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.


Washington D.C., the city of secrets. It is the birthplace of the clearance process itself, and the font of all American covert, clandestine, and sensitive programs and operations at home and around the world. If you want to run spy satellites, organize disaster response, or… build local McDonalds restaurants (!), this is the place to be.

WHO IS HIRING IN D.C.

Top cleared employers now hiring in Washington D.C. (as of March 2018) include:

General Dynamics IT — If it plugs into the Internet, it can be hacked. And sometimes, if it isn’t plugged into the Internet, it can be hacked. It just depends how much the bad guys want in. Cybersecurity keeps malevolent actors out of our networks, and when they do get in, helps us find them, stop them, and if necessary, retaliate. That’s what General Dynamics IT does. You need not be the Sherlock Holmes of cybersleuths to work for GDIT. They need everyone from technical writers to customer service, and they’re hiring a-plenty.

Booz Allen Hamilton — The most accurate description of what Booz Allen Hamilton does might be: They solve hard problems. Data protection and privacy for electronic medical health records? Check. Making the byzantine defense acquisition process easier? Check. Improving traffic congestion? Check. So if you’re in the problem solving business, is there any place on Earth more in need of your services than Washington D.C.? They need your resume.

Leidos — Spies, soldiers, and government agencies need specially trained consultants to support and supplement their activities. Leidos finds and trains those men and women. Those roles might include crisis response as it relates to the North American airspace. (In other words: the next 9/11.) It might mean targeting foreign personnel to gather human intelligence. It might mean doing the company’s internal technical support. Have clearance will travel.

ManTech International Corporation — This company is right upfront about what you would be doing for them, asking on its website: Want a job securing the future of the United States? ManTech has been doing that for 50 years. They are in the data business, their services running the gamut from signals intelligence gathering to medical infrastructure.

AECOM — Want to build something? I mean build something big. Those stunning Etihad Towers. VIRGINIA-class submarines. Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Summer Olympics: London 2012 and Rio 2016. Even—and this will blow your mind—McDonalds. McDonalds! Right down the road. If you want do be part of something big, here or abroad, AECOM is waiting.  

Chenega Corp — Part of the Alaska Native Village Corporation, which was founded in 1971 to redress injustices done to the native peoples of Alaska, Chenega prides itself as “a corporation for a higher cause.” A big part of their profits go back to the Chenega community, and their corporate ethics derive from the Alaska Native leaders. You’re almost certainly familiar with their security services. They also do everything from emergency response “surge capacity” management to supporting the American space program.

Northrop GrummanNorthrop Grumman does everything. They are Stark Industries, but real. Want to build an International Space Station? They can help. Secure a nuclear power plant? They do that. First responder communications networks? Yes, that is a thing they make. B-2 Bomber? Yes. Iron Man suit? Give them a little more time. If you want to do something that Northrop Grumman doesn’t do, then they’ll probably hire you on that basis alone, because nobody can think of anything else.

CSRA — Last month, General Dynamics announced that they wanted to acquire CSRA, and it’s not hard to figure out why. CSRA does cybersecurity. They install the network at your local hospital. They drill into your database to find where you can be more efficient. Cybersecurity. Enterprise IT for municipal government… and state… and national. So yes, they are pretty handy with a computer.

Engility — Sometimes, governments and businesses need to turn to someone and ask, “OK, what do I do next?” When they do, they’re probably asking Engility. And not just any old problem, but problems like: How do we put men on the moon? How do we run an aerial surveillance program? How do we study the human genome? But also small things, local things—things like how do we train our employees? Engility answers those questions.

Raytheon — Before they were Raytheon, before there was television, before there was World War II, there was the American Appliance Company, and they focused on refrigeration technology. Ninety-six years later, they’ve branched out a bit. They changed their name in the 1920’s to Raytheon (“light of the gods”) and today make guided missiles, radars, spy satellites, quantum computers, and anything else that sounds hard to do.

HOW DO YOU COMPARE?

They don’t let just anyone design weapons programs or plan America’s cyber strategy. If you want the job, you’re going to need a security clearance, or clearance eligibility. If you can’t make the cut, somebody else in D.C. probably can, because according to the ClearanceJobs database of more than 800,000 job candidates, the cleared workforce in Washington D.C. looks like this:

  • Secret 33%
  • Top Secret / SCI 31%
  • Top Secret 21%
  • Public Trust 7%
  • Intel 3%
  • Confidential < 1%

That Top Secret/SCI and Top Secret make up an astonishing 64% of clearances in D.C. isn’t totally surprising for reasons stated previously. The nation’s capital is the beating heart of the clearance workforce. The defense industry couldn’t operate any other way. The good news is that the hiring manager for a job that requires a Secret clearance isn’t likely to give preference to a competitor simply because he or she holds a Top Secret. The decision is likely going to be made based on education and experience. To that end, the degrees held by the D.C. workforce break down like this:

  • Bachelors: 38%
  • Masters: 35%
  • Doctorate: 3%
  • Associate: 5%
  • Certification: 4%
  • High School or Equivalent: 11%

If you have not gone to graduate school, this is excellent news! A whopping 58% of job hunters in D.C. hold a baccalaureate or lower. If you have a high school diploma and want to break into something that requires a degree, earning a bachelors is a doable goal either online or at night (or both). In other words, you can build your resume and strengthen your skills and knowledge without quitting your current job. (Last year, Clearance Jobs rounded up a list of online degrees from traditional universities, and their surprisingly sophisticated fields of study.)

The large percentage of graduate degrees (38%) makes D.C. a far better educated workforce than might be found nationally. (In 2017, only 11.4% Americans held a graduate-level degree.)

But what of experience? In D.C., the workforce looks like this:

  • Student (undergrad/grad): 2%
  • Entry (<2 years of experience): 6%
  • Early (2+ years of experience): 15%
  • Mid (5+ years of experience): 35%
  • Senior (10+ years of experience): 30%
  • Management (Manager / Director of Staff): 10%
  • Executive (SVP, EVP, VP): 1%
  • Senior Executive (President, CEO): < 1%

These numbers contrast in interesting ways with those of Virginia, where 42% of the workforce has senior-level experience. D.C. has an extremely high cost of living, but unbridled potential when you are starting out. So you put up with the traffic and the small apartment to build your experience, and when the time comes to raise a family, you take that first-rate resume to someplace with good schools and where you can get a nice house with a backyard. Someplace like…Virginia.

LIVING IN WASHINGTON D.C.

Thinking of making the move to D.C.? Here are some things you need to know. 1. The schools are… not great. But you have choices, and can check the scores of individual schools in the city using the Great School database. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation’s capital has a 5.8% unemployment rate, which is something to consider if you are relocating with a spouse. (The national unemployment rate is 4.1%, for comparison.) As for a place to live, it is significantly more expensive to live in Washington versus the rest of the country. The median home price is $548,300 (versus $296,995 in Virginia). Median rent is $2550. Detailed figures on housing are available at Zillow.

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David Brown is a regular contributor to ClearanceJobs. He is currently at work on his next book, One Inch From Earth, which tells the story of scientists who study the outer planets of the solar system. He can be found online at https://www.dwb.io.