Q Security Clearance Requirements

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The Department of Energy has jobs that require a security clearance. Since some of the information protected could do grave damage to national security, the department requires a Q clearance, which is the equivalent of a Top Secret clearance. The requirements for having this clearance granted include a positive background check with any questions that arise cleared to DOE standards.


Applicants must first be sponsored by a Department of Energy installation, such as a nuclear energy site. The sponsoring agency will coordinate the Q clearance process with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which will handle the investigation process. They will submit results to the Department of Energy, which will adjudicate the clearance.


Applicants will complete the SF 86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. They may complete either a printed hard copy or use OPM’s electronic application system known as e-qip. Regardless of what system is used, applicants must go back 10 years for information to answer all questions, such as places of residency or employment. Applicants should ensure that all the information listed is verifiable. All references should have complete contact information so that investigators have the best chance of contacting them later.

Foreign Preference

Per the Defense Security Systems adjudicative guidelines, foreign preference will be questioned. Q clearance applicants must be U.S. citizens. Applicants with dual citizenship may have their loyalty questioned due to foreign preference. Those who vote in foreign elections or are employed by foreign government might also be in question and could have the clearance application denied.


All first-time applicants must complete fingerprints, which can be done at a local sheriff’s office or with government security officials such as military law enforcement. Hard copy prints will be completed on the SF 87 fingerprint card and sent to the respective OPM address. Electronic fingerprints may also be completed and sent if the office has the capability and connection to OPM’s fingerprint server.


OPM will send investigators to conduct background investigations that verify all information entered on the SF 86, including places of residency, credit checks, employment and personal references. Investigators may also schedule a personal interview with the applicant to verify trustworthiness or inquire further about the SF 86 information. For example, if the applicant listed several debts over 90 days delinquent, the investigator may want to see proof that the debts were paid off or are under a payment plan.