Security clearances are required to handle classified data, something that’s incredibly common in the defense industry. Since that’s the case, having or being eligible for a security clearance is typically essential for defense candidates.

There are several different types of security clearances, and the one you’ll need can vary by position. Additionally, the security clearance approval process may vary depending on the one you’re acquiring, as some security clearances require more rigorous checks and reviews than others.

Whether you’re an existing defense candidate interested in furthering your career or are new to the industry, understanding what the various security clearances are and how they’re acquired is essential. Here’s what you need to know.

Security Clearances: An Overview

A security clearance is a kind of formal authorization from a government organization to handle specific types or levels of classified data. Candidates undergo an investigation – which is similar to a highly in-depth background check and character examination – to ensure they don’t pose a risk to national security, the results of which determine whether a security clearance is approved.

Whether a defense candidate qualifies for a security clearance can impact their career. Without the proper clearance, candidates are ineligible for specific jobs. As a result, they may not receive job offers or could be terminated from a position after being hired if they don’t meet the requirements.

Security Clearance Levels

In total, there are three types of security clearances: confidential, secret, and top secret. Each represents a different level of access.

Confidential is considered the lowest level, giving the credentialed employee the ability to review relevant confidential data that could pose a risk to national security. Secret is in the middle, authorizing the holder to engage with data that could cause serious damage to national security if released. Top Secret is the highest level, allowing the employee to interact with data that could pose a grave risk to national security.

Generally, defense candidates are only examined for a security clearance that’s relevant to their role. Often, the goal is to be as restrictive as possible, so employees don’t have clearances above what’s genuinely necessary for their job.

Getting a Security Clearance

The security clearance review process is in-depth and often lengthy. Usually, the process begins when a defense candidate receives a conditional or provisional job offer, making eligibility for the security clearance essential for ongoing employment. Next, the candidate completes a comprehensive questionnaire, provides requested supporting documentation, gets fingerprinted, and consents to the background check.

Once the questionnaire is submitted, it’s reviewed by an investigator. The investigator examines the information for accuracy and any disqualifying events or risky behavior, allowing them to determine eligibility. In some cases, interviews with the candidate, family members, friends, and references are conducted, though this varies depending on the level. Once the investigation is complete, a formal determination is made, and the security clearance is either issued or denied.

The exact security clearance requirements can vary by agency. However, allegiance to the United States, mental state, and financial, criminal, professional, and personal behavior are almost universally considered. Additionally, honest disclosure in the questionnaire is also a factor, as not all areas of concern mean immediate disqualification if the candidate is transparent.

Once clearance is obtained, it must be maintained. The requirements for an ongoing clearance also vary by agency, though they typically involve reinvestigation on a set schedule and incident-prompted reevaluation if certain incidents occur.

Ultimately, a security clearance is a must for many defense jobs. Are you interested in a position in the defense industry? Partner with the Staffing Resource Group to get access to outstanding opportunities. Contact us to learn more about our services today.

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