If you enjoy a challenge, want to make a difference and are eager to take on responsibility then 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 Civil Service fast streamer, you'll gain a variety of experience through different placements or postings in government departments and agencies. You will have the opportunity to build up a portfolio of experience, moving between areas of work and projects.

All fast streamers will experience work in front-line operational delivery, policy and corporate services, and are increasingly working in roles involving direct contact with the public.

Fast stream options

There are currently 15 different options:

  • Generalist.
  • Diplomatic Service.
  • Houses of Parliament.
  • Science and Engineering.
  • Commercial.
  • Finance.
  • Human Resources.
  • Government Communication Service.
  • Digital and Technology.
  • Project Delivery.
  • European.
  • Government Economic Service.
  • Government Statistical Service.
  • Government Operational Service.
  • Government Social Research Service.

Responsibilities

The precise nature of your work will depend on which Fast Stream option you choose and changes from placement to placement. However, you'll typically need to:

  • quickly develop in-depth knowledge of a particular subject or issue, to the extent that you will 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.

Salary

  • The starting salary for graduates on most Fast Stream programmes is £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. Other benefits may include access to crèches, holiday play schemes and childcare assistance, loans for transport season tickets and access to sports and social facilities.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

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.

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 will also experience frontline 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 will need to be flexible and mobile in order to complete all 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.

Qualifications

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, for example 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 and be a chartered engineer or have a Masters or PhD in a biological, physical or mathematical science, or have studied an engineering subject. 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. Check the scheme you're interested in for full details on nationality rules.

The selection process includes two online questionnaires (situational judgement and behavioural), an e-tray exercise testing your decision-making skills and a video interview. If you pass this stage, you'll be invited to an assessment centre, which includes a leadership, group and analysis exercise. For all schemes, except General and Human Resources, you must also pass a final assessment.

If you've got a disability and meet the minimum qualifying criteria for the scheme you're interested in, under the Guaranteed Interview Scheme (GIS) you can progress straight to the main assessment stages, missing out the behavioural questionnaire.

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 whole application process takes a minimum of approximately 12 weeks, but may take longer depending on the type and number of schemes you've chosen.

The Fast Stream is also open to existing civil servants at Grade HEO or below.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • 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
  • resourcefulness
  • 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 to take on responsibility
  • flexibility and the ability to deal with the unexpected
  • self-awareness of your own personal and professional development needs.

As civil servants are politically impartial, you will also need to show qualities such as integrity, honesty and objectivity.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience is not required, although sandwich course placements, vacation visits and work experience are available in some government departments.

The Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) provides students from a range of diverse backgrounds with the opportunity to experience what a career in the Civil Service would be like. Internships last for six to nine weeks and are open to students in their last two years at university (including 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.

Employers

The Civil Service employs over 420,000 people from across the UK. It is independent of government and works in:

  • agencies
  • 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:

Professional development

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 usually lasts four years and you'll be expected to learn from first-hand experience of delivering services and from working in a range of different working 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 or personnel, or complete a postgraduate qualification, for example a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). Most departments have guidance on how much CPD you must complete annually.

By the end of the four years, 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.

Career prospects

Your career path within the Civil Service will largely depend on the Fast Stream option you are in. Responsibility comes quickly and prospects for advancement to higher ranks within the Civil Service are good if you show an aptitude for the work. Indeed, fast streamers are selected precisely for their potential to achieve this.

As a civil servant, you will 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 a fast streamer might end up in ten years' time, see the individual schemes on the Civil Service Fast Stream website.