The Difference Between Secret and Top Secret Security Clearance Investigations

Security Clearance
Q: If I had a secret clearance, will it be easier for me to obtain a top secret security clearance?

A: A top secret security clearance requires a completely separate background investigation than a secret security clearance. An ajudicator will review your secret security clearance investigation records, as well as the determination, however. While the investigations are different and separate, the adjudicative criteria – with the exception of “Foreign Influence” – are exactly the same. The critical difference between a secret security clearance investigation and a top secret security clearance investigation is the Personal Subject Interview.

The rule with either clearance is that the more complete you fill out your SF-86, the easier it will be for you, and your investigator. How complete your paperwork is will also go a long way in speeding up the security clearance process. If your investigator has to chase down details (including employment history, references or previous investigation dates) the process may take much longer. Mitigate any issues by providing additional information about misdemeanor offenses, financial issues or other potential roadblocks.

Finally, a interim clearance is possible for both secret and top secret security clearance investigations. If your case is fairly straightforward, you may receive an interim clearance so you can begin working immediately, as you await final adjudication of your case.

Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.

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