How Do I Get a Security Clearance?

How Do I Get a Security Clearance – Working as a cybersecurity professional in the U.S. can grant you access to some of this country’s most highly sensitive and confidential data. Like all Federal employees and contractors, you will undergo a standard background check detailing both your criminal and credit histories. Also, you may also be required to obtain a security clearance depending on the work you do among other factors.

How Do I Get a Security Clearance
How To get A Security Clearance

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Working in cybersecurity does not always mean that you need security clearance before you can get work in the field. If you aren’t pursuing a cybersecurity job within a government agency you likely will not be required to be cleared.

But though you may not be required to pass a security check, doing so can open up more opportunities for you whether now or in the future of your career. Jobs requiring security clearances often pay more than similar jobs that do not require a clearance.

So obtaining a security clearance is definitely not something to rule out if you are serious about pursuing a successful career in cybersecurity.

Security Clearances

Security clearances are issued by U.S government agencies dealing with sensitive information, including the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Justice (DoJ), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Department of State (DoS).

Only federal agencies can acknowledge security clearance, which is mostly done after a detailed investigation that is approved only if the person is determined to be trustworthy. Being able to pass a security check proves to your current and future employers that you “are reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character.”

Security clearances allow federal employees and government contractors the ability to access sensitive information that is only accessible to those at a certain clearance level.

Three main Categories

The three main categories for security clearances are Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret security clearances. Each clearance level is structured based on a hierarchy that determines the maximum level of classified information you can have access to with that particular clearance.

A Confidential clearance grants you the most basic level of access to confidential and sensitive information of national security. Held by most military professionals, Confidential clearances provide access to information the government has determined could cause measurable damage if ever compromised.

Secret clearance grants you access to sensitive information that the government has determined could cause grave damage to national security if ever compromised. The highest level of clearance is the Top Secret clearance.

Having a Top Secret clearance grant your access to information that could cause disastrous damage to national security if ever compromised. The higher your level of security clearance, the more often your clearance must be renewed.

How Do I Get a Security Clearance

Though the only official prerequisite to getting a security clearance is to be a U.S. citizen, there are certain things considered red flags that you will want to resolve before you apply to receive a security clearance. Other than the obvious things such as criminal misconduct, alcohol and substance abuse, and how you conduct yourself both in your personal and business life.

Background Check

The background check process to determine your eligibility for a clearance will also evaluate you based on whether or not you have outstanding financial debts.  Also if you have ever misused information technology, you have a foreign preference or a potential foreign influence. Or you have a potentially compromised allegiance to the United States, and also if you have any emotional, mental, and/or personality disorders.

Addressing what you can before you apply for a security clearance can make a world of difference and improve your chances of being cleared.

Probably one of the most overlooked but important things to address is any financial delinquencies you may have. When preparing to apply for a security clearance, it is important that you stay proactive regarding activity around resolving your financial debts.

You may not be able to pay all your debts off at once. But having a record that shows you are making payments, setting up payment plans and/or promises to pay, and being proactive in other ways to pay off your debt over time will work in your favor when your credit history is being reviewed.

What should be your next steps if your clearance gets denied? If it happens, take the necessary steps to ensure that previous reasons for security clearance denial are resolved before you reapply. Civilian government employees, federal contractors, and military employees can reapply for clearance after one year.


Who is eligible for a security clearance?
To obtain a security clearance, you must be a U.S. citizen (non-U.S. citizens are not able to obtain a security clearance but may be granted a Limited Access Authorization in some circumstances) and meet the adjudicative criteria for sensitive positions.

Is it hard to get a security clearance?
Obtaining a security clearance is no easy task, and not everyone who applies will be granted access. Stringent suitability requirements, particularly in the intelligence community, weed out many unqualified applicants before they ever reach security clearance processing.

What disqualifies you from getting a security clearance?
These include criminal convictions that lead to a prison sentence of a year or longer, receiving a dishonorable discharge, criminal incompetence, and drug addiction.

How Long Does It Take?

How long does it take to get a security clearance?
Security Clearance Processing Times Because of the high demand for the clearance system, the process is taking anywhere from four to five months. Top Secret clearance processing times are sitting around 159 days, on average. To gain Secret clearance, the process is taking around 132 days.

How do you get a security clearance without a job?
To be clear, if you do not have a security clearance, you cannot obtain one on your own. It must be sponsored by a government agency or a company with a government contract requiring access to classified information.

Can family members affect security clearance?
Absolutely! In fact, the mere existence of a family member under certain circumstances can preclude or limit a security clearance.

More FAQ's

What are red flags for security clearance?
For example, an inability or unwillingness to satisfy debts is a red flag. Financial problems that are related to gambling, alcoholism, or drug abuse also are security concerns.

What does a Top Secret security clearance consist of?
For a Top Secret security clearance, the background investigation includes additional record checks which can verify citizenship for the applicant and family members, verification of birth, education, employment history, and military history.

What questions do they ask your references for security clearance?
Establishing the link between the reference and the subject, and what the reference knew about the subject's personal history, i.e.: drug use, booze, etc.  A series of questions if the reference would trust the subject with secrets, sensitive activity leads to other people to question.

Interview Spouses

Do they interview spouses for security clearance?
If your spouse is the only person who can verify certain periods (overseas coverage, social coverage, etc), then your spouse will be interviewed. Interviewing spouses is not preferable but it is sometimes necessary, depending on the circumstances. They interviewed my husband for my “public trust” clearance.

Do they check phone records for security clearance?
Security clearance background investigators do not check your browsing history, read your emails, surveil your every move, bug your telephones, or photograph you commuting to work.

How long does a security clearance take 2022?
Clearance processing timelines also continue to go down, although they are not yet meeting federal standards. During the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021, the fastest 90% of initial secret clearance investigations for DoD and industry positions were processed in an average of 112 days.

How much debt is too much?
Most lenders say a DTI of 36% is acceptable, but they want to loan you money so they're willing to cut some slack. Many financial advisors say a DTI higher than 35% means you are carrying too much debt.

Bad Credit?

What is considered bad credit?
What Is a Bad Credit Score? On the FICOA Score scale of 300 to 850, one of the credit scores lenders most frequently use, a bad credit score is one below 670. More specifically, a score between 580 and 669 is considered fair, and one between 300 and 579 is poor.

What is a t2 security clearance?
Moderate Risk (Non-Critical Sensitive), called Tier 2, is a MBI (Moderate Background Investigation). If you have one of these Public Trust Fitness Determinations and if asked if you have ever held a clearance (i.e. eQIP) you would say you have a “Favorable Background Investigation from” whichever agency issued it.

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