IT Career Guide

From Military Clearance to Successful IT Career

From Military Clearance to Successful IT Career

Those who have served in the military and have a security clearance enjoy a distinct advantage in the Information Technology (IT) field, as this clearance serves as a gateway to enhanced career opportunities and, quite frankly, a more substantial income.

The numbers support this. The 2023 ClearanceJobs Compensation Survey reveals that IT specialists with security clearance earn an average yearly salary of $108,611. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also predicts a 15% increase in IT job availability by 2031.

This article is a comprehensive guide for those pondering how military experience can provide an edge—particularly in specialized fields like Linux and cloud computing.

What is a Security Clearance?

For the uninitiated, security clearance is not merely a federal endorsement. It is a rigorous evaluation process overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense. This process grants access to classified information and assesses character traits such as integrity, dependability, and financial stability.

Security clearances are categorized into different tiers, each with varying implications for national security:

  • Confidential: 

Unauthorized leaks could jeopardize national security.

  • Secret: 

Unauthorized exposure could result in substantial damage.

  • Top Secret: 

Leaks could have catastrophic consequences.

  • Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) or Special Access Programs (SAP): 

This data is so sensitive that even top-secret clearance may not suffice. Special SCI Access or SAP approval is mandatory.

The Value of Security Clearance in IT

As earlier mentioned, the 2023 ClearanceJobs Compensation Survey indicates that IT professionals with security clearances earn an average annual salary of $108,611—a 7% increase from the previous year. Those with Top Secret clearance can earn an average of $116,009, thanks to an 8% salary increase.

This data underscores the immense value of security clearance in the IT industry. Employers are willing to offer a 7% salary increase to professionals with clearance, highlighting the robust demand for such qualifications.

Job security, especially in government contracts, is another significant benefit. For those loyal to their current employer for two decades or more, the average total compensation could soar to an astonishing $140,496.

Why Security Clearance Matters in Linux and Cloud Computing

In specialized fields like Linux and cloud computing, individuals are not merely data handlers but stewards of sensitive information. Military security clearance serves as a trust indicator for potential employers.

For instance, those working with Linux are responsible for implementing Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) policies and configuring firewalls. In cloud computing, experts are responsible for robust encryption and proper identity management. These responsibilities are not mere tasks but frontline defenses against cyber threats.

Supplementing security clearance with additional certifications, such as Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), can make candidates even more appealing. Given the rising demand for cloud data security, it’s unsurprising that the BLS anticipates a 33% increase in Information Security Analyst positions by 2030.

IT Careers Where Security Clearance is a Plus

In IT, specific roles are particularly well-suited for individuals with security clearances. The 2023 ClearanceJobs Compensation Survey highlights a few:

  • Systems Administrator: 

This role is the backbone of any IT infrastructure. It’s a lucrative field with an average salary of $115,941 and a 7% increase since 2022. Security clearance adds a layer of trust, making one an ideal candidate for managing sensitive systems.

  • Cloud Engineer: 

The cloud engineer focuses on cloud computing strategies, and this position has witnessed an 8% salary growth, with an average of $111,989. Clearance can be a significant asset, especially when dealing with cloud security protocols.

  • Cybersecurity Analyst: 

Protecting systems against unauthorized access is critical. The role offers an average salary of $124,393, a 9% increase since last year. Top Secret clearance holders can expect an 8% salary boost, pushing the average compensation to $116,009.

  • Network Engineer: 

Responsible for networks, this role has an average salary of $119,506, with a 13% change since 2022. Given the sensitive nature of network security, clearance is a strong advantage.

The survey also highlights that passing a polygraph can increase an employee’s annual salary by over $20,000! Moreover, having at least one career certification—common in military training—can further boost your yearly salary.

The stability offered by government contracting roles is another perk, especially for those transitioning from military roles. 

As individuals ponder their next career move, these roles can serve as stepping stones to higher-level positions in the dynamic IT sector.

Real-World Examples

Let’s peek at the stories of Krysten Gennuso and Alberto Silvestriz, two individuals who have successfully navigated the tech industry through divergent paths. Yet, both underscore the importance of support and adaptability.

Leveraging her military background, Krysten acquired invaluable Linux skills, positioning her as a compelling candidate for IT roles that demand high trust. Although her security clearance didn’t directly influence her technological career, it remains a valuable asset that could facilitate her entry into specialized roles. Conversely, Alberto successfully transitioned from a decade-long military career to a rewarding IT profession, primarily due to the unwavering support from his spouse and the Linux program offered by Yellow Tail Tech. His disciplined methodology, refined during his military service, has proven to be an asset in the tech industry.

The stories of both Krysten and Alberto highlight not only the significance of a supportive network but also the tangible benefits that a military background can bring when transitioning to a prosperous career in IT. These accounts stress that individual, unique experiences, coupled with the proper support, can serve as foundational elements, propelling one’s career trajectory in the technological landscape.

How to Leverage Security Clearance

Navigating the IT job market with a security clearance is like holding a VIP pass to an exclusive event. To fully capitalize on this unique advantage, a well-structured strategy is crucial. Below is a comprehensive guide designed to help individuals make the most of their security clearance in the IT sector:

  • Identify Transferable Skills: 

Recognize the skills acquired during military training directly applicable to the IT industry. Skills like understanding Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) policies or configuring firewalls are genuine game-changers that can set one apart in a competitive field.

  • Network Like a Pro: 

This action is vital to career growth, especially for those transitioning from the military to IT. A solid professional network can be a two-way street: it allows one to find employers who value security clearance and makes one more discoverable to them. 

  • Apply Strategically: 

Look for roles where a security clearance is not merely a “nice-to-have” but a strict requirement. This requirement is prominent for cloud computing or cybersecurity positions, which often involve handling sensitive data or implementing complex security protocols.

It’s Time to Make a Move

In a sector perpetually at the forefront of innovation, a security clearance is a significant differentiator. It’s not merely about meeting the required qualifications; it’s about surpassing them and demonstrating a level of trustworthiness and expertise that employers find invaluable.

For those prepared to leverage this unique asset in the ever-evolving, opportunity-laden world of IT, now is the opportune moment to embark on a transformative career journey. To get started, book a 10-minute intro call with an Enrollment Advisor today!

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Silvana Zapanta

Sil brings a wealth of experience to her writing and editing projects. After nearly a decade guiding college students in research and communication, she shifted her focus to freelance writing and editing. Her passion for education continues through volunteer work, where she empowers others by teaching research and writing skills.

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