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Hiring Requirements

Qualifications for NSA employment depend on the position for which you are applying. Specific education and skill requirements are defined for available positions in the Apply Online section. All applicants must be U.S. citizens. You must also be eligible to obtain a high-level security clearance.

Our Hiring Process
Because the people of NSA carry out some of the country's most important and sensitive intelligence activities, our hiring process must address both employment suitability and security reliability issues. Applicants can expect their hiring process to include medical screening, a polygraph interview, drug test, and an extensive background investigation.

There is no "typical" application processing time. However, since every applicant is required to have a Top Secret/Special Intelligence clearance, you should expect that the process is longer than normally experienced in private industry (usually 45-60 days).

If you are identified as competitively qualified for a position, the average time for processing is generally three to six months, but depending on a variety of individual factors, the processing time may take up to approximately a year.

Those factors may include:

  • When the vacancy announcement/requisition is advertised
  • The length of time a resume remains in the resume file before it is matched to a vacancy (some resumes and skills may not match NSA's vacancy requirements)
  • The skills, education, and experience of the applicant
  • The applicant's competitiveness with other candidates applying for NSA positions
  • The length of time an individual takes to complete the security/application forms and return them to NSA
  • Each applicant's availability to visit NSA Headquarters in Fort Meade, MD for operational interviews, testing, and security processing (may require several visits)
  • The complexity of each applicant's security processing requirements (i.e., places lived, foreign associations, employment history, overseas travel, accuracy of information provided, etc.)

The Clearance Process
The clearance process can be lengthy. Each applicant is unique in terms of life experience and background. Factors include the location and number of investigative interviews required (i.e. a person with several employers and residences will likely take longer to investigate than a person with only one residence or employer during the period of investigation).

The background investigation helps determine the applicant's honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, discretion, and unquestioned loyalty to the United States. During the background investigation, previous and current employment, education and residence are verified, and interviews are conducted with knowledgeable sources such as friends, neighbors, supervisors, and co-workers. In addition, credit and police checks are conducted to ensure that the applicant meets the high personnel security standards for access to Sensitive Compartmented Information. A personal interview with each applicant is conducted to review the security forms completed and discuss the required topics necessary to help NSA adjudicate the applicant's eligibility for a security clearance.

Our best word of advice is to be completely candid during the security processing and your cooperation will help the security process go more smoothly and quickly. This begins with completing all the security forms completely and honestly.

For questions concerning the application process, please contact NSA Recruitment & Staffing at 1-866-NSA-HIRE (1-866-672-4473) or e-mail

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Date Posted: Jan 15, 2009 | Last Modified: Jan 15, 2009 | Last Reviewed: Jan 15, 2009