One of the most frequently asked questions we receive at is ‘how do I obtain a security clearance?‘ Unfortunately, the explanation presents a conundrum for many looking for security clearance jobs – the positions they want require a security clearance, but they can’t apply to those positions without first having a security clearance.

Beyond being just a simple frustration, it’s a contracting reality that has been created by the government. Most federal contractors would love to hire talent with the right skills and then sponsor them for the security clearance after they’re hired. But more than ever, today the government is requiring contractors to have the talent in place when the contract begins – and the contract states specifically whether or not the positions must be filled by active clearance holders.

The good news for transitioning service members or individuals who have previously held a clearance is that clearances remain ‘current’ for a period of two years after you leave a cleared position (assuming your investigation hasn’t expired). One of the things on your military separation checklist should be checking to see the date of your investigation. If you know your investigation is about to expire, do your best to get it renewed.

The general contracting requirements contractors are faced with when it comes to clearances are:

  • Public Trust Required to Start
  • Interim Security Clearance Required to Start
  • Active Current Clearance Required

Serious delays in security clearance processing times mean ‘interim security clearance required’ may actually mean months of delays for contractors. That has resulted in many government contractors looking for only candidates who have active or current security clearances.

If you don’t have a security clearance, don’t give up. There are companies willing to sponsor you for your security clearance. But the reality is you will need to be patient. It could take a year or more before your final security clearance is adjudicated. In that time, the employer may not hire you, but may provide a contingent offer based on your ability to obtain a security clearance. Given the continued demand for cleared talent, you may find the career prospects you’ll earn by having obtained a clearance are worth the wait.

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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.