive data. The questionnaire will explore your character and your personal circumstances.

[Certain roles only] Criminal record checks

For roles that need higher security clearance, we’ll check your records to make sure you’re eligible to work in a secure organisation.

[Certain roles only] Vetting interview

For roles that need higher security clearance, you’ll have an in-depth vetting interview, answering personal questions around all aspects of your life.

Offer and start date

Congratulations! If you’ve passed security clearance, and you have achieved the required grades, we’ll confirm your offer and your start date. Please note that the process of vetting can take up to nine months.

Vetting: The Key Facts

Vetting: The Key Facts

We need to protect the nation

Our work involves national security, so in your role, you may have access to sensitive government information. Our primary responsibility in vetting is to protect that information and make sure our people are safe. We’re checking you can be trusted and have integrity, but we’re protecting you too.

We’re looking for reliable, trustworthy people

Because you’re joining a field that deals with national security, we have to check your character. We want to make sure that you’re honest, responsible and trustworthy, and that there’s nothing that would, for example, make you vulnerable to blackmail or coercion.

The vetting process is inclusive and open to all

We encourage applications from people of all backgrounds, so our vetting process supports diverse candidates of all ages, cultures, gender identities and sexual orientations.

The questions can be personal – but with good reason

Some roles with us will require an interview, and the questions can get quite personal – but just be honest. The interviewers aren’t looking to trip you up or embarrass you; they’re making sure you’re right for the responsibility.