This past year brought out the best sides of the national security industry – resilient, agile, stable, and dedicated. Agencies took care of their people – contractor, civilian, or military – with a focus on staying healthy and keeping the nation safe. ClearanceJobs surveyed cleared candidates in 2020, and reported on the status of compensation in national security. So many factors go into compensation – experience, education, job requirements, and of course, location. As cleared hubs grow throughout the country, employment options for cleared candidates grow in more places than just the DMV area (D.C., Maryland, and Virginia).

States That Average Six-Figure Salaries in the Cleared Market

Although Virginia, Maryland, District of Columbia, California, Florida, and Texas accounted for 62% of all the respondents in the United States, with 22% based in Virginia, some locations across the state compensate cleared talent better than others, with nine locations reporting a mean total compensation above $100,000. Not surprisingly, in areas where cost of living is higher, candidates report higher average total compensation. 

1. Massachusetts – $112,702

Although Massachusetts has some blue-collar options within the shipyards, the state is a perfect space for a cleared candidate with the smarts too. The state offers work with national laboratories, which often require advanced degrees. The technology industries, like aerospace and cybersecurity, are also thriving in Massachusetts. If you’re looking for cleared job opportunities on the east coast, make sure Massachusetts makes it onto your list, as it’s the state with the highest average compensation.

2. Virginia – $111,502

What’s not to love about Virginia? Whether you want to work inside the beltway or at a three letter agency or military base outside the beltway, the options are overflowing for security clearance candidates at every experience level. If you want to build your resume quickly, it’s a job hoppers dream state. So if you’ve dreamed about working inside the Pentagon, Virginia has cleared careers with high compensation, as well as a beautiful state to explore in your down time. Although, who are we kidding. It’s the Pentagon. You can sightsee and sleep when you find a new assignment.

3. Maryland – $109,685

With cost of living in Maryland a little lower than D.C. and Virginia, many choose security clearance work a little farther north. From the NSA to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Maryland has many options for federal civilian jobs, as well as contractor positions. Maryland is filled with history, farm country, and the city life – all in one state. Cleared talent, especially those with cyber skills, will find many options with a salary that makes it worthwhile to stay in Maryland.

4. Washington, D.C. – $108,286

Nothing helps you find your purpose more than looking out a window and seeing the George Washington Memorial. If you want a job that pays well and a location that reminds you daily of the role you play in national security, Washington, D.C. is about as close as you can get. Working in the nation’s capitol gives a unique view of the legislative and executive impact on national security. Whether you’re interested in education and policy or military and defense, you can follow your passion in D.C.

5. Colorado – $107,374

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 boasts more than 400 defense industry employers, ranging from start-ups and veteran-owned small businesses to defense industry giants. Colorado is also a leader in the space industry with the U.S. Space Command (USSPACECOM) currently in residence – for now, making Colorado a key space state in the nation.

6. California – $106,641

If your vibe is a little more west coast, you can still get a cleared career that compensates well on the other side of the country. While California doesn’t have all the federal agencies like the east coast, they still have diverse, cleared career options. When it comes to doing cutting-edge work and getting paid well to do it, California boasts nearly 8 million jobs that support the national security industry. With the country’s highest number of engineers, three NASA research centers, and two out of the top three universities for aerospace engineering, California is dedicated to making an impact. From the redwood forests of Northern California to 840 miles of coastline, California offers both compensation and a lifestyle.

7. New York – $106,249

In New York, dreams are made and the streets will inspire you, at least that’s what Alicia Keys says. While life in the city can be on the pricey side, the state has five military bases, including West Point Academy. Three of the bases date all the way back to the early 1800s. The state is rich in U.S. history, and has a lot to offer cleared candidates. From military base support to cyber positions, security clearance candidates will find their inspiration and compensation in New York.

8. Nevada – $103,925

Despite its nickname as the Silver State, Nevada is actually a major gold producer. While you may find a nugget in your off work hours, compensation for cleared work in Nevada can be a little more reliable than searching for your pot of gold. And if the call of Vegas on the weekend isn’t a draw, getting a job doing highly classified work at Area 51 or supporting the work at the Nellis Air Force Base could be the ticket into national security. If nothing else, you’ll have a front row seat to any extra terrestrial activity.

9. Hawaii – $100,676

With contractor and civilian jobs in the IT and national security fields, Hawaii offers the ability to live the dream life in your off hours and the cleared life in your work hours. Compensation for cleared individuals in Hawaii makes the island life more appealing than the CONUS life. With contractor and civilian jobs at the many military bases that are on Oahu, there are positions open for analysts, IT, cybersecurity, and physical security. Although tourism contributes to the Hawaiian economy, military and defense funding continues to boost the state’s economy.

Location Matters

While some locations average six-figure salaries, it’s important to consider all of the factors. Sometimes it’s better to find a job in a state with a lower cost of living – like Florida or Texas. For others, it’s a matter of finding a job in the first state that offers them and then figure out later if relocating was a bad idea. As remote work options increase, with hybrid models on the rise in the cleared industry, it’s important to  factor in living costs and your personal comfort with a particular city. No matter what coast you pick, cleared candidates have a lot of job options with compensation potential.



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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.