Clearance Salary Trends in 2017

Security Clearance

The last time ClearanceJobs conducted a compensation survey it was 2013 – cleared professionals were reeling from a government shutdown, furloughs and budget cuts. Salaries were flat after previous decline, and clearance holders were urged that ‘flat is the new up.’

Today it’s 2017. There has been an OPM breach of 21 million personal records, a nearly 25 percent reduction in the sized of the cleared workforce, and signing bonuses for security cleared professionals are reaching as high as $20,000. Defense industry employers are reeling from a 500,000 person backlog in security clearance investigations, and when it comes to cleared compensation – up is the new up.

That’s why ClearanceJobs is once again asking cleared professionals to weigh in on their salaries. The cleared job market is vastly different today than it was four years ago. But while we know salaries are higher in most sectors than they were four years ago, we want to give both candidates and recruiters the hard data.

Income Inequality and the Security Clearance Community

When it comes to salary figures, the pay differential is strong by career category, career level and region.

“Cybersecurity salaries command an average of nine percent more than all other technology jobs,” said Dom Glavach, chief security strategist for CyberSN, “It’s safe to say high incomes will continue for cyber security professionals as the market grows for security professionals.”

And while salary trends in IT appear to be moving up, the sky is far from unlimited. In TEKsystems’ recently released annual IT forecast, 63 percent of IT leaders surveyed said they expect salaries to stay the same compared to 2016.

“This is quite low, and could stand in the way of companies trying to attract IT talent,” the report notes. “As such, IT leaders will need to devote salary increases to key areas—programmers and developers, software engineers, security and cloud experts and architects.”

IT professionals can often command a premium, but so can active security clearance holders. The defense industry is currently coping with a nearly 25 percent reduction in the number of individuals with an active DoD security clearance. In the last ClearanceJobs.com salary survey a top secret security clearance could garner as much as a 12.8 percent increase in salary. What affect will a workforce that has been reduced by a quarter have? Only a salary survey can tell.

For government contractors, the push for ‘Lowest Price Technically Acceptable’ contracts pushed salaries downward for several years. With sequestration and budget cuts the theme, there wasn’t room for salaries to grow. Fortunately for cleared professionals, that trend is changing.

“Congress has done its part in trying to constrain the use of LPTA, and there is finally a recognition that it has been injurious to meeting mission requirements,” said Brad Antle CEO of Salient CRGT, an analytics and infrastructure provider. “It does no good to have rates in place where the job can’t be filled, or they are filled with less than acceptable personnel.”

Employers also have to contend with a workforce that’s more than willing to make a move for higher pay and a better job. A recent ClearanceJobs survey found 47 percent of candidates surveyed had been in their jobs less than three years. Couple that with a graying defense industry workforce, and the supply and demand problem facing cleared recruiters only gets worse.

To recap, the 2017 cleared hiring market is faced with:

  • A nearly 25 percent reduction in the number of DoD security clearances.
  • A 500,000 case security clearance backlog, creating months-long delays for new investigations.
  • Nearly a quarter of defense industry workers eligible for retirement in 2018.
  • Candidates highly comfortable with job hopping and willing to move for more money.
  • A huge surge in demand for cybersecurity talent and other niche industries, creating seismic gaps in pay depending upon the skills sector.
  • A new presidential administration beginning which has vowed to make our military and defense bigger and stronger than ever.

With all of these market changes, there has never been a better time to get insight into how your pay and salary stack up. Stay tuned for the results of the ClearanceJobs compensation survey, and don’t forget to submit your response for access to the survey findings.

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