Print

Security Clearances >> Browse Articles >> Security Clearance Guides

+7

Security Clearance 101: Maximize Your Earnings

Security Clearance 101: Maximize Your Earnings

Allan Hoffman / Monster.com

October 13, 2007

A security clearance is often essential to landing a technology job with a government contractor or federal agency handling sensitive information.

If you want to work at an organization serving the national interest, you may find your path slowed considerably, if not blocked entirely, by the lack of a security clearance. To obtain a clearance, you need an employer’s backing and patience. Delays are common, given the government’s backlog of clearance applications.

Here’s our guide to security clearances.


What is a security clearance?


A security clearance is a government authorization for you to view classified information as your job requires. The information can be as varied as reports about border security or details on how spy satellites work. A clearance is not a blanket authorization to view all classified information; it simply allows you to view the information you need to know to do your job.

Advance Your Career

Dave Underwood, president of TAC Secured, a TAC Worldwide subsidiary that places IT professionals with active security clearances, stresses the importance of a clearance to work at defense contractors, homeland security firms and in other government-related positions. He likens the clearance to “a secret handshake” — once you get it, it’s transferable, meaning it will help you find other jobs that require a clearance.


Are there different types of clearances?


Yes. The most common are labeled “confidential,” “secret” and “top secret,” corresponding to the sensitivity of the information you are allowed to handle on the job. Top-secret clearances may also give you authorization to view “sensitive compartmented information” — specific information that’s deemed particularly sensitive. Your employer will work with government officials to determine the appropriate clearance.


Can I apply for a clearance on my own?



No. Sponsorship from a company or government agency is necessary to apply for a clearance. “The challenge for most candidates is that you can’t obtain a security clearance on your own without having a government contractor or agency sponsor you for the background investigation,” says Michael Fitzgerald, principal consultant at staffing firm Winter, Wyman and Company. “Such investigations also take time and money, which means obtaining your clearance requires patience and planning, as they can often take many months to finish.” Employers pay the cost of the clearance process.


How does the government evaluate clearance applications?

The process varies depending on the type of clearance being sought, the information involved and the urgency of the project. A lower-level clearance may entail a background check into your education, job history, criminal record, credit history and residences. If you’re applying for a job involving more sensitive information, expect government or private investigators to interview you personally and delve into various areas of your personal and professional life. Investigators will also interview neighbors and friends and possibly have you take a polygraph test. Falsehoods and omissions in an application can disqualify you from receiving a clearance.


Does a clearance last a lifetime?


No. If you need to continue to view sensitive information on the job, you will have to undergo a reinvestigation every five years for a top-secret clearance, every 10 years for a secret clearance and every 15 years for a confidential clearance. A clearance becomes inactive when your job no longer requires you to view sensitive information.


Is it worth applying for a job requiring a clearance even if I don’t have one?


Lack of a clearance shouldn’t stop you from seeking a job that requires one. If you don’t have a clearance, the company may hire you, start the clearance process and have you work on other projects until your clearance is approved.


+7
  • 010_max50

    rbannister45

    about 6 years ago

    126 comments

    i had a tsi clearence in the military for ten years. do i need another one or will the one i had help me?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    mbakhoum

    about 6 years ago

    4 comments

    I have TS/SCI (final)

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    fxyldy

    over 6 years ago

    4 comments

    What kind of employment do I ned is it a paid or a volunteer .I would like more information

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    windyantoine12

    over 6 years ago

    6 comments

    yes I would love to obtain a security clearance please...!

  • Dancebatman_max50

    kovernment623

    over 6 years ago

    2 comments

    a few questions; can the fact that people have relatives overseas really hinder them from obtaining security clearances in general, or does it depend on what country they are in? also, can naturalized citizens obtain security clearances?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Mobilelady

    over 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Very good information! I had a Secret and a Top-Secret clearance while in the military, but that was over 25 years ago. I have found several jobs I wanted to apply for since then, but they always ask "do you have a security clearance." Perhaps the entities don't realize that it is up to them to sponsor the person they are hiring.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Sirrhino

    almost 7 years ago

    2 comments

    Excellent clarifications! well thought questions and answers!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    pooch96

    almost 7 years ago

    2 comments

    What if a person all ready has DoD clearance TS, and more.

  • Liberty_max50

    Barodsky

    almost 7 years ago

    54 comments

    Awesome intro to what can be a really slow-moving process.

Govcentral School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use GovCentral's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.