The security clearance investigations, tiers, and levels of access are confusing to the best of us. So it’s no wonder that security clearance applicants or those going in for an upgrade wonder what their access signifies, or what the level of investigation they obtain means. A recent question on the ClearanceJobs blog inquired about SCI and polygraphs, and if the two went hand-in-hand. Short answer: no.
The investigation for a Top Secret clearance is the same investigation needed for Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) eligibility. But just because you have a Top Secret clearance doesn’t mean you have SCI – you are SCI eligible, but you have to be read into the program by the government or a sponsoring organization.
Similarly, just because you have a SCI doesn’t mean you’ll need to undergo a polygraph. Some SCI programs require a polygraph investigation – particularly within the intelligence community – and some don’t. And the government doesn’t go around publishing details on which programs, offices, or organizations require a polygraph.
Another common misconception is that only Top Secret clearances are eligible for a polygraph. But some positions requiring only a Secret level of security clearance may also require a polygraph. A polygraph has no attachment to any particularly level of access or investigation. Its use is based on the suitability determination or specific needs of the position, not necessarily anything to do with the SCI aspect of the security clearance.
Demand for Polygraph Candidates
The demand for polygraph candidates is always high. Some candidates may face delays when looking to obtain a security clearance polygraph, and some amount of stress about what the polygraph entails. But if you can push through the awkwardness of the process, the career benefits and job security are significant. But just wanting to obtain a polygraph isn’t enough – the government needs your position to require it in order to put you through to one.
Common Positions Requiring a Polygraph
Outside of the intelligence community or certain intelligence positions within the Department of Defense, some law enforcement agencies also require polygraphs as a part of their investigation and hiring process. They are particularly common within the FBI and Customs and Border Patrol.