If you are reading this, chances are you or your child has applied for employment with the National Security Agency, the federal agency responsible for securing the nation’s communications and providing signals intelligence to America’s policy makers and military forces.
The hiring process can sometimes be daunting for those unfamiliar with the various steps. This portal is designed to provide you with information on what to expect, as well as answers to frequently asked questions.
NSA offers a wide variety of programs for students in high school up through doctoral candidates. Visit our Student Programs page for details on opportunities, requirements, criteria and application deadlines.
Only U.S. citizens are eligible for NSA employment. Individuals who hold dual citizenship are not precluded from applying for positions at NSA. Dual citizenship may raise questions about foreign preference or loyalty, and will need to be resolved before a security clearance can be granted. These concerns will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.
- Equal Opportunity Employer
NSA is an Equal Opportunity Employer. All applicants for employment are considered without regard to age, color, disability, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, or status as a parent.
- Minimum Age Restrictions
The minimum age of employment as a High School Work Study (HSWS) or High School Gifted and Talented STEM Program participant is 16 (please see job postings for specifics). For all other student positions, there is a minimum age requirement of 18.
- Drug-Free Workplace
Employees of and applicants to NSA are subject to random urinalysis testing in accordance with NSA/CSS Policy 4-1, ’NSA/CSS Drug Abuse and Civilian Drug Deterrence Policy,’ and Executive Order 12564 ’Drug-free Federal Workplace.’ To read the Executive Order, please refer to the OPM website.
In addition, employees and applicants must not use illegal drugs or misuse prescription medications. During the pre-employment applicant process, a urine test may be required to detect the presence of illegal or controlled substances in an applicant's system. Positive test results or refusal to be tested will be considered in determining an applicant’s eligibility for employment, and may be the basis for denial of employment.
NSA employees must sign nepotism agreements for any family member who is processing for employment with the agency. Furthermore, Title 5 of the United States Code restricts any public official from advocating a relative’s appointment, employment promotion or advancement anywhere in the public official’s own agency or in an agency over which the official exercises jurisdiction or control.
You must apply online for a position to be considered for employment. When you apply at NSA, you now have the opportunity to share your resume with other agencies in the Intelligence Community.
For tips on how to use the application site, visit our Job Search/Apply page.
The application timeline begins once a candidate is sourced against a need. Processing timelines can vary significantly depending on the applicant, the agency or the job opening. Visit our Application Process page for more information.
The National Security Agency’s hiring process addresses both employment suitability and security reliability issues. To obtain a security clearance for NSA employment, applicants must satisfy the criteria found in Executive Order 12968 and Intelligence Community Directive (ICD) Number 704.
The hiring process includes, but is not limited to, psychological screening, a polygraph interview (view our polygraph brochure* and video, The Truth About the Polygraph), and an extensive background investigation.
Additionally, all applicants and employees are subject to random drug testing in accordance with Executive Order 12564. We strongly recommend that you answer questions completely, candidly and truthfully.
Obtaining a Security Clearance
You must be granted a security clearance before the hiring process can be finalized. The government considers many factors when granting security clearances, including citizenship, drug use and personal integrity and conduct.
The clearance process begins when you accept a conditional job offer of employment (CJO) from NSA. It involves an examination of your life history and fitness to safeguard the nation’s secrets.
Think of this process as the first step in building a bridge of trust between you and NSA. During the investigation, we examine your loyalty to the United States, strength of your character, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion and soundness of judgment.
In addition, we want to make sure you are free from conflicting allegiances to other countries; are not a potential risk for coercion; and are willing and able to abide by regulations governing the use, handling and protection of sensitive information. A polygraph exam will be required to check the veracity of the information provided.
NSA recognizes that no one is perfect. Security officials consider the nature, extent, seriousness, and recency of past questionable behavior and the likelihood of its recurrence. Officials carefully weigh all available information – favorable and unfavorable, both past and present, including mitigating factors – to make a security clearance access determination.
The background investigation helps determine the applicant’s honesty, trustworthiness, reliability, discretion and unquestioned loyalty to the United States.
Previous and current employment, education and residences are verified. Interviews are conducted with knowledgeable sources, such as friends, neighbors, supervisors and co-workers. Finally, an interview with the applicant takes place to review the completed security forms and discuss the topics necessary to help NSA adjudicate the applicant’s eligibility for a security clearance.
During the operational interview the applicants should wear business attire. This can include a nice dress shirt, blouse, tie, dress pants, skirt/dress, and or suit jacket. On days that the applicant has only security and psychological processing, business casual attire is acceptable. This can include a polo, sweater, dress shirt, blouse, dress pants, or skirt/dress. Jeans, tennis shoes and flip-flops are not recommended.
Your recruiter can provide a better idea of what attire can be expected once you are hired. The agency does not officially have a dress code, but we recommend business casual attire for most of our employees throughout the summer. Depending on the program, dress can be more relaxed.
Travel costs are reimbursed for applicants located more than 75 miles away from Fort Meade. Your recruiter will contact you with instructions to secure transportation to and from your processing site with OMEGA World Travel. Usually this type of transportation is by airplane, but trains and buses are available as well.
Discretion and Privacy
We request that you use discretion when discussing your application for employment. You may tell family members or close friends that you’re applying at NSA, otherwise we ask that you simply state that you have applied for a position with the Department of Defense. We also suggest that you refrain from discussing details of your employment processing on social networking sites.
Many well-meaning parents and family members may be interested in the status of an applicant being considered for one of our student programs. However, NSA is not at liberty to share any information with individuals other than the applicant due to privacy concerns.
While our goal is to offer candidates employment in a student program, competition can be extremely tough, and not all candidates are hired.
Compensation and benefits may vary depending on the program, but generally, students are paid a competitive salary commensurate with their education level. They also receive paid time off, holiday and sick leave, subsidized housing assistance (if eligible), and travel reimbursement (if eligible). Mentorship programs and extracurricular activities also are available.
The culture of NSA is very supportive. The people in the agency care immensely about each other; many even say it is like a family. New hires are welcomed to NSA and are assigned mentors to help them become acclimated to the culture.
Upon entering the program, you will be assigned a mentor within your department who will answer your questions and help you to adjust to the agency. Some activities include lunches, regular “catch-up” meetings and introductions to other agency employees.
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)
An ERG is a group of employees who are affiliated by race/ethnicity, or common interests. They provide unique perspectives on career development, EEOD and diversity goals. NSA’s ERG Program currently includes the following groups:
- African American
- American Indian/ Alaskan Native
- American Veteran
- Asian American/ Pacific Islander
- English as a Second Language
- Hispanic/ Latino
- Islamic Culture
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Allies
- Next Gen
- People with Disabilities
Summer Intern/Co-op Housing
Co-op students and summer interns who attend schools in access of 75 miles from Fort Meade are eligible for housing assistance. Students are placed with 3 other students in a 2BR, 2BA apartment.
NSA covers at least 25% of the housing cost, and students split the remainder equally with their roommates. Students must provide credit/debit card information to our housing vendor, which will bill students monthly. All utilities are included – electric, gas, water, Wi-Fi, basic cable – and there are currently no charges for parking. Basic cleaning is provided once a month, however, students are expected to clean the apartment since random checks should be expected during their stay.
Apartments are furnished with a washer and dryer, four twin beds, two nightstands, two dressers, a sofa, chairs, TV, end table, lamp and dining table with four chairs. The full kitchen is supplied with dishes, silverware, pots, pans, and cooking utensils, in addition to an oven, microwave, dishwasher and refrigerator. Linens (including shower curtain) are supplied, but are limited, so we encourage students to bring extra towels and sheets.
Stokes Program Housing
Students accepted into this program will be placed with 1 other student in a 2BR, 2BA apartment. NSA covers 100% of the housing costs, and will also provide transportation to and from work each day during the summer. Students live in apartments with the same furnishings as the summer interns and co-op students listed above, with some minor exceptions.
If students are unable or unwilling to live in NSA housing, recruiters can help connect them with other students who are looking for alternative accommodations. Odenton and Columbia, Md., are a short distance from NSA and are located close to shopping areas, grocery stores and other recreational activities.
All students who are eligible for housing will live approximately 15 to 30 minutes (including traffic) from their work assignments. For those without transportation, the agency will make an effort to place students in complexes where multiple apartments are being rented by NSA interns to encourage carpooling.