Security Clearances Can Pay Off

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 9, 2006

Workers with a security clearance earn 24 percent more than counterparts with similar skills, according to a new survey that found Washington area workers earn among the highest salaries.

The survey released yesterday by, an Internet-based job board, illustrates how the growing demand for cleared employees has translated into more earning power. Overall, the average cleared employee earns $65,684, compared with $49,650 for a counterpart without a security clearance, the survey found. Information technology management executives earn the most, $105,000.

Workers with clearances in Maryland, Virginia and the District earn among the highest salaries, $89,111, $77,108 and $70,072 respectively, the survey found. Those working in Iraq earn the most, $92,142.

Employees with the most lucrative security clearances are those who work for the Department of Energy, according to the survey. Cleared workers at the department earn an average of $102,500, compared with those with a National Security Agency or CIA clearance, who earn $92,500. There are fewer Energy Department cleared employees and they often also have coveted scientific backgrounds, the survey said.

"Security clearance jobs have defied the country's slow employment trend," said Evan Lesser, director of, which surveyed 700 job seekers holding clearances from November to January. There are more job openings than people with clearances to fill them, setting up an intense competition and prompting some companies to target competitors' workers.

Answering questions about one's private life also raises cleared employees' earning power, the survey found. Workers who pass a "lifestyle polygraph," which includes questions about drug and alcohol use, sexual orientation and personal finances, earn an average salary of $80,319. Those who undergo only a "counterintelligence polygraph," which probes the worker's allegiance to the nation, earn about $70,168, the survey said. A cleared worker who hasn't passed any polygraph makes an average of $65,472.

In a sign of the times, Fairfax-based ManTech International Corp. is raffling off two BMWs in a recruiting campaign. One of the cars will go to an employee with a top-secret clearance or higher hired between September and March. The other will go to an employee who refers a new hire with a clearance.

"It's a competitive market for people with security clearances, and we wanted to have a campaign that got people's attention and made them aware of the career opportunities that exist at ManTech," said company President Robert Coleman.

The number of new hires has increased "significantly" since the campaign began, he said. "We're seeing a lot more résumé influx," he said. The company has about 450 openings, half of them requiring a security clearance.

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