Career Advice

Pay Differential for a Security Clearance is Going Down

For security-clearance holders, flat is the new up, when it comes to salaries and earnings. The good news is trends may grow more optimistic going forward.

A Washington Post article discussed recent trends in security clearance compensation and the possible reasons for the decline.  When it comes to surveying salary, there is one area that gets the most attention – the Washington, D.C. metro. The ClearanceJobs compensation survey is one of the only surveys that explores cleared salaries across the globe, including micro-reports for key defense industry states.

Current trends include budget shortfalls and less government contract work, resulting in less demand for cleared personnel.  Because of reforms in the investigation process there is now a larger number of candidates to choose from, according to the Washington Post report.  This allows companies leeway to be more selective, no longer having to lure candidates with offers of differential pay for those with clearances.  That is not to say that those with clearances don’t make more than those without, the data clearly show they do, but the article cites the following statistics showing a downward trend:

Secret Clearance = 5.8% more than someone with no clearance

Top Secret Clearance = 12.8% more than someone with no clearance

Top Secret with SCI Access = 14.9% more than someone with no clearance

The year “2013 was without a doubt the most dismal year for cleared professionals that we’ve seen in the last decade,” said Evan Lesser, director of, as quoted in the article.

Long gone are the days when just having a security clearance got you to the front of the line for a job. In today’s competitive job market the right skill set and education is just as important as having or being able to get a security clearance. But when it comes to trends, the good news is that all it takes is one change in policy for the current to shift. While the Washington Post article cites progress in the clearance investigation backlog as one reason for declining salaries, as of today clearance reform efforts and policy changes have increased reported processing times for many companies. Combine that, along with emerging international threats and growing demands on the defense industry, and the salary picture for 2015 could look vastly different.