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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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  • Bobs_004_max50

    Rcole1229

    over 5 years ago

    2 comments

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

  • Suman_max50

    snlingappa

    over 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

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    rhino1224

    over 5 years ago

    6 comments

    I need info on how to get me a security clearance and what steps to take to obtain one

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    rhino1224

    over 5 years ago

    6 comments

    Send me info what I need to do to get a security clearance, and the info on the application process. What do I do Signed concern

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Gary_Bottomley

    over 5 years ago

    4 comments

    Is there a way to check if you have been given a security clearance in the past so I can respond correctly to this question on an application?
    I went through some sort of a background check to work for FEMA 3 years ago but don't recall if I was given a specific classification.

  • My_photo_max50

    wmausa

    almost 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I would like to know how to reinstate my TS security clearance. I am a US Army retired officer who worked as a government contractor for eight years after my retirement with an active Secret clearance. The year I left that job was in June of 2003. Since it has been almost six years after I left that job, i know that the clearance is no longer active. I want to get back into government work but most companies/agencies I'm interested in are not interested because I don't have an active clearance, despite my vast experience both in and out of government. Can anyone help me with this problem?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    almost 6 years ago

    I just got out of the Army 2 months ago on a Personality disorder, and they suspended my clearance because of it. Will I be able to get my secret clearance back even though I am out of the military? All government jobs require a clearance, and I worked so hard for 8 years to keep mine. Thanks.
    Sincerely,

    Shanesta Baisden

    sbaisden01@aol.com

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    johnbirdyshaw

    almost 6 years ago

    4 comments

    I held a top secret security clearance while in the military. Toward the end of my career I married a foreign national who became a U. S. citizen after my retirement. Her family still resides overseas. Would this be a problem for a civilian secret clearance?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    32713

    almost 6 years ago

    6 comments

    I had a top secret security clearance and I need to reinstate or have it reinstated. Where would I go? The potential employer is not providing support for this effort. I will potentially paying for this effort but I can not find the right location to start this reinstatement. Can you provide me some assistance in pointing my in the right direction?
    Frank Mayer
    pcpeople@netrox.net

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    EParent

    almost 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Do you need to be a U.S. Citizen to apply for Government Jobs? I have my "Permanent Resident Status"-Green Card.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    cmunson

    almost 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I worked for the Dept of State for 2 years. I had security clearance, and then I left my job to pursue another career. If I wanted to return to a government job, would the process take as long for me or would I even have to do the process again? It has only been 6 months.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    leroyquintana

    almost 6 years ago

    2 comments

    renew my clearance from prior military U.S. NAVY

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    venkatc

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Is US citizenship a mandatory requirement for obtaining security clearance?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    windyantoine10

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    serve and protect the nation with his presidency

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