Five Myths About Security Clearances for Federal Jobs

As a job seeker you may have come across a job that looks like a great fit. You meet all of the requirements, except one. You do not have a U.S. security clearance.  What should you do? Many job seekers believe that they can just pay for a security clearance themselves or that the one that they had previously is still active. Below are some common myths that job seekers believe about security clearances.

  1. Anyone who wants a security clearance can obtain one. According to the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Frequently Asked Questions regarding investigations, security clearances are based on investigations requested by federal agencies, appropriate to specific positions and their duties. Until a person is offered such a position, the government will not request or pay for an investigation for a clearance. Once a person has been offered a job (contingent upon satisfactory completion of an investigation), the government will require the person to complete a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, initiate the investigation, adjudicate the results, and issue the appropriate clearance.
  2. Security clearances never expire. Your clearance will expire if it has been 24 months or more continuous break in federal service. If there has not been a 24 month or more continuous break in federal service (military, civilian, or contractor employment), security clearances are reciprocally accepted throughout the federal government. Keep in mind that if you had a 24 month or more continuous break in federal service, the hiring officials will submit you for a new background investigation and security clearance.
  3. Security clearances are not subject to periodic reinvestigation. The periodic reinvestigation can happen every five years. This is conducted by The Office of Personnel Security and Suitability. They notify individuals when it is time for their reinvestigation. For more information visit
  4. All background investigations are the same. Positions in the federal government are classified in three ways: Non-Sensitive Positions, Public Trust Positions and National Security Positions. Each of these positions requires some level of background investigation. To learn more visit .
  5. Prior drug use and felonies will automatically disqualify you for a security clearance. Security clearances and final suitability are adjudicated by looking at the candidate’s entire profile (including court records). There are no automatic disqualifiers from the process. Additional information can be found on .

University of Maryland University College’s Career Services is available to help you plan and achieve career success. For additional information on federal hiring interviews and security clearances, visit the Partnership for Public Service’s webinar on the topic (password: fedinterview15). You can also access UMUC’s additional career tools and resources by visiting CareerQuest today.

Rhoda CS News graphicRhoda Smackum is a career advising specialist at University of Maryland University College. She in an associate certified career coach and global career development facilitator. Her areas of expertise include career coaching, career transition, career exploration, working with special populations, job search strategizing, and supervision.