How to get a defense industry job without a clearance
A Navy contractor explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel. Gonzalo Bastidas, from Navy Munitions Command CONUS West Division, Unit Seal Beach, explains the process of missile maintenance to foreign military personnel at the Standard Missile shop at Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach. The missile shop visit is part of a familiarization tour for members of the International Standard Missile Users Group. The Standard is the Navy's primary area air defense missile and is also used by many allied navies around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 1st Class Eli J. Medellin)
The defense industry is not only filled with upwardly mobile careers, but it is teeming with demand for candidates. To top it off, these employers really want veterans and tend to offer excellent financial packages for truly interesting and vital jobs.
The catch is, well, almost all these jobs require candidates to have a current clearance in order to be considered. Do you have one? Maybe you already do and you're already game, or maybe you have one but it's not a high enough clearance to fit into the typical defense industry position.
If you aren't the proud owner of a clearance, don't despair: It's an uphill hike but still possible if you are willing to consider some options. If you are, you're in luck … you may just be the right person to land one of these defense jobs that don't require a clearance.
How, you ask?
With a little bit of fairy dust … and a plan.
Every industry needs support and planning. Behind all those defense industry jobs and workers is a cadre of specialists working to ensure the whole thing runs. Even if your end goal is to work within the cleared field, these positions can provide a gateway to get you where you want to go.
Someone has to identify, write and present contract bids for defense contractors to obtain government work. If the military needs a new set of aircraft, they go shopping among company bids with an eye on cost and potential effectiveness of the company on delivering quality equipment on time.
With successful contract bids come the need for skilled employees who can live up to the company's promises. Many defense industry employers maintain a lively team of recruiters, recruitment coordinators and administrative staff to hire and maintain an effective and talented resource of employees.
Once that team is constructed, a staff dedicated to managing hiring packages, medical, dental and education benefits, as well as employee pay, is vital to make the operation work smoothly.
Maybe you aren't interested in support jobs and would rather work within the cleared sector of the defense industry. There are still a couple avenues you can pursue. You can apply for defense jobs that do require a clearance, but you don't necessarily need to currently hold one.
Here's some options:
Apply to Directly:
Government agencies are less hamstringed by the need to have a preexisting clearance for potential personnel and are more likely to hire the right fit despite clearance status. The process for this is usually quite long, so have a plan in place while you work through the federal hiring process.
Note: Keep an eye on the political atmosphere, since agencies are affected by any federal hiring freezes.
Many government agencies and some defense contractors have programs that provide direct connections to educational institutions and in-demand fields of study. If you were already interested in mathematics, for example, you may find an agency program that mentors student mathematicians with an eye for post-graduation hire. These programs target majors that are in high demand.
So, yes! It is possible to work in the defense industry. Fairy dust helps, but if you know the jobs that don't require a clearance, you can snag yourself an opportunity. Support the greater defense community or work toward clearance sponsorship by getting your education and employment set up in one fell swoop.
You got this.