The value of a spy-quality resume

A new National Security Agency (NSA) data center is seen June 10, 2013 in Bluffdale, Utah. The revelations about the agency's data collection have put pressure on tech companies to develop more secure alternatives.

Earlier today, the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton announced it has fired Edward Snowden, the man who revealed details of secret NSA programs that track phone and internet messages:

Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, was an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. Snowden, who had a salary at the rate of $122,000, was terminated June 10, 2013 for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy. News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.

Snowden used to work for the government. He was a computer technician for the CIA -- a job that requires a security clearance. That is something that is very attractive to companies like Booz Allen Hamilton.

Maggie New is a career counselor at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.  A diploma is important, she counsels students, but so is another credential.

“The clearance is your ticket,” she says. “You know, it’s like having a degree. You need it.”

New advises students to take internships that require a security clearance. They can get it out of the way early. And when students get clearance, New tells them to put it at the top of the resume, right next to their alma mater. It’s that important.

“There are many companies -- consulting companies -- that only will interview people who have a clearance already,” she says.

Donald Daniel used to work for the Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Today, he is a professor of security studies at Georgetown University.

According to Daniel, a national security contracting boom started after Sept. 11. There were new demands on the intelligence community.

“The growth was so huge that there was no way to do it without going outside the government,” he says.

Today, an estimated five million Americans have some kind of security clearance.

Applicants for consulting jobs who’ve been cleared by the government are attractive because they could start right away.

David Van Slyke, a professor of public administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, says that companies know that, practically speaking, those applicants are a safer bet.

“Getting something like a security clearance is a very time-consuming and often expensive proposition.”

It’s something an employer would prefer to avoid. The whole process can take months, and Van Slyke says it can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.

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