Group of people having an informal meeting

Working at MI5

Your career

A career at MI5 is like no other. Not only is it rewarding and unique, but the variety here is like nowhere else. Depending on your job, upon joining you will find yourself either classed as a specialist or a generalist and belong to a specific capability area. Staff are given significant autonomy to manage their own careers and typically move jobs every two to three years with the option to move across areas. Therefore it is not unusual for someone to have worked in counter-terrorism, recruitment, counter-espionage and corporate communications in the first few years of their career.

This variety means that most people stay at MI5 as they are able to fulfil all their career ambitions here and apply for promotion whilst doing so. Your career options can be further enhanced by opportunities to work in regional stations across the UK and secondment opportunities to our partner agencies, SIS and GCHQ.

Building with three large doors

Training and development

Whatever your career path, training and development are at the heart of what MI5 does, and you’ll have the opportunity to gain a wide range of skills. As well as making sure you’re able to do your job effectively, as an Investors in People accredited employer, we’re committed to providing you with access to training and the opportunity for continuous development throughout your career.

We encourage our staff to take responsibility for their careers and personal development, and you’ll work with your manager to make the most of your potential and the wide range of opportunities available.

Adult carrying two young children

Work-life balance

Due to the nature of what we do, a common misconception is that there is no work-life balance at MI5. It is true that there may occasionally be times when you need to work longer hours than usual, such as the busy points of an investigation. But it’s also true that you’re not able to take your work home with you, so when you leave the office you really are leaving your work behind you.  

Where operations allow, we offer flexible working to help you balance your personal and family commitments with your professional life.  

A group of people standing in front of a blackboard

Diversity and inclusion

An in-depth knowledge and understanding of a variety of communities is crucial for our work. So it's important our staff come from a breadth of backgrounds and cultures to reflect the people we work hard to protect.

Pay and benefits

We’re committed to rewarding the people who work for us, and expressing our appreciation of their efforts. In fact, it is an important part of our success.  Each year your contribution will be recognised through our performance-related appraisal system. We also have a merit award system to recognise special contributions by individuals or teams.

Other benefits include:

  • 25 days annual leave, rising to 30 days after five years’ service, plus 10.5 public and privilege days
  • An annual leave ‘bank’ scheme
  • An interest-free travel season ticket loan
  • A pension scheme, comparable with the Civil Service pension scheme
  • Flexible working, where operational requirements allow
  • A range of onsite facilities, including a subsidised restaurant, coffee bar and gym at some locations
  • A range of clubs, societies, fitness classes and language training facilities
  • Childcare vouchers after a year’s employment with us
  • Maternity and paternity leave
More on our benefits

Want to hear more?

In October 2018 a number of MI5 officers, alongside colleagues in SIS and GCHQ, were interviewed by Radio 5 Live's Nihal Arthanayake.

Listen to members of staff describe what it is like working for the intelligence services and the value of a diverse workforce, and understand why we are looking for people just like you.

The Real Lives of Spies
View Audio Transcripts

5 Live’s Nihal Arthanayake meets six spies from the UK’s three main intelligence agencies, in the first ever joint interview with officers from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. They explain what it’s like inside their agencies in the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack, how they decide which friends and family members to tell about their jobs and what they think of TV shows like Bodyguard and Killing Eve

A day in the life of


A film containing footage of a police emergency, images of convicted terrorists, evidence gathering, a diverse group of graduates, and images of the UK and its people. Caution: flashing images.


So what is MI5 and what do we do?

We are the nation's Security Service.

Our mission is to keep the country safe.

Everything we do is to protect the public from harm.

It takes every sort of person with every sort of skill to deal with the difficult work we have to do.

That's why we need graduates from all kinds of backgrounds to join us.

Together we keep the country safe now and in the future.

This is why we exist.

This is who we are.


A film showing a list of roles and tasks that an admin officer would perform to support counter-terrorism, HR and Finance, Operations and Data Analysis, Information Management and Communications and Legal.


Administrative assistants are at the very heart of MI5.

You'll support vital projects, and work across a range of exciting departments.

Day-to-day, you'll demonstrate and develop a range of administrative skills.

With excellent organisational skills, you'll be responsible for booking travel, ordering office essentials and managing information.

You could be organising critical meetings, so you'll become an essential point of contact.

And as a great communicator, you'll answer phone calls and respond to queries.

You could also be greeting both internal and external visitors, so it's really important you're discreet.

You'll need to be motivated, proactive and have an eye for detail.

It's an important job, but you can't take your work home with you.

And because we work flexibly, you'll have a good work-life balance.

You'll quickly settle into our supportive environment, and feel valued by everyone.

After all, you'll be at the heart of MI5.

Behind everything we do, there's you.

Ever since secondary school, I've enjoyed tackling new technology projects in my spare time. So studying computer science at university was a no-brainer for me.

And my passion for digging deeper into technology and exploring the edge of what's possible were two of the reasons I wanted to join MI5.

I haven't been disappointed. Life as a Covert Technical Operations Specialist is fast-moving and exciting; the technology in incredibly advanced.

And it has to be. Historically, the agency intercepted physical documents. Now we're conducting operations to access the computers and devices used by terrorists planning attacks, and always within our legal remit.

I have to explore and explain the risks. The technology terrorists are using is constantly changing. From SMS just five years ago they are now using a range of platforms to communicate and share information. Some use sophisticated encryption, so we have to think differently.

It means there's a lot of variety - you genuinely don't know what you're going to be working on each day.

It can get quite intense and sometimes I need to work odd hours, but I love my job and I get great training, as well as a good work/life balance.

And I know that what I'm doing has a real impact on keeping the country safe from terrorists, spies and other groups who want to harm the nation.

Have you thought about working for MI5?

Do you know what kind of people we employ?

What kind of jobs do we offer?

We're always looking to recruit people with a diverse range of skills and backgrounds.

We have nearly 4,000 staff based around the UK.

The people who work for us reflect the society we serve.

We offer a wide range of jobs - a lot more diverse than people might imagine. From core investigative and operational roles, including:

  • Intelligence Officers
  • Surveillance Officers
  • Foreign Language Analysts
  • Intelligence Analysts
  • Electronic Technicians
  • Computer Forensic Experts

To the jobs that keep the organisation on the road:

  • Vehicle Technicians
  • Accountants
  • Caterers
  • Security Guards
  • Business Analysts

We need that breadth of skills.

MI5 is responsible for countering covertly organised threats to Britain's security and economic well-being.

Threats that come from terrorism, espionage and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

By far the greatest threat comes from terrorism.

Even though the Good Friday Peace Agreement in Northern Ireland led to a more peaceful phase in its history there is still an active terrorist threat which MI5 and the Police Service of Northern Ireland work against.

There's an even greater threat from Al Qaida and all those who support its violent ideology:

Tanvir Hussein

"There will be daily torment in this world and a greater torment awaits you in the hereafter".

Many of our investigations focus on working to counter those threats.

Take this case from 2006.

Al Qaida was plotting to blow up airliners flying from the UK across the Atlantic.

An individual under surveillance in the UK went to visit an influential member of Al Qaida in Pakistan.

On his return, he led our investigative team to a group in London that was planning an attack in the UK.

MI5's team, which included a number of recent intelligence officer recruits, quickly identified the alleged terrorists. They set about providing covert intelligence coverage of them.

Rachel, 22, Intelligence Officer

"This was the first big operation I worked on, so it was a bit daunting at first. But I had lots of training to prepare me for it, and my mentor made sure I was OK. Looking back I can’t believe I only left university last year".

A team of intelligence analysts and computer network forensic specialists worked to analyse communications between members of the group, providing a unique insight into the progress of the plot.

David, 24, Digital Intelligence Unit

"It was a major challenge to keep up with what intelligence officers needed from us in terms of data analysis. We used state-of-the-art IT to help build a clear picture of what the guys were up to. There was a great camaraderie between all of the team that worked on the case".

In July 2006, it became clear the plot was reaching its final stage.

A flat in Forest Road, Walthamstow, became central to their activities. It became a bomb factory.

It was time to get approval to gain access to the property.

The Home Secretary gave the legal go-ahead.

A technical team, supported by surveillance teams and the police entered the property to install hidden listening devices and CCTV.

John, 53, Surveillance Team Leader

"Following the group was really tricky as they were paranoid about people watching them. We had to use lots of different surveillance officers to make sure we weren’t recognised. It was hard work, but this was the type of stuff I joined MI5 for."

The surveillance had revealed the plotters preparing video testaments. So-called "martyrdom videos" - justification for the acts they were plotting to commit.

Umar Islam

"Allah loves us to die and kill in his path."

Amira, 28, Foreign Language Analyst

"Listening to other Muslims planning to kill innocent people in the name of my religion was difficult to hear. My team was able to provide our intelligence officers with a cultural perspective to the group’s behaviour. The operation involved people of all ages and backgrounds working to protect the country. It was MI5 at its best."

All the principal plotters were arrested.

In all, eleven were convicted of either terrorist or other serious offences.

Work on the case continued investigating extremist associates preparing evidence for court, advising the airline industry on how to better protect aircraft.

This is just one case, one example of our teamwork.

For more information about careers at MI5, go to

Male Voiceover:
I joined MI5 as an intelligence analyst about 6 years ago. Before that, I worked in academia and briefly in market research in the private sector.

Male Voiceover:
The role is all about problem solving and quantitative analysis – it's not just about number crunching or reporting data. I know that my conclusions can have an impact on the safety and security of our country.

Male Voiceover:
Being an intelligence analyst means thinking creatively, identifying ways my analysis can add value to an investigation, and using my judgment to determine the best way forward.

Male Voiceover: 
When one of our intelligence officers comes to me with a problem, I sit down with them to help get to the bottom of what they want to know in the context of the investigation. Once i’ve established this, I can then analyse the data and make an assessment.

Male Voiceover:
I’ve worked on a diverse range of investigations and operations since i’ve been here, all with their own challenges. Sometimes we work to tight deadlines and under pressure, so I might have to turn around an assessment in a matter of minutes.  Other work might be more strategic and I might have a few weeks to work on a project or develop a new analysis tool. The variety is a genuine plus. 

Male Voiceover: 
It can be a fast pace environment, so it helps that everyone is very supportive – from my managers to my fellow analysts. We all have our own areas of expertise – but we’ll happily put what we’re doing to one side to help eachother out on higher priority investigations or operations. It's not really something i’ve experienced in other jobs, but it's one of the things I most like about working here.

Male Voiceover: 
I also like the satisfaction you get when you reach a turning point in an investigation and you know it's because of assessments and connections your team has made.
Recently I saw on tv that the police had made some arrests on a long running counter-terrorism investigation. It was great knowing i was involved, even though I couldn't share it with anyone outside the office.

Female Voiceover:
I'm an intelligence officer in the protective security advice team. Im currently working in the centre for the protection of national infrastructure. I joined the security service because I wanted a job that would really challenge me and make the most of my skills. 

Female Voiceover:
I’d studied criminology at university, so I was good at quickly analysing large amounts of data, producing reports and presenting my findings. Joining MI5 seemed like the perfect move. 

Female Voiceover:
A typical day for me might involve collecting, assimilating and then analysing intelligence from a variety of sources. I might need to write a report for an external partner or produce minutes for meetings that i've recently attended. 

Female Voiceover:
I have regular contact with a number of other government departments. I really enjoy the working environment, its friendly and professional. The standard of the work people here produce is extremely high and my colleagues are all really supportive. My working hours are surprisingly good too. Generally I start at 7.30 and finish at 4.30: which helps with life outside work. 

Female Voiceover: 
The other thing that really appeals to me is the range of  career options available here. The postings are challenging but the training is very comprehensive, and the trainers work hard with you to ensure you get on your feet in the new section as soon as possible. All in all this a unique and very satisfying place to work – I can recommend it wholeheartedly.

Female Voiceover:
My career with the security service has been absolutely fascinating. I joined in the mid 80’s and started as an investigator in the counter espionage team. After four years or so, I moved onto counter terrorism, that post was really challenging and I worked on some major international investigations. 

Female Voiceover:
Soon afterwards, I got what I have to say was an unexpected promotion to middle management, and I started to deal with policy issues. I ran a training team and managed various project – one where I created a new training facility and another where I mapped it requirements for the services investigation work.

Female Voiceover:
In 2004 I was promoted to the senior management group and became programme director for a major IT change programme. I was in charge of teams containing anything from ten to a hundred people: these included technical specialists, contractors and other members of staff. I learned an awful lot about getting the best out of others and meeting tough goals. 

Female Voiceover:
I was appointed to the services management board in 2008 as director of HR and security. This was a really exciting time for me, because the service’s priorities included managing rapid growth and developing a new people strategy to ensure the organisation’s long term effectiveness. 

Female Voiceover:
I spent 2010 delivering a joint cost saving agenda for all three security and intelligence agencies: that's MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. And after that I took on my current role as the director of the centre for the protection of national infrastructure. Here i've been involved in a wide variety of work including countering cyber security threats, and preparations for the olympics.

Female Voiceover:
I'm the assistant head of international counter terrorism and the head of MI5’s network of regional officers. I’ve worked for the security service now for over 20 years and the one thing you can say is that I haven't been held back.

Female Voiceover:
I've enjoyed a wide variety of experiences and had a lot of trust placed in me. This is an organisation that really supports its people, and I must say I value that.

Female Voiceover:
When I joined the security service as a young graduate in the late 80s, my first posting was as an intelligence officer in the international counter-terrorism section. Ive also carried out operational work and agent handling – and i've managed investigations into Northern Ireland related terrorism. I've been involved in protective security and i've worked for the services management board.

Female Voiceover: 
“Work-life balance” is one of those overused phrases these days, but it really means something here at MI5. For 15 years I worked 3 days a week as I looked after my two children. There’s been no resistance at all to my working patterns and it certainly hasn't blocked my path in terms of promotion. At one point in the mid 90s I was promoted by long maternity leave – in this respect, the service was well ahead of its time.

Female Voiceover: 
Im very proud of this organisation and what it does and i'm very proud to work alongside some exceptional people. There really is a great team ethos here and a unique sense of togetherness. It comes from everyone sharing the same goal – protecting the UK.


We are often asked questions about our work and how we operate. See below for some of our most commonly asked questions about working at MI5.

If you’ve started an online application that you want to re-visit, see Access my application.

If you’re having problems with the careers part of our website, please contact our recruitment team on 0800 304 7568 or at [email protected]. If your enquiry is urgent then please ring the recruitment team.

We currently employ about 4,400 people. More than 43% of staff are women, the average age of our employees is 39, over 9% are from black or ethnic minority backgrounds and 4% have a disability.

MI5 deals with very sensitive information. Lives may be put at risk if sensitive information is disclosed carelessly. This makes it vital to manage information properly and release it only when absolutely necessary.

Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1989 prohibits our current and former staff from making unauthorised disclosures of information concerning security or intelligence that they acquired while working for MI5. We can only pass on information as is necessary for purposes of protecting national security.

The Official Secrets Act does not prohibit disclosures of unimportant matters. However, we advise our staff to be aware of the sensitivities and potential risks when discussing their involvement with or knowledge of MI5.

There’s no such thing as "a typical MI5 officer". 

We seek to recruit from all areas of the UK and all sections of society. Our staff members come from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures, reflecting the diversity of the communities in the UK that we serve.

MI5 is an equal opportunities employer. 43% of our staff are women and just over half of our staff are under the age of 40. An increasing number of staff members (currently around 9%) are from black or ethnic minority backgrounds, and 4% have a disability.

See Careers for more information about our current vacancies and working at MI5.

Why join MI5?

A career at MI5 is like no other. Not only is it rewarding and unique but the variety here is like no-where else. It is this variety that means most people stay at MI5 as they are able to fulfil all their career ambitions here without ever having to leave. We are also committed to rewarding the people who work for us and demonstrating our appreciation for their vital contribution by offering an excellent range of benefits.