Armed Forces and Uniformed Services

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The uniformed services have a  diverse range of roles available to graduates, including:

There are many different roles within these to cater for specialist skills, from Army musicians, intelligence linguists, liaison officers and military police roles.

There are also a large and diverse range of support roles available, from HR and marketing, to legal, IT and finance.

Related civilian roles include:

Joining the Armed Forces

You can join the armed forces as a regular (full-time) or as a reservist (alongside another job).

Check the following points on the relevant careers website for the Army/Navy/RAF first:

  • That you meet the age requirements and meet the medical conditions and other restrictions for what you want to do
  • That you’ve have spoken with the Careers Centre for the Armed Forces at 35 St Giles to explore your options.

Once you’re feeling ready, you can apply – often in your last year of university or the year afterwards. The regular officer application process takes around 3-5 months for the Army, and can vary for other roles. There is clear support online for each stage, and the local Careers Centre  to support you too.

Joining the Police

You can join the police as a police officer in the standard way, through the Direct Entry at Inspector programme which opens in December or through schemes operating within individual police forces, such as Police Now (a graduate leadership programme which for 2022 entry has opportunities in 30 police forces).  Police Now also operates a National Detective Programme. You could also first join the police as a community support officer, a special constable (a volunteer role), or as a police support volunteer (office based volunteering). You can only join through one police force at a time – start by going to the regional police force website.

Joining the Prison and Probation Service

There is direct entry into training as a Prison Officer but the Unlocked Graduates programme has enabled many graduates  to gain direct leadership development experience in the UK prison service whilst also working towards a Masters and developing skills in policy.

The Probation Service requires applicants to have NVQ Level 5 or a Degree. Recruitment is generally twice a year and will depend on the location that you wish to work in. Training for the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) will take between 15 and 21months depending on whether you have studied relevant modules at University, such as:

  • The Criminal Justice System
  • Understanding Crime and Criminal Behaviour
  • Penal Policy and the Punishment of Offenders
  • Rehabilitation of Offenders.

If you have not studied these, the training will take 21 months. 

Joining the Fire Service

Each fire service in England sets its own criteria, so check the entry process with the local service you intend to work for. Most services have both ‘wholetime’ (full time) and ‘on-call’ (part time) roles.

Joining the Ambulance Services

To practice as a paramedic you need to complete a programme approved by the Health Care Professions Council in paramedic science. The course finder tool from NHS Careers can help you find a suitable course. You can often find a student paramedic position you can do during your course. Courses tend to be reasonably flexible, but last from 2 to 5 years depending on whether you study full or part time.

Getting experience after university

With many uniformed services offering volunteer, reservist or similar roles, there are easy ways to gain work experience in the uniformed services if you have graduated and are already working.

Getting experience at Oxford

If you are a student, there are university student societies which are linked to the respective armed forces divisions. By joining one of these, you will gain a practical insight into the work, plus many extra-curricular experiences, and you’ll be paid to do this. Even if you’re not thinking of entering the forces as a career, the skills you gain by membership of an UOTC will generally help you with many of the roles and careers discussed here:

  • Leadership skills
  • Teamworking
  • Decision making
  • Handling risk and challenge
  • Fitness
  • Practical skills e.g. first aid
  • Planning
  • Analysis
  • Organisation
  • Driving licence can also be an asset

The Oxford societies are:

Relevant experience can also be gained by getting involved in volunteering in people-focussed activities, such as those offered through Oxford Hub.


When applying for a job or leadership programme, such as Police Now, it’s worth familiarising yourself with the selection process as much as possible, as recruitment to uniformed services is often both detailed and lengthy, involving in person assessments (often over more than 1 day), as well as aptitude and physical fitness tests.

  • Check the  detail, including on areas around criminal records, citizenship, health and mental health issues and age limitations.
  • The organisation will provide full details of the tests/selection events involved – make sure you keep organised and read and respond to all emails promptly, as following commands is a key element!

Do consider, the range of jobs and industries which link with uniformed services, from roles at the Ministry of Defence, to civil aviation, intelligence and more. Entry into one of these may suit your interests too. These recruitment processes are selective, and having a back – up plan is a good idea!


The Armed Forces and Uniformed Services are proactive and committed  in trying to recruit and retain staff  from all sections of society. however, owing to the nature of some of the demands of the roles available there are eligibility criteria and restrictions. 

To find out the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in, explore their equality, diversity and inclusion policy. Search their website to see if they have any specific staff networks, look out for external accreditation such as whether they are a Disability Confident employer, a Stonewall Diversity Champion or part of the Mindful Employer charter promoting mental health at work. Check to see if they are partnering with organisations such as Rare Recruitment, SEO London, MyPlus Students' Club (disability), EmployAbility (disability and neurodifference) and there are many more that are working for specific communities. A key place to look is to see what they do to celebrate diversity on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability,  gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act 2010 and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.


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