I have recently moved to the Washington D.C. area and work remotely on a contact. That contact is likely to expire in a few years, and I've noticed that local companies are willing to be an incredible premium for people with security clearance. So, in the interest of thinking ahead, I'm wondering if it's possible to obtain security clearance not through any existing job but "personally". I know this is really weird, but hopefully this is doable.


  • Can I somehow start the process of seeking to obtain a security clearance with no specific job in mind?
  • If so, how?
  • I'm sure it will be as expensive as a decent car, but nonetheless, how much would it cost?

Side note: I'm plenty familiar with the background check process, so no need to warn me about the intrusiveness, the fact that it will take years, etc etc thanks. The fact that it takes years has everything to do with why I want to get ahead of this.

  • 1
    Just note that once you get a security clearance at one job, you are good to go until the expiry date even if you leave the company. Your clearance gets "deactivated" then the new company will request that it gets activated again assuming you do not need a higher clearance.
    – Dan
    Jul 20, 2018 at 16:40
  • 3
    "The fact that it takes years has everything to do with why I want to get ahead of this." - No it doesn't. You usually get something called a interim clearance within a week or two of applying. Then a more intensive check goes into place while you work. Most contracting companies will hire you pending the interim is granted then the final clearance is granted whenever later (usually within the year for a very high clearance or within a few months for a low level , common clearance, assuming you haven't moved around a whole lot).
    – Dan
    Jul 20, 2018 at 16:42
  • A top secret clearance investigation costs about $3000 to $5300 depending on scope in 2018. Also see How Much Does a Security Clearance Cost? on ClearanceJobs.com. Be careful about what you wish for, though. I've worked in DoD space and there are some nasty programs out there. Don't sell your soul; it is too hard to buy it back. I stopped working them after an invite to join a Kill/Capture/Influence program, where the US was targeting citizens of other countries.
    – user25792
    Oct 10, 2018 at 6:13
  • @Dan thanks for the info. I imagine based on what your saying that maybe the majority of positions at contractors work this way, but I know multiple people who have been offered DoD positions and waited months or years before getting the position and being able to start the position. These were all cases where TS/SCI clearance was needed. Good to know not everything works that way.
    – pbristow
    Oct 10, 2018 at 14:26
  • @pbarranis Top Secret is different. They go more in depth and go interview folks. This can take a long time especially if the person moved around, or held multiple jobs and whether those people moved around, etc. Generally speaking they give a "interim" clearance so the individual can start working but the full investigation can take months, or even up to a year. And they have to do this every 5 or 10 years depending on the clearance level as clearances have a set expiration date. Overall though, as a contractor it's unlikely you'll get the job if you fail the interim. Your friend is lucky.
    – Dan
    Oct 10, 2018 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


No, you cannot.

There are many reasons that you cannot do this on your own, but the most pertinent one being that clearances are only granted to individuals who need to be able to use them. Since you are not currently employed in a position requiring a security clearance, you do not need to know the information. To quote Clearance Jobs

However, individuals cannot obtain one. All security clearances are granted through an employer, either the government or a private contractor. While a security clearance is granted to an individual it’s aligned with a position – and the position must require a clearance before the person working in it can be cleared.

On top of that, a security clearance is not a cheap thing. Depending on the level of clearance required, it can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand, and I've seen other sources that quote up to $15k.

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    Most contractors will drop you if you don't get a interim even though you might get the final clearance. Once that happens, the investigation gets cancelled and as far as I know you can't appeal a rejected interim but you can for a final. Great way to save money for the company as well since they don't have to do a full investigation and waste time and money.
    – Dan
    Jul 20, 2018 at 16:58
  • Thanks, though that's very disappointing. The cost is lower than I would expect, and based on the salaries I've seen, it would pay for itself with just 3 mos employment as a software developer (from what I've seen, salaries are $50k-$150k higher with a clearance, on average). Given the extreme length of time it takes to get a clearance these days, maybe this is something that will change eventually.
    – pbristow
    Jul 21, 2018 at 0:52

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