What it does: Australia’s spy agency
Staff stats: Around 1800 employees, mainly based in Canberra
The good bits: Serving your country
The not so good bits: You can’t vent about a bad day at work
The ASIO story
After WWII, it was discovered Soviet spies were accessing confidential government data from both the UK and Australia. In 1949, this prompted the Prime Minister to issue a ‘Directive for the Establishment and Maintenance of a Security Service’, which set in motion the creation of ASIO.
For the last seven decades, ASIO has had a colourful history as Australia’s national security service. Much like its more glamorous foreign counterparts, such as Britain’s MI5, it's tasked with identifying, investigating and, in some circumstances, dealing with threats to national security. During the Cold War, this largely consisted of keeping an eye on the Soviets and their Australian fellow travellers. More recently it has been involved in everything from preventing terrorist attacks during the Sydney Olympics to monitoring activist groups threatening political violence.
ASIO had an annual budget of $518 million for the 2016/17 financial year. It’s expected to protect the nation from espionage, sabotage, terrorism and foreign interference. When investigating threats to Australia’s security, the ASIO Act 1979 allows officers to do certain things which would otherwise be unlawful. Despite what popular culture may portray, ASIO officers do not carry firearms. ASIO operates under the direction of the Director-General of Security, who reports to the Attorney-General.
In principle, ASIO has the same commitment to diversity and inclusion as all Australia’s public sector employers. It actively encourages women in Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths (STEM) and those with from diverse backgrounds to apply. However, there is a rigorous selection process to work at ASIO. While your application information is strictly confidential, people not comfortable providing detailed personal information might wish to consider if ASIO is right for them.
ASIO keeps Australians safe. While its missteps have received plenty of publicity, only those who’ve worked there know how many tragic events the actions of ASIO staff have prevented.
The recruitment process
ASIO employs grads from a range of disciplines depending on what role you are applying for. The Intelligence Officer or Analyst Program accepts candidates from any field of study, as long as you have the right aptitude, ASIO will train you in everything you need to know over 12 months to undertake the role. Intelligence Officers have a breadth of career opportunities within ASIO with postings in both analytical and human intelligence collection roles. Intelligence Analysts focus specifically on analysis and are posted to a broad range of analytical roles throughout their careers.
Technology more your thing? The Future Technologists Graduate Program is looking for people who have studied STEM and ICT subjects such as Cyber Security, Computer Forensics, Mathematics, Data Science/Analytics, Network Engineering, Software Engineering/Development, Telecommunications, Electrical, Mechanical, Computer Engineering, Information Security and ICT Systems Integration and Management.
This program prepares you to be a Future Technologist Officer, which involves using or developing technology to gather and analyse intelligence. This can include telecommunications interception, computer exploitation, technical surveillance, data science and electronic or software engineering.
As well as the above roles, ASIO needs psychologists, lawyers and linguists, as well as the typical support staff in areas such as IT, HR and finance.
To apply, you’ll need to be an Australian citizen and lodge your application while based in Australia. You will undergo a long and demanding assessment process. This will include an extensive background check to determine whether you are eligible for a ‘Positive Vetting’ security clearance. (You can expect to be drug tested, have your digital footprint checked out and be required to supply information about your current and past financial situation.)
Obviously, you’ll also need to be discreet – ASIO doesn’t even like people revealing they’ve applied to work there. ASIO doesn’t supply much information about the stages of the recruitment process. The grad programs are quite similar to other public service programs, however will provide you unique training and development opportunities not available to most other departments. The process starts with an online application.
You’ll earn $78,421 plus 15.4% superannuation while doing the Future Technologists grad program, with a pay bump to $82,281 once you’ve completed it.
For the Intelligence Officer or Analyst program you will start on $81,464 and increase to $90,042 upon successful completion of the program.
A career at ASIO starts at different times for different people. Both graduates and mid-career professionals will have opportunities for professional development through graduate-entry and leading intelligence and management training programs, within our career management frameworks.
You can select from, and move between, a variety of jobs in ASIO, always growing and developing new skills during your career in security intelligence.
As with most public service roles, you’ll need to develop your capabilities to be competitive to move up to the next level.
The vibe of the place
ASIO is a unique workplace with an important purpose and the staff are committed to deliver on its mission.
The Organisation will work with you and support you through the good times and the more challenging times—we’re busy and our work can be stressful, but we take care of each other and provide a number of support services for our officers.
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