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.

If you love the  jobs and companies on the eastern seaboard, but want neighbors with better tans, California is the place for you. It is the most populous state in the U.S., and from the Gold Rush to Silicon Valley, has existed in the collective American psyche as the Place You Need to Go if you want to blaze new trails and make a new, big start at life. Cybersecurity is now assimilated into the DNA of every major corporation in the country; California’s claim as undisputed and supreme technology hub of the world, then, makes it a tech jobs bonanza. Each of its major cities are striking for their unique character—it’s hard to confuse San Francisco and Los Angeles. The state has Disneyland. It has Hollywood. It has Starfleet Headquarters. It could have you!

Whether it’s building spaceships or building hacker-resistant networks, California is where you want to be. Here is what you need to know if you want to get a job in California.


California’s major industries are divided as much by history as geography. In many ways, the city in which you choose to work will determine the sort of work you’ll be doing. In every city, though, you’ll notice a few familiar names among the state’s open, cleared positions.

Sunnyvale – There’s an interesting division between the job openings in Sunnyvale versus the primary industry in the area. Sunnyvale is in Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world. But the overwhelming majority of jobs here in the ClearanceJobs database circle around… missile systems. Yes, missiles are a technology, of course, but in this case, Sunnyvale’s missile industry is less a reflection of Silicon Valley than it is a result of American history. During World War II, San Francisco was known as the shipbuilding capital of the world, launching almost 5,000 ships. One major company in the area was Hendy Iron Works, which built steam engines for Liberty cargo ships used by U.S. forces.

After the war, the company was acquired by Westinghouse, who expanded the company’s portfolio to include submarine work and missile development. Northrop Grumman bought that plant in the mid-nineties. The Liberty ships are museums now. The missiles are still being fired. To that end, Northrop Grumman by far has the most job openings in the area. Obviously, engineers are in high demand, but because the facility does work of vital national importance, it needs a strong element of IT support, cybersecurity, and the like.

Palmdale – When you hear Palmdale, one word should come to mind: aerospace. This is where spaceships and airplanes are built, and sometimes a combination of the two. For that you can thank Richard Nixon’s second presidential campaign. After the Apollo program, the government had a decision to make. Should it shut down NASA? Though the agency saw the moon as the first step to other worlds, the White House saw the moon as the goal. And we did it! We beat the commies there—mission accomplished. Space was interesting, but it was time to move on to something else. But! NASA had presented the White House with a plan for the future: a fleet of space shuttles that could build a space station, which would act essentially as a layover for a moonbase.

Nixon tossed out the space station and moonbase ideas straightaway. But the shuttle… well that had potential. You could launch spy satellites with it, and more intriguingly, you could steal spy satellites with it. And best of all: you could build the space shuttles in Palmdale, which would keep California in his column during the presidential election. And that’s exactly what happened.

Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are the biggest companies in the area, for obvious reasons, and their facilities there focus on the satellite and aircraft industries. But smaller players are also hiring — Thomas & Herbert Consulting,  Indotronix International, and UAV designer General Atomics, to name a few. They, too, center on aerospace. Like Sunnyvale, the jobs aren’t engineering-exclusive. Jobs available run the gamut from sales rep to security guard.

San Diego – If you’ve been in the Navy, you know why San Diego is such a hot city for clearance jobs. It is home to Naval Base San Diego, the homeport of the Pacific Fleet, the largest fleet command in the world. Forty-eight thousand military and civilian personnel work there.

With the base being essentially a large city, to say nothing of the scores of major support companies and contractors off-base and nearby, you’re going to get every kind of job opening imaginable. Do you want to research diseases? No problem. (It is the Navy after all…) Write software? Yep. Take care of dolphins. Yes! (Really.) Janitor? The thing about San Diego is that you’d have to work harder finding a job not available there than one that is. The usual suspects are there—Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton—but other companies like Scientific Research Corporation (an engineering firm), American Systems (IT and engineering), and Vector Planning & Services (an IT business) are hiring in San Diego as well.


According to the ClearanceJobs database of 800,000 job candidates, here is what the California cleared workforce looks like:

  • Secret: 55%
  • Top Secret / SCI: 26%
  • Top Secret: 12%
  • Not Specified: 3%
  • Public Trust: < 1%
  • Confidential :< 1%
  • Intel: < 1%
  • Dept. of Homeland Security: < 1%
  • Dept. of Energy (Q or L): < 1%

A coastal comparison is in order. On the other side of the continent, Virginia—itself home to the largest Naval installation in the world, and thus a good point of comparison—has 35% of its workforce cleared with Secret, and a whopping 57% holding a Top Secret. What accounts for the massive disparity in numbers? The most likely reason is that defense contractors providing direct support to U.S. military installations are not the dominant market forces at play in Virginia (and surrounding job markets, whose numbers are largely the same). Virginia, Washington, and Maryland make up the intelligence capital of the world (as in espionage; not brains, as should be obvious to everyone.)

On the other hand, in terms of clearances, California is almost identical to the Texas labor market. The Texan Secret percentage is… 55%! Top Secret is 37%, versus the 38% in California. Where California owns the Navy, Texas is an Air Force state, and so the numbers balance out.

As for the highest level of education attained by California job seekers:

  • Bachelors: 32%
  • High School or Equivalent: 22%
  • Masters: 17%
  • Associate: 14%
  • Certification: 9%
  • Doctorate: 2%

Once again, California looks statistically identical to Texas, with only the occasional point up or down swapped around. All those G.I. Bills are paying for undergraduate degrees. The number of job seekers with bachelors or greater is 13 percentage points better than the national average. The number of Ph.D.’s in the California clearance market is certainly related to the aerospace and computer science jobs available. (It also beats the national average.) An east coast job seeker is more likely to hold a masters degree. If you live in Kansas but want to live near an ocean, choose your direction accordingly. A graduate degree would go a long way in California, all things being equal.

The ClearanceJobs database reveals that the cleared California labor pool is senior level heavy. The numbers break down as such:

  • Student (undergrad / grad): 2%
  • Entry (<2 yrs experience): 4%
  • Early (2+ yrs experience): 11%
  • Mid-Level (5+ yrs experience): 29%
  • Senior (10+ yrs experience): 39%
  • Management (Manager / Director of Staff): 13%
  • Executive (SVP, EVP, VP): 1%
  • Senior Executive (President, CEO): < 1%

People who get jobs in California stay in California. It is particularly fascinating to see how evenly California, Texas, Virginia, and Maryland line up. (Worth considering, of course, is that a 1:1 comparison of California versus smaller east coast states is beyond the scope of this article.) Washington, D.C. has a much lower percentage of senior-level job seekers. This might have political causes; there’s a new president every four to eight years, and the direct effect of varying foreign policies, business taxation and regulations, and so on might first be felt in the epicenter of the storm. It might also reflect how unpleasant life in D.C. can be.

Overall, the numbers here speak very highly of the healthiness of California work-life. People like it there. And why wouldn’t they? Again I say: Disneyland.


Economically, there’s no doubt that California is serious business… and serious for business. It has the largest economy of any state in the U.S., and if they seceded from the union, would be the fifth largest economy in the world. (And do they ever want to secede!) Likewise, Los Angeles and San Francisco are the second and third-most powerful cities, economically, in the country. California has an unemployment rate of 4.2%—right in line with the national average of 4.1%.

But no person is an island, and if you’re relocating with loved ones, there are family matters to consider. The top of any parent’s list is the quality of schools. And California isn’t so bad! They have the highest rate of attendance for any state in the union, according to the National Education Association, and are #1 in terms of number of high school graduates. They are second in the nation in terms of the number of teachers, and second in terms of teacher pay. Not all schools are created equal, though. Once it’s time to pick a place to settle, the Great Schools database can help you search schools by name, city, or district.

By the way: that house you buy is going to cost you. The median home price in California is a staggering $537,315 (versus $184,112 in Texas). The median price for rent is $2,675. Ouch. The Zillow database lets you dig deeper, and on a city-by-city level. There might be some good news in there. Maybe.

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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.