"Mini-Guide" to Homeland Security Degrees Online
People who work in homeland security anticipate, prepare for, prevent, and react to everything from pandemics to hurricanes to terrorism. These workers help to reduce our Nation's vulnerabilities and to minimize the damage from catastrophic events.
Homeland security is a dynamic and diverse career field. Like security threats themselves, the work required to protect the Nation is constantly changing. That work cuts across numerous disciplines, creating job possibilities for people with nearly any level of education and experience. Options exist both for those who like to be in the foreforont and for those who prefer to work in the background.
1. What is the Department of Homeland Security?
The Department of Homeland Security is an arm of the Federal Government made up of several different agencies united by one mission: to protect the United States. This means that its inhabitants lead safer lives and are better taken care of when domestic emergencies arise.
2. What is the focus of homeland security?
When it comes to protecting an entire nation, there are unfortunately as many different kinds of threats to our way of life as there are ways of living. A terrorist plot may threaten the immediate safety of targeted Americans, while an oncoming hurricane could destroy an entire region. Drugs coming across American borders threaten the safety of communities affected by crime, while foreign plant and animal life could terrorize local ecology. And while refugees must be guaranteed safe passage to their new homes in America, an uncontrolled influx of illegal immigrants could overtax an area's resources.
3. What agencies comprise the Department of Homeland Security?
Fortunately, there are different agencies within the Department of Homeland Security designed to address all of these potential problems. Under the DHS umbrella, more than 200,000 employees have responsibilities associated with protecting the homeland, making it the third largest Cabinet department. A number of major agencies and their primary duties are described below.
- The United States Coast Guard is the nation's primary maritime law enforcement agency. Both civilians and military personnel work for the U.S. Coast Guard to operate ports, ensure Americans' safety at sea, fight piracy and other illegal activity on the water, including environmental violations.
- Customs and Border Protection (CBP) do similar work on land, making sure that contraband does not make it across American borders. They are also responsible for apprehending individuals who attempt to enter the United States illegally.
- Welcoming immigrants into the United States falls to another agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Employees in this agency adjudicate benefit applications and petitions, and provide customer service to immigrant populations while helping them through the process of achieving U.S. citizenship. The largest investigative arm of the DHS is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which, in addition to enforcing immigration and customs laws, provides security to Federal facilities.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, plays the primary role in emergency prevention, response, and recovery throughout the nation. They help local governments to create infrastructures designed to handle all types of hazards, from terrorist threats to national disasters. These days, there is a greater emphasis than ever on citizen preparedness in regard to these threats.
- The Secret Service is charged with the very important responsibility of protecting the United States' top leaders and officials. They provide security to the President and Vice President, heads of state, and their respective families and homes. They also investigate any and all threats against those under their protection.
- Supplying and distributing the resources for all the different DHS agencies falls to the Management Directorate. They provide human resource and administration services, work on budgeting, procurement, and even IT work for their colleagues across the department. The Science and Technology Directorate researches and develops the cutting-edge software and other technology that keeps the entire Department of Homeland Security doing its job at the height of modern capability.
As you can see, the Department of Homeland Security encompasses a wide and varied network of subcomponents and agencies, each of which has specific and serious tasks to carry out in the name of protecting the nation.
4. Who can apply to work for DHS? What qualifications do I need?
First, and most importantly, you need to be a United States citizen to apply for any job within the Department of Homeland Security. Both civilians and military personnel are invited to apply for jobs within DHS, with special consideration given to Americans with veteran status.
Candidates with high school diplomas qualify for certain jobs, while those with bachelor's degree or higher qualify for others. Extensive background checks, along with drug tests, are par for the course.
In most cases, and depending on the agency, a test is administered to gauge a candidate's proficiency and likelihood of succeeding in their chosen area of homeland security.
5. How do I know if I am well suited for a career in homeland security?
Successful candidates for jobs with homeland security will have:
- A crime-free, drug-free background
- Good personal and professional references
- Respect for authority
- Ability to maintain good judgment when making autonomous decisions in the face of delicate and difficult situations
- Adaptability to varied and extreme work environments, from the high seas to the Canadian border; from research laboratories to government office.
6. What are some benefits of working for homeland security?
Although there are thousands of different jobs within the DHS, its employees enjoy benefits common to all government personnel:
- Competitive wages
- Health care for the employee and his or her family
- Paid vacation
- Generous pensions
- The gratification of knowing the nation is safer because of your work!
7. What courses can I expect to take to get a degree in homeland security?
- Introduction to Homeland Security
- Introduction to Sociology
- Terrorism: Origins, Ideologies, and Goals
- Homeland Security Technology & Systems
- Fundamentals of Transportation Security
- Emergent Topics in Homeland Security
- Homeland Security Law and Policy
- Environmental Security
- Critical Infrastructure and Risk Analysis
- Fundamentals of Emergency Management
- Regulatory Issues in Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Counter Terrorism Strategy & Policy
- Border and Coastal Security
- Terrorism & Emergency Management
- Chemical and Biological Defense
- Chemistry of Hazardous Materials
- Introduction to Industrial Security
- Fire Safety and Risk Reduction
- Emergency and Disaster Preparedness
- IT Security: Attack and Defense
- Protecting Critical Infrastructure
- World Regional Geography
8. What job opportunities exist in the Department of Homeland Security?
This list is in no way all-inclusive, but some DHS jobs for which you could qualify are:
Citizenship & Immigration Services
- Asylum officer
- Immigration officer
Customs and Border Patrol
- Border patrol agent
- Import specialist
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
- Federal coordinating officer
- Program specialist (fire, national security, response, recovery, preparedness, and mitigation)
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
- Law enforcement specialist
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- Detention and deportation officer
- Police officer
- Immigration enforcement agent
- Security specialist
Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate
- Protective security advisor
- Intelligence operations specialist
- IT specialist (information security)
- Security specialist
- Telecommunications specialist
Office of the Inspector General
Science and Technology Directorate
- Biological scientist
- Computer scientist
- Human resources specialist
- Policy analyst
Transportation and Security Administration
- Criminal investigator
- Intelligence operations specialist
- Program and management analyst
- Transportation security screener
U.S. Coast Guard
- Contract specialist
U.S. Secret Service
- Criminal investigator
9. What is the average salary for someone who works for homeland security?
Because there are so many different jobs which fall under the category of homeland security, salaries range widely. But climbing the ranks can be lucrative.