The vetting process is rigorous for anyone seeking a security clearance. Those with Top Secret clearance can access information classified up to that level and some levels of Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI).
This is information that would cause exceptionally grave damage if released without authorization. A clearance investigator checks everything from a person’s psychiatric history to their social media.
While salaries for clearance holders can vary greatly based on job role, on average top secret clearance holders make 5.8 percent more than those without one, according to the ClearanceJobs survey. Those in specialized positions, such as intelligence analysts and cybersecurity experts, may see their salaries significantly increase.
In addition to the salary boost, a clearance also acts as a trust ticket for cleared employees, indicating that the employer can trust them with sensitive information. This is why it’s important for cleared workers to maintain their clearances and avoid letting them lapse. Clearances typically need to be renewed every 15 years for a secret clearance, 10 for a top secret clearance and five for a special access program clearance.
While lawyers generally advise people not to publicize their security clearances, there’s no rule against it. This can backfire, though, especially if the person is a target for hackers or spies or runs afoul of people who could revoke their access to classified information. Moreover, the more an individual discloses about their clearance status, the greater the risk that they’ll face repercussions from employers or government agencies for doing so. As such, many cleared employees keep their clearances secret to protect themselves and the companies they work for. The same is true for government contractors, where the process to obtain a clearance can take six months or more and is expensive for companies with large contracts on the line.
Getting a Top Secret clearance opens doors for InfoSec and Cybersecurity professionals, giving them the opportunity to work on cutting-edge projects and contribute to national security efforts. Clearance holders can also access specialized training and certifications to boost their career prospects. The clearance can be beneficial for many industries, including government agencies, defense contractors and intelligence organizations.
The process of obtaining a security clearance can feel intrusive, but it is necessary to ensure the confidentiality of classified information. Those who are interested in working with classified information must submit the Standard Form 86 (SF-86), undergo an extensive background investigation and pass a security clearance interview. This process can take between 6 to 9 months, depending on the complexity of the investigation.
Clearance levels are based on how much damage to the nation’s security a given piece of information can cause if it were released to the wrong people. The three levels are Confidential, Secret and Top Secret.
Experts warn job seekers to beware of recruiting firms and other companies that promise to obtain a clearance for them for a fee. It is important for potential employees to know the requirements before applying. A clearance should only be obtained if the job requires it. Otherwise, the individual can risk being turned down for a position without having a clearance and going through the process all over again.
Top-secret clearance is required for professionals who work in intelligence agencies, national defense contractors and other organizations that deal with sensitive information. Clearance holders must sign non-disclosure agreements and undergo regular reinvestigations to maintain their status. Clearance levels are determined by the level of information that must be protected and are based on need-to-know.
Regardless of the level of clearance needed, the background investigation is exhaustive and includes a detailed questionnaire, employment history, references, educational records, family relationships, foreign connections and travel, financial information and criminal and drug abuse. Clearance applicants also undergo a series of interviews. If a person fails to pass the background investigation, they are disqualified and cannot work in any position requiring a security clearance.
The amount of time it takes for the FBI to conduct a Tier 5 investigation can range from six to nine months. Those seeking a Top Secret clearance must also submit fingerprints, undergo a psychological evaluation and provide medical records. Clearance holders must adhere to strict protocol, avoid certain activities and be prepared for random surveillance and searches at work.
The government only grants a Top Secret clearance to people it deems trustworthy and who demonstrate a need for the information. Clearances are revoked if the holder violates confidentiality rules, discloses classified information or engages in activities that can put national security at risk.
Top secret clearance opens the door to a variety of job opportunities. It also enables professionals to earn higher salaries than those who don’t have a security clearance. The salary boost depends on several factors, including education and work experience. Specialized skills and training can also make a person more valuable to employers. Additionally, individuals with a top secret clearance are more likely to be promoted and offered leadership positions.
Clearance holders are also less likely to be laid off during budget cuts or downsizing. This extra job security can provide peace of mind and help people focus on professional growth and development.
Individuals with top secret clearance can also expect to get paid more for working at government and defense contractor jobs that require them to handle classified information. This is because government agencies value the work that individuals with top secret clearances do and are willing to compensate them accordingly.
Individuals who have a top secret clearance may find it easier to move between jobs. This is because obtaining a new clearance can be done much faster than obtaining a lower level clearance. Clearance processing times have gone up and down over the years, but they’re generally faster than what they used to be. Those with confidential or secret clearances need to be reinvestigated every 15 and 10 years respectively. Those with top secret clearances need to be reinvestigated once every five years.