Students, Graduates & Apprentices

Unique challenges. Supportive learning. Developing technologies.
You’ll experience them all.

Graduate opportunities

As a graduate, you have the scope to apply for any of our roles. We also run a new specific leadership programme for exceptional, gifted individuals, called the 'Future Leaders Programme'. 

Student schemes

If you’re studying a technology-related or maths degree, our placements offer a diverse range of opportunities to develop your skills on real projects. Whether you apply for a summer scheme or a year-long industrial placement, you’ll gain unparalleled research, development or project experience. And you could be involved in anything from advanced software engineering to IT infrastructure projects or researching cryptographic and network security algorithms.

summer schemes and work placements


Our Higher Apprenticeship schemes will give you experience of a wide variety of technology and the innovative ways we use it to provide intelligence to our customers. It's a unique opportunity to develop advanced skills, while helping us to build on our technical capability. You'll learn while you earn, gain a recognised qualification and build your experience and confidence in the workplace.


What our people say

What do you most enjoy about working at GCHQ?

Access to the latest technology

Working with outstanding colleagues

Helping to protect the nation's security

Flexible working hours

Challenging and stimulating work


Directorate Staff Officer

“I spent one tour providing one-to-one support for a member of the Department’s Board – comparable to a Private Secretary in Whitehall. The job was incredibly busy, keeping on top of their portfolio of work, building relationships with their senior leadership team and making sure that 1,001 plates kept spinning at all times. I learnt a lot in a year – how decision making happened at the highest levels of the department, corporate governance and risk, money management, and strategic relationship management amongst many others; all that apart from the project work you pick up in your ‘spare’ time. Aside from the day job, working with our senior leadership team meant some fabulous opportunities, including helping the Prince of Wales hand out awards to intelligence agency staff in recognition of some truly fabulous intelligence work – a real highlight!”

Deployed ‘GCO’ – liaison work

“My most memorable posting was my deployment to Afghanistan. This saw me working alongside international partners in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including UK Armed Forces. Not only was this an incredible opportunity to represent the Department and serve my country in a unique way, but it was also an experience I will never forget – living and working amongst our military colleagues, in fairly basic conditions. Aside from being something I will look back on in years to come, my career certainly benefitted from the time away, learning much about leadership, liaison with foreign partners, and giving me a much greater understanding of UK policy in military theatres. But it also gave me a far broader awareness of what GCHQ can achieve across our core business, and left me feeling very proud of the outstanding work we do in support of military operations.”

Intelligence Operations Lead

“I have recently finished working in an intelligence production team as an Operational Lead. This involves coordinating intelligence gathering, analysis and reporting across a specific topic or area. Most members of the scheme undertake a ‘team leader’ posting at some stage during their career, and I would recommend it to anyone. Not only do you understand more about GCHQ’s capabilities, and a great deal about managing people day-to-day – we are an operational delivery department – but you also start to understand how the activities of the Department can have a real world effect. Reporting from my team directly helped to shape policy, and our work was regularly read by the Prime Minister personally. That’s one of the many things that marks this scheme out from others – it gives you an opportunity to make a real difference in the national security of the United Kingdom.”

Bill Team Secondment

“Having the opportunity to work in Whitehall as part of the scheme provides a unique insight into the world of government and Ministers. As part of a Bill team, I was in the privileged position of working closely with Parliament and understanding how legislation is developed and implemented, from policy through to publication. The fast-paced team environment equipped me to draft submissions under pressure and think about how best to get the message across to a variety of audiences, including the public, something which is increasingly important to the work at GCHQ.”

Technical Advisor for Legislation

“In mid-2015, GCHQ was advising on the drafting of legislation to set up a new legal framework for GCHQ that would be fit for the current technology environment. The Bill needed to be sufficiently technology agnostic for Parliament, but include the powers GCHQ needed. I was the senior technical advisor, making sure that the new bill covered our technical capabilities properly. I had to understand, in technical detail, the full scope of our capability under current legislation, to explain that to lawyers and other colleagues, and to interpret the draft clauses to evaluate whether they let us do what was required. This was really in-depth and challenging task, and some seemingly simple concepts turned out to be incredibly difficult to write in a way that could be used in a law. I learnt a great deal about the legal system and how Acts of Parliament are created, but also was able to use my technical expertise to explain things or assess whether they were technically possible, often with incredibly tight deadlines, which I really enjoyed. It’s very satisfying to know that you have had real impact on such an important process, but also a little daunting that to have so much trust placed in me!”

Corporate Development Lead

“During my time on the development programme I spent a year working in Corporate Development. I had two main responsibilities: Coaching the then Director, Sir David Pepper, on how he chaired Board meetings (he wanted a new approach) and delivering the annual Leadership Conference. I was responsible for everything from coming up with the concept, leading the design team and negotiating the contract with the external venue to security arrangements, coaching the board, putting together a roving reporter video and much more. This placement really made a lot of my personal development ‘click’ - the insight to the board allowed me to see how they worked, their different styles and how they did and didn’t work effectively together. It also gave me huge confidence and helped me to realise that there is no one way and it’s all about finding your own personal leadership style.”

Technical Authority for NTAC

“NTAC is a part of GCHQ that manages warranted intercepts for police forces, MI5 and other authorised organisations. At NTAC I was responsible for their technical relationships with commercial suppliers, a great use of my background designing and developing software and telecommunications systems. I worked with our customers to determine what their needs were, and how NTAC could support that. I had to learn how their targets were changing their use of technology, sharing my understanding with the suppliers and evaluating their proposed solutions to see if they were technically correct and compatible with our systems. This relied on my existing technical knowledge, but I also learnt about new technologies. A large part of the post was talking with colleagues, who were often non-technical (police officers, account managers, etc.) and explaining sometimes complex technical issues. I also dealt with a lot of commercial sensitivities such as understanding new products before they came to market and providing an opinion on whether proposals were good value for money – a big learning curve! I really enjoyed this placement, as I used and expanded my technical skills but also learnt a lot about how law enforcement works and some of the commercial realities of industry working with Government. The experience I gained is already helping my future success.”

Head of Software Development Team

“One of my most challenging placements was running a software development team. My team had almost 80 staff and a budget of several million pounds per year that was spent on time-hire contractors and on managed solutions with industry. We were developing and supporting over 25 software products that were used by a wide range of GCHQ customers, and also some of our overseas partners; I managed and led that entire product centre. Before taking on this post, I had managed a small technical team, but the challenge of managing so many people was a big step up! However, I had a good leadership team to support me, and I received some excellent leadership training and coaching that gave me both confidence and some specific techniques that really helped. Because I had a technical degree, I understood how the development teams worked quite well, and I think that helped when I was solving problems, especially when customers were having unreasonable demands on my teams. But I soon realised that I couldn’t rely on my own knowledge, so had to build strong relationships with the technical leads in my area, and we were able to work really well as a team. Up until this point, I’d always been able to make decisions on my own, and hold all the knowledge in my head. This secondment made me realise that you can’t always do that, and how important the team around you is when making strategically significant decisions.”


CyberFirst has been established to identify, support and develop the young cyber talent the UK will need in the cyber age.

Today, our lives are heavily dependent on making connections and transactions in cyberspace. This means there has never been a greater need for young talented people with strong cyber skills to help protect the UK’speople, society and way of life.

CyberFirst is a key part of the UK government’s National Cyber Security Programme, covering a broad range of activities designed to identify and support talented young people through their education and to highlight exciting career opportunities in cyber. 

Technology Student Schemes

We use some of the world’s most advanced technologies to help protect the UK’s people, businesses and interests against a variety of online threats.

It’s an exciting, challenging and stimulating technical environment where you’ll be involved in a variety of rare and unique projects, covering the full range of software, hardware and networks. And you’ll also be working with – and learning from – some of the country’s leading technical experts.

We offer a number of technology schemes for people who are studying relevant degree subjects such as Computer Science, Electronics, Engineering, Information Technology, Information Assurance, Information Security, Physics, Software Engineering or Telecommunications:

Summer placement: 11 weeks’ paid work between your penultimate and final years.

Two-year summer placement: Up to 22 weeks’ paid work in the last two summers of your degree course.

Cyber Exposure 2016 

Cyber Exposure 2016 is our unique six-week summer school that gives you a fantastic opportunity to team up with a variety of people and enjoy an interesting and stimulating learning experience.

Join us and you’ll have the opportunity to really understand how the internet works and how GCHQ uses this to protect and serve everybody in the UK, from the public to the armed services.


We’re looking for talented people, who have at least two A-levels or equivalent at grades A-C in any subject and have an interest in and passion for problem solving. If you're curious about technology, into the latest gadgets and are ready to learn something new, this could be the challenge you’ve been waiting for.

In return we’ll give you free accommodation for the six-week course and you’ll also receive £250 per week.

Click here to apply

Cyber Insiders Summer School 2016 - Cheltenham

If you’re a high calibre Computer Science student, our eleven-week Cyber Insider summer programme will give you unique insights into all aspects of cyber.

Working with a variety of technologies from legacy systems to cutting edge mobile, you’ll learn from world-leading GCHQ and industry cyber experts. It’s an exciting, challenging and intellectually stimulating experience where you’ll add to your technical skills in a range of areas, such as ethical hacking, securing networks and testing the strengths and weaknesses of operating systems. You’ll also discover the unique ways we use technology to defend the UK from cyber attack.

And in the final week of the programme you’ll have the chance to put your new skills into action in a real-time ‘Capture the Flag’ cyber challenge.


All we require is that you are graduating between summer 2016-2019 and studying for a degree in Computer Science, Physics, Maths or a closely related course. If you're curious about technology, into the latest gadgets and are ready to learn something new, this could be the challenge you've been waiting for.

In return, if you complete the programme you can expect to receive £250 per week, as well as a certificate to show you’ve completed a cyber course with the UK’s recognised experts. We’ll also provide free accommodation for your time in Cheltenham.

Click here to apply


Mathematics Summer Scheme

GCHQ is one of the few non-academic centres where you can use, stretch and develop your maths research skills in a real world setting. That’s why we look for committed mathematicians who are expecting a 1st class honours degree in maths, or a joint honours with maths as the main component, and who want to continue advanced mathematical research into their career.

Join us and you could be working with some of the country’s leading mathematical minds and involved in a range of work, such as:

  • Investigating cryptographic algorithms
  • Identifying and modelling challenging data sets
  • Demodulating digital signals received over noisy channels
  • Assessing the security of software applications and protocols
  • Designing and maintaining robust data handling software
  • Implementing maths algorithms on a high performance computer
  • Developing novel mathematical techniques.

To apply you’ll need to have completed two years of your degree. You must also include a letter from your professor, senior tutor or head of department confirming your expected final degree result.

British Intelligence Higher Apprenticeship in IT, Software, Internet and Telecoms (Cheltenham)

Do you want to be part of an organisation that uses cutting edge technology and can offer you an exciting and fascinating career? If so, we look for motivated, technically orientated individuals to join our two-year Higher Apprenticeship scheme based in the Cheltenham/Gloucester area.

This is a Higher Apprenticeship like no other. Working with GCHQ, MI5 and MI6, you’ll gain a unique insight into a world that you won’t find on any university course - cyber threats, terrorism, espionage and organised crime. Our work is constantly evolving and always challenging, giving you plenty of development and new opportunities to explore.

The programme will lead to exciting roles within the intelligence agencies where you’ll be helping to build, expand and further advance our technical capability - and our ability to tackle threats to national security.

Our two-year Higher Apprenticeship programme combines university-delivered classroom and lab education in state-of-the-art facilities with technical training, mentoring and job shadowing, research and development, and work-based placements and projects. Two thirds of the first year is classroom-based learning and in the second year recruits will continue to spend time in the classroom - for around a third of the year. There is a strong emphasis on programming and technology so a keen interest in these areas is necessary.

The first year will be based in Cheltenham, and then in their second year some apprentices may have the opportunity to work in London at MI5 or MI6. Either way, you’ll be taking on real business challenges in areas such as software, network or telecoms engineering, information assurance or cyber operations and will receive full training and support throughout the programme, as well as a salary and all the benefits you’d expect from a Civil Service organisation. You’ll be learning about and working with some of the most advanced technology, and you’ll be developing a broad range of competencies including teamwork, communication and leadership skills.

Over the course of the two years you’ll enjoy exhilarating, hands-on work to help us build and maintain some of the world's most sophisticated electronic equipment. You’ll be a vital part of a dynamic team that ensures the UK Government can operate in cyberspace with confidence and can stay ahead of the swift pace demanded by the evolving digital world.

The Apprenticeship will cover a variety of subjects including:

  • Information Assurance
  • Software Engineering
  • Analogue and Digital Signal Processing
  • Telecommunications
  • GSM Fundamentals
  • Mobile Telephony Protocols
  • Fundamentals of Data Communications and Protocols

Not only will the Higher Apprenticeship lead to a Foundation Degree in Communications, Security and Engineering and a Level 4 Diploma in IT, Software, Web and Telecommunications Competence, but you’ll also be able to make a real contribution to the mission of the intelligence agencies in tackling threats to national security in years to come.

You’ll be supported throughout the process by our academic provider, the sponsoring university and GCHQ staff. Work-based placements will involve you in seriously unique, real world tasks of a research, development or project nature, from which you will obtain evidence to complete your Apprenticeship.

Software Engineering Degree Apprenticeships (Manchester)

£17,539 pa – Greater Manchester

Our Degree Apprenticeship is more than a chance to ‘earn as you learn’. It’s your opportunity to gain a full degree level qualification, funded by us, while picking up the kind of technical experience you won’t find on any university course.

Our next programme starts in Manchester in September 2016. The Apprenticeship features a mix of university accredited classroom based learning and placements in one of GCHQ’s business areas.

You’ll get to work with some of the most cutting-edge technologies around by contributing to a variety of exhilarating, hands-on projects. There’s a strong emphasis on programming and technology, plus training to develop your teamwork, communication and leadership skills too.

Don’t miss out on this alternative to university if you have (or are expecting) three A-levels at BBC or above (or the equivalent), including at least two B’s in STEM subjects.

Meet our team
Find your perfect role at GCHQ

Departments and Roles at GCHQ