A security clearance is a ticket to a meaningful job and good pay, but there are additional perks awaiting prospective employees. In recent years, government and private enterprise have greatly improved the fringe benefits of employment, adding and enhancing things that can have a real effect on one’s life, happiness, and checking account. Here are some benefits to be on the lookout for when job hunting.
Mental Health Services
The spy world isn’t necessarily known for its emphasis on a healthy work-life balance, but agencies have made great strides in this area. All federal agencies provide Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), designed to help employees through issues that arise in work or life. EAPs provide licensed counselors and referrals to employees and their families to help with such issues as alcoholism or grieving. Some agencies have the resources to go beyond that. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, for example, has an especially robust program that includes psychologists on site at several of its facilities. In addition to assessing employees for targeted assignments and providing counterintelligence services, the Psychological Services Branch works in a wellness capacity through the EAP, giving employees access to highly educated (and otherwise expensive) mental health providers.
Any parent can attest to that general feeling of anxiety when leaving one’s child with strangers. That anxiety is lessened knowing that the CIA is guarding your kids. One of the more notable benefits of working for the Central Intelligence Agency (aside from plotting coups and arming rebels) is its childcare program. The Company sponsors two daycare facilities, both of which are certified by the National Accreditation of Programs for Young Children. One of these facilities includes a full-day kindergarten program. The NSA also sponsors a licensed child development center, so at least you know someone’s keeping an eye on things. When facilities aren’t provided, flexible spending accounts can help with the financial burden.
Flexible Spending Accounts
Government and industry are both great at sponsoring flexible spending accounts for employees. Here is how they work. Accounts are made available for such things as childcare or healthcare, and an employee may contribute pre-taxed income to them. To pay for covered goods and services, the employee basically uses the FSA the same way he or she would use a checking account. As a result, FSAs essentially allow employees to pocket money that would have otherwise gone to the payroll tax.
Members of the military and employees of the FBI are quite aware of this, but a fair percentage of clearance jobs involve relocation. A common question is: What happens to our house? Selling one’s home can be stressful even when you’re only moving down the street. When your employer is sending you across the continent or across an ocean, the stress is only amplified. In both the government and private sector, however, relocation assistance can be generous, covering the move, realtors’ fees, packing and shipping, storage—even paying for scouting trips to find a new house. Some federal employees might even qualify for the Appraised Value Program (formerly called Guaranteed Home Buy Out), in which houses unsold in a specified period are purchased at fair market value by government-contracted firms.
Gym memberships are expensive. High quality fitness centers can run anywhere from $30 to $80 per month, not including signup or annual fees. Federal jobs in law enforcement, intelligence, or defense often provide free access to on-site fitness centers. Some of these gyms are extraordinary, and some agencies go further by sponsoring intramural sports teams.
Student Loan Repayment
One of the more exciting (not to mention valuable) recruitment bonuses for many federal employees is the student loan repayment program. Though the benefit varies by agency, the Office of Personnel Management reports that any federally-backed student loan is eligible, with a repayment cap of $10,000/year and $60,000 total. To qualify, one must sign an agreement to work for the employer for at least three years (and those fired for misconduct will likely have to repay the agency). It gets better: Don’t have a student loan, or have you already repaid yours? No problem. You can give this benefit to your children. Meanwhile, some companies also provide tuition reimbursement for employees. Boeing, for example, will foot the bill for employees to go back to school and earn relevant degrees or take courses that foster professional development.
A non-obvious benefit offered by the FBI and other departments of the federal government is transportation subsidies. Whether by bus, train, trolley, or subway, the government will foot the bill for employees to take public transportation to the office. While this won’t result in a huge financial windfall for employees, the perks add up. Taken in aggregate, things like flexible spending accounts, free transit, and free gyms are effectively the same as a salary bump of several thousands of dollars per year.
Does your clearance job offer a fringe benefit not listed here? Let us know in the comments.