It's no secret there's a huge demand for technical professionals with security clearances, particularly EEs and computer scientists. The TechExpo Top Secret job fair recently listed 1459 open positions on its Web site, TechExpoUSA.com, 1239 of which require a security clearance. Dice.com currently lists more than 4500 technical openings, all requiring a security clearance.
"There are thousands of jobs available for security-cleared professionals just in the D.C. area," says Bradford Rand, president and CEO of TechExpo Top Secret.
The biggest recruiters are involved in defense or aerospace. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, IBM, PricewaterhouseCoopers, SPARTA, SRI International, SAIC, Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, Raytheon, General Dynamics, L-3 Communication Systems, and Unisys all took part in a recent TechExpo in McLean, Va. (TechExpo guests need an active security clearance issued by a U.S. government agency or the military to attend the job fair.)
Federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, also are heavily recruiting tech people with security clearances. Many computer scientists are being recruited right out of school and fast-tracked into the clearance process.
Jobs in cyber security—or electronic crime, as University of Tulsa computer science professor Sujeet Shenoi calls it—often require a security clearance, too. Electronic evidence has become critical in a growing number of investigations, and law enforcement needs the expertise for these cases.
As a result, students from 22 U.S. universities, including several of Shenoi's students, are participating in a program sponsored by the National Science Foundation to develop information security specialists for local, state, and federal law-enforcement agencies.
Engineers coming out of the military who have clearances already are quick to find commercial job opportunities as well. Ryan Barr, senior staff technical recruiter for Manpower, says the military has been a steady source of workers.
But what if you don't have a clearance? Rand says some companies and government agencies hire engineers without clearances and assign them to jobs while they go through the process. This can take up to a year—and about $100,000 per person.
"If you're a company hiring a lot of people to meet your staffing requirements, this can add up pretty fast," says Rand.