Assistant economists careers in the Civil Service

The GES is the UK's largest recruiter of economists, with over 1400 professionals in more than 30 Departments and Agencies. We are involved in all aspects of Government policy. Joining the GES as a Fast Stream Economist can give you a wide range of career options, and allows you to make a visible impact on life in the UK and beyond.

Last updated - 23rd June 2010

What would I do?

As a government economist you could work in areas like macroeconomic modelling, competition policy, international financial issues, labour market trends, taxation, housing benefits, local government finance, public health and criminal justice, to name but a few. There are also research opportunities, where you'll be in close contact with universities and researchers.

For details on the work of government economists in each department see What do government economists do?

What about training and promotion?

Our economists are a most valuable resource and our opportunities for training and promotion reflect this. As a new assistant economist you would join a Fast Stream development programme designed to develop your economic, managerial and communication skills, and to prepare you for early promotion to more senior jobs. In your first few years you can expect to move jobs every year or so, and after your first two years you can widen your experience by moving to another government department. Promotion is based on merit. The first promotion is to economic adviser and generally happens between three and four years after joining. As an economic adviser you will be recognised as a fully trained professional economist. You'll have access to further training to maintain and broaden your skills and to develop you for further promotion.

What qualifications do I need?

To join the GES as an assistant economist you must have, or expect to get in 2010, a first or upper second-class honours degree in economics, or a postgraduate degree in economics. Joint or mixed degrees are fine provided the major element of the degree is in economics. You will also need strong personal qualities. You must be keen to get to the root of problems, be a good team player with well-developed personal and social skills, and able to put together complex arguments and explain them convincingly to senior managers.

Allocation to a GES department

The allocation process can seem less transparent than other parts of the recruitment process, so we hope this explanation of how the allocation process works is helpful. Much depends on the very simple factor of when you can start work.

It is worth noting that the only time you are placed in a department is your first posting in the GES. After that it is up to you and your manager how often you move about and which department you apply to move to. It is also worth remembering that starting your career in a department which is not your first choice can be very rewarding, particularly in terms of broadening your experience and furthering your career.

We always look at candidate's preferences on the application form. However, over 50% of applicants put Her Majesty's Treasury (HMT), Department for International Development (DfID) or the Diplomatic Service (DS) as their first choice. These three departments do not make up 50% of the jobs on offer so if you put one of these as your first choice you are less likely to be placed there.

It's worth checking What do government economists do?  for more details of individual departments. This includes details such as starting salary, which should help inform your decision. It also gives further information about additional requirements a department may have. For example, you must be a British citizen to work for the Diplomatic Service and you must have a Masters in Economics for DfID.

If you choose departments other than HMT, DfID, DS in your top three choices we are much more likely to be able to assign you to one of your preferred departments. There are some smaller departments which rarely get mentioned by applicants so you may be offered a department that you have not chosen. If you are allocated to a department which is not a choice we urge you to visit the department to talk to the economists about the work before making your decision.

How much would I earn?

Salaries vary between departments. You can find out about starting pay in departments in What do government economists do? The average starting salary in London is about £25,000 for someone with a first degree. Some departments do pay more to reflect relevant postgraduate qualifications.


Applicants for GES posts must be UK nationals, Commonwealth citizens or European Economic Area (EEA) nationals with an unrestricted right to reside in the UK

On the application form you will be asked about your nationality at birth, whether you have ever possessed any other nationality or citizenship, whether you are subject to immigration control and whether there are any restrictions on your continued residence or employment in the UK.


Please note that it is possible to meet the above nationality requirements and still not be legally entitled to work in the UK. The UK Border Agency operate a points-based immigration policy which applies to the migrants from outside the European Economic Area, Switzerland and Turkey.

It is your responsibility to check whether this policy applies to you. Departments are under no obligation to sponsor work permits under the UK Border Agency's points-based immigration policy. Therefore, if you require a permit to work in the UK, there is no guarantee that you will be offered a place even if you pass the Fast Stream selection process. In these circumstances the decision to apply, which might involve travel to the UK two or more times to complete the selection process, is yours alone. We can take no responsibility if no place is available for you in the Fast Stream on immigration grounds.

For full details please see Nationality requirements.

To join the Diplomatic Service, you must be a British citizen and been resident in the UK for at least two of the previous 10 years, at least one of which must have been a consecutive twelve month period. Furthermore, to enable the appropriate security checks to be carried out, you must have resided for at least three consecutive years in one country.

Diplomatic Service

This option is only available via the 1st round - which opens on 21 September 2009 and closed on 2 November 2009. You can also opt to join the Diplomatic Service as an economist. As well as having the requisite skills for the GES you will need to demonstrate that you can,with appropriate training and experience, learn how to build networks of key contacts, which form the core of diplomatic work.


Candidates who pass the Economic Assessment Centre and the Fast Stream Assessment Centre may only defer appointment to complete a postgraduate degree in economics or to complete the Overseas Development Institute Fellowship.

Deferrals are granted for a maximum of 2 years. Candidates who do not take up appointment within this period will need to re- apply for the economist fast stream scheme. Candidates cannot defer appointment from the Diplomatic Service option or from the offer of a Provisional appointment from EAC.

Equal opportunities

At the GES we welcome applications from anyone with the necessary qualifications, regardless of sex, marital status, race, colour, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or, in Northern Ireland, community background. There are no age limits, but employing departments will expect several years' service before normal retirement at age 60.