Civil Service Fast Streamer

The Job and What's Involved

The Civil Service Fast Stream is a development programme for graduates with potential to progress to top government posts.

Fast Streamers take on a series of job placements in government departments and agencies. They gain experience designed to prepare them for senior managerial roles.

Fast Streamers are expected to acquire specialist knowledge and take on responsibility very quickly.

The work is hugely varied.

Fast Streamers may contribute to projects in almost any area of public policy - from tax issues to tackling global warming, from farming subsidies to relationships with foreign governments.

They may help to run direct public services, such as benefits.

They may also run projects in services that support government departments, such as finance and human resources.

Fast Streamers in the Houses of Parliament advise politicians on procedural issues, and help to run the business of committees.

Daily tasks may include:

  • Carrying out research, using the internet and other sources.
  • Analysing data and ideas.
  • Preparing briefings for government ministers, civil service colleagues or journalists, in a way that puts a persuasive case.
  • Responding to queries about the specialist area of work.
  • Attending meetings.
  • Managing projects, which may include leading a team and monitoring budgets.

Fast Streamers work closely with colleagues and politicians. They often liaise with civil servants in other government departments. They may also have contact with special interest groups and members of the public.

Fast Streamers work office hours, Monday to Friday. Longer hours are sometimes required, to meet project deadlines or respond to unexpected pressures. Weekend work is rare. Most departments have a flextime system.

Some departments provide flexible and part-time working arrangements, job share opportunities and career breaks.

The work is office based. Some travel is likely for meetings, research and conferences. Some roles require international travel. Those in the Diplomatic Service are posted abroad after two years.

Fast Streamers start on a salary of around £25,000 to £27,000 a year. After promotion, earnings may rise to around £40,000.

Senior civil servants may earn £57,000 or more.

Benefits include a Civil Service pension scheme.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are more than 170 government departments and agencies, together employing nearly half a million people.

Most Fast Streamer recruits start in London. However, there are opportunities in other cities, including Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield.

Fast Stream recruitment is highly competitive. In recent exercises a little over 3 per cent of applicants were successful. This varies between professions: for instance, 23% of economist applicants succeeded.

Recruitment exercises are usually run between September and November. For economists and statisticians, there are two rounds each year.

Education and Training

Applicants need at least a second class degree. This may be in almost any subject; skills, attitude and outlook are more important than degree topic. However, some specialist fields require a particular discipline and/or a higher degree (see below).

There is no time limit between graduation and an application to Fast Stream.

Most posts are open to UK nationals and Commonwealth citizens, and to European Economic Area nationals with an unrestricted right to live in the UK. Diplomatic Service candidates must be British nationals.

The degree requirement may be waived for candidates whose disability has prevented them gaining a degree, if they can show other evidence of their potential.

Candidates for the Graduate Fast Stream state a preference for the department in which they want to work. Although this preference is taken into account, there is no guarantee that successful candidates will work in their department of choice.

The areas within the main scheme are:

  • Central departments.
  • The Diplomatic Service.
  • The Houses of Parliament.
  • Science and engineering, either for the Ministry of Defence or for other fields of work (applicants need a degree in science, engineering, maths or computing).
  • European Fast Stream (besides their degree, applicants must have A level (A-C) or equivalent in French or German).

There are also separate Fast Stream schemes for:

The Government Economist Service (applicants need a 2:1 degree or postgraduate degree in economics).

The Government Statistical Service (applicants need a degree in a numerate subject such as psychology, maths, economics, geography, sciences or business studies).

Technology in Business (applicants need a 2:1 degree in any discipline)

Human Resources.

The application process follows this sequence:

  • Online tests of verbal and numerical reasoning and competence.
  • A supervised test at a regional centre (half day).
  • An assessment in London, including exercises within a group (one day).
  • Interview by a selection board (only for Diplomatic Service or Houses of Parliament posts, and the Technology in Business scheme).

Existing civil servants may apply to join the Fast Stream through an internal competition. They need not have a degree, but must show the potential to achieve in senior management.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

After a short induction course, most Fast Streamers begin their careers with a series of placements in their departments. Each lasts around 12 to 18 months. Fast Streamers then move on to a different project.

In this way they are encouraged to gain experience within each of three broad professional areas or 'career groupings':

Corporate services delivery - providing key services to departments, such as human resources, finance, IT, estate management and communications.

Operational delivery - leading provision of direct services to the public, such as Jobcentre's, immigration services and courts.

Policy delivery - research, analysis and development of government policy.

Eventually, each Fast Streamer is asked to consider specialising in one career grouping.

There are also opportunities for secondment's outside government, in business or industry.

On-the-job training is supplemented by around 15 days of formal training a year. Fast Streamers learn job-specific skills, as well as general skills such as communications and managing diversity.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A Fast Streamer needs:

  • The ability to quickly acquire skills and information.
  • An analytical mind.
  • To be skilled at planning and organising.
  • Excellent verbal, written and presentation skills.
  • To be able to influence, persuade and lead others.
  • Maturity and confidence.
  • Initiative.
  • A decisive nature.
  • An organised approach.
  • To work effectively under pressure.
  • To be able to handle conflict and competing priorities.
  • An interest in political and economic issues.
  • To be able to adapt to new situations.
  • Discretion.
  • Stamina.
  • To be prepared to work on difficult issues, or on projects with which they may personally disagree.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion is driven by performance. The average time before promotion is four years.

Many Fast Streamers go on to work in the senior civil service. The training equips them with skills that can be useful in any other sector of work.

Get Further Information

Graduate Fast Stream, Application Helpdesk,
Pilgrims Well, 427 London Road, Camberley, Surrey GU15 3HZ
Tel: 01276 400333

Other schemes:

Diplomatic Service, Recruitment Section, Foreign and Commonwealth Office,
Room 2/98, Old Admiralty Building, Whitehall, London SW1A 2PA

Economists, c/o Anne Bateman, Government Economic Service Team,
HM Treasury, Room G/34, 1 Horse Guards Road, London SW1A 2HQ>
Tel: 020 7270 5073/4571

Houses of Parliament, Clerk of Committees, House of Commons,
London SW1A 0AA and House of Lords, London SW1A 9PW
Tel: 020 7219 6239

Science & Engineering, details as for Graduate Fast Stream above.

Statisticians, c/o Simon Nicholas, Office for National Statistics,
Government Buildings, Room 1.301, Cardiff Road, Newport NP10 8XG

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