There is a general misconception that national security jobs are relegated to a few select agencies. Most agencies have sensitive positions with national security implications. I worked with the DoD early in my career and had a Secret clearance for encoding our military airborne transponders with Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) encrypted codes. Later in my career, I retained a Secret clearance for specified duties.

It is true that certain agencies such as federal law enforcement, Homeland Security, the DoD, and various intelligence agencies hire the lion’s share of national security designated jobs.

The Code of Federal Regulations, section 1400.101 states, “All federal positions must be evaluated for a position sensitivity designation commensurate with the responsibilities and assignments of the position as they relate to the impact on the national security, including but not limited to eligibility for access to classified information.”

Note: Positions that require a security clearance are designated national security jobs by default as described below.

National Security Positions

Anyone requiring access to national security information requires a clearance. This includes a broad range of positions from custodial and administrative staff, to senior executives, engineers, IT and most other occupations.

Individuals that have responsibilities and assignments that include, but are not limited to, access to classified information (i.e., Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret) are designated national security positions. Other duties that could bring about a material adverse effect on the national security by virtue of the nature of the position are included. These positions are designated at one of three sensitivity levels: Noncritical-Sensitive, Critical-Sensitive, or Special-Sensitive.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) lists the vast majority of all federal jobs on USAJOBS.GOV. You will find thousands of openings for positions nationwide and overseas. Each job vacancy announcement lists the Security Clearance requirement if any, from “Not Required” to “Top Secret” in the overview section.

Jobs Spotlight

The following list of vacancies highlights the range of opportunities available for those willing to seek them out.

Currently, there are over 4,800 open job announcements on USAJOBS that require security clearances of which 2,026 are open to the public. The following positions are included in these listings. Many of these announcements are for multiple positions.

  1. Artificial Intelligence Specialist positions with the CIA earn from $64,957 – $172,075 per year and apply their expertise to collection platforms, including edge processing and autonomous systems, in the exploitation of data from sophisticated collection systems.
  2. A supervisory engineer and architect position with the Department of the Navy and stationed at China Lake, CA requires a secret security clearance and pays from $120,246 to $156,223 annually. The incumbent supervises multi-discipline engineering services and facilities service contracts provided by the command.
  3. Many vacancies are posted for Crisis Operations Specialists for various agencies in the Washington DC area paying from $132,368 – $172,075 per year! Their duties involve managing, and coordinating with other entities for the prevention, protection, preparedness and response/recovery from international disasters, crises, and/or other catastrophes. This is a Critical-Sensitive (CS)/High Risk position.
  4. A Civil Engineer (Geotechnical) position with the Department of the Navy at Norfolk, Virginia is paid $104,861 – $136,323 per year and provides design and other technical expertise for the organization. This position is Telework eligible, requires some travel and a secret clearance.
  5. Performance Assessment Representatives with the Department of the Navy and stationed at Millington, TN, pays from $59.966 to $77,995 per year. Requires a secret clearance and telework is available. Serves as a liaison between the Contracting Officer’s Representative, the Contractor, and the Contracting Officer.
  6. One of the firefighter job announcements is hiring at 8 locations in Key West Florida and they are offering a relocation incentive of 25% of the total salary for 4 years with a 4- year service agreement. A secret clearance is required.
  7. Police officers are needed at 12 locations in Arizona, Florida and California, a secret clearance is required, and the pay goes up to $78,844 a year. Many more positions are advertised by various departments nationwide.
  8. Acquisition Program managers are needed at 12 locations in California, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico, Oklahoma and other states.  These internship programs pay from $57,118 – $85,971 per year. A secret clearance is required. The internships under the PALACE Acquire Program offers selectees a permanent position upon successful completion of their formal training plan.
  9. U.S. Pretrial Services Officers with the Judicial Branch of the U.S Courts has multiple openings in Brooklyn and Islip, NY. Pay ranges from $58,699 – $132,844 per year and requires a top-secret clearance. Officers Conduct investigations and verifies background information concerning persons charged with a federal offense when they are arrested or summoned to court.

The above is just a sampling of the many occupations that may require security clearances. You will find the full spectrum of occupations advertised from custodial, administrative, technical, the trades and engineering to IT, investigators, auditors and attorneys, and everything in between.

Background Checks

If hired for a federal job, you must go through a basic background check to ensure you’re reliable, trustworthy, and suitable for the job. The background check process starts after you accept a job offer.

Hiring agencies ask new applicants for the necessary personal information to start the background investigation process. The amount of information you’ll need to give depends on the job. Background checks can take up to a year and your appointment is conditional until the investigation is completed.

Read the Background and security clearance section of the job announcement to see what security level is required for each position that you apply for.

Security Clearance Requirements

The security clearance level for any given position depends on the type of access to classified information and secure facilities that you’ll need to perform your job.

Jobs requiring a security clearance need applicants to provide at least 10 years of personal information and maybe more. The Standard Form 86 (SF-86), Questionnaire for National Security Positions, is used to compile the extensive information needed to process the clearance.

Individuals can’t request a security clearance, only the hiring agency or government contractors can initiate a request for their new or current employees. This is why many defense and government contractors prefer to hire individuals that have already gone through the clearance process.

Sensitivity Levels

Federal jobs are assigned sensitivity and risk levels, based on their responsibilities and duties. Sensitivity has to do with the position’s potential impact on the national security of the United States. For example, a non-sensitive position has no impact on the national security. Risk has to do with a position’s potential to damage the public’s trust in the Federal Government.

  • A noncritical sensitive position has the potential to cause significant or serious damage to the national security.
  • A critical sensitive position has the potential to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
  • A special sensitive position security has the potential to cause inestimable damage to the national security.

Largest Employers of National Security Jobs

  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Defense Contract Management Agency
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Defense
  • Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration
  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of State
  • Military Departments (All Branches)
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Other Intelligence Agencies
  • S. Agency for International Development
  • S. Courts, Judicial Branch

As stated earlier, most agencies have sensitive positions with national security implications. Explore available opportunities across the entire federal sector.

How to Find a National Security Job

The first step is to find an open job announcement, then register and apply online at USAJOBS.GOV. That’s the easy part, the next step requires your total attention when completing your application, basically a federal style resume, and other paperwork.

The old adage, “the job isn’t done until the paperwork is complete” applies for all federal jobs, ten-fold for positions that require a security clearance.  I was a designated examiner for technical positions during my tenure with the Federal Aviation Administration and personally reviewed and rated hundreds of system specialist applications.

Unfortunately, most applicants ignored the request for details on their application and submitted the equivalent of a one-page civilian style resume, a huge mistake. Most were immediately discarded due to lack of the details required for rating officials and HR to determine their qualifications for the position applied for.

Brevity is your enemy when applying for federal jobs, provide details of how you met the qualification for the position you are pursuing. Here is an example of a federal style resume that provides the extensive details needed to be rated best qualified for the position applied for.

The incentives, carrot at the end of the stick, that just might persuade you to stay the course and thoroughly complete your application are the exceptional pay and benefits that all federal jobs provide. Apply for all jobs of interest to improve your chances.


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Dennis V. Damp, the creator of and, is a retired federal manager, business owner, career counselor and veteran. Damp is the author of 28 books, his books were featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and U.S. News & World Report.