Top Secret Security Clearance Requirements
Find Out What it Takes to Get Access to Top Secret Information
For many careers in criminal justice and criminology, trust is among the most important and most valuable traits a job seeker can demonstrate.
Whether it's the high ethical standards, our criminal justice professionals are held to, or the simple fact that they need to be able to keep personal, private and confidential information secret and safe, people interested in pursuing criminology jobs often must prove they are trustworthy.
For law enforcement and special agent careers, in particular, employers need to be sure the people they hire can handle state secrets and sensitive information. That's why many of these careers require candidates to be eligible for Top Secret clearances to be considered for the job.
If you're interested in working for or with federal law enforcement organizations in the United States, you need to know what the requirements are to receive a Top Secret security clearance.
Three Levels of Clearance
Generally, the United States Government uses three classifications for security clearances: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. A Confidential clearance allows access to information that might pose a threat to matters of national security. A Secret clearance allows access to information the may pose a serious threat to national security, and a Top Secret clearance allows access to sensitive information which could pose a grave threat to national security.
What it Takes
The first step in obtaining a Top Secret clearance is to apply.When applying for many federal law enforcement careers, especially as a special agent, your participation in the hiring process will likely include an application geared toward gathering information needed for such clearance.
For state and local law enforcement jobs, certain positions may require to submit a separate application for clearance if you work in an intelligence or homeland security position. This initial application will include a lengthy Questionnaire for National Security Positions.
The application process for Top Secret clearance will require you divulge nearly every bit of information about yourself relating to personal and business finances, residences, employment history, past drug use, prior military service, citizenship, and criminal behavior.
The questionnaire then goes to a background investigator, who verifies the information and begins a grueling and lengthy process of speaking to past employers, neighbors, spouses, ex-spouses, and acquaintances to determine whether you're trustworthy enough to be given clearance. The in-depth background investigation will cover a 10-year period.
Additionally, the process will involve a polygraph exam, where you'll be asked to verify information from the questionnaire and other additional questions about your past to determine your level of truthfulness.
Obtaining a Top Secret Clearance
After the background investigation is complete, a decision - known as an adjudication - will be made regarding your eligibility for clearance. If you are found to be eligible and receive a Top Secret clearance, you'll be required to undergo a new background investigation every 5 years after that to maintain that clearance.
Requirements Can't Be Waived
It's important to note that, for positions that require access to national security information, the requirement for a security clearance comes from an executive order of the President of the United States and cannot be waived by the agency you are applying with.
What that means to potential job applicants for security positions is that, if you can't get clearance, you probably won't be able to get hired, and you will have little or no recourse to get around the requirement.