FR Officer vs. SIS/DS

#1
Dear all,

This seems the most appropriate part of the forum so far as finding help is concerned, if not though then admins do please move it.

The situation is this: I am at university, I am greatly enjoying my course and I am doing very well here, I am due to graduate with a good degree in Philosophy from an old university. Since childhood I have wanted to join the army, but my reasons for doing so have naturally changed, evolved and matured a fair bit since I was a child with a stick-Sten.

Having been on many familiarisation visits, met the officers, enjoyed the messes and read the regimental journals I've been quietly convinced for a couple of years now that being an officer in a Formation Reconnaissance regiment would suit me down to the ground. A greater space for personal initiative than MBT or support, intense and frequent frontline action, a good mess life, closely knit 'family' essense and some impressive characters too.

I would not be joining for a full length career though, I think. I can really see myself getting frustrated at not having more say in how the show is run. This is the other side of my nature, I like organisations and systems to work and work properly, but as a career one cannot have both that and adventure, which is why I feel drawn in the two directions of serving Her Majesty as an officer, and serving her in a government position of some sort. I love the army, I have a profound respect for what it does, and have always felt drawn to it. This is a special situation though, it's massively overstretched and as an officer I'd be doing what I can with few resources (something in itself I've so far found an interesting challenge, doing more with less) but I'd not be able to change things higher up whereas foregoing the army may put me in a position where I could make a more profound difference. Worth it? Not sure.

The crux of the matter is this: With an eye to joining the Diplomatic Service or the SIS as my long term career, would it be best to serve in the Forces for a few years before transferring over, or joining the Services straight from university and getting onto the Fast Track?

I've a Cat1 from RCB Briefing (as it was then) and intend to take AOSB Main Board next summer. There are clear parallels between the skills required for a strong AOSB pass and the skills I need for the DS/SIS.

I'm asking here because university careers centres are good, but don't offer first hand accounts in a way that arrse can. I've been here a while - for better or worse - and have seen threads complaining heartily both about the Civil Service and the army, so it makes sense to ask here.


Sincere thanks,

Invictus_88
 
#2
Slow forum, clearly. Still, I've three years of university so there's not a tremendous rush.

Please don't allow the age of the thread to prevent you replying, though. I will recieve an email notification, so shall certainly see it even if it is posted a long time after this.
 
#3
Six of one, half dozen of the other.

A few years in HM Forces will always look good on your CV. But it's a big commitment, especially post-9/11. Depending on what branch of the Forces you join, you could very well find yourself serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. If you do that and make it out in one piece, I would imagine that kind of experiance would look very attractive to SIS.

Against that, there is no guarantee you will make it out in one piece.

On the other hand, the Spooks have a recruiting drive on at the moment. Both SIS and MI5 are desperate for quality new recruits. They have never been busier. If this is the career path you want, it might be better to aim for the Fast Track.

I would say that Military Service is probably more directly relevant to SIS rather than the Diplomatic Service, but like I said, it always looks good on a CV, no matter what job you're applying for.

Understand; I'm posting only from theory. I've never had any contact with the Spooks, beyond looking at their website.

Whatever you choose to do: Good luck.
 
#4
My opinion? Join the Army on short service terms and take the opportunity to learn about people - soldiers, those not from your personal/social background (all human life is there), those different cultures that you will encounter on operations, learn from your NCOs about how people tick, what motivates them, what scares them and how they react. If you want a taster of life elsewhere, volunteer for a tour with special duties and see what it is like for 2 years - if you think you can stomach that life long-term, move across. If not, you can return to the mainstream and either stay or find something else that floats your boat.
 
#6
I know of one Officer who is on secondment from SIS to the Army. Just said to his Boss one day 'I want to join the Army' and was at RMAS 4 weeks later on a 'when you want to come back, let us know' deal. Only gets one pay cheque though.
 
#7
wonder how good it is to work for the SIS or MI5 ?

seems like an interesting line of work, I had considered this as a career but not yet taken the plunge and sent in an application, i am still looking into the pay, pension , holiday, perks, paid military leave etc

is there anybody who can tell me a bit more about it, that the official blurbs didn't flesh out on, I would grateful for further info without breaching classified information either here or via PMs

thanks
 
#8
scots_wahey said:
I know of one Officer who is on secondment from SIS to the Army. Just said to his Boss one day 'I want to join the Army' and was at RMAS 4 weeks later on a 'when you want to come back, let us know' deal. Only gets one pay cheque though.
Yeah, that's what he told you, anyway! :roll:
 
#9
Not going to go into enormous detail for obvious reasons but...

SIS look for sharp minds, questioning of others' motivation, initiative, etc.
The two that I've met are very very quick indeed: impressive people.
I'd suggest that if you aren't set on a long term military career, the TA might be a better option, coupled with a job that involves regular foreign travel. Of course, those two things could / would clash, so you need to have a good think. Also, the first 2-3 years as an Army Officer are very similar regardless of regiment (with a few exceptions), as you are learning the ropes and are expected to get your initial management experience.

They also don't recruit at all below 21, so you would not be the oldest of entrants if you were in your mid 20's or even later... What are your language skills like? Fluency not essential, but obvious capability (A levels in 1 or 2 say as a minimum) would look good. DS are essentially normal civil servants abroad - higher spec applicant than average because it's an attractive role.

Ref. has also been made above to a tour with Special Forces. I'd keep that option in mind too if the part of SIS that you find attractive is the being outside part, as opposed to being at cocktail parties or at a desk... 8)

So, getting my thoughts together, 3 years in Formation Recce followed by some time in industry could work... Independent foreign travel, an enquiring mind, initiative, language skills, absolute discretion(!), and general brilliance will see you in with a chance I'd guess.
 
#10
Just read my previous post again and I think that I should qualify a comment. SF's connections with the Intelligence Community are hardly secret in principle, but perhaps what I was alluding to is that the more 'outdoorsy' or rufty tufty the specific job, the less likely it will be given to someone from Vauxhall. I am not impugning their ability to work away from an Embassy bar! Going to stop now before I get myself into trouble...
 
#11
Join the Army first.

Whether it be in the DS or SIS you will come into contact with members of the military at some time in your career, I can almost guarantee it. At such times it is the personal relationships between DS/Mil or SIS/Mil that will make a difference. If you have some military experience already it will make those relationships much easier to develop, and give you some added credibility.
 
#12
It all depends on £££ in the final analysis.

SIS recruit only up to Grade 6, which equates to a max of £32k pa. Not much to live on in London. Graduate entries are usually at Grade 8, on a paltry £24k.

Hence they have a major retention problem. People get to about 2 or 3 years into their careers and realise they will never get on the property ladder or have a decent lifestyle on that sort of cash, and leave to start again in the private sector.

Obviously if the salary continues to be so wholly out of step with the private sector then they'll never get the cream of the graduates who will always be attracted to consulting or investment banking. This is now, alas, being reflected in the recruitment itself - the candidates aren't a patch on what they were 10 years ago.

SIS sounds exciting - but be warned - long tedious hours and little money. If you wish to serve your country then you can get a shed load more money, career progression and challenge in uniform.

In short - I'd recommend you get an alternative long term ambition that these areas of the civil service.
 
#13
Augustus said:
It all depends on £££ in the final analysis.

SIS recruit only up to Grade 6, which equates to a max of £32k pa. Not much to live on in London. Graduate entries are usually at Grade 8, on a paltry £24k.

Hence they have a major retention problem. People get to about 2 or 3 years into their careers and realise they will never get on the property ladder or have a decent lifestyle on that sort of cash, and leave to start again in the private sector.

Obviously if the salary continues to be so wholly out of step with the private sector then they'll never get the cream of the graduates who will always be attracted to consulting or investment banking. This is now, alas, being reflected in the recruitment itself - the candidates aren't a patch on what they were 10 years ago.

SIS sounds exciting - but be warned - long tedious hours and little money. If you wish to serve your country then you can get a shed load more money, career progression and challenge in uniform.

In short - I'd recommend you get an alternative long term ambition that these areas of the civil service.

This is first class advice, heed it. There is a military team 'attached' to Box 850. You could eventually find your self on that option, having joined the colours. Best of luck to you.
 
#14
This has been here a while, but I have limited knowledge of MI5 and next to none (bar the website) of SIS, so for what it is worth:

Changing the world from within? unlikely to happen in the Army (as you point out) or the Services I would have thought.

From my understanding, even on fastrack, after say 6 years you would be in a comparable position in either career. You move jobs every 2 years in the Service and can move every 2 years in the Army. Promotion wise I was advised when looking at general Civil Service fastrack (so applies to MI5 I think, not sure on SIS) that going in at base level after 5 years mil service, I could expect promotion within 3-5 years, depending on performance. Military background would only count to move you up the entry payscale, rather than up the promotion ladder - to a point.

You can move into MI5 as middle-management - ie not footwork a la Spooks - a policemen out of uniform, but a co-ordinator managing a team. This was from the website and someone I know that attended the selection process. You do need relevant quals and experience though.

Finally money - I know of 2 Officers who applied for MI5 then turned it down as the package could not beat Army and you have to live in london or commute their - ££££s per year. To cross to MI5 Mid-management you are on roughly the same money as a 5 year captain looking at pay scales, but not taking into account London living...

My choice - Army then consider long term career, even with the prospect of starting again - albeit with experience under your belt compared to a grad entrant with none. There comes a point in the Army though where the package in the coming years is quite hard to beat (at least no-one is offering me job security for another x years, a pension, enough money to live on, practically free accomodation, free clothes and good hols...).
 
#15
Augustus said:
It all depends on £££ in the final analysis.

SIS recruit only up to Grade 6, which equates to a max of £32k pa. Not much to live on in London. Graduate entries are usually at Grade 8, on a paltry £24k.

Hence they have a major retention problem. People get to about 2 or 3 years into their careers and realise they will never get on the property ladder or have a decent lifestyle on that sort of cash, and leave to start again in the private sector.

Obviously if the salary continues to be so wholly out of step with the private sector then they'll never get the cream of the graduates who will always be attracted to consulting or investment banking. This is now, alas, being reflected in the recruitment itself - the candidates aren't a patch on what they were 10 years ago.

SIS sounds exciting - but be warned - long tedious hours and little money. If you wish to serve your country then you can get a shed load more money, career progression and challenge in uniform.

In short - I'd recommend you get an alternative long term ambition that these areas of the civil service.
Also, as they both pay very poorly and if you are coming out of the Army and going to have to take a huge pay cut it is highly likely you will not get the DV required for the job, even if you have held it in the Army! Very picky our 'special friends'!
 

Forastero

LE
Moderator
#16
Interesting thread, this. I looked into applying for MI5 a while ago and didn't bother because of the unbelievably crap pay they offered. I'd still like to work for them though and so I'm hanging on until my IPP (6 years to go!) and then I intend to apply as a DV Investigator. Fairly decent salary and with my pension on top, it's just about doable.

I have met characters from both organisations and the differences are startling. the MI5 bod was all bonhomie and jolly nice whereas the MI6 dude was very intellectual, intelligent and quite intense. Of course, they don't necessarily reflect the ethos of those organisations themselves but it was very telling all the same.
 
#17
Pay can be crap - depends where you go in. For instance, an MI5 "foot-soldier" is pretty much on the same as a Met Police Constable - £22k ish. If you left the army as anything above LCpl you would take a pay cut, as you would in the police (and end of the day, at that level they are similar jobs - police and MI5). If you apply to go in at Middle Management (team leader type thing) then the pay is better - £32k ish upwards I believe.

They do ask you if you can afford to make the change, especially factoring in London rates, so refusal of DV might be based on getting out of army and applying for a job where suddenly you actually have to pay REAL MONEY for food and accomodation at inflated London rates - would that put you in financial jeopardy?

As Forastero states, it is an option further into your Army career, possibly at Immediate Pension Point as this would offset the deficit, but you'd be cracking on a bit (probably in relation to the whipper snappers that go in straight from Uni)...

Presumably (and this is the area you can't get info on the website), they would transfer pension and offer similar terms of service? This would be a major attraction - continue to serve your country, move across to an org that maintains your pension and you can "get out" at similar points to that which you would have in the Army? Any ideas?
 

Forastero

LE
Moderator
#18
Funnily enough, I rang to ask the exact same question about pensions, etc. Left a message and the response? Feck all. Didn't strike me as a particularly clever way of doing business really.
 
#19
Sekundra said:
So, getting my thoughts together, 3 years in Formation Recce followed by some time in industry could work... Independent foreign travel, an enquiring mind, initiative, language skills, absolute discretion(!), and general brilliance will see you in with a chance I'd guess.
My bold. You will get a real advantage over your peers with some good commercial experience as it can be very lacking in the CS and IS.

Invictus_88 said:
I am due to graduate with a good degree in Philosophy from an old university.
Particularly as this comment of yours gently implies that you may be a public school product. If this is the case you may be from a slightly more cloistered background than one that the more esoteric and challenging corners of the CS and IS presently prefer. A Cav Mess may not be the worldly experience that you hope it will be, particularly as in 4 years time (degree plus RMAS) you could expect a lower operational tempo as we lick our wounds and regroup post Iraq and hopefully post Afghanistan.

Have a look at the big commercial organisations doing the milk round and wave your AOSB pass around a bit. You may find some roles that give you a good pedigree for the jobs you are presently looking at. Keep an open mind and good luck!
 

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