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How to Join the Armed Forces for a Career

Responsibilities for defending Great Britain and Northern Ireland fall on the services of the British Armed Forces (also called Her Majesty's Armed Forces).

This section contains information about starting a career in the military and how to join the Armed Forces in the United Kingdom.

Royal Navy, British Army, & Royal Air Force

The assessments that armed forces recruits need to pass include aptitude tests, a fitness test, and a formal interview.

If you join the armed forces for a career as an officer, you would be entering into the military equivalent of a ‘managerial’ role.

Thus, officers need to pass tougher assessments and the role usually requires you to have at least two good A levels (or equivalent).

Note: There is no requirement for officers to have a degree. But, extra support could be available if you attend university to join as a graduate.

Professionally Qualified Officers (PQO)

One special training programme run by the British Army is for applicants with professional qualifications. Typical examples for the PQO route include chaplains, lawyers, and veterinarians.

No matter whether you get into the Royal Navy, British Army, or the Royal Air Force (RAF), they share a common thread – they are careers with long-term prospects.

Starting a career in the British Armed Forces is one that will make you proud. Not only does the role help protect the interests of the United Kingdom, but it also helps you develop transferable skills to serve you in later life.

Skills and Qualifications for UK Armed Forces

You may not realise it, but you could already have some of the skills needed to start a career in the military, such as:

  • An ability to remain calm and patient in stressful situations.
  • Being able to work by yourself – as well as part of a team.
  • Cognitive attributes, such as communication skills, reasoning, and rational thinking.
  • Efficient decision making and leadership qualities.
  • Having good physical skills (e.g. hand to eye coordination, dexterity, and movement).

Note: The main section contains more advice and information about searching for new job opportunities in the United Kingdom.

As a general rule, mainly because there are so many different and unique roles within the British military, having a formal qualification is not necessarily mandatory.

That said, having an existing qualification is going to provide you with increased opportunities. Examples include signing up as an officer or as part of specific trades (e.g. engineers, medical roles).

Some of the most popular roles in the United Kingdom Armed Forces include:

  • Chefs
  • Drivers
  • Engineers (and mechanics)
  • HR staff
  • Intelligence operatives
  • Logistics
  • Pilots (and aircrew)
  • Police
  • Marines
  • Soldiers

But, what happens if you didn’t get the GCSE pass mark in English and Mathematics after leaving school? If not, you may be able to get ‘equivalent’ qualifications as part of the basic training.

There are several key attributes you must have to start a career in the British Armed Forces. The first is having a basic level of physical fitness to pass the selection process. Following that, you would also need to pass a medical examination.

Note: The UK Armed Forces is one of the biggest providers of apprenticeships in the country. Moreover, you can complete many of them as part of the training.

Armed Forces Starting Pay

The starting salary for a trainee in the UK Armed Forces is about £16,000 – which increases to at least £20,400 after completing the training.

Officers who are getting entry level salaries receive around £30,000 – even though some can earn up to £39,000.

On top of that, a subsidised benefits package usually includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Gym and fitness facilities
  • Meals
  • Travel

Your employers will expect you to have a high level of discipline, commitment, and integrity. Thus, you would be committing to a minimum of:

  • Three and a half (3.5) years if you join the Royal Navy.
  • Four (4) years if you start in a career in the British Army.
  • Six (6) years for joining the Royal Air Force.

Note: As a rule, recruits will join one of the armed forces to serve much longer terms than the minimums. Doing so offers opportunities to rise through the ranks for a long lasting career.

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Note: Passing the basic DBS check is a legal requirement for entry into the UK Armed Forces. You should allow fourteen (14) days to complete the process.

Related Articles and Help Guide

Note: This short video explains what happens after you apply to join the British Army and how a recruiter will guide you through the application process.

UK Rules for Joining the Armed Forces