What is Top-Secret Clearance?

Top-secret clearance unlocks information the government doesn’t want its adversaries to know about. This includes things like intelligence gathered on North Korean nuclear programs and Russian military operations.


The vetting process for Tier 5 clearance is more extensive than other levels. Investigators will interview acquaintances, verify residences and public records and follow up on any inconsistencies.

What is a Top Secret Clearance?

A Top Secret Clearance is the highest level of security clearance available to federal employees and contractors. It allows access to classified information that could affect national security, and requires a thorough background investigation including reference checks, credit reviews, public records inquiries, and interviews with neighbors, friends, family members, and coworkers. The investigative process is more rigorous than that of a confidential clearance and involves additional steps like an Enhanced Subject Interview (ESI) and a polygraph examination.

Individuals can only gain a Top Secret Clearance by being sponsored by a government agency, or by working for a cleared contractor with an active clearance. Depending on the type of position, salary for jobs requiring a Top Secret Clearance can vary widely and depend on specific factors such as location, the agency sponsoring the employee, and the specific job itself.

Once an individual is granted a Top Secret Clearance, they must pass a periodic reinvestigation to ensure that they continue to meet the necessary security requirements. If during the reinvestigation, derogatory information is discovered that could affect an individual’s eligibility for a clearance, they may be denied or have their clearance revoked. In cases where an individual’s clearance is revoked or downgraded, they are notified of the reason and given the opportunity to respond in writing before a DOHA AJ.

How to Get a Top Secret Clearance

A Top Secret clearance is a highly valuable credential that gives professionals access to sensitive national security information. This level of clearance demonstrates trustworthiness, commitment to security, and dedication to the principles of need-to-know. This makes it a very sought-after credential in the InfoSec and Cybersecurity industry.

The process for getting a Top Secret clearance is more intensive than for the confidential and secret levels. You will undergo a thorough background investigation that covers a 10-year period, and you’ll be interviewed by people who know you. In addition, you’ll need to provide references, pass a credit check and criminal history review, and undergo drug screening. Clearance adjudicators are looking for indicators of potential dishonesty, insubordination, and a lack of good judgment.

It’s important to be honest throughout the clearance process, especially when answering questions about your past. If you have any issues that could be a red flag, try to mitigate them by explaining the circumstances surrounding the event and presenting mitigating evidence (letters of recommendation, financial records, etc). It’s also important to stay current with your finances by paying bills on time and not taking on excessive debt. You should also report any changes in your living situation to your security officer, including moving or divorces. In addition, you’ll need to attend periodic security training sessions to maintain your clearance.

What Are the Requirements for Getting a Top Secret Clearance?

Getting a Top Secret Clearance requires you to undergo a thorough investigation of your personal and professional life. The process can take months or even years to complete. It includes a search of your education, employment history, and financial information, as well as interviews with people who know you and public records searches for bankruptcies, divorces, and criminal convictions. In addition, you must submit to a polygraph exam, which measures your physiological responses while you answer questions about your criminal and civil legal history and foreign contacts.

The investigation is more in-depth for a Top Secret clearance, as it also reviews your foreign contacts, business interests, and potential risk to national security. In addition, you must be free of mental health issues and drug or alcohol addiction. If there is a risk that you might mishandle classified information, the government will deny your clearance.

To maintain your clearance, you must keep in regular contact with your security officer and report any changes in your status. This can include getting married or moving to a new residence. You must also report any foreign travel plans as well as your close ties to foreign individuals or governments, which can be considered a risk factor for espionage. The most common reason for clearance denial or revocation is false information on a security clearance application, but other reasons can include drug or alcohol use, a criminal record, and financial irresponsibility.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Top Secret Clearance?

The length of time it takes to get a top secret clearance depends on how long it takes to complete a thorough background investigation. The investigative process examines your financial, family, and foreign contacts. It also evaluates delinquency in paying debts, certain criminal convictions, and drug use. Clearance investigations are usually completed within three to four months, but can take up to a year or more.

A Top Secret clearance allows access to classified national security information up to and including the level of TOP SECRET (TS) information, which is the highest classification of classified national security information. It is protected by a higher standard of security than the information requiring a Secret clearance, and it can only be shared with people who have signed a non-disclosure agreement.

Military personnel, government civilians, and contractors are usually granted a Top Secret security clearance when they enter the workforce at the Pentagon or other federal agencies. A private contractor’s security clearance is determined by the company’s Facility Security Officer who works with the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) Consolidated Adjudications Facility to perform the necessary vetting of the employee or employment candidate.

When an individual leaves a position in the military or a government civilian job, their security clearance is inactivated. To reactivate a clearance, an individual must be sponsored by the government agency that granted them the security clearance. They must undergo a Tier 5 investigation which includes all aspects of the SSBI, but may include an Enhanced Subject Interview and additional field investigator interviews.