What’s the monetary value of a security clearance? We know it exists, but it’s always hard to quantify. Security clearance attorney Mark Zaid refers to it as a golden ticket – it opens doors that those without a security clearance can’t get to, leading to a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end. Compare the average cleared salary in Virginia with the average salary, and the worker with a security clearance earns nearly $40,000 more, when you compare the 2018 ClearanceJobs compensation survey results with Bureau of Labor Statistics figures.

The strength of the commercial sector today has increased the competition for all workers, and security cleared salaries will certainly not always top average salaries by so significant of an amount. But if you have the right combination of skills, and the right security clearance, many candidates will say – you can practically name your price (within reason), and get a job.

Why is a security clearance such a career boon? Like a college degree, it acts as a credential. If you have a security clearance, you’ve been deemed trustworthy – trustworthy enough to gain access to America’s secrets. Not everyone is willing to complete a 100-page document outlining their potential character flaws and blackmailable characteristics – and then submit it to the government for review. A security clearance has widely been considered a privilege, not a right – and not just because it’s a privilege to get one, but because these days, only a privileged few are willing to.

And while employers don’t incur the costs of sponsoring security clearances – agencies pay for them – there is a very real cost for sponsoring a security clearance because of the lengthy wait times. If an employer hires someone without a clearance, they may have to wait months or even years to put them into a classified project. If you already have the clearance, they can put you to work today – and there is real cost savings there.

So, what is your security clearance worth? The actual monetary value is almost impossible to pin down. But if you’re searching for jobs or looking to advance your career, the value is absolutely there.

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