Top 10 Hottest Clearance Jobs

Career Advice

As a faithful user of ClearanceJobs.com, you know that cleared employees of every skill set are in high demand. With an improved economy, shifting requirements and a backlog of candidates in the clearance process, job candidates who already hold a clearance are sitting pretty.

But as always, some positions are in even higher demand than others. Below are the top ten most sought-after job titles on our site, based on the number of open positions. Maybe you have high-value skills you didn’t realize. Or maybe you already have one of these jobs and you need to make sure your title and salary reflect your market value. Otherwise, it may be time to dust off your Cuba Gooding Jr. impression. Say it with me now: “show me the money.”

1. Systems Engineer

Some scientific minds thrive on staring at the intricate details of individual cells under a microscope. Still others would prefer to travel 50 miles above the earth’s surface to get a look at how all those billions of cells work together in a closed system. Systems engineers tend to be the latter. From manufacturing to aviation to weapons and missile systems, these engineers take a holistic look at the process. They look at things from a bird’s eye view, identifying how all the parts of a system should work together, potential risks, inefficiencies and eventual decommission.

It is a highly interdisciplinary job which requires basic understanding of industrial, mechanical, manufacturing, control, software and electrical engineering. It also requires project management skills and the ability to work with a diversity of people—from project managers to clients.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • Usually a bachelor’s degree or higher in an applicable field such as mechanical engineering, software engineering or electrical engineering.
  • Exceptional problem-solving skills.
  • Familiarity with modeling languages such as USL, UML, QFD and IDEF.
  • Ability to manage relationships with other engineers, project managers and clients.

You can also watch this snazzy video to get a little more background on what a systems engineer does and why they’re in such high demand.

2. Systems Administrator (SysAdmin)

Simply put, Systems Administrators are lords of all they survey. They are responsible for setting up and maintaining computer systems—especially multi-user computers like servers. They monitor their network for security issues and anticipate possible weaknesses. A SysAdmin is also the person who gets called in at 3pm on a Sunday to fix any problems. They are responsible for keeping everything up and running for their teammates, so interpersonal skills are also necessary. They also have to run full audits on software and hardware, establish processes and generate and analyze reports through monitoring tools.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • (Possibly) an advanced degree in mathematics, computer science or IT.
  • 3-4 years of hands-on experience working with different operating systems (Linux, Windows, etc.).
  • Problem-solving skills—especially under pressure.
  • Knowledge of infrastructure and process development.
  • Developing and implementing security protocols across departments and organizations.
  • Experience researching and testing new hardware and software products to assess compatibility with current system.

If you want a more thorough summary, you can read this brilliant article by a brilliant author on a brilliant site.

3. Software Engineer and 4. Software Developer

Software Engineers—also called computer programmers or software developers—are pretty easy to understand: they build the world with their minds. No, they are not Marvel superheroes, but they do preserve order in a world of chaos. They write the millions of lines of code that create the apps, websites and pretty much everything we take for granted in our daily lives. They design, develop, maintain, test and evaluate software that makes computers and software work.

It would be hard to exaggerate the applicability of a developer’s skills to any industry or organization—but particularly to jobs requiring a clearance. With the federal government and contractors having to compete with Silicon Valley for top tech talent, developers are in high demand. Keep that in mind at your next salary discussion.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science, IT or computer engineering. However, coding skills are in such high demand that many employers will waive the degree requirement for several years of work experience.
  • Familiarity with multiple operating systems (OS X, Unix, Linux, Windows).
  • Fluency in programming and markup languages like HTML, Python and Java (see this article for the most in-demand languages of 2018).
  • A mind for solving, anticipating and troubleshooting problems

Even if you’re not a software engineer now, there are many resources available like codecademy to learn coding skills to boost your resume. There are also short-term coding boot camps that can jumpstart a career as a developer.

*So what’s the difference between a software engineer and a software developer?

Well, it depends on who you ask. To some, there is no difference and the terms are used interchangeably—along with “programmer.” Some say that an “engineer” has formal education to understand the mathematics and science behind the whole system that they build. A “developer” has understanding of only *parts* of that system and can build and creatively solve problems within it.

If you’d like more thorough explanations, you can read this article or this one. But ultimately, the title probably comes down to the preferences of you and your employer.

5. Network Engineer

Similar to a systems administrator, network engineers support an organization’s local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), customer networks, intranet, internet and other data communications systems. They perform necessary monitoring and maintenance to ensure that all users have uninterrupted access to the network.

Other key responsibilities include strategically planning network security measures, performing data backups, diagnosing hardware and software problems as well as troubleshooting and correcting problems. Depending on the complexity of the network, there may be a whole team of network engineers—or one lone ranger holding down the fort.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related discipline (IT, computer science, etc.) and usually 8-10 years of relevant experience working in IT systems or network administration. Advanced degrees are also a plus.
  • Demonstrated leadership skills and the ability to motivate and supervise a team.
  • Must work well under pressure and quickly solve critical problems.
  • Experience installing and configuring hardware and software.

6. Project Manager

The title “Project Manager” doesn’t explain much in itself. Project managers can work in human resources; they can work in mechanical engineering. Project managers can be found in almost any field.

A project manager is responsible for planning, executing and keeping a project on track. They define goals, budgets and end objectives for their team in a clear, attainable way. They manage the constraints of the project—such as budget, time and manpower. They ensure that all team members are working to fulfill a common goal for a client. Any industry, company or department that is working to get stuff done needs a good project manager who can keep everyone on track and deliver.

As a result, project managers will all have different backgrounds and educations depending on their industry. However, all project managers must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the environment in which they work. Though they are rarely the person actually carrying out the tasks of a project, they must understand enough about everyone else’s job to ensure that the process is successful.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • Education will vary based on industry and organization.
  • Experience and familiarity with the tasks of the team to be overseen.
  • Leadership skills to motivate people to complete high-quality work on schedule.
  • Time and money management skills to keep a project’s budget and timeline on track.
  • Ability to anticipate problems and solve them quickly.
  • Interpersonal skills critical to maintaining the trust of a team and building relationships with outside vendors and clients.

If you have the aforementioned traits and several years of experience in your field, you might consider gaining project management experience in your current role. People who can take care of business are in high demand in any field.

7. Program Manager

Did you read the description for “Project Manager?” Program managers are the same idea—just one step wider in scope. As multiple project managers oversee their respective projects, the program manager oversees all of them. It is the program manager’s job to ensure that all projects share a strategic common goal for the organization. They also are in charge of properly allocating finances and manpower to each team. Program managers also play a critical role in making sure that teams are not duplicating efforts.

Program managers work very closely with the senior management of an organization to define the strategic goals all projects should work towards. They also determine and organize any training necessary for staff to achieve their project goals.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • Education will vary based on industry and organization.
  • 10 years experience as a project manager.
  • A Project Management Professional certification.
  • Management and supervisory experience.
  • Leadership skills to motivate people to complete high-quality work on schedule.
  • Excellent time and money management skills.
  • Ability to anticipate problems and solve them quickly.
  • Interpersonal skills to interact with organizational leaders and high-value clients.

8. Intelligence Analyst

Simply put, an intelligence analyst is able to see where the truth lies. Using finely-honed critical thinking skills and cognitive methods, they measure and weigh the significance of secret data. Given that the data to be analyzed is purposefully deceptive, an intelligence analyst has to be keen at noticing patterns in order to spot the truth among the lies.

Background for intelligence analysts varies, but military experience, foreign language expertise, foreign service and experience with cryptology are good springboards into this career.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • BA or higher in a field like National Security, Intelligence Studies or Political Science. Degrees in specific fields—like a foreign language—can also be valuable.
  • Superb critical-thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills.
  • Able to see situations from multiple angles and perspectives.
  • Skilled at maintaining objectivity and making sure that hypotheses fit the evidence—not the other way around.
  • Can consistently apply uniform standards to assess the viability of information.

9. Test Engineer

Any kid who has played with blocks knows that there’s only one thing better than admiring your intricate creation: figuring out the best way to knock it down. A test engineer gets to live out every little kid’s dream; they must understand the most intricate, complex systems. Then they get to see if they can break them—in order to improve them for the future. Of course, this is all done in a highly systematic, strategic, controlled way.

Test engineers ensure that hardware and software are regularly and thoroughly vetted to make sure technical, quality or security problems can be prevented or easily solved. They design elaborate test scenarios to see how the system will function under certain circumstances. They must have a detailed knowledge of how hardware, software, processes or networks work in order to design and carry out tests that thoroughly vet functionality and potential risks.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree in fields such as Math, Science, Engineering, Statistics or Physics are preferred. However, work experience often can be substituted for a degree.
  • Experience designing tests, performing statistical analysis of data and presenting test findings to decision makers and organizational leadership.
  • Demonstrated ability to implement test findings into corrective action.
  • Several years experience working in systems engineering, systems administration or network engineering.
  • Experience with a variety of operating systems, particularly Linux, Solaris and Windows. Knowledge of languages like Java, HTML, Python and Perl.
  • Keen analytical skills and attention to detail.

10. Linux Systems Administrator

As you might rightfully guess, a Linux Systems Administrator is a SysAdmin who is particularly or exclusively skilled with Linux operating systems. Given the highly adaptive nature of Linux, it is the most common operating system for supercomputers like those used by many federal agencies and contractors. With that said, the same requirements apply.

Required Skills/Qualifications:

  • (Possibly) an advanced degree in mathematics, computer science or IT.
  • 3-4 years of hands-on experience working with Linux systems. A background in Unix and various Linux distributions would be particularly helpful.
  • Problem-solving skills—especially under pressure.
  • Knowledge of infrastructure and process development.
  • Developing and implementing security protocols across departments and organizations.
  • Experience researching and testing new hardware and software products to assess compatibility with current system.

Caroline D'Agati is an Editor for ClearanceJobs based in Washington, D.C. Her background is in public policy, non-profit fundraising, and - oddly enough - park rangering. Though she once dreamed of serving America secretly in the CIA, she's grateful she's gotten to serve America publicly - both through the National Park Service and right here at ClearanceJobs. If you have tips or are interested in contributing to our site, you can email her at caroline.d'agati@clearancejobs.com

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