While some candidates only care about careers that will give them a chance to save the world and others focus only on earning potentials, in national security, cleared candidates get the option to meet both goals. Average compensation for security clearance holders was $103,199 in 2020, which was a 2% salary bump across the industry from 2019. As many industries faced layoffs in the midst of the pandemic, national security held steady with increasing salaries.

Compensation Conversation: Recruiting and Retention Strategy

While candidates are more dedicated to national security, according to ClearanceJobs’ 2021 Security Clearance Compensation Report, 85% of cleared respondents are still open to looking for new work this year. Although money can’t buy happiness, it can help keep pace with the crazy housing market that has emerged all throughout the country. As companies begin to contend for the same cleared candidates, it’s important to watch for rising talent and giving them an entry into national security. But retention and compensation conversations will continue to impact how long talent sticks it out with any given company. The higher the salary, the less likely candidates are to jump ship.¬†

Flexible work arrangements have normalized during the pandemic, but the remote work conversation have only just started to ramp up in national security. And that’s because it’s a harder decision with classified information at stake. A distributed workforce also brings about communication challenges when many are on the same schedule and in the same place, with some offsite on certain days. That being said, companies that offer telework options – either ad hoc, scheduled hybrid, or full time remote have a distinct advantage when it comes to recruitment and retention strategies. It’s important to note that as remote work is normalized, the competition to support the employee will increase.

Cleared Compensation Frontrunners

The cleared industry has some frontrunners when it comes to compensation. While many industries struggled in the midst of a pandemic year, the stability of the defense industry meant that sales work found the gas pedal in 2020, and since contracts need managers to oversee them, management was also a high paying position. The cleared tech industry dominates the category of six-figure salary occupations, with the majority of IT and engineering positions paying over $100,000, on average. While not every tech position pays top dollar, the field consistently delivers higher compensation. 

  1. Sales – $132,035
  2. Systems Engineering -$131,613
  3. IT – Software – $127,482
  4. Management – $124,854
  5. IT – Data Science – $120,986
  6. IT – Security – $116,263
  7. Legal – $113,583
  8. IT – Database – $111,787
  9. Military and Law Enforcement – $109,056
  10. Aerospace and Aviation – $107,432
  11. IT – Hardware- $105,835
  12. QA and Testing – $105,743
  13. Civil Engineering – $105,730
  14. Intelligence – $105,607
  15. Electrical Engineering – $104,446
  16. Mechanical Engineering – $101,096

Aiming for Six Figure Salaries

While compensation isn’t everything, it is a big piece of maintaining a healthy work-life balance – especially in some states where cost of living runs a little higher than the rest of the country. However, as more candidates demand increased flexibility, determining where to make tradeoffs¬† – salary or remote work – might be a negotiating technique. However, some contractors are intent on factoring in remote options wherever possible. Aimee George Leary, talent strategy officer at Booz Allen says that Booz Allen “should be able to move forward into our new way of working, with perhaps a quarter of our employees working full-time in an office, about half in a hybrid remote/in-person schedule, and another quarter working remotely full-time.” The key is finding what works best for individuals and the company. However, whether you want to work remotely or not, your experience and education should be the biggest factor in negotiating your compensation.



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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.