What Is A Secret Security Clearance, and Why Does It Matter?
If you've ever applied for a job with the government or a government contractor, or if you've simply been curious about the world of national security, you've likely heard the term "security clearance" before. But what does that term really mean? And what distinguishes a "secret" clearance from other levels of security clearance?
At its essence, a security clearance is a level of vetting that the government applies to certain individuals who will be working with sensitive or classified information. It's essentially a way for the government to ensure that people who work for them aren't going to leak important secrets, or create security risks by having access to information that they shouldn't.
But not all security clearances are created equal. And a "secret" clearance is one of the lower-level clearances that the government can grant. For those who qualify for one, though, it can be an important step toward a career in a national security-related field.
What Is A Secret Security Clearance?
So what exactly does it mean to have a "secret" security clearance? How does it differ from other levels of security clearance?
Essentially, a secret clearance is a level of clearance that is granted to individuals who have been subjected to a background check and found to be "trustworthy" with information that is classified at the "secret" level. According to the Defense Security Service (DSS), which is responsible for granting most security clearances, a secret clearance is the second-highest level of clearance that can be granted.
To be eligible for a secret clearance, an individual must fill out an SF-86 form, which asks a wide range of personal and background information. The form includes questions about your employment history, your family history, your financial history, and any friends or associates who may have relevant information about you.
Once the form is submitted, the government will conduct a background investigation that typically includes interviews with the applicant, their references, and anyone else who may have information about them. The investigation may also include a review of criminal and credit history, as well as searches for any previous instances of drug use, mental health issues, or foreign contacts.
Assuming the background investigation comes back clean, the applicant will then be granted a secret clearance, which allows them to access information that is classified at the secret level but not at higher levels.
Why Do Employers Require Secret Clearances?
So why would an employer -- whether a government agency or a contractor -- require that an employee have a secret clearance?
The answer is simple: it's a way for the employer to ensure that the employee can be trusted with sensitive information. If you're working for a government agency like the FBI or the CIA, for example, you may have access to information related to national security or intelligence-gathering. Similarly, if you're working for a contractor that handles classified information, you may need to be able to access that information in order to perform your job.
But if an employee were to leak that information -- either through negligence or malice -- it could have serious national security implications. By requiring a security clearance, the employer is able to limit the pool of candidates to those who have been thoroughly vetted and deemed trustworthy.
What Can You Do With A Secret Clearance?
So what kind of jobs can you get with a secret clearance? And how does having a secret clearance affect your career prospects?
The answer here is that it really depends on what field you're interested in. There are a wide range of jobs -- both in the government and in the private sector -- that require employees to have a secret clearance.
For example, if you're interested in intelligence-gathering or analysis, a secret clearance is pretty much a must-have. Similarly, if you're interested in cybersecurity or information technology, a secret clearance may be required in order to work on projects related to national security.
But there are other areas where a secret clearance can be a valuable asset as well. If you're interested in law enforcement, for example, having a security clearance can be a big plus when applying for jobs with organizations like the FBI or the Secret Service. And if you're interested in consulting work, there are many private-sector firms that work with the government and require employees to have security clearances.
In short, having a secret clearance can open a lot of doors in terms of job opportunities. But it's important to remember that not everyone is eligible for a security clearance, and that the process of obtaining one can be lengthy and difficult.
So what is a secret security clearance, and why does it matter? At its core, a secret clearance is a level of vetting that the government applies to individuals who will be working with sensitive or classified information. It's a way for the government to ensure that people who work for them aren't going to leak important secrets, or create security risks by having access to information that they shouldn't.
If you're interested in a career in a national security-related field, having a secret clearance can be an important step toward achieving your goals. But it's important to remember that not everyone is eligible for a security clearance, and that the process of obtaining one can be lengthy and difficult.
In the end, though, for those who are able to obtain a secret clearance, the benefits can be significant -- including greater job opportunities, increased earning potential, and the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing their part to help keep our country safe and secure.