GCHQ Careers: How To Become An Apprentice



With the upcoming release of the new James Bond film, interest in spy culture has reached fever pitch. Now more than ever before, organisations such as GCHQ and MI5 have been thrust into the limelight. Whether we are applauding the way that they protect us from overseas threats, or pondering on the mysteries of such secretive agencies; the bottom line is that the general public are fascinated by the nature of intelligence work.

In this blog, How2Become will shine a light on how YOU can gain one of the few available GCHQ careers, and join Britain’s leading digital intelligence agency as an apprentice.

Who are GCHQ?

GCHQ are the UK’s leading digital intelligence agency. They work in conjunction with organisations such as MI5, to ensure the safety of British citizens. Primarily, most of their work is done online. They track criminals such as paedophiles, and monitor online communications between suspected terrorists and other perceived threats. GCHQ are also responsible for preventing devastating hacking attacks, which could damage the security of the nation.

With the growing crisis in the Middle East, and global tensions on the increase, the work that GCHQ do is now more important than ever before. They form an integral part of the British Intelligence Service, and act as a primary defence mechanism in combating the threat of terrorism.

GCHQ Careers Eligibility Criteria

So, what conditions do you need to meet in order to work for GCHQ? The answer might surprise you. Similarly to MI5, GCHQ do not have a huge list of eligibility criteria for their candidates. Their official list is as follows:

  • You must be a British citizen, or in the process of applying to become one.
  • You must be aged 18 years old or over.
  • You must have lived in the UK for the last 10 years.

While this might seem limited, you should also consider the people against who you are competing for one of the coveted GCHQ careers. It stands to reason that the large majority of these people will have at least a degree, and many of them will have higher.

What this means is that while you won’t be outright rejected for having below standard grades, candidates who are more qualified will be looked upon favourably with the assessors, and therefore will have a better chance of success.

It is also essential that you are someone who can work discreetly. Remember that both GCHQ and MI5 are very secretive organisations. In order to work in intelligence, you will need to keep your career a secret from all but your closest family. The security of the nation could depend on it.




The GCHQ Higher Apprenticeship scheme is a great way to get into working for the organisation. In order to qualify for the apprenticeship, you must be in possession of at least three A-Levels, all from A-C. This must include at least two or more science, maths, engineering or technology based subjects.

Based in Gloucester, the programme incorporates a wide range of intelligence based techniques; all of which are essential for anyone planning to work within British Intelligence.

The Structure of the Apprenticeship

The GCHQ Careers Higher Apprenticeship lasts for 2 years. It mixes classroom based learning with technical and practical development, through detailed research, mentoring and practical placement. You will spend your first year in Cheltenham, before moving potentially moving on in your second year to study in London, where MI5 and MI6 are based.

What will I learn?

When enrolled on the GCHQ Apprenticeship scheme, you will find yourself engaging in a wide range of technological based challenges. This could include solving software problems, assisting with information and cyber intelligence activities and working some of Britain’s most advanced technology.

Through all of the above, the GCHQ Careers Apprenticeship scheme aims to teach candidates the core values of the organisation, and mould apprentices into fantastic potential employees. Along with your practical and technical skills, the apprenticeship will also teach you valuable lessons about working with and leading others.

The key benefits

One of the reasons that this apprenticeship is so highly regarded, is because of the wide range of subjects that it covers. As a GCHQ apprentice, you will be given the tools to operate in a wide variety of GCHQ careers, with the help of subjects such as Engineering, Software Management, Telecommunications, Digital Intelligence, Data Communications and more.

On top of the above, the work based placements that you will take during your time as an apprentice will provide you with invaluable experience. Working for GCHQ provides you with unlimited opportunities. You can expect to take on challenging real world tasks, all of which will place you right on the cusp of protecting the nation. With the right hard work, you can work for GCHQ.

What qualifications will I gain?

Following your GCHQ Apprenticeship, you will have gained a Foundation Degree in a whole range of technology based subjects. This will include systems and communications, intelligence and security, and a diploma in Telecommunications, all of which are essential to GCHQ careers!


Where do I apply?GCHQ-intelligence-ultimate-guide

As you may have guessed, applying for an apprenticeship at GCHQ is not as simple as simply filling in an application form. Of the hundreds of hopeful candidates who apply, only around 80 will be successful. This means that the competition is fierce, and you will have to work hard to gain
your place. The selection process of GCHQ apprenticeships includes:

  • Online tests.
  • Video assessments.
  • An assessment centre.
  • Gruelling interviews.

For further careers and jobs advice, including tips on how to apply for GCQH careers, visit our Twitter!

Bonus Question

To further assist you in your quest to pass the GCHQ careers selection process, we’ve included a short brain teaser. Try to solve the puzzle below, let us know in the comments if you managed to get it right!

Michael Smith went for a drink with his friend. His friend was feeling down in the dumps. He’d just lost his job, and he didn’t know how he was going to pay the bills. Michael consoled his friend, paid for their drinks and then went home.

When he got home, he had a clever idea. He decided to let his friend know about his brilliant, plan. The only problem was, Michael did this in the special code that they had used since they were children. Here is what he said:

4,2: 6,3: 9:1: 2,0: 2,2: 3,2: 2,3: 6,3: 6,1: 3,2:_ 4,1: 2,3: 4,2: 7,2:_ 2,3: 2,1: 7,3: 3,2: 3,2: 7,3: 7,4:_4,1: 8,2: 4,3: 3,1: 3,2.

Hint: Michael’s friend previously worked for a phone company.

Answer: How2Become GCHQ Careers Guide. Look at your phone keypad, every number corresponds to a letter in the sentence!

Bonus Tip

For more brain teasers, GCHQ careers advice and MI5 test assessment centre tips, check out on our guide on How2Become an Intelligence Officer!