Security Clearance Levels

Security Clearance 101 - Security Levels

When applying for a job with the government, it is important to understand security clearance levels and how the application process for each works. For most jobs, the security clearance required will be the lowest overall tier but some jobs require a higher tier and a higher level of scrutiny. An individual may qualify for one level and not qualify for another, so it is vitally important to understand the major differences between each.

The most common security level is the confidential level. This is the level that requires a level of trust that the information seen will not be shared with the general public. The information is not so secretive that it could cause harm to national security but it is still sensitive. The process for gaining this access can take a few months of investigation and requires a very lengthy application. This application will ask for a potential employee’s complete work history, residential history, and educational history. For each of these locations, the applicant will have to give three references. The catch is that none of the references can repeat. So a person can only use their mother as one reference for one part of their life.

After the application is completed, each of the references will be contacted by an investigator that will ask about the applicants life. It is considered proper to warn any references that this will occur. Some people get a little nervous when a government official says they have questions for them.

LevelsThe next level up in security is the secret level. While it is possible to gain the confidential level with a criminal history, it is highly unlikely that secret level will be granted. This does not mean a person should lie about their past. Lying on a government form is a criminal act and can result in even more prison time. This process takes a little longer because the background check is much more thorough. It becomes especially lengthy if the applicant has lived outside of the country or has immediate family that resides in another country. This status must be investigated again every ten years because the information learned in these jobs is important to the security of the country.

The final level of security is the top secret level. This is the hardest level to obtain. Obtaining this level requires a process that can take up to three years and must be investigated again every five years. Unlike the other levels, top secret requires a person interview in order to be approved. This level is so strict because the information learned is vital to national security and could damage the standing of the country if revealed.

There are many subcategories of clearance and some companies also require clearance procedures very similar to that of the government. It is important to understand all of the levels and the requirements for each before applying to a job. As long as an applicant is honest and thorough, there will be little issue with gaining security clearance.