It’s the chicken or the egg question: Should you seek an IT security clearance before or after you look for a job that requires it? Government agencies and private companies place a high value on these security designations, and the jobs pay well and offer unique challenges for technologists. However, all of them require security clearances. This article will walk you through the process of when and how to seek these designations out as part of your job hunt.
Understanding Security Clearances
There are three primary types of security clearances: Confidential, secret, and top secret. Each one requires extensive background checks above and beyond what is typical for the average company. The higher you go in clearance approval, the more extensive the check and the longer it takes. However, it’s worth pursuing these designations because they make you very attractive to employers.
Once you have a clearance, you must renew it periodically. There are active, current, and expired security designations and your job, once you’ve actually received the status, is to keep it up-to-date. It’s much easier to expand your security status and keep it active than it is to start back from scratch. The benefit of these designations is similar to having an elite certification or degree on your CV. You automatically become more marketable. It also increases your earning potential and expands your job market.
How and When to Seek a Security Clearance
You cannot seek out a security clearance on your own. You must be sponsored by a company with a government contract or a government agency. If you’re seeking an intelligence or defense job requiring a security clearance, you can get hired in some instances without that designation. Usually, your offer is contingent upon obtaining the clearance. You may have other, equally valuable skills, such as a second language or specific IT expertise. All of these things are icing on the cake; but if you want to work on government-related contracts, it is the security clearance that is the cake itself.
As you start the process of seeking out these types of contracts, it’s important to have a technology recruiter in your corner. Every agency and company have a different hiring process, so a technical recruiter can provide you with the information you need to understand where you are in that unique workflow. They can advise you on when to seek out security clearance and also if you should list on your resume that you’re interested in pursuing the clearance—which is a plus for many employers. Your recruiter can help you find employers that may even be willing to hire you to work on unclassified projects until the security clearance comes in. As you might imagine, each employer, whether they are government or private, has different rules that govern their hiring approach.
Blackstone Talent Group is the leading IT recruiting firm helping technology professionals break into government contracting roles. Talk with our team if you’re seeking a job to apply your security clearance, or if you’re interested in obtaining these designations. We can help move your career forward.