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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

    Account Removed

    about 6 years ago

    Understand that an investigation, by OPM, DSS, etc only states that there is nothing in your background that would show you untrustworthy of obtaining a slearance. It is the agency you work for that adjudicate the process to give you the active clearance.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    about 6 years ago

    YatRac, alot of that depends on the offense and agency. It can also be affected by the agency charging the offense. People with records are not generically exempt from obtaining clearances depending on the position they are applying for and agency.

  • Bald-eagle-head_max50

    McConnell

    over 6 years ago

    354 comments

    YatRac, you should read this page: http://govcentral.monster.com/benefits/2333-am-i-eligible-for-security-clearance

  • P5160024_max50

    YatRac

    over 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I have a felony that is 18 years old. I have made extreem changes in my life since then. I feel I deserve a chance to obtain the security clearance. Is this possible to be treated equal since I have already paid for my stupidity when I was young. If so, what steps are available to take? If not, who can I go to in order to discuss this even more? Thank you for your feedback.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    darkstar

    over 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I worked at CACI thru Northern VA Tempories and got a Secret Clearance. Is it still good. I believe the agency was DISA. Thank you Robert E. Farrell

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    over 6 years ago

    Can't answer that based on the agency. I know my agency will initiate the process if the position requires it.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    hestia_m

    over 6 years ago

    4 comments

    Scooby, I suppose you were talking to me. I understand that it is important to investigate new employees for positions that handle certain data and that it is a lengthy process. What I don't understand is why agencies are not willing to go through the process for someone new when the position is advertised as "all US citizens?" It seems misleading to me. Maybe it's just me. As someone who has never worked for the govt, I think that words should have meanings.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    interestedsecurity

    over 6 years ago

    2 comments

    How could I start the process of sercurity clerance and abtain a chance to fill in the Personnel Security Questionnaire (SF-86)?

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    over 6 years ago

    What they are telling you is that the position, or the agency require a background investigation and clearance at some level to perform the duties. It can be a lengthly process through OPM.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    hestia_m

    over 6 years ago

    4 comments

    There many jobs advertised on govt web sites that say "open to all US citizens" and "must be able to obtain X security clearance." If agencies do not want to go through this process for someone new, it is really a lie. It should say "open to all US citizens, but if you do not have and never had X clearance, fuhgetaboutit."

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    over 6 years ago

    The Confidential clearance is rarely if ever used anymore. For those who asked, once you are granted a security clearance, via the government, you never loose it. It will not be removed except for unfavorable actions. What happens is that your clearance becomes inactive, however you maintain eligibility for several years depending on the investigation that you had. However, a TS requires a special billet under the issuing agency.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    erdmier

    over 6 years ago

    28 comments

    their is this sci-fi dork browsing through the secret world of the private sector,need i say more.for this act of piracy you can bet the fed's are involved and then some. good day sir!.

  • Facepic_max50

    Phoenixtoads

    over 6 years ago

    10 comments

    I need a job back in government, i have acct degree and cpa anyone know anything in particular

  • Security_012_max50

    SEO

    over 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I would like to know the answer to poppacats question. does your military clearance atay with you? and if not for how long,

  • Page1a_max50

    StephenMJHugues

    almost 7 years ago

    22 comments

    This information if very valueable and informative. I was looking into getting a security clearance in order to help me get a better job or get promoted in my current job. I thought it was ironic this article appeared in this publication when it did. It now has helped me to know what to expect while going through the process. Thank you!

    Sincerely yours,
    Stephen M.J. Hugues

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