Do you have what it takes to join GCHQ? A Yorkshire expert reveals what you need

GCHQ Scarborough.
GCHQ Scarborough.
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GCHQ – Britain’s intelligence and cyber security agency – is looking for recruits. Here Ross, a Higher Technical Apprentice from Bradford, explains the opportunities – his full name can’t be given due to security protocol.

PICTURE this, it’s year 13, you’re coming off the back of some strong A-levels and everyone can’t stop talking about what university they’re going to apply for. The only questions in your head is ‘is university the right thing for me?’ and ‘will it mean I get the job I want afterwards?’ That’s me two years ago.

Could you find out secrets that could save lives?

Could you find out secrets that could save lives?

My name’s Ross, I’m 19, and I’m from Bradford – West Yorkshire. I’m a Higher Technical Apprentice for GCHQ. I studied electronics, maths and physics at A-level, and got the grades to study robotics and artificial intelligence at Leeds University, but instead, I moved 170 miles away to Cheltenham to start my career at GCHQ. But why move all that way for a job that’s hiring straight out of college?

Let me explain two things.

The first, what is GCHQ? GCHQ is an intelligence and cyber security agency. We use world-class skills, technology and tradecraft against threats to the UK and her allies. We work 24/7 to protect the UK from these threats that come from criminals, nation states, terrorists and hackers. We’ve been doing this work since 1919, and, as we say in God’s own county, we’re reet good at it.

The second thing is my scheme. It’s designed by GCHQ to fast-track the next generation of staff. You can relax knowing your tuition is covered and you have no student loan to worry about. You also get a pay cheque stacked on top of it all for a full working month. No more worries about the type of ramen you’re going to live off after Freshers.

Online extremism

Online extremism

To start with, the degree you’ll be working towards is a BSc in cyber security. Modules such as Java or C programming, cyber security and penetration testing, amongst others, are covered. These will leave you with all the tools necessary to join the workforce. Speaking of which, you’ll be joining the workforce a little earlier than you expect, with placements throughout your apprenticeship within GCHQ – you will also get the opportunity to apply for placements at MI5 or MI6.

I didn’t actually know who or what GCHQ was until 12 hours before the application deadline. I applied as a joke thinking there’s no way I would get a job at an intelligence agency, and here I am two years later, 12 months into my employment, and no sign of looking back.

At common misconception about life in an intelligence agency is that everyone’s suited and booted. There is no specific dress code. GCHQ understands the immense strain that people can come under, they know that the less you have to worry about, the better.

One thing a lot of people are worried about when they get a job in a large organisation is that they will be stuck in one department. At GCHQ, anyone can retrain if they find a career they think they’d prefer. It’s actually encouraged, since that way different ways of looking at things reach all departments. And there’s always something for everyone, a career for anyone willing to put the effort in.

Our reach is widespread globally and across the UK. From the main office in Cheltenham, to Bude, Scarborough and Greater Manchester, or one of the sister agencies in London. The work carried out here is world-leading and ground-breaking and you can be a part of it. So why are we reaching out to the North?

Well let’s face it, Northerners are some of the hardiest, smartest and most ingenious people. Yorkshire is the home of cats-eyes, chronometers and kilner jars, and who else can brave the harsh Scarborough winter weather or the bustling city life of Manchester? We need people that can bridge the North-South language barrier and who want to be part of our mission, keeping the UK safe. As our director said recently: as the threat diversifies so must the workforce that tackles it.

You could kickstart your analysis career, sorting through reams of information and reporting on your findings. Maybe working in the cyber or research fields is where you see yourself, or perhaps dealing with the terrestrial signals that flood the earth. Or if you’re not into that, or fancy a change, you could maintain everything that allows the staff at GCHQ to keep on top of the ever- changing dynamics around the world.

But to even start considering any of that, you need to ask yourself what qualities do you have? Are you willing and driven to learn? Do you have the collaborative mindset that suits the GCHQ workplace, where without teamwork, the entire system would struggle? The ability to bounce ideas off colleagues to work out an issue like a true problem-solver, rather than just giving up because “it’s too hard”. You need to be honest and trustworthy, with a strong sense of integrity. If your job is literally protecting the UK, then being dishonest could affect the lives of even one person, which is one too many.

One of the biggest issues holding back applicants is people not thinking they’re smart enough. The level of knowledge needed to get started is much easier to learn and catch up on than having to change your entire outlook on life, and GCHQ recruitment recognise that.

However, all the above is worthless if you aren’t proactive enough to head over to and start the recruitment process today.