How to Obtain a Security Clearance for a Government Contractor Job

Finding a security clearance can very rewarding and provide a safe and secure role for many years.


Government contractor jobs offer exciting opportunities in various sectors, from defense to information technology.

So if your looking to work what is normally a long term contract opportunity or a full time role with benefits working for a government contractor can very rewarding as well flexible in a lot of cases.

Posititions abound for accountants, IT professionals, cloud computing, program or project management, security professionals and administrative roles.

To access these coveted roles, candidates must undergo a rigorous screening process, including obtaining a security clearance.

What is a Security Clearance?

A security clearance is an essential prerequisite, granting individuals access to classified information. In this blog post, we will explore the steps required to secure a government contractor job by obtaining a security clearance.

Understanding Security Clearances

Before delving into the process, it’s crucial to comprehend the different levels of security clearances.

The U.S. government uses three primary clearance levels (Tiers under the Trusted Workforce Initiative 2.0):

  1. Confidential: The lowest level, granting access to information that could cause damage to national security if disclosed.
  2. Secret: A mid-level clearance, providing access to classified information that could pose serious harm if revealed.
  3. Top Secret: The highest level of clearance, granting access to sensitive information that could cause grave damage to national security if exposed.

The clearance level required for a specific government contractor job depends on the nature of the work and the sensitivity of the information involved.

The tiers of security clearance are grouped into three levels as a part of Trusted Workforce 2.0.

While the tiers each begin with a similar application, each grants access to different information.

The higher the security clearance, the longer it can take to investigate, and the deeper the investigation goes into verifying your background.

Special Access/Need to Know

*******Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) access to all intelligence information and may have material exposure that require will special controls for restricted handling within compartmented channels. SCI grants access to certain information, such as intelligence sources, methods, or analytical processe.

For example, A TS/SCI is a Top Secret Clearance with access to compartmentalized information.

** Note that every specific agency has thier own take on how a clearance and its requirements may go. For example, the Department of Defense(DoD) and the Department of Treasury (Example: Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a sub agency of the Treasury)

Here is an excellent breakdown of Clearance Suitability with some definitions.

Step 1: Secure Employment with a Government Contractor

To begin the journey towards obtaining a security clearance, you must first secure employment with a government contractor.

Research and apply for positions that match your qualifications and interests. It’s essential to align your skills and experience with the job requirements to increase your chances of landing an interview.

Step 2: Complete the SF-86 Form

Once you have been offered a position with a government contractor, you will need to complete the Standard Form 86 (SF-86). This form is known as Standard Form Questionnaire 86 or SF-86. SF-86 is a questionnaire used by the United States Office of Personnel Management.

This SF-86 form package is now completed online via the e-QIP (electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) application which sets up a secure connection to protect your personal information.

This extensive questionnaire serves as the basis for the background investigation that will determine your eligibility for a security clearance.

The SF-86 requires detailed information about your personal history, including employment, education, residences, and references.

Honesty and accuracy are critical when completing this form, as any inconsistencies or omissions could delay or jeopardize your clearance process.

Step 3: Background Investigation

After submitting your SF-86, the government will initiate a thorough background investigation.

This investigation aims to assess your suitability for a security clearance by scrutinizing various aspects of your life, including criminal history, financial stability, and foreign contacts. Investigators will interview references, neighbors, and colleagues to gain a comprehensive understanding of your character and trustworthiness.

Step 4: Financial Responsibility

Financial responsibility is a significant factor in the security clearance process. Government agencies want to ensure that individuals with access to classified information are not susceptible to bribery, coercion, or financial vulnerability.

Delinquent debts, significant financial problems, or a history of bankruptcy may raise concerns during the clearance evaluation. It is essential to demonstrate that you can manage your finances responsibly and maintain a clean financial record.

Step 5: Drug Test and Medical Examination

Most security clearance processes include mandatory drug testing and a medical examination.

The government wants to ensure that individuals with access to classified information are not impaired by illegal substances or health conditions that may compromise their ability to perform their duties effectively.

Step 6: Security Interview

Following the background investigation, you may be called in for a security interview with a government investigator.

During the interview, you will have the opportunity to clarify any information provided in your SF-86 and address any potential concerns raised during the background check.

Honesty and transparency remain crucial during this interview.

Step 7: Adjudication

After completing all the necessary steps, the gathered information will be thoroughly reviewed by an adjudicator.

The adjudicator’s role is to assess your overall eligibility for a security clearance by weighing the information obtained during the investigation.

They will consider factors such as your personal conduct, character, loyalty, and potential for coercion or exploitation.

Step 8: Clearance Determination

Finally, the adjudicator will make a recommendation regarding your clearance level to the relevant government agency.

The agency will review the recommendation and make the final clearance determination. If approved, you will receive your security clearance, allowing you to work on classified projects with your government contractor employer.


Obtaining a security clearance for a government contractor job is a meticulous process that demands honesty, integrity, and patience.

The rewards are immense, as a security clearance can open doors to fulfilling and high-profile positions.

Remember to be forthright in your responses, maintain financial responsibility, and be prepared for potential interviews during the investigation.

By following these steps diligently, you can increase your chances of successfully obtaining a security clearance and embarking on an exciting career in the world of government contracting.

Joe Holbrook

About the author. Joe Holbrook has worked in the field on major Defense and Civilian sector contracts and has mainted security clearances.