Home Career Services Security Clearances: Advice From Our Experts

Security Clearances: Advice From Our Experts


Obtaining a security clearance can be cumbersome. Our experts have compiled their best practices to help alleviate some of the complications. Read on to learn what each of our contributors feels will give you a competitive edge and help you secure a security clearance in a more efficient manner.

Be Clear, Accurate and Complete

In order to ensure that the review process moves along as quickly as possible, here are some tips to help:

1. Make sure all information is provided and precise. This includes brief employment or locations of residence, as well as exact zip code.
2. Provide ample clarification for situations such as employment termination or counseling for drug abuse. This may require the investigating party to contact the third party to clarify the circumstances.
3. Be prepared for the credit check by applying for a free report prior to submittal.
4. Only list dual citizenship if you are certain that you qualify for it.
5. When asked to identify names of people who know you, list neighbors rather than relatives.

Katie See is a Talent Acquisition Specialist in the Department of Career Services at APUS. She works to connect employers with our talented pool of students and alumni. Katie has a Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Management.

Start with the Ideal Education Plan

When considering different degrees, it is important to determine if you will be seeking jobs in a field which may require a security clearance. While it is possible to obtain jobs that do not require a security clearance with a degree in Intelligence Studies or Homeland Security, in these career fields especially, it is highly likely that obtaining a security clearance may be a requirement of employment with federal agencies and private organizations. It is a good idea to inquire about the potential need for a security clearance in the different professions that your degree may lead to early on in your program, so you can plan the rest of your education accordingly.

Emily Malloch has served as an Academic Advisor at APUS for the school of Security and Global Studies for the past six years. Emily has a Master of Arts, Management from APUS.

Keep the Process Moving

The best way to obtain a security clearance is to have your agency put your application in for you. Background investigations are very expensive and your agency will have a much higher priority to have the work accomplished. The best way to expedite the required background investigation is to give complete information. If you had a traffic ticket twenty years ago, do not leave it out. Let the investigator dismiss minor transgressions. If you fail to report anything, it raises the question, “What else is being left out?”

Marc A. Neerman, Colonel, U.S. Army Retired is an instructor at APUS.

Be Prepared to List Foreign Travel

When gathering your information to apply for a security clearance, make sure to have all of your foreign travel details handy. Plan to go back 10 years and list countries and dates of travel. If you lived overseas, that will be listed elsewhere, but the foreign countries you visited from your overseas residence will need to be listed. Here’s a tip: If you’re not sure if you remember all of your travel, go back through your personal travel photos. Sometimes that can help us to remember places and dates.

Minna Ahlmann, an Air Force Veteran and Reservist, is an instructor at APUS.

How It Works

Many positions to which you apply in the Homeland Security field will require a security clearance. A security clearance is a marketable commodity. Due to the cost and time of obtaining a clearance, it is valued by potential employers. Unfortunately, as a private citizen you cannot obtain a clearance through your own initiative. A potential employer will oversee the process and provide you with the government forms that may require you to provide information from the last five or ten years depending on the type of clearance the position requires. Throughout this process, your role is to provide the requested information to your employer or potential employer in a timely and honest fashion. Do not attempt to conceal any information, as it will inevitably be discovered and the lack of candor will likely disqualify you for the position and negatively affect any subsequent security applications.

Dr. Kathryn Lambert, Supervisory Special Agent (ret)., is an instructor with APUS.

Stay tuned for next month’s column featuring insights from industry experts, students and alumni.




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