The 2021 Security Clearance Compensation Report displays the strengths of the national security workforce despite the many challenges the past year delivered. This year ClearanceJobs surveyed more than 45,000 security cleared professionals about their compensation, job, and salary satisfaction. Security clearance total compensation averaged $103,199 in 2020. Respondents in the 2019 survey had an average total compensation of $101,168, giving the industry a 2% pay bump even during a pandemic year.

Telework has long been a pie in the sky possibility at many agencies, but today many cleared workers are exercising virtual work options, hybrid work environments, shift schedules, and other innovative approaches to the (no longer) nine-to-five. Legislation has ensured benched contractors continue to get paid, and defense industry professionals continue to find and pursue new opportunities.

In contrast to 2019, which was the year of the government shutdown, 2020 was the year the world shut down—but the national security workforce kept moving forward.

Security clearance compensation remained solid across industries, and professionals recognize the stability of working in national security, with more respondents saying they were not likely to leave the cleared industry. A desire to stay in the cleared workforce doesn’t correlate with a lack of interest in making a career move, however—more respondents said they were likely to change jobs in the coming year.

While speculation has abounded that the pandemic could push more government and national security career opportunities outside of the beltway, the D.C. metro continues to dominate in the number of respondents, and even gained more respondents in 2020. The beltway has never been the only pathway to a cleared career, but it continues to be the widest one.

National security employers will have critical decisions to make if CARES Act provisions expire this spring. The relative stability of the defense industry means many candidates will feel comfortable making a career move. The increase in respondents who were likely to change jobs may also be related to growing candidate confidence. As the pandemic moves from the foreground to the background in more offices and agencies, cleared professionals who saw their compensation stall in 2020 may seek greener opportunities in 2021.

      Access the full 2021 ClearanceJobs Compensation report

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Evan H. Lesser is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of ClearanceJobs.com. Before founding ClearanceJobs, Mr. Lesser managed technical projects with CACI for the U.S. Navy's Science and Technology directorate at the Pentagon, and for the Joint Technology Panel on Electronic Warfare. Previously, he worked for Boeing on its Reserve Component Automation System program for the U.S. Army in metro Washington, DC. Mr. Lesser has a degree in Philosophy from the University of Georgia in Athens, and lives and works in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
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