Career AdviceSecurity Clearance Process

Ask Your Career Questions – Part 1

By popular demand, a place to ask questions on defense careers. All topics are open, including: career advice, salaries, best places to work, company research, interviewing, resume help, and more. Ask your questions, but please do not identify yourself or post your email address. If you have questions regarding security clearances, or security clearance investigations, see the thread below. Thanks

Comment Archive

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    Hello. How easy it is to go from a defense contractor with IC contracts to that IC member (e.g. green card -> blue card)?

    Are there conflict of interest problems because you might show preference for the contractor you used to work for (steer contracts), or does it not matter? Thank you

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    Mike – most organizations are so large that conflict of interest issues of employees between an IC agency and its contractors rarely arise. There are a host of issues at play, but answering your question specifically, I don’t think you’d have an issue in general. Contractors are a given part of IC worklife. Good luck.

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    Hi, I’m coming straight out of college as a MechE, and I’m considering either a tech consulting job (SAP work, etc), or a true engineering job with a large defense contractor. Long term, I think I want to get a professional degree (business, law), so I think either choice would suit me well. There’s a variety of factors that I’m considering, but I’m curious about the importance of an engineering background in a business role. I’m also worried about the slow pace in engineering jobs – I’ve had two engineering internships and it looked like the pace of development was very slow. Any thoughts/advice would be greatly appreciated!

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    It’s hard to judge careers based on internships. Most interns hate their jobs. It’s just too hard to give meaningful work to a newbie that’s only there for 3 months.

    I’ve worked with SAP and I found it boring. If I were you I would do cool ME stuff with a defense contractor, use tuition reimbursement to get an MBA, then work your way up the food chain if that’s what your long-term goal is.

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    Joe – a few comments. First, engineers with military backgrounds are “hot, have been “hot”, and will be for a long time. Cleared defense engineers are some of the highest paying jobs, and the most coveted candidates. Sounds to me like you should take a cleared engineering job while pursuing the business degree. The two can be used together in the future.

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    Mike – You’ve got a great point. It takes too long to train a new guy, and its not worth it if he’s leaving. I’ve heard of some companies though that have organized programs, and to me that indicates at least a high level of organization within the company. Albeit, interns should not be a top priority at any company.

    The actual ME job I’m looking at isn’t exactly a cleared job. It’s with LM Space Systems working on the Orion contract, so I don’t think I need a clearance. Space Systems also does work with missile defense, something I’d like to get into in the future. I’m sure I’d get a clearance if I moved to that position.

    My internship last summer was with LM Mission services. Does anyone know big contrasts between the two business units? I can quickly tell you their salary schemes are different.

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    I’m starting to think that the ME job is better for me in terms of career development. One problem though is the short term – ME is in a location where I’ve spent a very long time – I’m trying to go somewhere new. Thanks for your comments guys.

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    Joe –

    Moving inside of LM is pretty easy. Contracts come and go, business units grow and shrink, so you never know where you’ll end up eventually. I would go with what sounds coolest to you right now. Each business unit is like their own company because LM is so large, but the company culture is pretty standard throughout. Some people stay in 1 business unit, some change positions every 2 years. LM is big on rotational assignments and lots of the leaders have diverse backgrounds. Once you get your foot in the full-time door it becomes much easier to explore other opportunities.

  9. Avatar

    I have roughly 27,000 in outstanding credit card debt. I have paid all of my bills on time for several years, save for maybe 1 or 2 occassional slip-ups (thus no delinquent debt). My debt was paid down to about $2,000 as recent as 1 year ago, but I have since purchased a home and things for it on credit. I also have about $7,000 of that debt invested in real property for which I expect a double return within a few months. Will my oustanding debt (27k) be considered excessive, and will it result in me not being granted a secret clearance. I can afford to pay these debts (By the way, I am up for my 10 year reinvestigation).

  10. Avatar

    I am wondering what kind of salary I might be able to receive in the DC area with a TS/SCI clearance and 2 years experience with intelligence. I have been on active duty for 4 and a half years and I will be seperating in October. I am also wondering how long my clearence will be good for if I don’t find a job right away. Will it be hard for me to find a job? When should I start putting out my resume? haha sorry about all the questions.

  11. Avatar

    Erik – please ask your question on the thread regarding clearance investigations. This thread is specifically for career advice. Thanks

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    JRD08 – Early careers in Intelligence with a TS/SCI will pay about $65-75k per year in metro DC. Regarding your clearance, you have a two year window from when you leave the military to find a job that will maintain it. This is the defense contractor’s perspective. Put our your resume immediately if you are separating in September. Good luck

  13. Avatar

    Have TS/SCI. E-7, 20+, retire anytime.
    Looking for jobs in either the intel field or fire control.
    Have two journeyman certs in electronics and computer without a complete college degree.
    Looking for management or teaching jobs.
    Former EKMS manager.
    Well versed in weapon system electronics and operation and comsec. Looking for job in San Diego, Ca.

  14. Avatar

    Michael – make sure your resume is posted to There are lots of open jobs in San Diego, and your skill set sounds like one that would be helpful to our list of employers.

  15. Avatar

    I was told to be in pending adjudication for a TS clearance for more than 6 months.
    Does this mean all investigation reports are completed? How much longer to hear the final adjudication?

  16. Avatar

    Mike and Admin (whoever you are?) – Thanks for your help. I ended up taking the offer with LM. Though I wish the offer was from a different city or had a clearance involved, I’m still excited. Thanks

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    L –

    Please ask your clearance questions in the clearance question thread here:

    Joe – Congrats!

  18. Avatar


    I am trying to find/figure out any information on the pay grade/step policy concerning Term appointment converting to Perm appointment.
    I have held a term position to the “XX” step of a pay grade. I am planning on accepting a permanent position in the same title, series etc… But, with a different agency.

    Would or does the previous steps in a rate of pay that someone has achieved, convert or qualify someone? Or because, it was a term position, the pay/step automatically begins at step 1?


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    Whoever answered the question about a military clearance being good for two years, please do your research. I work as a contractor in the DC area and it depends on which agency you are applying to. For some of the agencies you need a TS/SCI with a full scope clearance and only that agency recognizes their own investigations. I had a TS/SCI with a BI when I retired out of the military and it didn’t mean a thing. I had to get reinvestigated by the government agency I was applying to. You are doing a disservice to military members by stating that it is good for two years.

  20. Avatar

    Bruce –

    You misunderstood the poster. Please post your questions/comments in the thread for clearances here

    Please look here for an answer to your misunderstanding.

    “Generally, if the PSI is out-of-date (expired) or there has been a break-in-service of
    two years or more, a person must be nominated for a new clearance and must complete a new application
    in the same manner as a person who never had a clearance.” -This is the two years they were likely referring to.

  21. Avatar

    I am an ex-Navy Sonar Technician. Advanced Electronics Field (AEF) AN/SQS-56 tech. For what it’s worth, did great on the ship and in training. Four Navy Achievement Medals in first four years in service for 96 + percentile in training, and being a hard charger on the ship in general. Evals were all “must promote” or “early promote”. Was a Leading Petty Officer (LPO) as an E-5 as well. All in all, very challenging and gratifying experience for the years I was in.

    Question: What now? I have a Secret clearance (should be good for ten years), but could get higher if necessary, I’m sure. Seems like sonar is a very tight community and have a tough time finding jobs. I’ve spent ten months and my life savings looking for the right job with a respectable level of responsibility, and not much has come my way. I’ve gotten really good at writing resumes in the last year, but I have a very hard time getting anything to bite hard on the bait. What’s up? I was a great technician, and a great tactical watchstander. Where’s the job?

  22. Avatar

    I am wondering what kind of salary I might be able to expect in the San Antonio area with a TS/SCI clearance w/ CI Poly and 8 years experience with intelligence. I retired after 21 years of service in March 08.

  23. Avatar

    Hi. I have several questions for career advice.

    Right now, I’m on terminal leave in the Fort Hood area and looking for work.

    I have 9 years in the Army. My only MOS was intelligence analyst (96B). The only official training I received was the intelligence analyst AIT course. I have experience working in several different Army organizations (mechanized infantry HQ, MP HQ, G3, and an Apache helicopter BN in Iraq), mostly working in the dreaded S-2 section for whatever unit I was assigned to. I never was assigned to a purely MI unit or organization. Thus, I never worked at INSCOM, a G-2, or anything like that.

    Plus, I graduated from college 13 years ago.

    Can you give me some idea on what to look for?

    I see a lot of jobs for intelligence analysts, but I don’t see anything that matches any of the skills or experience I have.

    I’m starting to get very frustrated in my job search and could use some advice. I’m seriously considering giving up the intelligence field altogether.


  24. Avatar

    Try Ft huachuca They are looking for 96B instructors-raytheon,L-3,GD..You have enough experiance to teach there..the starting salaries are around 60,000 starting..Good place to get experiance..any new to be taught..(mapping, searchengines-ARCGIS,pathfinder..they’ll teach you..) use that as a base..
    join reserves-IRR MI-There are strategic level assignments that arent available to AC..europe. centcom etc.and you’ll keep your clearance..

  25. Avatar

    I’m in the US Army (16 years active duty) and I’m an Intelligence Analyst (35F/96B). I currently have a TS/SCI PR (SSBI) clearance that was granted 1 April 2008. I plan on retiring in 4 years. My clearance, from my understanding, is good for the next five years. Hopefully I can get hired right after I leave the military because my clearance will be good for at 1 year.

    I just don’t know the job market and how good/bad it is. I only have a two year degree from Cochise College in operational intelligence. I have experence at both the tactical and strategic level. But I think the only thing I really have is my clearance going for me. Please advise on what you think I should do for the next several years to make the transition from military life to the contractor world. Thanks.

  26. Avatar

    Once someone is granted a clearance for a position and they do not decide to take it, do they still have a clearance?

    Also, I am hearing that there is a high employee turnover at the DOD for the FCIP. Does anyone have any insight as to why that is?

  27. Avatar

    I’m fresh out of grad school with a Ph.D. in microbiology with no intelligence experience. I accepted a conditional offer from FBI and my SSBI is currently underway. Recently, the DIA has also issued me a conditional offer.

    Both jobs sound similar, only with different geographical emphasis. I have read many horror stories about the new NSPS that the DIA is moving over to in September. FBI said they are remaining GS for now.

    Does anyone have any experience with either agency?

    Any advise or pros/cons with either agency and where I should go?

  28. Avatar

    Rocky – both are quality agencies and very similar. Based on past comments, the DIA seems to be able to operate with less red tape. But that’s the organization as a whole. The individual department you work in may be another story. Wish we had more info to provide. Sounds like you’ve got great opportunities either way you go.

  29. Avatar

    AJ – Where did you hear about the high turnover in the FCIP?

  30. Avatar

    Mike M – It depends on what you want to do. If you want to do intel work for a contractor, there are plenty of opportunities. Our suggestion is to make sure you are very well-trained on Intelink, CT-AVRS database, M3, SAFE/WebSAFE, Analyst Notebook, WebTas, and other intel toolsets.

  31. Avatar

    Randy – it depends on the job. There aren’t too many intel jobs in TX. Plenty in AZ, FL, and GA though. Nationwide, intel analysts are making around $62k per year on average.

  32. Avatar

    E. Buck – You are right, there aren’t many jobs out there for sonar techs. A few leads for you:

    Contact Steven Plonsky with Aerotek. They have needs for sonar techs. His phone is 585-249-8022.

    Wish we could assist more, hope this helps.

  33. Avatar


    At the Ph.D level, you will not have to worry about the NSPS too much–it will probably be more advantageous for a person with your skills and education.

  34. Avatar


    There is no reason you can’t keep the same pay you leave with. Govt jobs do have some negotiation room and they can complete a few forms, which will at least match what you bring to the new job from the last–hope this make sense

  35. Avatar

    I’ve got a MS in ECE and I’ve worked for 3yrs for LM in upstate, ny as a level 2 systems engineer making about 70k and I’ve got a active secret clearance. I don’t like the area much and I find the work pretty boring as there is very little development or design work. I’ve looking to move down to the philly/jersey area. I’ve considered the DC area but it seems way too expensive. I’ve been searching daily since february. I got an interview in February for a level 3 position at L3 and got an offer but they bumped me back down to level 2 and the salary was almost the same as what I’m making now so I didnt accept. Since then I havent gotten any more interviews. I’ve to jobs at all the major defense contractors and have checked out all the major job sites. I’d appretiate any suggestions on what else I might try. Also, I’m curious if its a good idea to say that I have an active security clearance on my resume as I was once told that I should avoid telling people my status unless they are trusted or need to know.

  36. Avatar

    Thank you admin and BW for your comments.

    I have also read of a high turnover rate for intelligence analysts at the FBI, especially those who have advanced degrees. The reason stated was that they were being assigned “demeaning” clerical and administrative duties instead of true analysis tasks.

    Can anyone comment on whether this was ever true and if it is still the case?

  37. Avatar

    I am looking for a background investigator job after retiring from the PD. I’m an intel reservist with a TS clearance. Currently I live in Richmond, VA and I am not really intersted in moving to DC, but will travel to the beach or capitol for the work. Should I be looking at OPM or contractors? Any suggestions on which contractors and what salary to expect?

  38. Avatar


    Take your education and look at the US Army Corp of Engineers. Good work–less stress and they will use your training the way it should be.

  39. Avatar


    Apply with Kroll, who always need Investigators. You can earn as much as you want with effort. There will never be a shortage of work in your area, even in Richmond, Quantico, and Belvoir all of NoVA. For you, contract is good after retiring from LE. No stress to operate as you are self employed. But, with a 40 hr work week, you will make more as a contractor in your area. With work in your area, you can expect to make 6 figures low-medium if you work. Go to and apply for contract investigator for the D.C. area

  40. Avatar


    If you are applying with the major defense contractors, it can’t hurt to show your clearance. I wouldn’t post on big sites….careerbuilder…….etc

    Start search the sites designed for folks holding clearance.

  41. Avatar


    I will tell you there are alot of turnovers everywhere. most jobs have menial tasks, but with your education and the hard work it took to finish, I’d look beyond any analyst job there. Your earning potential as a scientist will not be met there.

  42. Avatar

    I have always been interested in a career in intelligence analysis. Other than joining the military, which I can’t do because I have asthma, what is the best way to get a job in intelligence? It seems like they only want people who speak target languages these days…


  43. Avatar


    Get a degree in intelligence. There are schools offering the program

  44. Avatar

    Mike M

  45. Avatar

    Mike M

    The minute you leave the servive, your clearance becomes inactive, usually 24 months. As I work thru field, I see folks with HUMINT, SIGNINT doing well–but a better jumpstart is to add targeting into the mix. I am not in the intel field, but have many ties to contractors and seems targetting is the hardest to find from the normal analyst.

  46. Avatar

    Who knows what if any type jobs my background will meet. 20 years military criminal investigator, 4 years as an OPM contract investigator. I know there are other forms of contract investigators, but not sure what they are.

  47. Avatar

    I’m separating from the military in 6 months and wanted to know how soon should I start going to job fairs and looking for a job? I was told that most contractors wouldn’t speak to a candidate until he/she is available 3 months out.

  48. Avatar

    Sue – its best to start immediately. Get your resume on sites like and list your availability date. Job fairs are a good way to get immediate feedback on your resume and start to meet the recruiters and HR folks responsible for hiring. Beleive it – the employers that attend job fairs are looking for candidates. By putting your resume on and other sites, you get wider coverage from a larger number of employers. Starting early is a smart move. Good luck.

  49. Avatar

    JCB – Take a look at American Military University. They’ve got strong degrees in Intel and they are a quality school. I do know they offer tuition assistance as well.

  50. Avatar


    Admin gives sound advice. I put “Feelers” out about 1 year before I retired from the military. Got many interviews. Some said it was too early for them to commit and a few put my resume in reserves. Admin can probably attest to this; many of the recruiters representing companies also build resume databases to bid against contracts. This could get your name in early for consideration in the event a contract drops. I would not wait another day, there is alot of competition out there. Also, thanks for your service and best wishes.

  51. Avatar

    admin and BW AN INVESTIGATOR,

    Thanks for the advice, but I am not sure I need another degree. I will finish my second master’s degree in IT this December…


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    I had a security clearance when I was in the military and now I am going to work for a small firm and they want to know if I had a clearance or not as it is a very responsible position but not in any way dealing with classified material.

    How can they determine if I had a clearance or not?

  53. Avatar

    I am about to start my interim clearance and wanted to know if I should include and event that happened Nov. of 97. It has been a little over ten years since I was charged with possesion of marijuana in school. I know, I know, dumb teenager hanging around the wrong crowd. I was never arrested and it was considered a misdameanor. I’m worried about the question of “Have you ever been charged with or convicted of any offense related to alcohol or drugs?”. According to the Federal Controlled Substances Act of 21 U.S.C 844 it sounds like that conviction should be expunged from my record. If you could give me any advice on this matter, I would highly appreciate it.

  54. Avatar

    Greetings All. I have 4 years (non-intel) military service (90-94). I graduated in 2005 with BA PoliSci 3.3gpa from University NC. I just started an online degree with AMU in Intelligence Studies. I have no language proficiency to speak of. I am currently a GS-10 with the govt (non-intel)(no clearance). I applied once for an intel job right when I graduated with FBI got all the way to poly and came back inconclusive and that was the end of that, feel confident I can pass if given a chance.

    My question, I am beginning to resume my search for an intelligence analyst position and was interested in any thoughts you may have. I am about to start shooting my resume to all agencies and job postings that I can qualify for in the MD,DC,VA,NC area. I was considering putting in for overseas assignments like UK, Germany, Italy but unsure how long you have to stay there and if you have to pay for housing.

    Thanks and look forward to any knowledgeable help you can give.

  55. Avatar

    I am trying to get into the intelligence community or the state department. I have a master’s degree in international relations and about a level 2 proficiency in both Spanish and Russian. I am seriously considering enlisting in the army as a linguist.

    I need three things to be marketable: better language proficiency, a top secret security clearance, and intel experience

    Is the army the best way to get these things?
    Is it advantageous to pursue being an officer and risk being branched into something other than MI?
    I’m told being a linguist would be a good combination of these three, is that true?

  56. Avatar

    JBH – Yes, if you want to get into the intel community, you could probably find a job with the Army considering your degree and Russian background.

    Good luck

  57. Avatar

    Applied for FBI linguist position but failed polygraph.
    Does this mean that I will never get Security Clearance in other agencies? ( IRS, GAO, VA, etc as accountant )
    or All jobs in IRS, GAO need security clearance?