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Armed Forces, Emergency and Security Services

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Armed Forces


For soldiers the minimum age for entry to the army is 16. If you are under 18, you will need consent from a parent or guardian. All entrants must pass the army entrance test (known as the BARB test) and a two-day selection programme at the Army Development and Selection Centre (ADSC). This programme includes a medical and physical assessment, aptitude and literacy tests, and an interview. Entrants who are eligible for consideration for a technical trade are also asked to sit a technical selection test. All candidates need to meet army nationality requirements.

If you are aged between 16 and 17 years and one month you could apply for the 42-week school leaver's course at the Army Foundation College at Harrogate.

Some jobs, particularly technical and mechanical apprenticeships, require specific qualifications. A vehicle mechanic, for example, requires GCSE grades C/D in maths, English and a science

Officer Cadets must normally be between 17 years and nine months and 28 years. There are, however, higher age limits for professionally qualified entrants such as doctors.

Entrants for officer entry need at least two A levels, or the equivalent, and seven GCSEs (A*-C), including English language, maths and either a science or foreign language. More than 80 per cent of officer cadets are graduates. Certain regiments or corps may also prefer a particular degree, depending on their needs.

Candidates must pass a medical entrance test and meet the Army's nationality and residency requirements. Selection is by a series of interviews, and practical and written tests at the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB) at Westbury, Wiltshire.

The Army offers a number of financial schemes and incentives to potential officer trainees (which can help with the cost of A level or degree studies) in return for a commitment to officer training and future service. Full  details of these schemes are available at

It is also possible to train as an officer after being promoted from soldier. Women cannot currently join regiments and corps involved in frontline fighting.

Royal Air Force

Airmen and women can join the RAF in many trades from the age of 16 except for a few roles such as mental health nurse. The qualifications required vary by role. No formal qualifications are needed to become an RAF Regiment gunner. But most trades require two to five GSCEs (A*-C), including English language and maths. The RAF website lists full entry requirements for each role.

Applicants must be citizens of the UK or Ireland, have been Commonwealth citizens since birth or hold dual UK and other nationality.

RAF Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships are on offer in a wide variety of trades, including aeronautical engineering, information technology, professional cookery, security guarding, and business and administration.

You will also need to take a series of tests covering aptitude, practical initiative and health and fitness.

Wearing glasses may limit the roles for which candidates can apply. Medical conditions may also be a bar to entry such as diabetes and epilepsy.

The Royal Navy

To join the Royal Navy you will need to pass a selection test, interview and medical. There are no formal entry qualifications for many jobs at ratings level, although GCSEs or equivalent qualifications of at least two GCSEs (A*-C) including English and maths are needed for some specialisations. Ratings must be at least 16 years old on entry and older for a few trades.

For officers Entry is with at least five GCSEs (A*-C), including English and maths and two A levels. Equivalent qualifications may be accepted for some specialisations. Many entrants have a degree. Specific degree subjects are required for some roles. Engineer officers, for example, must have an accredited engineering degree.

All candidates must pass a two-day assessment called the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB) at HMS Sultan in Hampshire. Before attending the AIB, those who have applied to become pilots, observers or air traffic controllers take flying aptitude tests at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire to assess their potential for training.

There are also UK citizenship requirements.

The Ambulance Service

Entry requirements vary between ambulance trusts and many ask for at least three or four GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent qualifications – five or more GCSEs or equivalent may be required for paramedic training.

Ambulance crew drivers will also need:

  • a C1 category driving licence with no more than 3 penalty points
  • excellent driving skills with between one and two years' driving experience
  • to pass a medical examination
  • to pass service selection tests, which may include a driving assessment, fitness test and writing and number skills tests
  • to undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau in order to work with children and vulnerable adults
  • experience of dealing with the public - ideally in a paid or voluntary caring role.

You will need to be registered with the Health Professions council (HPC) before you can work unsupervised as a paramedic. There are two main routes to becoming a qualified paramedic:

  • Student ambulance paramedic program with a health trust - many lead to a higher education diploma, foundation degree or degree in paramedic science. This route may take from two to five years.(see NHS jobs site for vacancies)
  • Diploma or degree in paramedic science. This could be a two-year higher education diploma, a two-year or three-year foundation degree or a three-year degree course. Some courses include a number of paid placements. Applicants may need at least five GCSEs (A*-C) including English and maths for higher education diplomas, one or two A levels for foundation degrees, and two or three A levels, including one science subject, for degrees. Equivalent qualifications may be accepted. On completion of an approved course, students are eligible to register as qualified paramedics.

Relevant experience before applying for entry may be gained in various ways. They include:

The Fire and Rescue Service

Each Fire Service sets its own entry requirements but in general you need to be 18+. There may be no set academic qualifications for entry to some services, although many applicants have GCSEs or other qualifications and must pass tests in:

  • maths
  • understanding and interpreting written information
  • situational awareness and problem solving.

Applicants need a reasonable level of physical fitness - assessed by a full medical examination and physical tests.

Some services require a full driving licence.

The Police

Eligibility criteria can vary from force to force however in general no set academic qualifications are required, though written tests are part of the assessment and many applicants have strong qualifications. Applicants must be:

  • at least 18 years old
  • a British, EU or Commonwealth citizen, or a foreign national with indefinite leave to remain in the UK
  • in good physical and mental health – a fitness test, eyesight test and medical examination are carried out.
  • able to satisfy background and security checks and declare any previous convictions.

 Experience of public service or working with people is an advantage. Some candidates volunteer as special constables or work as police community support officers before applying to join the regular service.

For Police Community Support Officers criteria vary from force to force but in general:

  • No formal educational requirements but need to pass written tests
  • need permanent right to remain without restriction in the UK.
  • Full security and reference checks are made
  • good health and satisfactory eye test needed
  • some tattoos and piercings may be unacceptable


Prison Officers

 There are citizenship requirements and you must also:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • pass an entrance test – although no specific qualifications are not required the test may be easier if you have qualifications
  • pass a medical, sight and fitness test
  • have good health and physical fitness
  • have at least three years' UK residency
  • not be an undischarged bankrupt, or having links to any groups or organisations the Prison Service regards as racist
  • pass a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.


Close Protection Officers

All Close Protection Officers working in England and Wales are required by law to have a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence. To apply for a frontline close protection licence, applicants must be aged 18 years or over and have already successfully passed one of the following Level 3 SIA-approved qualifications:

  • Certificate in protective security (distance-learning course awarded by Buckinghamshire New University)
  • Edexcel BTEC  in close protection operations
  • City & Guilds Certificate in close protection.

To obtain a frontline close protection licence, CPOs must also:

  • provide evidence that they have a valid and SIA-recognised first aid certificate
  • undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau
  • provide proof of age and identity
  • have the right to work and remain in the UK.

Security Officers

Security officers usually need an SIA license and those working on premises with an alcohol licence, which can include shopping centres, need an SIA door supervisor licence even if their role doesn't require them to work in the actual areas where the alcohol is sold.

If the role involves monitoring CCTV, an SIA public space surveillance licence may be required too. Other security roles, such as close protection, cash and valuables in transit and vehicle immobilisation, require a separate licence.

Before applying for a security guard licence, an applicant needs to hold one of these qualifications:

  • EDI Level 2 Certificate for security guards (EDI also offers a Level 1 introduction to working in the security industry, which could be taken as a first step before SIA training.)
  • City & Guilds Level 2 Certificate for security guards
  • BTEC Level 2 Award in security guarding
  • National Open College Network (NOCN) Level 2 Award in security guarding.

Applicants need to be over 18 and pass identity and Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks. A criminal record does not necessarily mean a candidate will be refused a licence.

Some security organisations offer Apprenticeships.

For more information about the courses on offer locally for 14-19 year olds why visit your local area prospectus? -

For courses in higher education check out the UCAS site

For Apprenticeships see the vacancies on the National Apprenticeship website

You can also ring the Barnsley Connexions Centre for information on local Apprenticeships on 01226 205686

Want to find out more about the range of employability skills asked for by employers?