Spy Equipment and the Security Services

Adrian Mudd   June 9, 2008

Looking for a job as James Bond? Do spies and spy equipment exist in the UK’s Security Service, M15, or is it all the stuff of thrillers?

If you are thinking of a career with M15, chances are you are a fan of James Bond or the TV-series, Spooks. On film and TV, glamorous looking young men and women face danger and intrigue while saving the world with the help of some rather sophisticated looking spy equipment. But is it real?


When the new series of the drama Spooks started on BBC1, the MI5 website had double the normal number of hits as interest in recruitment possibilities and the prospect of swapping the day job for spy equipment, glamour and excitement appealed to anyone stuck in a humdrum existence.

Be like Bond

So how real to James Bond is life working with the SIS or MI5 as it’s more commonly known? The MI5 website isn’t packed with spy equipment such as counter-surveillance technology or hidden spy cameras and gadgets as featured by gadget-whiz ‘Q’ in the movies. But it does refer to Bond. It says the gap between truth and fiction has widened even further from the Bond books that originally injected the world of espionage with so much glamour. But it adds: “nevertheless, staff who join SIS can look forward to a career that will have moments when the gap narrows just a little and the certainty of a stimulating and rewarding career which, like Bond’s, will be in the service of their country.”

If you are considering to embrace a career in the MI5 be warned – many of the jobs available cover all sorts of careers. Bond with his spy equipment and sophisticated gadgets may be the most famous of the organisation’s staff, but jobs exist in human resources, IT and somebody has to clean the famous Thames House building!

Leave the tux at home

No matter what job you go for, although you might not get a chance to play with spy equipment and gadgets or wear a tuxedo, you should not tell anyone other than a spouse that you are applying for a job there. The website for MI5 is a new development for an organisation that once claimed it didn’t exist – but this transparency is still subject to tight security checks to stop unscrupulous people trying to sign up – from journalists to Al Qaeda sympathisers.