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Armed Forces, Emergency and Security Services

The Job Market

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The Army employs just over 100,000 people. There is a constant need for recruits, and suitable candidates are always in demand - but there is fierce competition for places at all levels.

The first step should be to speak to an adviser at an armed forces careers office. Contact details for local offices and further information about a career in the army is available at

Royal Air Force

The number of people in the RAF has fallen in recent years to around 40,000. However, the force continues to recruit new staff. There is keen competition for most roles. The RAF careers website highlights which trades are receiving high numbers of applications.

There are around 8,460 officers in the RAF. All officer roles are open to men and women, with the exception of RAF Regiment officer, which is open to men only. There is strong competition and many entrants are graduates.

The Royal Navy

There are around 34,710 Royal Navy ratings. About 4,500 ratings are recruited each year. There are around 6,560 Royal Navy officers. About 500 new officers are recruited each year. Armed forces careers offices have details of vacancies.

The Ambulance Service

The NHS employs around 38,000 ambulance staff in the UK.  Most ambulance staff are employed by the 11 local NHS ambulance trusts in England. A few ambulance service staff work for private ambulance services and in the armed forces. Competition for posts can be keen.

The number of paramedics has been growing and there are currently just over 15,000 registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC). Most of them work for local NHS ambulance trusts, covering rural areas as well as towns and cities. Others are employed by the armed forces, private hospitals, private ambulance services, private paramedical agencies, and a few major industries.

NHS ambulance jobs are advertised on the NHS jobs vacancy website (, on ambulance trusts' websites and in local newspapers.

The Fire and Rescue Service

The main employers of firefighters in England are the local fire and rescue authorities. They employ just over 30,000 whole-time firefighters and 11,744 retained firefighters.

There is a high level of competition for entry to whole-time work, with many more applicants than vacancies.On average when they recruit the services have 150 applicants for each post. There is, however, a national shortage of retained firefighters.

Other organisations employ firefighters. These include the British Airports Authority, the Defence Fire and Rescue Service, and the RAF.

The Police

There are about140,000 police officers working in England and Wales. They are employed by regional police forces, as well as non-geographic forces, such as the British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP).

Police forces recruit at different times. Currently some forces are not recruiting due to financial difficulties caused by decreasing funding being available from central government which is resulting in job losses.

Prison Service

Recruitment is carried out by individual prisons. There are over 25,000 prison officers working in 149 prisons in England and Wales. Most are adult prisons for people over 21 years old, while others are young offenders' institutions for people aged 15 to 21. Men and women are held in separate prisons. Prisons are located in rural and urban areas, some in very remote areas.

Most prisons in England and Wales are run by Her Majesty's Prison Service (HMPS). Twelve others are run by private companies under contract to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). All prisons including contracted out ones are listed on the HM prison website

Private Security Services

There are around 500,000 people employed in the UK security industry -150,000 are licensed security officers. They work in a variety of places, including businesses, shops and shopping centres, airports, sports and concert venues, building sites, museums, hospitals and schools.

Large organisations may employ their own security staff, but many officers work as contract staff for private security companies. There are around 2,500 security firms in the UK. Many are small, local firms.

There is fierce competition for vacancies as Close protection officers because, although demand is stable, this is a small and specialised area of work. Close Protection Officers employed by the state are usually specially trained police officers or military personnel, often from the Royal Military Police or Special Forces.