A surprising number of engineering jobs require security clearance. After all, lots of government agencies and public sector organisations employ mechanical engineers and electrical engineers – and they need to know that those engineers are fine, upstanding members of the community who won’t be selling state secrets on the Dark Web.
But is security clearance as James Bond as it sounds? Does it mean the government will find out what you did in Ibiza in 2005? How does the security clearance process work? Not really. Probably not. And we’re about to tell you…
What is security clearance?
Because some mechanical engineering and electrical engineering jobs might involve access to sensitive information, the government might carry out certain checks to make sure you can be trusted with that info.
There are four levels of security clearance:
· Baseline Personnel Security Standard – the most basic level of security clearance
· Security Check – this is the most common level
· Counter-Terrorism Check – a more in-depth check for areas that might be vulnerable to terrorist attack
· Developed Vetting – the Big Daddy of security clearance
Eye-watering medical tests, blood oaths at midnight in a dark field, supplying pay slips dating back to the year of your conception… Luckily, getting security clearance isn’t as painful as all that.
When you apply for government engineering jobs, the organisation hiring you will arrange the relevant security checks, depending on the level of vetting needed for that engineering work. The hirer (which might be a government employee or an approved external contractor) acts as your ‘sponsor’ – and you can’t get clearance without a sponsor.
At the most basic level, you’ll need to prove your identity and fill in a criminal record declaration. For higher levels of clearance, you may be subject to more detailed background checks, including a credit check. The whole process takes anywhere from a couple of days to 12 weeks, depending on the level of clearance.
How long does it last?
Like your youth, and the hangover from that trip to Ibiza, security clearance doesn’t last forever. But it’ll usually last for a set period (e.g. 12 months) after your employment or project ends – great news if you’re looking for more security-cleared engineering work as you probably won’t have to go through the clearance process again within that timeframe (unless your new role needs higher clearance).
If you’re a mechanical or electrical engineer, gaining security clearance can dramatically open up the range of exciting engineering jobs available to you. If you’re looking to get into security cleared engineering work, or already have security clearance, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01183177200.