If you have been browsing jobs and noticed that there are a lot of jobs out there that require you to have a DOD security clearance you might be interested in how to obtain one. Before we get into how to obtain a security clearance let me define what a security clearance is and what it is used for. It is important to know the different levels of classified information and how someone becomes eligible to access it. There are some things you can do that will improve your odds of finding a company willing to get you a clearance that I will talk about. Then I will discuss what process you will go though and what will be expected of you during this process.
When information or material can compromise our national security it is classified as Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret. To access classified information or material you must first have a clearance level equal or greater than the classification of the information or material itself. You also must have a need to know before you can be granted access to it. If you do not need the information or material to complete your project you will not be granted access. The levels of classification, Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret have clear definitions to define them. Depending on what level of classified information or material a person in a specific position is responsible to handle will determine what level of security clearance you will need to posses to get the job. The following are the three levels of classifications that you can find on the Army.com website in much greater detail.
To obtain a DOD security clearance you must be a U.S. Citizen.
“from lowest to highest the security levels are Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. The higher the security level the more damage its content can cause to national security if it is compromised.”
Now that you know what a security clearance is and what it is needed for we can talk about ways you can get one and why you should want one. You are unable to get a clearance yourself but if you find a company willing to hire you to fill a position that requires you to have a clearance the company will start the process and pay for the background check. Getting you a clearance is no cheap date for the company and even though they start the process and pay for the background checks there is not guarantee that you will be granted one. This is why when a company has a position open that requires a security clearance they look to fill it with someone who already has an active clearance or has had one in the past. Because you have not had a clearance in the past it will be a little hard getting your foot in the door. You will have to do some things that will make you look more attractive to potential employers. Short of joining the military the two best things you can do to improve your chances would be getting schooling and certifications that the company is looking for and be willing to work in places they have a hard time getting people to go to.
Take a look at the job description of the positions you want that requires a security clearance and find out what kind of certifications they are looking for and make a note of them. Every one wants to look for fresh jobs out there but you want to start looking at positions that are six months to a year old. These positions may be still there because they either have a high turnover rate or they can’t find anyone to fill these positions. Take note of these companies and there locations and go directly to their company website and search for jobs in that area. If there are a lot of jobs in that location that have been open for a long time this may be a place the company has a hard time getting people to go to. Brows the jobs they have that you qualify for and make a note of the certifications that they require.
A few places you will want to check out would be Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, Diego Garcia, Tully Greenland, and Ascension Island. Those are a few places that do not pay very well and are far from civilization so companies have a hard time getting people to work in those locations. There are upsides to those locations if you do not have a clearance though. They will be more likely to hire you and get you your first security clearance. You can qualify for the foreign earned income exclusion and they provide housing and transportation to and from work. Most of the places also have a Cafeteria were you can eat for free as part of your compensation for working there. If you want to make more money and are willing to take a risk and work in the Middle East or parts of Africa you will be able to find companies with job openings in those areas to get you a security clearance and the pay will be much higher.
Before you start applying for jobs though there are a few things you will want to do first. You will want to make sure you have all of your traffic tickets and taxes paid up. It does not look good if you have a warrant out for your arrest when you apply for a security clearance even if it is only for a few unpaid traffic tickets. You will also want to make sure your credit reports show that you are up to date on your payments or at least have payment plans set up with your debtors. You do not have to have great credit to get a clearance but you have to at least be able to show that you have your finances under control. You also have to be qualified for the positions you are going to apply for. When you took note earlier of the certifications that the job descriptions called for, you did this so you can ensure you have the proper schooling the company is looking for. I will discuss some easy ways to take care of all of these things so you are ready to apply for any clearance jobs.
The fist thing you want to ensure is that you have no outstanding warrants for your arrest do to unpaid parking tickets or unpaid traffic violations. This can be cleared up pretty easy in most states. All you have to do is go to your states DMV website and enter your driver’s license number and see if any tickets pop up. If your state does not have that option the website should at least let you know where you need to go to find out this information. It may take time for them to process the payment but it is something you will need to get out of the way before you apply for a security clearance. You will also want to make sure you are not behind in your taxes and if you are setup a payment plan with the IRS. Every one hates dealing with the IRS but it is actually not that bad. I have never had a problem with an IRS agent I have called for help. They are very flexible when it comes to setting up payment plans or giving extensions. You will need to have this set up before your background check takes place so start this process as soon as possible. You will also have to make sure your state taxes are up to date. The IRS does not deal with state taxes so you will have to contact the proper authorities in your state to take to make sure your state taxes are in order.
You need to show that you have your finances under control even if it is a letter from the place you owe money to stating that you acknowledge that you are behind in payments and have agreed to a set payment plan. I believe anyone with a clearance should have a subscription to one of the credit report companies’ three credit report packages. A three credit report package will give you a copy of your credit reports from Trans Union, Experian and Equifax. It is important to get a copy of your credit report at the very least once a year so you can check for mistakes. You can do this free by going to each of the above mentioned credit report companies and submitting an application for your free annual credit report. By subscribing to one of the three credit report plans though makes cleaning up your credit much easier. The reason you need to get copies off all three of the major credit reports out there is because each one may be very different from the other. Something that shows up as paid off on one credit report could still be showing delinquent on another report. This is because the creditor you paid did not submit that you paid your bill to all three reports. A big problem with creditors is they are quick to put late payments on a credit report but may not bother to annotate your payment of that debt.
Once your credit report is in order and you have your traffic tickets and taxes paid up it is time to turn your attention to education. When you made that list of certification and degrees that companies are looking for you did it so you can start taking some classes. Start with the certifications that are required of you to get one of the jobs you think you have the best chance of getting. The jobs you will have the best chance of getting would be the ones it looks like they have a hard time filling. You can do this either by night classes or on line classes. If you do not possess all of the desired certifications you will be less likely to get offered a position. If you can find a boot camp in a country like India, Thailand, Philippines, or China that can fast track you it may be worth the money to go to one of those locations to get your certifications. Classes in those countries are rather cheap but the flight is going to cost you a bit of money. If you choose to go to a school in your area it may take a little longer but you will not have to take any vacation time off of work to go. Even if you only have a few of the desired certificates that are desired by the company you should apply all they can do is not call you. Each time you get a new certification or you finish a degree update your resume and submit it to the company again.
Each one of these steps will improve your chances of getting picked up by a company willing to get you your first security clearance. Your chances improve greatly with each step you complete. To have decent odds though you will have to be willing to work in an area that a company has a hard time getting people to go to. These kinds of places will be in remote locations and probably not pay that well. You will also have to be willing to stick around for as long as it takes for your clearance to come through. That means you could be waiting a year for your clearance while the company has you working on projects that are not classified. They may also choose to post date your start date until you are granted your clearance. That means you will have to keep working at your current job until then or find a job to hold you over until that time if you are currently unemployed.
Getting your clearance for the first time will take awhile and the higher level of clearance you are applying for the longer it will take. You have to be willing to wait and willing to possibly sign a second contract with the company if your clearance has not come through yet. If you do not already have a clearance your best shot would be applying for jobs that require a lower security level. The only thing you need to know about the back ground check is do not lie and fill out the application for the clearance as detailed as you can get. If you only worked at a place for two weeks you still need to put it on your security clearance application. When you get your clearance though do not break your contract with the company you should finish your obligations before looking for work that pays more somewhere ells. You may even be able to put in for a transfer with the company that hired you.