Security Clearance101 – Do I NEED IT?

You don’t have to have Security clearance to work in this industry, we just want to give you some insight as to why you may want to consider it.

The benefits of having a security clearance

  • You will have the option to work on a greater number and variety of technical programs and projects – job opportunities that would otherwise not be available to you due to their sensitive and critical nature;
  • Often times, projects that require cleared professionals involve today’s most cutting-edge solutions and technologies;
  • Having a clearance generally widens and increases your career choices, as well as your chances for career movement and advancement;

Even a security designation that has lapsed is valuable. Companies are more willing to hire individuals who have demonstrated they can pass the background investigation that precedes the clearance. In addition, depending on how long it has been since you last had clearance, the investigation process can take much less time than for people who have never been cleared.

Controlled Unclassified Information

This is not a clearance, but rather a level at which information distribution is controlled. Controlled Unclassified is information that may be illegal to distribute. This information is available when needed by government employees such as Department of Defense (DoD) employees. It should not, however, be redistributed. An example of the type of information that may be controlled at this level is the operational details of a non-critical system.


The simplest security clearance to get. This level typically requires a few weeks to a few months of investigation. A Confidential clearance requires a NACLC investigation which dates back 7 years on the person’s record and must be renewed (with another investigation) every 15 years.


A Secret clearance, also known as Collateral Secret or Ordinary Secret, requires a few months to a year to fully investigate, depending on the individual’s background. Some instances wherein individuals would take longer than normal to be investigated are many past residences, having residences in foreign countries, having relatives outside the United States, or significant ties with non-US citizens. Bankruptcy and unpaid bills as well as criminal charges will more than likely disqualify an applicant for approval. Poor financial history is the number-one cause of rejection, and foreign activities and criminal record are also common causes for disqualification. A Secret clearance requires a National Agency Check, a Local Agency Check, and a Credit investigation; it must also be re-investigated every 10 years.

Top Secret

Top Secret is a more stringent clearance. A Top Secret, or “TS”, clearance, is often given as the result of a Single Scope Background Investigation, or SSBI. Top Secret clearances, in general, afford one access to data that affects national security, counter-terrorism/counterintelligence, or other highly sensitive data. There are far fewer individuals with TS clearances than Secret clearances. A TS clearance can take as few as 3–6 months to obtain, but more often takes 6–18 months, while sometimes taking up to 3 years to obtain. The SSBI must be renewed every 5 years.As with TS clearances, Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) or Special access program (SAP) clearances are assigned only after one has been through the rigors of a Single Scope Background Investigation and a special adjudication process for evaluating the investigation. SCI access, however, is assigned only in “compartments.”  These compartments are necessarily separated from each other with respect to organization, so an individual with access to one compartment will not necessarily have access to another. Each compartment may include its own additional special requirements and clearance process. An individual may be granted access, or ‘read-in’ to a compartment for an extended or only short period of time.A representative list of kinds of information that may require compartmented access, without using specific national terminology, includes:

  • Cryptography
  • Overhead reconnaissance from aircraft, UAVs, or satellites IMINT
  • Communications intelligence, a subset of SIGINT
  • Design or stockpile information about nuclear weapons
  • Nuclear targeting.

The  Process

1. Application
for a security clearance. The amount of information requested in the application depends on the type of cleared designation that is being pursued. Required details may include past and current employment history, locations in which you have lived, the names of roommates and friends, financial history, travel history, groups or affiliations, and more. Also filing for it on your own is very expensive, 30k to 100k depending on the level of clearance, the trick is to the get the company you’re working for or want to work for to file for you.

2. Background investigation
the scope of which varies, based on the level of the clearance being sought. The investigation generally includes:verification of U.S. citizenship; a polygraph; fingerprinting; a test for illegal drugs; credit and records checks; interviews with former and current colleagues, neighbors, friends, professors; a search of investigative files and other records at Federal agencies; a search for criminal records; a personal interview with you; etc.

3. Keeping it Active
it must be kept “active.” This is accomplished by passing a re-investigation, the time frame of which depends on the level of your clearance (Top Secret, re-investigation every five years. Secret, every ten years. Confidential, every fifteen years).

4Can I appeal a clearance denial or revocation?

If you are denied a security clearance, or an assignment to a sensitive position or a position of trust, or your current clearance or access is revoked, you have the right to appeal the adjudicative decision. Under such circumstances you will be provided a statement on the reason(s) why you are ineligible for the clearance and the procedures for filing an appeal. If you believe the information gathered about you during the investigation is misleading or inaccurate, you will be given the opportunity to correct or clarify the situation.