If you enjoy a challenge, want to make a difference and are eager to take on responsibility, consider joining the Civil Service Fast Stream
The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated leadership development programme that provides talented graduates from a range of backgrounds with the experience, skills and knowledge needed to become senior leaders within the Civil Service.
As a Fast Streamer, you'll gain a variety of experience through placements or postings in government departments and agencies. Building up a portfolio of experience by moving between areas of work and projects, you'll also work in front line operational delivery, policy and corporate services, and may work in roles involving direct contact with the public.
Types of Civil Service Fast Streamer
You'll choose from one of 15 paths. These are:
- Government economic service
- Government statistical service
- Government operational research
- Government social research
- Diplomatic service
- Human resources
- Houses of Parliament
- Diplomatic service economics
- Digital, data and technology
- Science and engineering
- Project delivery
As a Fast Streamer, you'll need to:
- carry out work specific to the Fast Stream option you choose and according to each placement you work in
- quickly develop in-depth knowledge of a particular subject or issue, to the extent that you'll be consulted as a topic expert
- represent your department's interests and negotiate with others to reach a position of mutual satisfaction
- contribute constructively to issues where many interests are involved
- formulate and implement policy
- communicate complex ideas clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing
- adapt to different jobs on a regular basis, sometimes in different departments and also in different parts of the UK
- work quickly and under pressure, often within complex rules and procedures
- lead and manage projects, resources and people
- achieve and deliver results to deadline.
- Graduates entering on the fast stream can expect starting salaries of £27,000 to £28,000.
- Once you've successfully completed the scheme and are promoted, your salary will be in the region of £45,000 to £55,000.
Benefits include a Civil Service pension scheme. You may also have access to crèches, holiday play schemes and childcare assistance, loans for transport season tickets and access to sports and social facilities.
Income data from Civil Service Fast Stream. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Your working hours are likely to be a standard working week, although some roles will require longer or more irregular hours. Most departments allow flexible working hours, although you won't be able to work from home.
Holiday entitlement is generally 22 days per year plus 10.5 days' public and additional holidays.
Part-time work and career breaks are possible, but self-employment and freelance work are not.
What to expect
- Although a large proportion of the work is office based, you'll also experience front line operational delivery, which includes meeting the public and visiting other organisations.
- Although the majority of Fast Streamers are based in London, there are opportunities available in other parts of the UK, including Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Leeds. You'll need to be flexible about location in order to complete your placements. Many civil servants work outside the South East.
- The work can be highly pressured, but also rewarding as you will make an impact on real life in the UK.
- The Civil Service Fast Stream is keen to recruit people from a range of different backgrounds and encourages applications from diverse communities.
- You may need to travel or relocate to make progress in some departments. In departments such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) you can expect to spend a significant part of your working life abroad.
For many schemes you'll need a 2:2 or above in any subject, although for some this is a 2:1 or higher. For some schemes, such as the Government Economic Service, you'll need a specific degree subject. For entry on to the Science and Engineering scheme, you'll need a 2:1 or higher in any degree subject including degree apprenticeships. You will also hold a Doctorate or Masters in any science or engineering discipline, or be a chartered engineer or scientist registered by one of the professional institutions licensed by the Engineering Council or by the Science Council. See the Civil Service Fast Stream website for full details on entry requirements for each Fast Stream option.
You'll usually need to be a European Economic Area (EEA) national (including a British citizen), a Commonwealth citizen, a Swiss national or, in some circumstances, a Turkish national. However, for some posts, particularly related to security and intelligence, you must be a British citizen. As well as meeting these nationality requirements, you must also be eligible to live and work in the UK.
The selection process includes two online questionnaires (situational judgement and work style). The Work Based Scenarios consist of the Case Study and Learning Assessments. Both use multimedia and both are multiple choice as well and are untimed. Following this, there is a timed video interview which involves responding to a series of pre-set questions, which are recorded and evaluated. Depending on the scheme there may be additional information to be completed or a numerical test to take.
If you pass this stage, you'll be invited to an assessment centre, which includes a leadership, group and written exercise. For most schemes you must also pass a final assessment with the exception of the Generalist, Human Resources, Digital Data and Technology and Finance schemes.
If you've got a disability and meet the minimum qualifying criteria for the scheme you're interested in, you have the option not to take the situational questionnaires in the first assessment stage but it is mandatory to take the other online tests, along with, if these stages are reached, the video interview and Fast Stream assessment centre.
As competition for the Fast Stream schemes is high and there are limited places, you're encouraged to apply for more than one scheme. It's possible to select as many schemes as you're eligible for, but make sure you do your research as you must put them in order of preference. If you don't succeed in any of your choices, you can apply again the following year.
The Fast Stream is also open to existing civil servants at Grade HEO or below as well as some employees of non-departmental public bodies are also eligible to apply. See the Fast Stream website for further details.
If you complete a Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) and receive a positive appraisal, you'll receive a Fast Pass, which will fast-track you through the initial online selection stages. You'll also receive coaching which will give you an excellent chance of succeeding on the Fast Stream. The Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) is aimed at people from diverse backgrounds, socially or economically disadvantaged or have a disability.
The Digital Data and Technology (DDaT) Summer Diversity Internship Programme is for undergraduates and graduates from a Science, Technology, Engineering or Maths (STEM) discipline on a work placement in a digital, data and technology-related role, such as project delivery, data analysis or software development. Successful completion of the programme also supports qualification for accelerated application into the Fast Stream and graduate programmes.
You'll need to show:
- integrity, honesty and objectivity
- political impartiality
- excellent communication skills and the ability to make an impact
- a results-driven approach to work
- constructive and innovative thinking
- a proactive and project management approach to work
- a commitment to learning and improvement
- the ability to build and develop productive relationships
- decision-making skills
- attention to detail
- commercial and financial awareness
- the ability to work under pressure and take on responsibility
- flexibility and the ability to deal with the unexpected
- self-awareness of your own personal and professional development needs.
Pre-entry experience is not required, although sandwich course placements, vacation visits and work experience are available in some government departments.
If you have the opportunity to complete the SDIP, you'll gain excellent experience and an insight into working for the Civil Service. The scheme runs for six to nine weeks and is open to people from a range of backgrounds. To be eligible for the scheme you need to be in your last two years at university, or undertaking postgraduate study straight after your first degree.
The Early Diversity Internship Programme provides a five-day placement in a government department to first-year undergraduates from diverse backgrounds. This is useful if you want to get an understanding of what it's like to be on the Fast Stream and can act as a foundation to joining one of the internship schemes.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
The Civil Service employs approximately 510,000 people from across the UK. It is independent of government and works in:
- central government departments
- non-departmental government bodies (NDPBs).
As a Fast Streamer, you won't usually be able to choose which department you work in and will be placed where there are vacancies and where you'll fit best. See the list of government organisations.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Civil Service Fast Stream - applications to the Civil Service Fast Stream are handled online via this dedicated website.
- Civil Service Job Search - sandwich course placement vacancies and other jobs in the Civil Service.
Training is usually provided through a series of postings or placements in different departments, typically lasting six months or a year. Although the exact nature of your training will depend on the Fast Stream scheme you're on, it will include a combination of formal training courses and on-the-job learning. You'll receive regular feedback and performance reviews to help your personal development and will also have a mentor or another Fast Streamer to support you.
Training lasts between two and five years depending on the stream you're on, and you'll be expected to learn from first-hand experience of delivering services and from working in a range of different practices and environments. Activities will include attending learning events, e-learning, volunteering and job shadowing.
There is a strong commitment to continuing professional development (CPD) in the Civil Service and you'll have the opportunity to work towards a range of professional qualifications in areas such as accountancy and personnel, or complete a postgraduate qualification such as a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). Most departments have guidance on how much CPD you must complete annually.
By the end of your training, you'll have developed skills in areas such as:
- change management
- commercial awareness
- digital delivery
- financial management
- people management
- project management.
For full details on training for each Fast Stream option, see the dedicated Civil Service Fast Stream website.
Your career path within the Civil Service will largely depend on the Fast Stream option you are with. Responsibility comes quickly and prospects for advancement to higher ranks within the Civil Service are good if you show an aptitude for the work. Fast streamers are selected precisely for their potential to achieve this.
As a civil servant you'll be judged on your competencies, rather than simply on your experience in a particular job, so it's possible to move from one area of work to another.
For details on where you might end up in ten years' time, see the individual schemes on the Civil Service Fast Stream website.