As the title says: Over here in Washington DC a lot of the software development jobs require polygraph security clearance.

Most of the companies say my resume is great, but they cannot hire me unless I have clearance. I've looked this up countless times and every time I do I read that it is up to the employer to help the employee or potential employee acquire security clearance.

How can I get a clearance without having a company sponsor me?

  • There are people who ride on the cart. And people who pull the cart.
    – Fattie
    Dec 4 '18 at 16:16

Find an employer willing to sponsor you.

The information you've found is correct, it's (typically) up to the employer to sponsor the clearance. It's an expensive process.

The problem you're facing is, in a market (like Washington, DC) where there's already a big pool of candidates with clearance, it's easy for an employer to focus on candidates who have passed the clearance. Meanwhile, in other geographical markets where clearance is rare, employers are often more willing to hire candidates without clearance, sometimes with the caveat that the continuation of employment is based on successfully obtaining clearance.


Short answer is that you can't, you have to be sponsored, it's kind of a catch-22.

Depending on the size of the company you are applying too, and their need they may sponsor your clearance and assign you unclassified work (if there is any) until the clearance comes through (up to 12+ months). This is usually the case for very large companies (think the 3 big defense contractors), but if you are applying to smaller contractors they'll expect you to come in with a clearance because they don't have the time and money for you to work there and not be productive on the contract.

From my experience in the field most people get a clearance at a big-3 or similar work there for a few years and when they have both the resume and clearances will go after the more specialized smaller contractors.

  • In theory if the author formed their own company, won a contract that requires a security clearance, they could get that security clearance. Of course nobody is going to win that contract without that clearance realistically but it could happen (this would be they are their own sponsor since the contract provides them their “need to know”)
    – Donald
    Dec 4 '18 at 3:41
  • @Ramhound I knew a guy years ago who did exactly this. He did say it wasn't easy. Dec 4 '18 at 19:16
  • @JohnR.Strohm - It makes sense that, a defense contractor wasn't always a defense contractor, they all had to start out at some point. The world of security clearances is a dog eat dog world.
    – Donald
    Dec 4 '18 at 20:38

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