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Advice for obtaining defense roles without clearance


Brent Warner Torrance, CA

Hi all,
I was an active-duty Army Warrant Officer aviator from 2005-2013, completed a BS in Mechanical Engineering in 2016, and a full-time MBA in 2019. I'm seeking project/program management roles only within California, due to my wife's work restrictions.

I've been applying to defense roles since January 2019 and have only obtained two initial interviews, based on 200 applications submitted across 15 companies (these two interviews were essentially finished once they realized I don't have a clearance). I've supplemented these online applications with networking with veterans/school alumni at the companies I'm interested in, cold emailing recruiters, and attending veteran-specific career fairs in my area.

Additionally, since most companies now require that you supply minimum salary preferences in the initial online application, I've lowered mine to $75,000, which for Southern California is an undergrad's starting salary.

While recruiters and those I've networked with have stated my resume and applications are competitive, I continue to receive job rejection notices. The key issue seems to be that my Secret security clearance expired in Sep 2015 and most of the roles I'm qualified for require a clearance. If the role doesn't require a clearance, then it's listed as a preferred attribute.

My question is how should I approach recruiting for defense/aerospace roles, specifically in project/program management, when I don't have a clearance but I shouldn't have any issues obtaining one?


3 June 2019 2 replies Military to Civilian Transition



Jeanie Wade Linthicum Heights, MD

Hello Brent - You ask a good question. There are a few issues at play here:
First, there is a backlog of clearance requests, so it takes a long time to get a clearance or to get a clearance reinstated (sometimes a year or more). This is especially true given how long ago your clearance lapsed.

Second, more of the work in the defense and aerospace industry requires a clearance, especially for engineers and program managers.

Since most of the open positions require a clearance, when positions open that do not require an active clearance to start, the competition for those positions is fierce. If you have experience as a PM that will help, but if you have not yet had the opportunity to manage a program, you may be losing out to those who have that experience.

All of what I have said above is especially true in California where the job market is very tight right now.

Have you thought about checking out alternate positions that could eventually lead to a program management position, such as Manufacturing Engineer or Logistics Engineer.

Once you get a position that doesn't require a clearance, the company may be able to put you in for a clearance which would open new career paths.

4 June 2019 Helpful answer


Brent Warner Torrance, CA


Thanks for the thorough response!

I've begun applying for more entry-level roles, which don't require a clearance, and I've started receiving interview requests. I haven't received offers to interview for engineering roles but I have for business analyst and pricing positions.

It's good to know that once I'm in, switching roles is possible, because applying to positions I'm over-qualified for which also are lower pay was disappointing.

However, I'm trying to focus on getting in with a company I admire, at any level, and then working my way up.


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