Do you have an active federal security clearance? If the answer is yes, you’re in luck – with a shrinking cleared talent pool, decreased number of higher-level security clearances, and security clearance processing delays, the demand for already-cleared IT professionals is high.
Finding a candidate with the right technical skills and right security clearances to get the job done is difficult. That means many employers are willing to pay significantly more to hire a candidate with a clearance. The Human Resources Association of the National Capital Area found a secret clearance can garner a 5.8 percent jump in salary and a top secret security clearance a 12.8 percent jump in salary, compared to un-cleared candidates. Cybersecurity professionals working in the National Capital region garner average compensation of $117,184, up 6% year over year, according to the 2014 ClearanceJobs compensation survey.
“…generally speaking it’s in the 10-20% range of increased salary,” said Jim Gerretson CEO of Gerretson LLC. “Even for just a public trust, if you are going to the same agency it’s probable that you will get some benefit. Active TS/SCI/Poly in the same agency will see the biggest boost.”
Cleared professionals are also more optimistic about their chances for a merit pay raise in 2015. In a recent ClearanceJobs survey of defense industry professionals, 85% of men and 74% of women said they expect a pay raise in 2015. Of those expecting a pay raise, 34% expect a three to four percent pay raise. Thirty one percent expect a five to seven percent pay raise.
In addition to higher-than-average pay, there are several other benefits of pursing a job using your federal security clearance. Here are just a few:
1. Better benefits.
Silicon Valley is certainly known for its creative office spaces. But when it comes to generous leave, great benefits and quality gyms, cleared companies have an advantage. Some of the benefits cleared companies offer are expected – things like tuition reimbursement, relocation assistance and on-site daycare. Others are more unique, including first-rate mental health counseling and free transit. Keep in mind these benefits can have a major affect on your bottom line, so explore the fringe benefits when you apply – you might just find a cleared job pays even more than you expected.
2. A critical mission.
A 2014 ClearanceJobs survey of IT professionals found being challenged and meaningful work ranked 1st and 2nd on the list of things that keep cyber professionals engaged. All cyber work is important, but there is a mission-critical difference between managing servers for Taco Bell and managing servers for the CIA. Mission-minded work and access to cutting-edge tools is typically one of the reasons the NSA doesn’t share in the rest of the government’s struggles to attract and retain a well-qualified cyber workforce (that, and the higher-than-average salary caps). The government needs cybersecurity professionals to take its technology into the 21st century. They can’t do it without qualified, motivated professionals to get the job done.
3. Commercial cross-over.
Gone are the days when security-cleared IT professionals found themselves working in a windowless office with little access to the outside world. Today more than ever, the Department of Defense understands it needs Silicon Valley. If you have commercial sector IT skills and an active-federal security clearance, there’s no better time to blend the two in a challenging career. Help protect Uncle Sam’s critical information while you stay up-to-speed on the latest Apple initiatives. Some government offices are even looking into embedding professionals with Silicon Valley firms, to help trade information and learn best practices.
Keep in mind that your security clearance only remains active for a period of two years after taking a non-cleared job. So, if you want to keep your clearance and the value of that credential, make sure any forays into the private sector are short. If your clearance lapses, you’ll have to re-apply for a clearance and complete the background investigation process all over again. The good news if your clearance has already expired? The fact that you’ve already obtained a clearance means your investigation should be relatively easy.
4. The Cleared Advantage.
The IT industry has seen a shift toward more contract and contingent work. Which is great for IT professionals who prefer flexibility and aren’t concerned about job stability. Cleared work offers greater job security for those who need it – because once a company has found a qualified cleared applicant, they generally prefer to keep them. The cost to clear an employee is several thousand dollars, not including the time spent off-of-the-job while they wait for their credentials.
If you’ve been searching for a job for awhile, you may also find highlighting your clearance puts you in front of companies who wouldn’t otherwise consider you. Jim Gerretson noted that cleared professionals have a definite advantage in a job search, compared to uncleared candidates. And because the security clearance process acts as a sort of job screening, he’s ” a lot more comfortable with the basic character and trustworthiness of a cleared candidate than an uncleared one.”
If you have an active federal security clearance, there’s a good reason to put it to use. If attractive benefits packages, a higher-than-average salary and excellent job security sound like perks worth pursuing.