Aerospace and cybersecurity keep Colorado flying high in both jobs and compensation. With six major military installations and a long history of defense and aerospace support, Colorado is a popular landing spot for cleared professionals. Colorado is the fifth highest paying state for cleared professionals with average annual compensation of $98,479.

While the cost of living is high in Colorado potentially due to new businesses flocking to the region’s legal marijuana industry, marijuana isn’t the original high for the region. Colorado is a leader in the space industry with the U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) currently in residence, making Colorado the second largest space economy in the nation.

Colorado boasts more than 400 defense industry employers, ranging from start-ups and veteran-owned small businesses to defense industry giants. The majority of cleared work is focused in Denver and Colorado Springs, but those two cities provide a diversity of opportunity for cleared workers – and their families.

“Career opportunities for partners and spouses matter, too, for aerospace and military. Colorado is strong in multiple industry clusters, such as IT, energy, bioscience, financial services, food and beverage production, and the growing agritech sector; we’re not just a one-trick pony. Add to that the superb education choices available, and there are many opportunities for the whole family to thrive in the state,” said Vicky Lea, director of aerospace and aviation at Metro Denver EDC.

Colorado Salaries by clearance level

A little over half of respondents have a Top Secret/SCI, and the data points to cleared employers compensating for this clearance level. Respondents at the Top Secret/SCI level received a 4% increase. Top Secret/SCI clearance holders reign in Colorado, with 52% of respondents having a TS/SCI, versus 36% in the rest of the U.S. Intel clearances also pay, with those who support work with the CIA, FBI, or NSA receiving a 10% increase. Intel clearances also offer the highest overall compensation, $132,097, versus $81,553 for a Secret security clearance.

Colorado Salaries by Career Level

Entry and early level career professionals in Colorado saw significant bumps in compensation, likely driven by increases in Colorado’s cost of living and the need to attract new professionals into the defense industry. Respondents with two years of experience received a 26% compensation increase, the largest in the group. While employers are paying more money up front to attract talent, salaries are also increasing based on years of experience. Respondents with 10 years of experience or more received average compensation of $108,689—that’s $50,000 more than cleared entry-level professionals in Colorado get paid.

NOt Even the Sky is the Limit in Colorado

While aerospace keeps Colorado’s opportunities above the clouds, cybersecurity is driving part of the state’s success. In fact, the top two paying cleared jobs in Colorado are engineering, with an annual salary of $136,663, and IT-data science with an annual salary of $134,778. Even with a pandemic in 2020, both aerospace and cybersecurity are still in growth mode.

“Many founding board members of Space ISAC, like Kratos, Booz Allen, and the Aerospace Corporation, are continuing to grow their space and cybersecurity business in Colorado Springs and COVID isn’t slowing them down because federal and commercial space business is a priority for this region and will continue to be for decades to come,” said Erin M. Miller VP of Operations for Space ISAC, National Cybersecurity Center.


This survey was administered online between October 18, 2019 and February 3, 2020. Participants had to have a current, active federal security clearance and be currently employed to be included in the results, which included 24,249 usable responses. 

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.