Would the government trust me with a security clearance? Oakland University students explored this question on Monday, Feb. 13 during a Career Services event.
The CIA knows that the knowledge students have on the security clearance process is limited. For this reason, agents travel to different universities in an effort to educate people, as well as plug career opportunities within their agency.
Obtaining security clearance is a long process that includes a background check, credit check, medical and psychological exams and a polygraph test. The average process takes nine to 18 months.
CIA appeared in room 202 of Kresge Library with an overview of federal security clearance. The event was presented by guest speaker Kimberly J. (she wouldn’t give her last name for security reasons).
“[Kim] reached out and asked if she could do this event,” said Amy Ring Cebelak, a career consultant at Career Services. “[This event] helps students understand what all goes into it when they start the application process [for the CIA], so they’re educated and informed about it.”
Kimberly went through a detailed overview of the security process, often providing her own life experiences from her 18 years within the agency. She also discussed factors the CIA considers when it looks at people applying for security clearance.
Drug involvement was the first point discussed. Using drugs in the past isn’t much of an issue, as the CIA welcomes people with different life experiences. However, the agency wants people to be drug-free 365 days prior to submitting their applications. Kimberly advised disassociating oneself from people who use drugs. She stated that when she first applied with the agency, she distanced herself from friends who used recreational marijuana.
Criminal conduct and sexual behavior were also big issues discussed. People who have prior records for crimes such as assault and battery, larceny, rape or sexual assault might not have a place within the agency. Incidentally, pending charges may cause complications in the application process.
During the security clearance process, the CIA examines an individual’s financial records. Kimberly stressed that having student debt isn’t an issue, but not paying bills or taxes is. The federal government wants employees who are responsible. The CIA suggests applicants run a credit report on themselves and rectify any problems prior to applying.
Kimberly said to avoid any illegal downloading, as activities on one’s computer at school, home or work is something that is considered. However, this isn’t a deal-breaker.
Additionally, the CIA examines one’s ties with foreign governments and associations with non-U.S. citizens.
Alcohol consumption was another big point discussed. They don’t reject people who consume alcohol responsibly, but they do reject those whose judgement is affected. If the alcohol consumption is so severe that it causes black outs or memory loss, it could result in someone accidentally disclosing secrets.
The CIA does not reject all individuals who have psychological conditions. If one is seeing a doctor and being treated, these conditions are perfectly fine, as long as it doesn’t affect one’s performance within the organization.
The event concluded with Kimberly answering questions.
The CIA wants people who are hardworking, candid, responsible and patient. Most of all, it wants people who can keep secrets, are trustworthy and whose first loyalty is to America. It doesn’t want people who could be blackmailed.
For anyone who’s not yet sure what path to take, working for the CIA or federal government may be careers worth considering. They welcome all types of occupations, from engineers to makeup artists.
“I’m interested in the CIA because I’m a criminal justice homeland security major, so I’ll probably apply [at some point],” student Genevieve Smith said.
The CIA is currently accepting applications online for summer 2018 internships. For those seeking more information on the CIA, visit cia.gov/careers.