Clearances 101

Cleared Careers and Industry Salary Averages

Anyone who has access to classified data requires a security clearance. While there are different levels of security clearances, there are also many different industries and specific jobs that require them. The kinds of cleared jobs for the U.S. federal government and government contractors run the gamut from counterintelligence analysts to janitorial workers and everything in between. More than half of all federal jobs require some level of security clearance, and in total, there are nearly 4.5 million Americans with jobs requiring clearance, according to a 2019 NPR story.

And a security clearance translates into big bucks. Having a security clearance can increase your salary – depending on your skill set, the type of job and the clearance level – by anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent, compared to someone who does not have a clearance. Typically, the higher the clearance level, the higher the pay. According to a 2018 report from clearancejobs.com, the average annual compensation in cleared jobs by industry is as follows:

IndustryAverage Annual Compensation
Engineering$102,012
IT$99,278
Finance$90,282
Intel$88,933
Emergency Management$87,970
Construction$87,676
Health & Science$84,130
Business$83,738
Security (non-IT)$82,622
Visual and Creative$82,109
Logistics$77,071

It is also true that salaries in some regions are higher than others. The U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides comprehensive hourly wage information at the national, state and local levels. Another resource is PayScale. This database, available at no charge, gives compensation information for specific job titles. Below are sample annual compensation figures that provide national and regional average salaries (from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics May 2018 estimates):

IndustryOccupationNational Average for Annual CompensationRegional* Average for Annual Compensation
EngineeringAerospace Engineers $117,100 $131,110
Chemical Engineers $114,470 $119,610
Electrical Engineers $101,600 $110,310
Environmental Engineers $92,640 $96,960
Materials Engineers $96,930 $110,050
Mechanical Engineers $92,800 $107,200
Marine Engineers and Naval Architects $98,970 $111,370
IT Computer and Information Systems Managers $152,860 $153,690
Computer and Information Research Scientists $123,850 $124,320
Computer Systems Analyst $93,610 $97,690
Computer Programmers $89,580 $89,500
Software Developers, Systems Software $114,000 $121,190
Web Developers $75,580 $77,340
Network and Computer Systems Administrators $87,070 $111,490
Computer Network Architects $111,130 $130,900
Computer Network Support Specialists $68,050 $74,850
Finance Accountants and Auditors $78,820 $83,160
Cost Estimators $69,710 $73,180
Budget Analysts $79,830 $83,770
Financial Analysts $100,090 $90,020
Intel Information Security Analysts $102,470 $110,340
Emergency Management Emergency Management Directors $82,570 $97,050
ConstructionConstruction Managers $103,110 $107,580
Brickmasons and Blockmasons $54,430 $48,780
Carpenters $51,120 $48,860
Construction Laborers $40,350 $34,910
Electricians $59,190 $53,000
Health & ScienceMedical and Health Services Managers $113,730 $126,709
Microbiologists $81,150 $84,160
Atmospheric and Space Scientists $95,580 $99,680
BusinessBuyers and Purchasing Agents $67,530 $71,270
Human Resource Specialists $66,790 $74,220
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists $70,960 $64,690
Security (non-IT)Security Guards $32,050 $33,300
Police and Sheriff’s Patrol Officers $65,400 $68,230
Visual and CreativeCommercial and Industrial Designers $71,430 $60,670
Graphic Designers $54,680 $55,180
Photographers $42,770 $40,170
LogisticsLogisticians $78,730 $89,330
Industrial Production Managers$113,370$126,910
Operations Research Analysts$88,250$98,670
General and Operations Managers $123,880 $137,360

* Regional average includes the following Maryland counties: Anne Arundel, Baltimore County, Baltimore City, Carroll, Harford, Howard, Queen Anne’s

There are many other reasons why salaries vary:

  1. Degrees or certifications the job seeker holds – in certain jobs, a four-year degree versus a two-year degree will yield a higher salary. Advanced degrees or certifications in specific skills may also increase the salary.
  2. Years of experience – how long a job seeker has worked in a particular industry and/or if there are transferrable skills from another industry can impact the pay for the position.
  3. Job responsibilities – specialized skills may be needed for a specific position or location.

One mistake job seekers make when looking at the amount of a salary is to not factor in other benefits they will receive, such as health care. Many positions have a benefits package that may contain:

  • Health care (medical, dental, vision)
  • Vacation and holidays, personal or sick days
  • 401(k) plans (some companies will match a certain portion)
  • Life insurance that would cover expenses for family members in the event of the job seeker’s death
  • Short-term and long-term disability insurance that pays a percentage of a worker’s salary while the person is unable to work
  • Employee Assistance Programs for different kinds of counseling
  • Tuition reimbursement (to update skills, pursue an advanced degree)
  • Child care, either on site, or some amount allocated for these expenses
  • Parking assistance (particularly important in cities where costs are high and free parking is not available)
  • Other expenses, such as cell phone reimbursement if the job requires an employee to carry one

It is important to find out the terms of benefits, such as who is covered, when coverage starts, which benefits are taxable, and if benefits that may not be wanted or needed now can be added at a later date. When evaluating a job offer, it is essential to understand the total salary package.