Few things are more frightening than a job search. Either you are in a job and contemplating a major change in how you spend your life, or out of work, and desperate to change that. It can be humbling: a group of strangers will look at your resume, take measure of your career, question you during an interview, and decide if you are right for them. And there’s an element of instability to all of this: the interview and final decision is, ultimately, a gut call by hiring managers. You might absorb the bad morning a manager had in traffic.

You can feel powerless in the process… but you don’t have to. We’ve mined the databases here at ClearanceJobs and cross-referenced them with the Department of Labor, and are undertaking a state-by-state tour of the top job markets in the United States. Who is hiring? What do they do? Who is the competition? Here is what you need to know if you live in one of these markets, or are considering a move.

The largest “clearance” state is, not surprisingly, Virginia. Its proximity to the U.S. capital guarantees a high concentration of sensitive job positions, and its geography gives companies room to breathe and expand. Whether it involves building bombers or securing networks, every player in the defense industry has a presence here.


Top cleared employers with a company headquarters in Virginia and current clearance job openings include:

Mantech (Herndon, VA) – Founded in 1968, Mantech specializes in cybersecurity; network infrastructure; signals intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination; healthcare systems; and logistical services for the U.S. military at home and abroad. The company does everything from classroom training to battlefield maintenance.

CACI International (Arlington, VA) – CACI started as a software simulation pioneer in 1962, and has since expanded its portfolio to include space operations, cyber security, enterprise information technology, healthcare systems, and surveillance/reconnaissance platform integration. They deploy military advisors to war zones and provide homeland security services.

Leidos (Reston, VA) – The 1960s were a good year indeed for companies doing sensitive work with government and industry. In 1969, a team of scientists founded SAIC, which would, four decades later, split in two. Leidos was one half of the split. The company provides systems for all areas of defense and intelligence, from geospatial intelligence to command and control.

Engility (Chantilly, VA) – A computer science and engineering firm with Space Race origins, Engility uses raw computing power to solve problems facing the government. Among other things, the company applies high performance computing to issues ranging from F-35 performance to global weather prediction.

SAIC (Reston, VA) – “Big data” is big business, and the engineers at SAIC are in the business of extracting insights from complex data sets… but that’s not all. The company handles massive IT infrastructure and management projects, cyber security, force protection, and public safety systems for government and industry alike.

Northrop Grumman (Falls Church, VA) – These guys do everything. Build stealth bombers? Check. Spaceships? Check. Cybersecurity? Weapons? Radars? Rockets? Training? IT infrastructure? Check, check, check, check, check, and check. The short version is that if you want a job, you have options here ranging from janitorial to designing space telescopes.

Booz Allen Hamilton (McLean, VA) – If you like strategy, technology, and wearing a suit to work every day, Booz Allen is the employer for you. Booz Allen helps the government fight terrorism, thwart cyber criminals and operate mission systems. Whether it’s big data or machine learning, Booz Allen is at the cutting edge of government contracting.

General Dynamics Information Technology (Fairfax, VA) – Every time you played “war” with your toys as a child, you were basically practicing to work at General Dynamics. They designed, built, or both, the F-16, the M1 Abrams, the Wolverine “bridge layer,” missiles, submarines. If you’re rich, you might even own one of their Gulfstream jets. Their information technology division in Virginia provides enterprise IT services—everything from the Defense Department’s email system to the storage and analysis of 2.5 billion health insurance claims annually.

CSRA (Falls Church, VA) – You marry one company called “Systems Research and Applications Corporation,” and one called “Computer Sciences Corporation” and the result—CSRA—is going to do a whole lot of computer work. For everyone. Cybersecurity, data analytics, user interfaces—browse through their job listings and you’ll have a hard time figuring out what they don’t do. Their clients range from hospitals to spy agencies.


If one or all the top hirers in Virginia sound appealing, you’re probably going to need a security clearance or eligibility for one. So how does the competition stack up? According to the ClearanceJobs database of more than 800,000 job candidates, the cleared workforce in Virginia looks like this:

Top Secret / SCI: 38%
Top Secret: 19%
Secret: 35%
Intel: 3%
Public Trust: 2%
Confidential: < 1%

Right away, the number of Top Secret or higher clearances should pop out at you—57%—a reflection of the type of work you’re likely to find in the area, and of how, despite efforts by the government to pare down the number of high level clearance positions, some jobs simply cannot work with a lower standard of employee vetting.

In terms of academic degrees held, the Virginia cleared workforce looks like this:

  • Bachelors: 38%
  • Masters: 26%
  • High School or Equivalent: 15%
  • Associate: 10%
  • Certification: 6%
  • Doctorate: 2%

These numbers are strong on their own, but especially so versus national average. For example, in the United States in 2017, 11.4% of the population held a graduate-level degree. Virginia clearance holders do significantly better, at 28%. This reflects some of the more technically demanding jobs in defense and aerospace, but also one of the major benefits of working for the industry: tuition reimbursement. Conversely, if you lack said degree and are interested in breaking into the Virginia clearance workforce, it might not be a bad idea to start taking night classes.

The experience level of the Virginia cleared workforce:

Student (undergrad/grad): < 1%
Entry (<2 years of experience): 4%
Early (2+ years of experience): 9%
Mid (5+ years of experience): 25%
Senior (10+ years of experience): 42%
Management (Manager / Director of Staff): 16%
Executive (SVP, EVP, VP): 2%
Senior Executive (President, CEO): < 1%

Those massive senior+ level workforce numbers certainly suggest that workers who move to Virginia stick around for a while. It could be that people love the cherry blossoms, but it might also be that cleared professionals can thrive in a corporate ecosystem ever in need of men and women who can pass a polygraph. No aerospace engineer ever went hungry in Virginia; there’s always someone in the area who will hire you. (The cherry blossoms are quite lovely, though.)


If you are relocating to Virginia and have a family, the quality of schools will be a top concern. Great Schools maintains a database of school by city and district, and rates schools by test grades, improvement, discipline, diversity, and other metrics. Your spouse might want a job wherever you move. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the state as having a 3.7% unemployment rate, and provides refined figures on the state economy, the cost of living, and local economies. And of course, you’re going to need a place to live. The median home price in the state is $296,995. Median rent is $1600. You can find detailed figures on the housing market at Zillow.

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David Brown is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs. His most recent book, THE MISSION (Custom House, 2021), is now available in bookstores everywhere in hardcover and paperback. He can be found online at https://www.dwb.io.