Pashto Language Specialists Ref. 2667

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Cheltenham, London
£32,092 - £34,414 (dependent on location)

MI5 and GCHQ, are part of the UK’s Intelligence Services, we work together to safeguard Britain’s people, Interests, and businesses from various threats at home, overseas and online, including cyber-attacks, espionage, terrorism, and organised crime.  Working across our vital missions, you’ll deliver impact at the heart of national security, all within a supportive and inclusive environment that allows everyone to thrive.

Your knowledge of Pashto could open up a career in intelligence. By joining MI5 and GCHQ, you can play your part in protecting the UK and its interests.


We’re looking for Pashto linguists (and ideally Dari at MI5) for a role that goes beyond translation and transcription. It takes knowledge of culture, history, and politics to drive forward effective change and understand a threat. If you can do that, you can enable the UK intelligence agencies to make the right choices to help safeguard national security.

You’ll use your language and analytical skills to provide intelligence insights that often have direct impact on UK government policy and decision making. Your challenge is to seek out important information from Pashto language material and make that material accessible and understandable to others. You’ll play an active role in directing projects and driving forward investigations, working right at the heart of intelligence. It’s gripping work, which will draw on your judgement, people skills and linguistic and cultural expertise every step of the way.

At MI5, you’ll use your knowledge of Afghan Pashto and Dari to carry out core language analysis work in support of investigations and develop your own career path focusing on the areas that most interest you, be it assessments, investigations or agent running. 
At GCHQ, you’ll work as an integral part of an operational team and be the first line of assessment, triaging Pashto language material against customer requirements to identify reportable intelligence to progress operations or shape and influence Government policy.  


At GCHQ, we’re looking for people with a skill in either Afghan or Pakistani Pashto.  At MI5, we’re looking for applicants with skills in both Afghan Pashto and Dari.  Your language ability could have come from growing up in a multi-lingual family, undergoing language training in the military, or you may well have studied Pashto or Dari to a higher level elsewhere.

Your linguistic skills need to be complemented by good knowledge of Afghan culture, history, religion, and politics. You also need to combine this with an analytical, enquiring mind, possess good judgement and effective people skills. To ensure you pass our language tests, you’ll need to be able to comfortably read newspaper articles and understand news broadcasts in Pashto (and Dari for roles at MI5). You’ll be able to translate from Pashto (and Dari, where applicable) into clear, well-drafted English.


MI5 and GCHQ have an inclusive and supportive working environment that’s designed to encourage open minds and attitudes.  We value and nurture talent, and we’re committed to helping you to fulfil your potential.  You’ll receive a structured comprehensive training and development package in language, analysis, and communications technology. Training will include classroom-based learning and hands-on training, which will enable you to grow your skills and perform to the best of your abilities. There are opportunities to develop your language skills, and allowances to reward your high level of language capability to meet business needs.

Whatever your career path, you’ll be part of a community of dedicated and talented language specialists, working together to really make a difference.


At MI5 you’ll receive a starting salary of £34,414 with the possibility to qualify for additional language allowances once in role.

At GCHQ you’ll receive a starting salary of £32,092. Upon successful completion of the 6-month probationary period you will be eligible for an additional payment of £3,000 p.a. in recognition of your language skill. Other benefits include: 

•    25 Days Annual Leave automatically rising to 30 days after 5 years service and an additional 10.5 days public and privilege holidays. 
•    Opportunities to be recognised through our employee performance scheme 
•    Personal Learning Budget (MI5 Only)
•    Opportunities to work flexibly, subject to business needs 
•    Interest-free season ticket loan (Travel and Parking) GCHQ Only
•    Excellent pension scheme 
•    Cycle to work scheme 
•    Facilities such as a subsidised gym and restaurant, and on-site coffee bars 
•    Paid parental and adoption leave  
•    Part-time working available (minimum 3 days per week for this role)

Equal Opportunities

At MI5 and GCHQ diversity and inclusion are critical to our mission. To protect the UK, we need a truly diverse workforce that reflects the society we serve. This includes diversity in every sense of the word: those with different backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, ways of thinking and those with disabilities or neurodivergent conditions. We therefore welcome and encourage applications from everyone, including those from groups that are under-represented in our workforce such as women, those from an ethnic minority background, people with disabilities and those from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Find out more about our culture, working environment and diversity on our website:


To work at MI5 and GCHQ, you need to be a British citizen or hold dual British nationality. You can read our full eligibility criteria here.

This role requires the highest security clearance, known as Developed Vetting (DV). It’s something everyone in the UK Intelligence Community undertakes. You can find out more about the vetting process here.

Please note we have a strict drugs policy, so once you start your application, you can’t take any recreational drugs and you’ll need to declare your previous drug usage at the relevant stage. 

The MI5 role is based in London, so you’ll need to live within a commutable distance. Please consider any financial implications and practicalities before submitting an application. An interest-free loan via our benevolent fund is available to assist with relocating into privately rented accommodation to take up the offer of employment.

The GCHQ role is based in Cheltenham, so you’ll need to live within a commutable distance. Please consider any financial implications and practicalities before submitting an application, as we do not offer relocation costs.

Please note, you should only launch your application from within the UK. If you are based overseas, you should wait until you visit the UK to launch an application. Applying from outside the UK will impact on our ability to progress your application. You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member.


MI5 and GCHQ are proud to have achieved Leader status within the DWP’s Disability Confident scheme.  This is aimed at encouraging employers to think differently about disability and take action to improve how they recruit, retain, and develop disabled people.  Being Disability Confident, we aim to offer a person-to-person interview to any candidate who self-identifies as disabled and meets the essential criteria for the role.  This is our “offer of interview” (OOI)” To secure an interview for this vacancy, the essential criteria (in order of application process) are: 

•    To demonstrate a strong motivation for applying to work for the UK intelligence agencies
•    A demonstrable high level of Pashto, and where applicable, Dari by achieving a pass in our language tests
What to Expect

Our recruitment process is fair, transparent, and based on merit. Here is a brief overview of each stage, in order:

•    Initial application and eligibility sift 
•    In-person language tests in Cheltenham or London
•    In-person interview and analysis test in Cheltenham or London

Please note, you must successfully pass each stage of the process to progress to the next.  You application may take around 6 – 9 months to process including vetting, so we advise you to continue any current employment until you’ve received your final job offer. You may also be required to undergo a hearing test for this role. 

Right to Withdraw Statement:  
Please be aware that we withhold the right to bring forward the closing date for this role from the original closing date once a certain number of applications have been received. Please be mindful of this and submit your application at your earliest convenience to avoid disappointment.  

This Program / Vacancy is closed to applications.