Security Clearances: What You Need to Know

Many federal government and government contractor jobs require a security clearance. UMUC Career Services recently hosted a webinar that covered a lot of information about security clearances and how to get one. UMUC student Nicole Allen, Director of Industrial Security and Facility Security Officer for federal contractor DELTA Resources, Inc., joined us for the webinar. One of Nicole’s primary responsibilities is to assist new hires and current employees through the security clearance process, and during the webinar she shared some valuable insights.

So…what is a security clearance? Essentially, a security clearance is a designation by the U.S. government that an individual is allowed to access classified information. There are several levels of clearance (Public Trust, Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret), and the different types of clearance provide the individual varying levels of accessibility to sensitive information. Unfortunately, you cannot get a security clearance on your own; the organization who hires you has to sponsor you for you to be considered for a clearance.

Another important takeaway from the webinar: obtaining a security clearance can take a long time. As of December 2016, the process took up to 246 days for an initial Top Secret clearance. The Office of Personnel Management’s National Background Investigation Bureau (NBIB), who conducts 95 percent of all investigations for security clearances, recently hired 400 new investigators to try to decrease this backlog, but it certainly poses a challenge for any job seeker without a clearance who is interested in a position that requires one.

If you are interested in jobs that require a security clearance, there are several things you can do to help the process of getting a clearance go as smoothly as possible. This includes:

  • Consider filling out the SF 86 documentation now. You will have to complete this lengthy document as part of the security clearance process, so by gathering the required information now, you can save yourself a bit of time.
  • Run an FBI and/or State Police check to see if any erroneous information comes up. If so, contact the agency to see if you can correct these errors.
  • Obtain a credit report from all three credit bureaus. The most common reason a security clearance is denied is due to the applicant’s financial problems, so running your credit report can help determine if the information is accurate.

Additional information and related resources are available in the presentation.  You can also access a recording of the presentation here. Although the process to obtain a security clearance can be complex and time consuming, remember there are steps you can take ahead of time to help the process. And as always, UMUC Career Services is here to help however we can.

Kristin Schrader is the Assistant Director of InternPLUS at University of Maryland University College.  She has a background in human resources and has worked in career services at four universities.  Most recently, she was the Lead Trainer in Europe for the U.S. Department of Labor Employment Workshop teaching transitioning service members about the civilian job search.  Kristin is a proud military spouse and is passionate about helping others obtain their professional goals.