Security Clearance required when applying for jobs related to math and physics?

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I have a quick query. When I'm applying to jobs related to math and physics (software engineer, data analyst, data scientist, python developer, quantitative analyst, programmer, research analyst, etc), I am seeing a good portion of them requiring a security clearance.

Is this something others experience or has the algorithm for my job search latched onto something that is not desirable? I would love to work on a top secret project for the government, but I'm not interested in getting polygraphed, spending 6 months to get a security clearance or being rejected for not having one. I'd rather work a regular job to avoid that extra headache. I'm surprised it's as prevalent as I am seeing it. Is it just me?
 

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  • #2
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Hi Zap,

It would be helpful to know what country you're a citizen of. If it's the US I can share some of my experiences getting a clearance as I've worked in the US intelligence community/DoD for a number of years. Feel free to PM me as well if you prefer!
 
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  • #3
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I live in US, but I don’t really want a security clearance if I can avoid it. I don’t like the idea of being monitored. I am just frustrated to see the security clearance requirement pop up when I’m not actively looking for government related jobs lol.

Does the intelligence community hire a lot of data scientists/software engineers? I imagine so, and since most regular companies are probably not hiring right now, that would explain the noticeable influx of the security clearance requirement I am seeing.
 
  • #4
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Depends upon who is funding the research. They can usually set the terms!! The military funds a lot of research, some of it very fundamental. Personally I was never required to have any clearance and I took some of their money.
But if you are doing general data manipulation, I understand why an employer would want a cadre of people with clearances.
 
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  • #5
DaveE
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My experience, back in the day (1980's): the lower level clearances (like up to secret) usually aren't so involved, you fill out a form and they do some "behind the scene" research. Like trying to rent a nice apartment. Many jobs only require low level clearances.

Personally, I would be careful about jobs with high level clearances. It can be a fast track to bureaucracy. When you are one of the few people in a group that can read the classified documents, you can get trapped into reading, redacting, writing specifications, answering questions, etc. You will be well paid, "an offer you can't refuse", but it could also be mind numbing. Of course it all depends on the organization, and what you like. High level clearances are expensive for companies, so they will want you to use it.
 
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  • #6
Vanadium 50
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If the job requires a clearance, the job requires a clearance. They aren't going to change this for you. "But I'm brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! I could be the next John Anthony Walker or Julius Rosenberg! Maybe even the next Kim Philby!"
 
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  • #7
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I think the data science/data analysis field has intertwined with cyber security and general secret intelligence stuff. I guess I hadn't noticed it until recently. I'd rather not have to get a security clearance, but I'm not totally against it. I was just wondering if I am the only one noticing more jobs appearing in my searches requiring them when not actively seeking those kinds of jobs. I feel as though my past searches for defense contractor jobs may have left some kind of fingerprint on my recent searches.

I used to want to work for the DOD, but now I think I'd rather choose more freedom, if given the option. Like my current job is strictly business stuff, which is kind of cool because nobody cares what you do outside of work. I don't like the idea of having to piss in a cup and have my finances monitored. Even if I'm not doing any drugs or spending money irresponsibly, just the idea of a company being involved in your personal life puts me off a little bit. However, I wouldn't be opposed to it if given an opportunity. I am still actively applying even though I'm currently employed because of this COVID-19 mess. It would be nice to have a plan B lined up.

I remember having to pee in a cup to work at Walmart. I did it, but it's kind of weird when you think about it. Walking up to the hiring guy with a cup full of your piss. Here you go, sir. It's kind of weird. I'm not making a big deal out of it. I just don't prefer to be forced to do things like that.
 
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  • #8
Dr Transport
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if the program is funded by the DoD, Energy (nuclear power plants etc) or the intel community, a clearance is required. Usually, you have to fill out the paperwork and submit it when they make a conditional offer, i.e., youi don't get the job until you qualify with a clearance. We used to hire people without then when they couldn't we let them go, it is the nature of the business. As long as you're not actively breaking the law, it is pretty easy to keep a clearance. Speeding tickets, running stop sign, etc won't keep you from getting or keeping one, but DUI's domestic abuse, etc will. Any felony in the past 10 years will.

I had interviewed someone in the not too distant past, I thought they were good and was heading towards an offer until I checked their social media (it isn't too hard). Bottom line, I wasn't happy with the stupid things they were doing (not illegal but not professional) and declined to make an offer.

Just don't do stupid and most likely you won't have any problems.
 
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  • #9
jgens
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Is this something others experience or has the algorithm for my job search latched onto something that is not desirable? I would love to work on a top secret project for the government, but I'm not interested in getting polygraphed, spending 6 months to get a security clearance or being rejected for not having one. I'd rather work a regular job to avoid that extra headache. I'm surprised it's as prevalent as I am seeing it. Is it just me?
Most of my network is business analysts, data analysts/engineers/scientists and software engineers and none of them have jobs requiring security clearance. IMO it coming in many job postings is more likely indicative of which industries you are searching than it being a super common thing
 
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  • #10
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if the program is funded by the DoD, Energy (nuclear power plants etc) or the intel community, a clearance is required
For unescorted access to commercial nuclear plants in the US, the licensee (ie, the power company that operates the plant) will do a background check, a psych test, and drug testing. If your work doesn't require you to physically go into the plant, there are really no requirements.

If you want to work in the government (DoE) plants like Hanford, Savannah River, etc., then an actual security clearance is needed.
 
  • #11
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A reason this could be coming up on your searches is due to geography. There are some places (e.g. Seattle) that I rarely see security clearance required (though it does happen!). Others (e.g. Huntsville, AL) almost always require clearance. This is due to the differing types of business the areas support.

I watch this type of thing pretty closely and my experience is that <5% of all jobs related to data science require clearance. Actual number is probably way under that.
 
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  • #12
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If the job requires a clearance, the job requires a clearance. They aren't going to change this for you. "But I'm brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! I could be the next John Anthony Walker or Julius Rosenberg! Maybe even the next Kim Philby!"
You misread his posts. He wasn't expecting anyone to change the requirement, he just wants to avoid it. I think your post was needlessly antagonistic.
 
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  • #13
Dr. Courtney
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At least half the jobs I've applied for have not required a security clearance, and this has been the experience of friends and colleagues as well. Even at the Air Force Academy, there was an extensive background check, but about half the civilians there did not have security clearances, including most of the civilian STEM faculty. Some research projects required them. Simply being on the faculty did not.

You're not alone in a preference not to forfeit the level of privacy required for a security clearance. A significant fraction of my STEM friends, family, and colleagues prefer a higher level of privacy and have no trouble making a living without them. But there are some jobs (and some projects in a given job) that one misses out on.
 
  • #14
Vanadium 50
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The OP has three choices:
  1. Suck it up and apply to jobs that require clearances.
  2. Refuse to apply to jobs that require clearances.
  3. Kvetch about it.
That's really all there is.
 
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  • #15
Zap
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I apply to jobs requiring a clearance. I was just curious why I am finding so many requiring them.
It could be due to my location, being near Washington D.C., but I typically don't include location in my searches. Maybe, the search automatically suggests jobs that are closer to my current location.

I have an interview tomorrow for a Business Analyst job. It's not exactly the career I had in mind when I decided to pursue a chemistry and physics degree, but it pays! Shutgun method strikes again 😝.

It will be interesting if I get an offer, since now I have some leverage with my current job and can negotiate a salary, instead of jumping at anything I can get 😂. Not a bad plan B if I get I canned over this COVID thing.

This job actually seems to require a security clearance, for some reason. It's in Virginia. It must be my location. This job is also asking for 5+ years of experience, which I do not have. So, could be more of a quick screening than an interview, but if they actually looked at my resume they'll know I only have 1 year of experience. Maybe HR is using the shutgun method 🤔
 
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  • #16
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O wait. It's actually a Physics Analyst position. I've no idea what that is, but sounds cool! Hopefully I can get this job and complain more about the security clearance 😎

Reading the job description now. It sounds super cool. I would definitely take the sacrifice of having to pee in a cup for it. Psyched I got at least an initial phone screening. It actually only requires 2 years programming experience with a bachelor's degree. So, having 1 with a master's is prob sufficient.
 
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  • #17
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Damn. I just got canned. Flub. I saw this coming.
 
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  • #18
Dr Transport
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I apply to jobs requiring a clearance. I was just curious why I am finding so many requiring them.
It could be due to my location, being near Washington D.C., but I typically don't include location in my searches. Maybe, the search automatically suggests jobs that are closer to my current location.

I have an interview tomorrow for a Business Analyst job. It's not exactly the career I had in mind when I decided to pursue a chemistry and physics degree, but it pays! Shutgun method strikes again 😝.

It will be interesting if I get an offer, since now I have some leverage with my current job and can negotiate a salary, instead of jumping at anything I can get 😂. Not a bad plan B if I get I canned over this COVID thing.

This job actually seems to require a security clearance, for some reason. It's in Virginia. It must be my location. This job is also asking for 5+ years of experience, which I do not have. So, could be more of a quick screening than an interview, but if they actually looked at my resume they'll know I only have 1 year of experience. Maybe HR is using the shutgun method 🤔

Duh, ya think. DC has more security clearances per square mile than pretty much any place in the country.
 
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  • #19
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Over the years, I've had a number of positions that required a Security Clearance, and I never thought I gave up any privacy at all. Admittedly this was before the drug screening became such a prominent feature, but we do that frequently at the medial office anyway to check for urinary infections.
 
  • #20
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Life has no room for human plans, but life offers up opportunities a thousand times per day
 
  • #21
chemisttree
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Sorry to hear about your job loss. I didn’t know that Walmart required a drug test!

I just went through the whole security clearance thing for my new job. Lots of government jobs are classified as “essential” during this COVID-19 thing. That can be good and bad. Good to be working when the alternative is unpaid furlough. Bad that “essential” necessarily means “sensitive” with all the scrutiny that comes with it.
I guess it’s some consolation you will be peeing in a cup for a high paying Physics Analyst job rather than peeing in a cup for the Walmart checker’s job.

Good luck with the job search.
 
  • #22
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I've had two official security clearances : one actually was because of nifty stuff (though easily gleanable by anybody armed with a minimum of google-fu), the other - the higher of the two - was because it involved handling citizens' records.
 
  • #23
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I wasn't furloughed. I was let go. I'm officially canned 😎.
 
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  • #24
StatGuy2000
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I wasn't furloughed. I was let go. I'm officially canned 😎.
If you don't mind my asking, where were you working before?

Because I don't want to sound discouraging, but official US unemployment in the US is about 11% (at least back in June -- not sure if there are more updated figures), with the actual unemployment rate probably much higher. And given the current state of the pandemic in the US, finding new work may be a challenge.
 
  • #25
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If you don't mind my asking, where were you working before?

Because I don't want to sound discouraging, but official US unemployment in the US is about 11% (at least back in June -- not sure if there are more updated figures), with the actual unemployment rate probably much higher. And given the current state of the pandemic in the US, finding new work may be a challenge.
I was working for a medium sized consulting firm. The Marriott was one of our biggest clients. When the Marriott tanked, I was almost immediately removed from the project I was working on and put on bench for several months before finally being let go.

I had been looking for new work since I've been on the bench, because that's not a good place to be in consulting, especially during economic decline. I managed to get an interview this Thursday for the cool physics job, and I'm currently talking to someone about possible employment as we speak. The dude I'm talking to has a project that is almost identical to the one I had been working on at the Marriott, which is pretty crazy. It's just mainly cleaning and validating enterprise data and then migrating that data to cloud storage. I've become somewhat of an expert on the cleaning and validating part. I'm somewhat familiar with cloud technology as well. So, I honestly feel like I could have already found a job. He's going to give me a quick SQL quiz in a couple of minutes.

If you want to find work in data, you can do so by just learning Python and SQL. \
 
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