Find below everything you need to know about becoming security cleared and the various levels of security clearance.
Firstly, what is Security Clearance?
‘Security clearance’ is a status granted to individuals that allow them to access sensitive or classified information, this could be at a government or commercial level. Essentially this means background checks and a vetting process, the more sensitive/restricted the information/area the deeper and more rigorous the checks. The main SC levels (and time it take to receive clearance) are, more detailed information can be found further down the page:
- Baseline Personnel Security Standard BPSS (14 days)
- Counter Terrorist Check (30 days)
- Security Check (30 days)
- Developed Vetting (95 days)
And the main Security Clearing bodies are:
- The Defence Vetting Agency (DVA – who processes around 150,000 checks a year)
- National Security Vetting (NSV)
- Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
- Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)
How do I get Security Clearance
In order to become security clearance certified you must be requested for clearance by an employer, you can not apply for clearance as an individual.
Please be aware of the following:
- Security Clearance is granted for a specific period of time depending on the employment term or for a particular project – it is not granted indefinitely, however, typically your clearance will last for approx 12 months after the project.
- Security Clearance can be verified and transferred to a new employer if required.
- If you do not have the Security Clearance required for a particular role you would not be able to start your employment until clearance has been obtained.
- You do not have to be a British National in order to gain Security Clearance.
- You will have to meet the criteria required depending on the level of clearance.
There are four main types of national security checks and clearances:
Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) and Enhanced Baseline Standard (EBS)
BPSS and EBS are not classified as ‘formal’ security clearances. Instead, they are designed to provide employers with a good level of assurance of a possible candidates trustworthiness, integrity and reliability if given access to working with confidential information.
Counter Terrorist Checks (CTC)
This level of clearance is required for those employees who require access to information regarding national security and unrestricted access to certain government and commercial establishments.
Security Check (SC)
The security check is for people who have access to secret information and occasional access to top-secret information. The security check process involves a Basic Check (BC) plus UK criminal and security checks and a credit check. This is predominately used in the government.
Developed Vetting (DV)
Developed vetting represents the highest level of security clearance and is only granted to those individuals who require substantial unsupervised access to top-secret information or for those working within intelligence or government security agencies. The clearance process involves a security check, a DV questionnaire, financial check, references and a detailed interview.
Do you need a security clearance to be able to apply for an SC vacancy?
No, but it really really does help. To be honest, it’s only understandable, imagine if you were the client, would you take the risk of offering the job to somebody who hasn’t been checked, only to find out six weeks later they failed?
This is why a great many vacancies state that it is highly recommended to have a current SC level clearance check in place or those with current SC level clearance are encouraged to apply.
Sadly it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, you want the job but won’t get an interview because you aren’t SC cleared, and you can’t get SC clearance because individuals can’t apply to be cleared, only companies can sponsor an individual. However, bear with it, there are lots of permies and contractors getting SC cleared jobs and contracts who do either have a current SC certified or have never been SC cleared.
Please be aware that additional security checks and clearances may be needed depending on the company.
Should the above information feel slightly overwhelming, remember that the advantages of being part of this particular niche of the job, outweighs the clearance process. You will have…
- Job security
- The increased advantage of being considered for a position
- Increased salary (as much as 24% more according to job boards and recruiters).
- Greater job opportunity-can open doors to employment opportunities that may not have been opened otherwise.
Rates of pay for security cleared contractors
The good news is, as a security-cleared contractor you can earn up to 24% extra than a none SC contractor, so recruiters have told us. Becoming security cleared isn’t difficult but it can take a while, certain levels basic levels can be done within two weeks whilst ‘developed vetting’ can take as long as three months (DV clearance is the highest level of Security and is required if you have unsupervised access to top secret information).
As with all contract jobs, rates vary wildly, however, rate typically starts around the £250 per day and go all the way through to £1,000, of course, it all depends on the contract, SC level, length of the contract, location and skills required.
As of May 2010 there was roughly 3,000 security IT cleared contracts on offer, with an average rate of pay of £350 per day (according to jobstats.co.uk), obviously, this doesn’t include all the other sectors but it does give you a rough idea.
With the heightened level of security both on a corporate and government level, it is unlikely for this sector to see headcount reductions, after all, can you think of any company that is seriously considering spending less of security?
Contracting rates of pay and limited companies
Basically, if you are a contractor working through your own limited company your take home will be anywhere between 75% – 80% of your contract value, for example:
- Daily rate £200 take home between £150 – £160
- Daily rate £300 take home between £225 – £240
- Daily rate £400 take home between £300 – £320
- Daily rate £600 take home between £450 – £480
If you compare your current rate with the ‘average net pay through a limited company’ and find that you’re not taking home as much as you’d like, going limited is something you might like to consider. For an illustration of take-home pay through a limited company, you could also try our contractor take-home pay calculator.
Working through an Umbrella company can be the easiest option when getting contract work through a recruiter (check out the differences between an umbrella and limited company take home pay). However, in this economic climate, most contractors will want to maximise their earnings. Any accountant will tell you that working through your own limited company is the most tax efficient.
Finding work as a security cleared contractor
Of course finding a job within security clearance is easier if you are already Security Cleared and have time remaining on your security clearance ticket; however, this doesn’t mean that if you aren’t cleared you shouldn’t apply for contracts/jobs. Providing you’re a great candidate and the vacancy doesn’t need to be filled immediately, remember it can take quite a few weeks to become SC, you still have a good chance of securing the role.
It’s worth noting that most security clearances last up to 12 months after the project finishes, obviously if you rejoin a security cleared post within 12 months there is usually no need to go through the process again.
Key industries of SC contracts and jobs are:
- Nuclear Industry
- Anti Fraud
Finding a Contract / Job
- Recruitment agency- LA International
Typical search terms for security cleared jobs and contracts
Security Cleared Jobs, DV Cleared Jobs, BS Jobs, CRB Jobs, CTC Jobs, EBS jobs, NATO Jobs, Security Cleared Contract Jobs, Security Cleared Analyst Jobs, Security Cleared Oracle Jobs, Security Cleared Developer Jobs, Security Cleared Project Manager Jobs.
Security clearance timescales
Obviously different levels of SC take different times to be clear, bear this in mind when applying:
Baseline Personnel Security Standard BPSS ( 14 days)
Counter Terrorist Check ( 30 days)
Security Check ( 30 days)
Developed Vetting ( 95 days)
If you’re interested in finding out more about going limited, you may find the following pages useful:
- Contractor Calculator – How much could you be taking home
- Contractor FAQ – All your frequently asked questions and their answers
- First time Contracting or Freelancing? – A summary of the alternatives along with the pros and cons
- Step-by-step Guide to Contracting – Download a FREE copy of our guide
- Limited or Umbrella? Can’t decide? – We help you decide which is best for you
- Expenses Guide – Know exactly what you can claim
- Umbrella Company Guide – Everything you ever wanted to know about umbrella company services
- IR35 Guide – A great plain English guide to IR35