What are Security Cleared Jobs?

If you're looking for a new career in certain sectors, the chances are you'll be asked to complete a security clearance before being considered for a role. This is an essential part of the recruitment process and one you have to factor in before completing an application.

There is a wide range of industries that use these certifications. While they're primarily associated with roles in central government and defence, as well as businesses that have sensitive government contracts, many other commercial firms also require potential employees to undergo thorough vetting before being offered a position.


The benefits of having a security clearance

There are many benefits to applying for a role that requires a security clearance. Completing the vetting process demonstrates your integrity and trustworthiness and can open up new doors for your future career. 

This not only offers you the prospect of a better salary, but also the chance to work on some of the country's most cutting-edge and exciting projects. It also provides a certain level of job security, as employers will only go through lengthy vetting processes for the right candidate.

If you've already obtained security clearance from a previous role, this may help you stand out from other candidates and can greatly shorten the hiring process. Employers can interview you with confidence without worrying about the possibility of you failing the vetting process, so may be more likely to look favourably on your application at the early stages.

Getting and maintaining a security clearance puts you in a favourable position for your future. It provides you with the opportunity for much more flexibility and allows you to choose from a wider range of career paths. Even if your next job application doesn't require a security clearance, having one speaks volumes about your character and capabilities. 

Security clearances can be particularly useful when applying for ex military jobs, as applicants with experience in the armed forces can be well suited to these types of roles.


Who awards security clearances?

In the UK, the vetting and certification of security clearances is handled by the United Kingdom Security Vetting (UKSV) service, which is part of the Cabinet Office. This body is responsible for reviewing all the background information you'll need to supply as part of the application process and, if necessary, carrying out in-person interviews to determine your suitability for security clearances.

In 2021, the UKSV adopted a new charter to govern the process, with the aim of ensuring these activities are fair and accessible to all applicants. Among its tenets are:

  • Dignity and respect to applicants

  • Non-judgemental

  • Professionalism

  • Respect for privacy

  • Provide a "helpful, efficient, effective and transparent" service

In exchange, candidates are asked to be open, straightforward and engaging, provide accurate records and keep the service updated on any changes, and respond to any queries in good time.

The Civil Service - which requires some level of clearance for all its roles - previously noted: "Vetting allows us to know that everyone with access to protectively marked material has a high level of integrity, and is unlikely to be blackmailed or extorted."

UKSV is responsible for five key levels of clearance that will be required for the majority of security cleared jobs in the UK. These are:

  • Accreditation Check - AC

  • Counter Terrorist Check - CTC

  • Level 1B

  • Security Check - SC 

  • Developed Vetting - DV 

If you do have to attend an interview, which will be necessary for all DV and some SC roles, you should expect a "very frank and open conversation" with an interviewer who will not discuss the contents of your conversation with anyone else. If you would feel more comfortable with an interviewer of the same gender, ethnic background, or religion, this can be arranged by the vetting team.


The careers available for people with security cleared status

Security clearances are often required for any position where you will be expected to deal with highly confidential information. This may be proprietary technology, highly sensitive personal information or even government or military secrets. 

The types of roles that require clearance are also very wide-ranging. Engineering positions, IT specialists, accounting and finance jobs and even admin and HR positions will require some level of vetting.

In general, organisations and industries where security clearances will often be a minimum requirement include:

  • Central government (especially at departments such as the Home Office, Foreign Office, Department of Justice and Ministry of Defence)

  • Armed forces (including contractors)

  • Police services

  • NATO or other international organisations

  • Nuclear facilities

  • Aerospace

  • Telecommunications

  • Cyber security consultancies

Some careers can be particularly well-suited to people who already have experience working in sensitive and restricted environments, as they stand well-placed to pass through vetting procedures without issues.

For example, if you're leaving the police or the armed forces, you'll more than likely have picked up skills that will be in high demand among organisations where security clearance is a must - and you'll probably already have the necessary vetting many jobs will require.


How can I get security cleared?

If you don't already have the required level of security clearance, you may be required to obtain this as part of the recruitment process, and any job offer will be conditional on you passing the vetting.

There is a range of security clearance levels with varying degrees of strictness. But generally, you'll be required to submit to a background check that covers areas such as residency, financial history, criminal record and a security questionnaire. Some high-security clearance levels may require more in-depth information or an in-person interview.

To apply for a security clearance in the UK, you need a sponsor, which is usually your human resources officer or company security controller. The sponsor must confirm that your role requires a security clearance and that a Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) has been carried out. Then, your sponsor will create an application and you’ll receive a link to complete a security questionnaire.