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How to Obtain a Security Clearance

How to Obtain a Security Clearance

Roberta Chinsky Matuson / Monster.com

July 12, 2008

Suppose you’ve come across an hourly job that looks like a great fit. There’s just one small matter: The position requires a US security clearance, and you don’t have one. You may think that you can just apply for the clearance and in no time the job will be yours, but the process isn’t quite that simple.

You cannot obtain a security clearance for yourself. Your current or prospective employer has to do this for you. Since the process is costly and time-consuming, organizations won’t do it unless it’s absolutely essential. Make sure you arm yourself with the following information so you’re ready to apply for the jobs you are targeting.


What’s a Security Clearance?


A security clearance is used to confirm an applicant’s trustworthiness and reliability before providing access to national security information.

There are three basic levels of security classification:

Confidential: This clearance refers to material which, if improperly disclosed, could be reasonably expected to cause some measurable damage to national security. The vast majority of military personnel are given this very basic level of clearance. It must be reinvestigated every 15 years.

Secret: Unauthorized disclosure of the information this clearance covers could be expected to cause grave damage to national security. This level gets reinvestigated every 10 years.

Top Secret: Individuals with this clearance have access to information or material that could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security if it was released without authorization. This level needs to be reinvestigated every five years.


Who Needs a Security Clearance?


If your job requires access to classified government documents or if you work in a government-secured facility, you must hold a security clearance.

Hourly positions that may require a security clearance include secretaries, security officers, librarians, system administrators and computer-support personnel who have access to classified documents or systems.


Obtaining a Security Clearance


According to John Wojcik, manager of security and safety for a Department of Defense contractor, it can take up to two years to obtain a security clearance due to the high number of background checks already in progress. The process varies by federal agency and is constantly being tweaked based on current threats. Here is how it generally works:

1) Applicants must go through the application phase, which involves verification of US citizenship, fingerprinting and completion of the Personnel Security Questionnaire (SF-86).
2) The Defense Security Service conducts thorough background checks.
3) Last is the adjudication phase, during which findings from the investigation are reviewed and evaluated based on 13 factors determined by the Department of Defense. Examples of these factors include criminal and personal conduct, substance abuse and any mental disorders.
4) Clearance is granted or denied when this part of the process has been completed.


Things to Consider Before Proceeding


“The process of getting clearance can be very intrusive,” says Dave Archibald, director of compensation for Bedford, Massachusetts-based MITRE Corp. The procedure may include polygraphs, discussions with neighbors and interviews in which very personal questions are asked.

Moreover, Wojcik suggests you find out from human resources what the disqualifiers are before you quit your current job. “You don’t want to quit a good job only to find out that you are not eligible for clearance because you have relatives that live in another country,” he says.


Avoid Scams


Experts warn job seekers about recruiting firms, attorneys or other companies that promise to obtain a security clearance for you or “preapprove” you for a security clearance — for a fee. They are scams.


Get Your Foot in the Door


If you are serious about obtaining a position for which a security clearance is a must, Archibald suggests starting in a nonclassified job. Put in your time, and let your manager know that you are interested in moving up to a classified position.

Also see Security Clearances 101: How to Maximize Your Earnings


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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    whymcc

    almost 4 years ago

    8 comments

    Avoid Scams:

    True, after placing your "Resume Online"

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    martymoery

    almost 4 years ago

    2 comments

    If you have had a Top Secret Security Clearance while a member of the Military Service, can you have that clearance reinstated?

    Martin O. Moery

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    bforbes

    almost 4 years ago

    18 comments

    I believe there should be a streamlined process in place for those that have inactive clearances. I am a military veteran of 20 years in the Air Force and had a secret clearance while on active duty. I did not hold a civilian job that required a secret clearance until a few years later in 2004 when I worked for a defense contractor for the Army. I was again awarded a secret clearance after a new investigation. That job lasted only until 2006 when their contract was not renewed and I was never hired again in a position that required a clearance so the clearance became inactive.

    I now live in the Washington DC area where a good majority of the jobs are either government or government contractors. They all want you walking in the door with active clearances and do not want to pay to reinvestigate and have your clearance reactivated. This seems a bit unfair for someone who has paid their dues serving this country and has already held a clearance with no major changes in their life. People that have inactive clearances don't need to have background checks in areas and times of their lives that have been previously checked that is now on record. Things like where I was born, lived, and what countries I may have visited within a certain time frame previously checked does not change. That's a waste of time and money, they should be re-evaluated back to when their last clearance was about to expire or become inactive.

    So I'm sitting around with the skills, experience, and education that would fit many opportunities here and cannot secure a job because of this system. This is a flawed process that needs major renovation.

  • Dr_aziz_hussein_max50

    mtntexas

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    I was playing poker at the mosque the other day when Osama leaned over and said " We need more believers working for the incompetent infidels." Naturally, I thought that he was talking about the border patrol, but sure as hell, he wants more guys working for defense contractors. Is there a shortcut to getting in? I mean, I don't want to cut my beard or wear shoes. What's the deal?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    shacar

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    i had a security clearence in the military ,how do i find out what level i had and can i get reapproved again

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Mike1

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Unfortionately, this page still does not tell me how to actually get a security clearance. I need to know where to send the SF 86, what to attach to it and what fees if any are needed.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    dgeldred

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    What are my chances for getting a security clearance if I'm Gay?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    SherryS

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Excellent information! I have always wondered how to get a security clearance. Although, I do not have one unfortunately, I am very interested in obtaining one through a government agency. I feel that my background would be highly recommended for such an honor and privilege.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    sspeckma

    over 4 years ago

    4 comments

    What if I've held a security clearance in the past but it expired due to not being in a position where it was needed.

    Will that help me in any way?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    1patrick

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    How do I reactivate my clerance? I looked in JPAS and its still there but in inactive status.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    dustincopp1

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    PhillyGirl: Have someone who has an account on JPAS look it up for you. All they need is your SSN, so make sure it's someone you actually know and trust. I have a JPAS account and I look up people's clearances all the time. It's takes a total of 2 minutes.

  • Stacey_max50

    PhillyGirl

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Just wondering, I worked as a contractor for DOL, how would I know if I have a clearance or not and how do I go about finding out?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    amarchena

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Wow, If I read this correctly it states it can take up to 2 years to receive security clearance!! That means our government has a high amount (undisclosed amount) of men and woman from all walks of life, different beliefs and principles as well as religion from all around the world with No Security Clearance working among government personnel who have security clearance, FANTASTIC!!!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    over 4 years ago

    Like "happyfish", I had a secret clearance in the military. How do I re-activate it?

  • Adam_3_max50

    happyfish73

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    I had a top secret clearance when I was in the military but I have been out since 1994. What do I have to do to get another one?

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