Whether you're interested in becoming an officer, nurse, chef or engineer, by joining the British Army, Royal Navy or Royal Air Force, you'll be set for a challenging yet rewarding career

The UK's land, air and sea-based armed forces take part in combat, peacekeeping and humanitarian missions around the world to defend the country and promote its interests.

From soldiers and pilots to engineers, medics and intelligence analysts, there are countless opportunities available, depending on your skills, interests and qualifications.

British Army jobs

The British Army recruits for more than 100 separate roles in seven categories. Here are some examples of what's available:

If you're a graduate you're most likely to enter the Army as an officer. This is the equivalent of a leadership or managerial position, although you can still sign up as a regular soldier if you prefer. However, a degree isn't essential - see what's available for your level of education by checking your Army entry options.

Whether or not you're a graduate, to join as an officer you'll need to apply online and attend an interview with a local recruiter. Get interview tips to help you succeed.

Next, you'll travel to Westbury in Wiltshire to have an Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) assessment. This includes a 24-hour briefing with physical and practical exercises, followed by a three-and-a-half-day Main Board where you'll put your skills into practice.

Following an offer of employment, you'll go on a pre-commissioning course before starting a 44-week course at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in Surrey.

Once you've joined the Army, there are lots of opportunities for professional development and career progression through the clearly defined ranking structure.

You can apply by visiting the Army recruitment website.

Alternatively, if you're interested in joining the Army part time - with a minimum commitment of 19 days per year - consider the Army Reserve (AR), previously known as the Territorial Army (TA).

RAF careers

The Royal Air Force (RAF) splits its jobs into the following categories:

  • Aircrew - pilot, Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) pilot, weapon systems officer.
  • Air operations - air cartographer, control officer, flight operations manager, systems officer.
  • Engineering - communications infrastructure technician, cyberspace communications specialist, electrician, engineer officer, weapon technician.
  • Force protection - RAF Regiment officer, RAF Police, firefighter.
  • Hospitality - chef, air and ground steward.
  • Intelligence - intelligence analyst, intelligence officer.
  • Logistics - driver, logistics officer, mover, supply, storage and distribution specialist.
  • Medical - medical support officer, pharmacy technician, registered nurse, RAF medic.
  • Personnel - chaplain, legal officer, musician, personnel support officer, physical training instructor.

In terms of career progression in the RAF, there are three ranking structures: commissioned officers (the equivalent of managers), airmen and airwomen, and non-commissioned aircrew. RAF Regulars are full-time personnel - you can also join part time as an RAF Reserve.

Once you've decided which role is for you and you're ready to apply, visit the RAF recruitment website.

There are seven steps in the application process: an RAF aptitude test, selection interviews, health assessment, fitness test, pre-recruit training course, acceptance and training. By entering your age and level of education, you'll get to see the jobs you're eligible for.

Another entry route is through an RAF apprenticeship. There are currently 23 roles to choose from, such as cyberspace communication specialist, RAF regiment gunner, survival equipment specialist and aircraft technician.

As an RAF apprentice you'll earn a minimum of £17,835 plus benefits by the end of your first year (compared to the average civilian apprenticeship salary of £8,112), and there's a guaranteed RAF job for you if you complete the programme between one and three years.

Learn more about RAF apprenticeships, or apprenticeships in general.

Royal Navy jobs

The Royal Navy is organised into five services:

  • Fleet Air Arm - fighter jets and helicopters.
  • Royal Fleet Auxiliary - provides fuel for ships and supplies for personnel.
  • Royal Marines - an elite amphibious fighting force.
  • Submarine Service - also known as the 'Silent Service', it carries the Trident missile system.
  • Surface Fleet - destroyers, frigates, minesweepers, aircraft carriers.

Across these five Naval services there are nine specialist branches:

  • aviation
  • chaplaincy
  • engineering
  • logistics
  • medical
  • Royal Marines Band Service
  • Royal Marines Reserve
  • Royal Naval Reserve
  • warfare.

Within these categories there are more than a hundred different roles available, from aircrew officer pilot and medical officer, to mine warfare specialist and weapon engineer officer.

As with the Army and RAF, many graduates join the Navy as officers. If you apply for an officer role, there are several stages you'll need to get through: Naval Service Recruiting Test (NSRT) and informal interview, medical and eye tests, fitness tests, interview, Admiralty Interview Board, and security and reference check. You'll then start your training.

The Admiralty Board Interview includes an essay, leadership task, planning exercise and presentation, interview, psychometric tests and a fitness test. Get some general advice on how to approach psychometric tests.

You can apply by visiting Royal Navy Careers.

The alternative to starting as an officer is to join as a rating, while for part-time roles there's the Royal Naval Reserve.

Another option is to join the Royal Marines as a commando, officer or reserve. Learn more about joining the Royal Marines.

Inclusion and wellbeing in the armed forces

In October 2018, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) reported that just 12.1% of the total UK regular forces and Future Reserves 2020 intake of the previous 12 months was female.

However, in October 2018 the UK government announced that women would be allowed to serve in all British military roles - including frontline infantry and Special Forces - for the first time, with basic training for new recruits offered from April 2019.

This shift towards encouraging more women into the armed forces and promoting a more inclusive culture has led to the British Army featuring in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women (2020). It's been reported that there are currently over 13,000 women serving in the British Army either in the UK or abroad.

Learn more about Women in the Army and Women in the Royal Marines.

Figures from the same MoD report showed that personnel from ethnic minority groups made up just 6.5% of the total intake in the same 12-month timeframe. A 10% intake target for 2020 was set in 2015.

Find out more about what's being done to increase inclusion at Army - What We Stand For and Royal Navy - Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Mental health is improving in the armed forces, as in 2018/19 just 2.7% of UK armed forces personnel were assessed with a mental health issue at the MoD Specialist mental health services - a significant decrease from 3.2% in 2015/16.

However, more than twice as many women were found to have mental issues as men (5.1% and 2.4% respectively), meaning that improving mental wellbeing will be given a greater focus moving forward.

Veteran mental health charity Combat Stress is available to support regulars, reserves, veterans and their families through bereavement, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and other forms of stress.

Other charities such as the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) have campaigned for greater equality in the armed forces, with the Army recently setting up an LGBT Forum to offer advice and support to all LGBT+ serving personnel.

Find out more

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