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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

    lskath

    almost 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I am a Canadian citizen working for a US employer who has requested a NAC. The employer is confused about the process of NAC clearance for a Canadian.

    Does anyone know the NAC process for Canadians? I have heard there is a Canada-US agreement for waiver of the NAC for Canadians. Is anyone familiar with this or related forms?

  • 14ypclurdaaqcqge_cahoiqwlynn8musu

    cmb1707

    almost 5 years ago

    2 comments

    great ! i do not have an human resource on unemployment. So how can i apply ?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    PJEFFERY

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I went throught the security clearance process and I quit the job. Is there a way I can find out if the clearance was approved or denied? That was in 2004. Where can I go to find out this information?

  • 100_0331_1__max50

    ajmclemo

    about 5 years ago

    6 comments

    MY name is Andrew McLemore Sr and I had a Top Secret inb the Military (U. S. Marines) when I got our in 1991, I was never told what I wanted to do with that Clerance, Can I still renew it? This would help in the future in appling for a better job.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    vernon_eldred63

    about 5 years ago

    24 comments

    I too am interested in an entry level and would then like to leave it up to my supervisor after seeing the quality work and ethics,and leave it up to him/her to decide.

  • Marine_max50

    Retiredmarine3

    about 5 years ago

    4 comments

    I went through the secret security clearance process while in the Marine Corps,and received my clearance.That was back in 1967. where should I start now to get my clearance updated

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Itsdarts

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    It use to be that you didn't need to be a US citizen to join the US Military, back in the late 50's my Canadian step father was an MP in the Army. I'm a Permanent Resident and have been for 46 years, coming from Germany back in 1963. Would I be able to obtain a security clearance being a permanent resident? Would I be able to join the military these days?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    royrossignol

    about 5 years ago

    6 comments

    Sharon , to obtain a Secuirty Clearance the agency you work for has to put you in for it. Normally a Secret Clearance is initaite by the parent agency you work for, through a series of forms , then a National Agency Check is performed and based on that the Agency will grant you access on a "need to know basis," at the Secret Level. A Top Secret SBI is a little more detailed.
    Roy R

  • L_d1b216f357214a7c8e7913c867b2f6cf_max50

    iwantajob326_please

    about 5 years ago

    4 comments

    I do not mind starting at an entry-level job but I would like to know how to go about getting a security clearance. I want as good a job as I can qualify for.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    KDENNIS

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I'M A MACHINIST, AN EX SOLDIER IN THE ARMY, IN NEED OF A TOP SECRET CLEARANCE. iN TODAYS MARKET THIS CLEARANCE WILL HELP ME GET A JUMP ON THE JOB MARKET CONCERNING MACHINIST. i WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE ANY ADVICE STEERING ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION ON THIS SUBJECT. WITH SINCERE THANKS G. B. A.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    gwenmersky

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    Have you received any helpful information? I need to get a security clearance and have no idea how to do it. Thank you in advance.
    Gwen

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    JML

    about 5 years ago

    4 comments

    I started my own company about two years ago and the goverment contract company that I sub to requires a security clearance for DHS engagements. When I was employeed I was able to get a security clearances. My last clearance expired June 2008. How can I get spnosored or can my company sponsor me, and how do I do that? Hope that make sense, please help

  • Bobs_004_max50

    Rcole1229

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I have had a security clearances how hard is it to get a new one?

  • Suman_max50

    snlingappa

    about 5 years ago

    2 comments

    I am US citizen. - How do I obtaining security clearance where do I go and apply.
    Most of these Fed jobs requires mandatory security clearence.. Please HELP.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    rhino1224

    over 5 years ago

    6 comments

    send me emails on what entry-level gov't jobs are open and how do I apply to them. I'm looking for gov't jobs that are in So. Ca. and what company are hiring vets

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