How to List a Security Clearance on a Resume in 5 Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 23 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Jobs that involve handling sensitive information often require candidates to have a security clearance. Listing this prerequisite in your resume can make you more competitive and enhance your chances of securing such positions. If you want to leverage a security clearance for upcoming employment opportunities, it may be crucial to know how and where to highlight it on your resume. In this article, we define security clearances, highlight when and how to list a security clearance on a resume and give examples to guide you on proper formatting.

What is a security clearance on a resume?

Knowing the meaning of security clearances may help you understand how to list a security clearance on a resume. A security clearance is a status or pass that can grant you access to restricted spaces and sensitive information. It's often a prerequisite for individuals who want to work with the government or military, especially for high-level positions.

You may sometimes require the pass even for non-managerial positions, like caterers and custodians who work close to places or people with sensitive information. Security clearances are also common for jobs in private organisations with access to classified data, such as trade secrets. Civil contractors that handle database resources with sensitive information may also need them.

5 steps on how to list a security clearance on your resume

Here are five steps you can use to list a security clearance on your resume:

1. Research the requirements

Different jobs require different security clearance levels. For instance, several government agencies group positions into three categories, confidential, secret and top secret. The lowest level is confidential clearance. It grants you access to information that can cause minor injury to the national interest if it leaks. Next is secret clearance for employees handling classified data that can severely injure the national interest if it leaks. The top-secret level allows access to highly sensitive information that can cause irreparable injury to the national interest in case of disclosure.

Researching the job's clearance level requirements can help you avoid compromising yourself and your former colleagues by only disclosing essential information. While it may be okay to mention your clearance level, former workplace and previous roles, you may withhold the following details unless you're applying for a top-secret clearance level position:

  • the specifics of the missions or projects you handled in your previous workplace

  • your supervisor's names

  • specific details of the tools or apps you used in your former positions

  • sensitive details, like statistics relating to your work

2. Highlight your security clearance at the top of the resume

If you've had a security clearance in your previous job or have an active one, mention it immediately because it may be one of the most crucial qualifications. You can list it in the header alongside your contact details, where the hiring managers can easily see it. Begin the header with your name in a prominent font and then write security clearance in a smaller type directly under the name.

You may then include other personal information, like phone number, location, and email address. Some employers may use security clearance levels to select candidates before looking at other qualifications, especially for high-level positions involving the handling of sensitive data. The more prominent your clearance is on the resume, the higher the chances you may have of passing the preliminary selection stage.

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3. Mention it in your resume's professional profile section

A professional profile, usually directly under the contact information section of the header, is where you can write a brief description of yourself, your skills and why you think you're the best candidate for the job. Several people often use it to highlight their educational qualifications and professional experiences, but it's also an excellent place to list your security clearance details.

Besides stating where you studied, your previous workplaces and roles, you may also mention whether you have an active or past clearance. You can also use the professional profile section to clarify your clearance level and why this makes you the best fit for the position. Hiring managers are unlikely to miss these details because they appear at the top of your resume.

Related: How to Write Work Experience on a CV (With Examples)

4. State your clearances under your employment history

The employment history section is another part where you can list your security clearance on your resume. Create relevant bullet points detailing your achievements in each job entry. You may include your security clearances as one of these achievements and even mention your clearance levels if doing so doesn't compromise classified data. If you have past clearance levels that have expired, you can also list them here. The employment history section may also be an opportunity to clarify if you've undergone polygraph tests and background checks for your previous roles and how they relate to the job.

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5. Add a section on your resume for security clearances

You can include a security clearances section in your resume, often towards the bottom of the document. It may increase your chances of passing the preliminary stages by directing the applicant tracking system (ATS) on the clearances. You can create bullet points highlighting each clearance, explaining their levels and validity. A separate security clearance section may also give you more space to highlight how they apply to the job opportunity. You may say that you held a secret-level security clearance while training users about cybersecurity best practices in your previous job, making you a potential fit for the job.

When to list security clearances on your resume

You can list your security clearances on your resume due to the following:

If you're transferring to another military or government job

Mentioning your current security clearance in a military or government position can attract the hiring manager's attention. Government agencies often have shorter processes for granting or renewing security clearances for those who already have one, benefiting your potential employer because they may not require additional background checks. Listing an active security clearance may make you more competitive because it simplifies and shortens the hiring process.

Some employers may not accept transfers of security clearances. If your last polygraph or background check was over ten years ago and your previous job didn't require clearance, your security clearances may not be transferable. Research the organisation's policy on transferability of security clearances before listing them on the resume. If your current clearances are inadmissible, apply for renewals or new ones.

When applying for jobs in private-sector organisations handling sensitive data

Several private-sector jobs require candidates to have security clearance certificates, especially if the positions involve handling classified data. For example, if you're applying for a cybersecurity, aerospace engineering or business analysis position, an active security clearance can significantly enhance your competitiveness. Private sectors rarely support the transfer of clearances. The hiring manager may ask you to take a polygraph test or request a new background check, even if you previously occupied high-level clearance government positions.

Still, mentioning your past clearance can increase your chances of getting the job because it may show the employer that you're not a threat to their sensitive information. Candidates with active clearances are often relatively few, so listing yours can boost your candidacy and enable you to get a higher salary. You can apply for a new clearance certificate or renew the old one before submitting your resume.

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If you want to enhance your candidacy

You can list your active security clearance to enhance your competitiveness when applying for a position that requires no clearance. Hiring managers may associate this credential with trustworthiness, responsibility and integrity, boosting your candidacy. When they see that the government, the military or other private-sector organisations trusted you with their most delicate data, they may interpret the clearance to mean reliability. You can also use clearances to highlight your experiences and previous roles indirectly—for example, having a top-level security clearance level while creating and managing backups at your former workplace.

Examples of security clearances in resume sections

Below are examples of how to list security clearances in various resume sections:

Highlighting the clearance alongside your contact details

Here's how you can include your security clearance in the resume's header:

Wing Chi
Top-Level Security clearance
Sha Tin, Hong Kong
+852 1111 1111

Mentioning your security clearance in the professional profile section

Below is an illustration of how you may highlight your clearances in the resume's professional profile section:

I am a seasoned, reliable cybersecurity expert with a decade of military contractor experience. The job required a top-level security clearance, which is still active.

Listing your security clearances under the employment history section

Here's how you can use the employment history section to highlight your security clearances:

SafeTech | March 2019-April 2022

Chief Information Security Officer

  • conducted cyber awareness staff training programmes

  • held top-level security clearance while testing and deploying cybersecurity software for the company's clients

Creating a security clearance section

You can create a separate section on your resume to present your security clearances:

  • Top-level clearance (April 2019-present)

  • Confidential-level clearance (October 2014-February 2019)

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