How to get security clearance for IT jobs

When you apply for a role within the UK defence or public sectors, you will likely need to obtain security clearance before you can begin your work.

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If the role you’re applying for requires you to be security cleared, the relevant security checks will be arranged by your recruitment consultant but will be carried out by a Government agency.

It’s important to note that, just because you’ve been security cleared before, it doesn’t mean you are exempt from further security checks in the future. National security policies change, the expectations of organisations differ and responsibilities within different jobs vary.

So what is security clearance?

Essentially, security clearance is a series of checks that determine your level of risk when working with sensitive and potentially secret government information. Jonathan Martin, IT recruitment specialist, explains more:

“Security clearance is about making sure the people working with sensitive and potentially secret information are trustworthy individuals who will keep that information private and safe. For example, a Systems Engineer working on military procurement programs will naturally have access to sensitive information about new warship specifications so the stakeholders of the project, including the Government, need to make sure that the person in that role is responsible and doesn’t pose a threat to security.”

The 4 types of security clearance

There are four different levels of security checks, each differing in depth depending on what the role you’re applying for entails: Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) Counter-Terrorism Check (CTC), Security Check (SC) and Developed Vetting (DV).


is the most basic and low-level of the checks and tends to be used in the pre-employment stage. Its aim is to ascertain how trustworthy a prospective candidate is through checking their identity, employment history and criminal record. For more information, click here.

is the next highest-level check and is for those who’ll be working with sensitive data, those who are vulnerable to terrorist attacks and those who work in areas that have unrestricted access to certain government or commercial establishments. For example, a mechanical engineer conducting maintenance on ships in a naval dockyard.

is the highest level of security clearance and is for those who’ll have substantial unsupervised access to top secret assets or will be working with intelligence and security agencies, like MI5 (Security Service) or the NCA (National Crime Agency).

is the most common level of clearance and is for jobs which would give the candidate access to secret government assets or occasional controlled access to top secret assets. This involves the checking of MI5 records, credit checks, staff reports from employers and, sometimes, a face-to-face interview. This kind of check tends to be renewed and reviewed on a ten-yearly basis.



How do you obtain security clearance?

If a role requires you to be security cleared, the relevant security checks will be arranged by the person hiring you but will be carried out by a Government agency. As a minimum, you’ll be asked to prove your identity (including your nationality and immigration status) and complete a Criminal Record Declaration Form. Higher levels of clearance tend to require more intense background checks on your criminal record, a credit reference check and a security service check.

How long does security clearance take?

Depending on the level of vetting required, security clearance can take anywhere between 1-2 days (BPSS), 6-8 weeks (CTC) or nine months (DV, CTC and DV), with Security Checks (SC) taking between 4-12 weeks.

Jonathan Martin offers advice to help speed up the process:

“The forms can be complicated, especially if you’re filling them out for the first time. My advice is to read the guidelines thoroughly and complete the security paperwork as soon as possible – if you delay on this, it will only make the process longer. Be sure to triple check the forms before processing them; mistakes or missing information will extend the time it takes for clearance to be processed.”

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