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Earn More Money with a Security Clearance

Updated on December 24, 2010

Security clearances can increase your earning potential and give you a significant advantage when attempting to get hired with a government contractor or one of the many Federal Agencies that regularly work with confidential, secret or top secret information.  Research has shown that an established security clearance can increase your salary between $5,000 and $15,000 and in some cases even more.

What is a Security Clearance?

A security clearance is the process of determining a person’s trustworthiness and reliability before entrusting him or her with sensitive material that can cause grave damage to national security if disclosed to unauthorized sources.  Having a security clearance does not mean that you will have free-reign on all sensitive material in existence but it will grant you access to information on a need-to-know basis so that your job can be done in an effective manner.

What are the Different Clearance Levels?

The most common security clearances are at the levels of confidential, secret and top secret. 

Top Secret – A top secret clearance allows access to information that could be expected to cause grave damage to national security if made available to the general public.  A top secret clearance is re-investigated every 5 years.

Secret - A secret clearance allows access to information that could be expected to cause serious damage to national security if made available to the general public.  A secret clearance is re-investigated every 10 years.

Confidential – A confidential clearance allows access to information that could cause damage to national security if made available to the general public.  A confidential clearance is re-investigated every 15 years.

How Do I Apply For a Security Clearance?

One of the most prevalent question concerns whether or not an individual can obtain a security clearance on their own.  The answer is no.  In order to obtain a security clearance an individual must be sponsored by either a federal agency or a business entity authorized to do business with the federal government.  The good thing about this is that the federal agency or business entity will cover the cost associated with obtaining the clearance, which can be quite expensive.

The Security Clearance Process

The security clearance process begins after a candidate receives a conditional offer of employment and completes the necessary security questionnaire (SF-85 or SF-86).  One the packet is submitted and received by the Office of Personnel Security and Suitability, it is reviewed for completeness and entered into a case management system.  National agency checks and fingerprint checks are then conducted and a background investigation is initiated.  Depending on the clearance level, a face-to-face interview may be conducted with an investigator.  In addition to the face-to-face interview, the investigator will talk to former and current neighbors, employers, classmates and references.  Once the investigator has completed the investigation, the information is compiled in a report and sent to an adjudicator who will weigh the results and determine whether or not a security clearance will be granted.

The U.S. government’s backlog of security clearance applications can cause delays in the process.  Display plenty of patience while going through the process and remember that the reward of a higher salary and job security will be well worth the wait.

News Story on Security Clearance Earning Potential


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