Every year, ClearanceJobs surveys more than 45,000 security cleared professionals about their compensation, job, and salary satisfaction. Even with dips and changes in the industry, clearance holders still averaged a six-figure salary. While different states often pay more, by and large, companies are willing to compensate candidates for their security clearance.

If you’ve held a security clearance for any length of time, you probably already knew that the government’s blessing of your trustworthiness, reliability, and judgment makes you a very valuable commodity to a lot of employers. But new data helps put some context to the ClearanceJobs survey numbers and demonstrates precisely why they continue to rise.

According to the Greater Washington Partnership, roughly 9%, or 1 out of every 11, job postings from Baltimore to Richmond now require a security clearance. At the same time, the number of individuals with a security clearance has plunged 17% since 2013 – resulting in intense competition among employers for cleared talent.

One might assume that the percentage of cleared job postings drops precipitously once a job-seeker moves outside the mid-Atlantic region. However, the Greater Washington Partnership also points out that the majority of cleared positions being advertised in the D.C. metro area are for tech-types: systems engineers, software developers, program analysts, and network engineers. With telework options increasing in the last couple years, and with geographically-diverse industries like defense and aerospace constantly recruiting, the dynamics creating competition for cleared talent in the D.C. area no longer appear limited by geographic proximity to the seat of U.S. government power.

Some commentators have argued that the situation poses an unsustainable national security risk and that, with thousands of unfilled security clearance jobs, the government needs to remove impediments like a prohibition on marijuana use that make it difficult to attract cyber talent from places like Silicon Valley.

It remains an open question when – or if – the security clearance standards will evolve out of sheer necessity. In the meantime, however, one thing is clear: an education in computer science or other, similar disciplines, is a smart and likely lucrative choice for many young people entering the workforce or for older workers considering a career change. Equally smart from a dollars-and-cents standpoint: an understanding of the policies that govern security clearance adjudications, and some basic steps – like kicking a drug habit, paying off debts, or dialing back alcohol consumption – toward making one’s self clearable.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Although the information is believed to be accurate as of the publication date, no guarantee or warranty is offered or implied.  Laws and government policies are subject to change, and the information provided herein may not provide a complete or current analysis of the topic or other pertinent considerations. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at https://www.berrylegal.com/.