When you hear the word ‘defence’, you probably think of brave soldiers fighting on the front line. Did you know there are thousands of other jobs – many of them behind-the-scenes – that provide dynamic and rewarding careers too?
There are 22,000 apprentices working in the defence industry already and there’s plenty of room for more people like you to help keep the UK safe. So, what are the different branches of the army? And what kind of jobs can you get other than becoming a soldier? Let’s find out.
Jobs in defence
Remember the famous Royal Navy advert, ‘If you can build a bike, you can build a submarine…’? Well, it’s true – if you have an aptitude for fixing stuff, an apprenticeship in the defence industry can give you the skills you need to work on highly classified projects like air systems, weapons and communications equipment. You could even be part of a Technical Corps like the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers or the Royal Engineers.
Jobs to know: Marine engineering technician (Royal Navy), aerospace engineer (DE&S) and mechanical engineer (British Army).
Modern warfare doesn’t just take place on the battlefield – it also takes place behind the screen. Criminals use sophisticated techniques to launch cyber-attacks, and the consequences can be disastrous. You’ll see lots of IT and cybersecurity apprenticeships in the defence industry using ground-breaking strategies to protect the nation’s digital infrastructure.
Jobs to know: Cyberspace communication specialist (RAF), software engineer (MI5) and cryptologic technician (Royal Navy).
Management and leadership opportunities are extremely popular in the defence industry, with many people completing degree-level apprenticeships later in their careers to make this a reality. Plus, you can become a qualified instructor in just about any role if you have a passion for teaching.
Jobs to know: Logistics (British Army) and operational and project delivery (DE&S).
From submarines to explosives, there are loads of different types of weapons used by the Armed Forces. You’ll be responsible for servicing the weapons (and repairing them if you become a weapons engineer), which is a huge responsibility – after all, the safety of your colleagues will be in your hands. Pretty impressive, right?
Jobs to know: Weapon and aircraft technician (RAF) and aircraft maintenance apprenticeship (BAE Systems).
You probably already know what a medic does – they administer medical care like a paramedic or doctor does in combat operations (e.g., frontline trauma) or in training environments. You can become part of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), which includes people like dentists, surgeons, pharmacists and nurses.
Jobs to know: Dental nurse (Royal Navy), medical assistant (Royal Navy) and public services and health assistant (British Army).
Apprenticeships in defence
BAE Systems is a defence, aerospace and security company that develops technology-led solutions. Luckily for keen learners like you, BAE Systems has an advanced and comprehensive apprenticeship scheme, and 95% of apprentices stay with them for a full-time job. If you’re interested in a career in defence, the software engineering and mechanical engineering courses would be a great choice.
BAE Systems apprenticeship scheme runs from November – February each year, but you can register for alerts to be contacted when this year’s roles go live.
You’ll have a choice of Level 2, 3 and 4 apprenticeships in the British Army, plus the opportunity to undertake degree-level courses later in your career. There are loads of subjects to choose from including construction, animal care and business administration. Of course, you’ll also learn to be a world-class soldier during on-the-job training.
The DE&S is the department in charge of equipment for the UK Armed Forces, and they have a few exciting apprenticeships available in engineering and digital technology. There are some video interviews with real DE&S apprentices on their website, so check it out to hear what it’s really like to work there.
Twenty different apprenticeships are available in the Royal Navy, from ‘fast track’ Level 3 schemes to degree apprenticeships. For example, in a few short years you could become a medical assistant, a warfare specialist and engineering technician and more. They’re also rated as a ‘Top 100 Apprenticeship Employer’, so you know it’s the real deal.
The sky’s the limit with one of the RAF’s 23 different apprenticeships. Take home an awesome salary of £17,835 (plus benefits!) while studying a specialist course to become a regiment gunner, weapon technician, intelligence analyst, air operations officer… the list of cool jobs goes on!
Here is your opportunity to work for the UK’s counter-terrorism unit, MI5, in an apprenticeship like software engineering, infrastructure engineering and cybersecurity. Keep your eyes peeled for new opportunities in commercial and operational roles in the next few years, too.
It’s essential to have three GCSEs at grade 4 or above, and some apprenticeships require at least five GCSEs. Depending on the course you choose, you might need a qualification in a STEM subject: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Don’t forget that this is the army, so there are some physical entry requirements too that will differ between roles and branches. For example, most apprenticeships in the Royal Navy require applicants to have a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18 and 28 (for over 18s) and 17 and 27 (for under 18s). You’ll also need to be quick in the water to pass the Naval Swimming Test and other fitness exams. All the info is available on the websites linked above if you want to get prepared.
While the defence industry is closely linked with the civil service and government agencies, there are other opportunities outside of the UK Armed Forces. Try looking for ‘military tech’ and ‘defence tech’ startups in the UK – you’ll find some innovative businesses using cutting-edge technology like AI, simulations and drones to protect the country. Although these companies probably don’t offer apprenticeships, it’s useful to know how the industry is changing and where you could find new opportunities in the future.
Also, now’s the time to start training for the physical exams while you prepare your apprenticeship application. Imagine how annoying it’d be to get accepted for the apprenticeship of your dreams… only to get rejected over a swimming test!
The time is now to protect your future
Gain qualifications, a great wage and once-in-a-lifetime experiences with a defence apprenticeship that’ll set you up for loads of success and recognition.
Not sure what to do after school? Well, money might help you get more motivated, and this article about the best-paying apprenticeships can be your first port of call.
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