Transitioning into the civilian workplace right now is challenging to say the least, with the commercial sector employment outlook the way it is right now. According to the latest information from White House Senior Advisor Kevin Hassett, unemployment could spike to 20% by June. By comparison, the unemployment level during the Great Depression was 25%.
Since March 14, 25 million people have filed unemployment claims. While some of those people were laid off or furloughed and will return to work when the economy opens back up, 700,000 of those jobs are gone forever. That number will grow as more small businesses succumb to the economy and close their doors forever.
But in amongst the doom and gloom of the economy and job outlook, many veterans have an ace up their sleeve with a security clearance. Having one, or even having had one, puts them at a significant advantage over those who do not have a clearance. Why is having a security clearance so powerful? Despite the current economic challenges, the defense workforce has been deemed essential, and national security workers remain at work, with special protections if their offices are closed and they’re unable to work. In addition, for businesses, there are four key benefits of hiring already cleared workers:
Having a clearance tells a potential employer you can be trusted. If the military or a previous government employer trusted you with classified information, then they can too. Having a current clearance puts you at the top of the list over other applicants not having a clearance – especially if you had a Top Secret (TS) or a Top Secret/ Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) clearance. For example, 80% of the open positions at the time of writing of one of the top defense contractors requires a clearance at one level or another.
It is a numbers game in the civilian workplace. A few years ago, in the wake of Edward Snowden and other high profile security issues, the U.S. reduced the number of people that had clearances. After the scrub, many of the jobs that earlier required a clearance (many of them at the Confidential and Secret levels) now did not require one, and the people filling those jobs no longer had clearances. So what that means today is far fewer people are getting out of the military today with a clearance intact or able to get one without having to go through the whole application process again.
And that leads us to the third reason why having a security clearance is important. It is an expensive proposition for a company to request a security clearance for an employee never having had one. While the government pays the costs of obtaining a clearance, there is a significant time cost, with average clearance processing times taking at least several months for both Secret and Top Secret clearances.
Possessing a current clearance also means starting a job at a higher wage. In 2020, the average salary for employees with a clearance was $96,515; compare this to the 2019 U.S. median salary of $48,672 per year, and it is easy to see the value of having a clearance.
Not only is getting a security clearance costly, it takes time. As of the 4th Quarter 2019, it took the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) on average 295 days to process the fastest 90% of the TS applications – almost 10 months!
Depending on when the last reinvestigation was done for your clearance, it can be current for up to two years after getting out. When put into this perspective, and taking into consideration the four advantages to employers of you having a clearance, it is easy to see how advantageous for businesses it is for you to have a clearance appropriate for the position you are applying for.