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Going into the private sector? Keep that security clearance

Ending a military career or leaving a government job for the private sector? It may be advantageous to make sure to leave with a security clearance. Many civilian companies give preferential treatment to applicants who have active security clearances, which -- right or wrong -- make some Pennsylvania residents more valuable to the private sector than others when applying for jobs.

Why? In the simplest terms, it costs time and money to obtain a security clearance. Remembering when a Pennsylvania resident first obtained a security clearance, he or she may recall that it took some time for it to come through.

What the individual may not have known is that a top secret clearance can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000. A secret clearance can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $3,000. The final amount depends on numerous factors unique to the individual obtaining the clearance.

Without an active clearance, some employers may not be willing to hire a particular individual, especially if they can find one who does have the required clearance level already. Many people believe that if they once had an active clearance, then it will be easy to get another one, but that is not always the case. Files are not generally kept for confidential or secret clearances unless the information was derogatory. At the top secret level, more information may be retained, but that does not provide any guarantees.

Right now, there seems to be some speculation regarding whether former military or civilian personnel who worked for the government should be allowed to retain their clearances after they leave their positions and go into the private sector. Another factor to consider is the continuous checks that are now being conducted instead of waiting five to 10 years, which means that no one is guaranteed to keep a clearance. This makes working to retain a security clearance even more important.

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