Applying for clearance jobs without knowing if my clearance would be approved?

I won’t use this post to go into “what are my chances based on what I did” but basically due to some drug experimentation in college I can’t say for certain I will be able to get a clearance right now. From what I’ve read it could honestly go either way so I don’t want to totally count myself out but there’s definitely reason for concern. The problem is my understanding is that the only way to get approved or denied for a clearance is to become employed at a company that then starts the process.

I am looking at entry level jobs that list “ability to get a security clearance” as a requirement. Should I just not bother with them? Should I apply and tell them right away what might affect my ability to get a clearance? Or should I get further along in the application process before telling them so they see my skills first and don’t just throw my application out? I think it’s clear that I should not take a job and just quietly cross my fingers on the clearance because presumably if it gets rejected I’ll be fired and be known as very unprofessional.

Is there any sort of government pre-screening that gets done on applicants that determines how likely they are to be cleared before they’re hired?

If you’ve never had a clearance job before, your “ability to get a clearance” has never been proved out before, so it’s not an impediment – you don’t know.

I think if you look through this forum, you’ll see a number of posts from or about people with significant mistakes in their past (avoiding taxes, criminal convictions, substance abuse, etc.) who were able to receive clearances after a thorough background check. I wouldn’t lead with that information to your employer in interviews or at the point of an offer, but would disclose it to the government in your SF86 and any investigation questions – the issue is less what you did in the past than your willingness to disclose it.

If you’re seeking a contractor job with a clearance, generally they give you 45-60 days to get the right level of clearance to do your job, which might even be an interim clearance while your full background investigation takes several months. If you provide truthful info to the government up front and can get your interim, you’re generally in good shape for formal clearance.

Let’s say you get the interim and then do get rejected for some reason… At that point, you’ll hopefully have several months of impressive employment with them and can parlay that into a different role, or at least a personal recommendation from them… And that may be the only way you find out where you really stand.

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Don’t let anything stop you from applying for jobs requiring a clearance. The bigger risk is that may job will not allow you to start work at all until your clearance is approved. In this case you could be waiting 18 months and you don’t want to just sit around during that time. You need to make sure that you are applying for non-cleared positions as well. Never put all of your eggs in the clearance basket.

You don’t need to discuss your past with your prospective employer until your are asked. This may not come up until you are filling out your SF86 but they may question you before hand. Was there any police involvement over your “experimentation”? Was it REALLY experimentation? Or, did you smoke every week for four years in college and then stop? How old are you now? When did you stop? Why? Do you still hang with the same crowd?

These answers are all going to come into play . . .



From your post, it is unclear when was the last drug use. Also, it is unclear if it is still ongoing. If you want to gauge your chance, I will suggest you to search this forum.

Lastly, if you are unsure… I suggest you to talk to a security clearance professionals (ie: security officers, attorneys, etc.). I would NOT suggest you to make an uninformed decision.


Although many people worry a lot about whether or not they will get cleared, the bigger question is likely to be, when will I finally get cleared? Two years is not out of the question. So are you prepared to more or less put your life on hold waiting for the clearance to come through, all the time freaking out if you will get cleared?

If you think you can handle that, go for it.

As for drug use, my old rule of thumb was two years of abstinence but it seems like now it is more like one year (if we are only talking about ‘experimentation’ or limited use). That’s a rule of thumb. Thumbs come in all sizes.


My client is lenient up to age 24. If you have not used in 12 months you technically meet the standard. But the amount you used in college also gets factored in as both Ed and Wood explained. Different agencies have different size thumbs as Squirrel said. This is where this comes down to more art than science and somewhat alchemy. If you were a regular user of recreational drugs, not unusual for college, I would wait 2 solid years to apply for cleared positions. If you were a heavy user…define that one for yourself…it may require up to 3 years abstinence.

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