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How to Obtain a DOD Security Clearance

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With the ever-increasing need for quality and trustworthy employees, many employers are requiring that potential hires obtain a security clearance before they can begin work. This is especially true if you are applying for positions with the Department of Defense, or DOD. Obtaining a DOD security clearance isn’t as simple as filling out and submitting an application. Once you obtain a DOD security clearance, however, it will open doors to new, interesting and fulfilling careers.

Understand the types of security clearances. There are three basic levels of DOD security clearances with each level allowing different levels of access to information. A Confidential clearance allows access to information that could cause some measurable damage to national security. A Secret clearance grants access to information that could cause grave damage if the information were released and a Top Secret clearance will provide access to information that could be devastating to national security.

Determine if the position requires a DOD security clearance. When applying for a position with the Department of Defense, the security clearance required should be listed in the job posting. If you are unsure what clearance is needed, ask the employer.

Get an employer’s assistance to obtain the security clearance. You cannot obtain a DOD security clearance by yourself, and the process can be very costly and time-consuming. You will need your current or potential employer to apply for the clearance on your behalf.

Complete the application phase. During this phase of your application process the DOD will verify your U.S. citizenship, obtain fingerprints and require you to fill out the Personal Security Questionnaire, Form SF-86.

Wait for the background checks. After the application process, the Defense Security Service will conduct a thorough background check regarding your employment, criminal and credit histories.

The final phase of the DOD security clearance is the adjudication phase. During this time the DOD will review your information and evaluate you based on 13 factors, such as credit, criminal and personal conduct.

Depending on how the evaluation went, the Department of Defense will either grant or deny you a security clearance.


The security clearance process can take up to two years.

Start with a nonclassified government job. This will allow you to get your foot in the door and obtain a DOD security clearance if needed.


Don't quit any other employment you have have until you obtain your DOD security clearance.

The security clearance application process can be very personal and intrusive.

Beware of companies that offer to pre-approve your security clearance; it cannot be done.