You leave the military with a unique set of hard and soft skills. For some service members, you also leave with a security clearance. In today’s tight candidate’s market, possessing a security clearance may be one of the greatest assets you bring to your job search. Unfortunately, many veterans allow their terminal leave to pass without understanding the valuable credential a security clearance should be. Here are five facts everyone should know about their security clearance as they prepare to transition out of the military and into a civilian career.

1. What was the date of your last investigation?

There are three basic security clearance statuses – active, current, and expired. As the backlog of pending security clearance investigations has reached 700,000, the government has been quick to clarify that clearance eligibility doesn’t expire if you’re currently employed and need to use your clearance to accomplish your job. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply if you leave military service and your investigation has expired.

Before separating from military service, ask your security officer, or consult your personnel file, to determine the date of your last periodic reinvestigation. If you’ve already left military service, you can make a Privacy Act request to obtain a copy of your entire security clearance file.

2. When was your clearance adjudicated?

The security clearance process is split into three stages – initiation, investigation, and adjudication. Adjudication applies to the date your security clearance is formally issued. Just like knowing if your security clearance is up for reinvestigation, knowing the date your clearance is adjudicated gives you the information you need to transfer your security clearance eligibility from your military position into your civilian job.

3. How to list your clearance on your resume.

Many service members are naturally security conscious. That’s a good thing and shows that all of that Operations Security (OPSEC) training didn’t go to waste. That leaves many service members wondering if they’re even allowed to discuss their security clearance at all, let alone list it on their resume. Along with your skills and professional experience, your security clearance is one of your most valuable credentials. It should be listed near the top of your resume. The National Security Agency (NSA) confirms you may also list your polygraph, along with polygraph dates on your resume.

You should not list any special access programs you are classified for, or list any classified information on your resume. But confirming your security clearance and polygraph will open the doors to thousands of jobs that you may otherwise not be considered for.

4. How long does a security clearance stay current?

Many veterans plan to use their GI bill benefits after they separate from service. That can be a great idea. But if you have an active clearance, and plan to pursue work in the defense industry, it may be more beneficial to ensure you keep your clearance active than going straight into four years of full-time schooling. Your clearance remains current for two years following a separation in service, assuming your security clearance hasn’t expired. That means you have two years to re-activate your security clearance eligibility. If your clearance lapses, you’ll need to wait the full period of a new investigation – which is currently 534 days for Department of Defense contractors applying for a Top Secret clearance.

5. What can cause you to lose your clearance?

You likely leave military service with a lot of dreams, hopes, and plans. Or at least the thought of making some new dreams, hopes, and plans! Security clearance eligibility is based on 13 adjudicative criteria. Keep in mind that foreign investments, starting a relationship with someone from overseas, or declaring bankruptcy may all be issues that could result in security clearance denial. They could, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they will. Just keep in mind the issues that could cause clearance denial as you sow your post military wild oats. Don’t hesitate to contact a security clearance consultant or attorney if you have business or other plans that you worry may affect your clearance eligibility.

Currently there is a critical shortage of individuals, particularly those with higher level security clearances. Your security clearance is a valuable asset. Asking just a few questions about your security clearance as you separate from service will ensure you can take advantage of this valuable credential as you embark on your job search.


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