The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) encompasses so much more than just border patrols. Today’s DHS also controls citizenship and immigration, emergency management, the fight against terrorism, the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and even the U.S. Secret Service.
There are also federal law enforcement training centers (FLETC) headquartered in Glynco, GA, and schools across the U.S. and in other countries under the umbrella of DHS. But you don’t have to go to one of these schools to get a homeland security degree and get your career off on the right foot.
What Homeland Security Does
At its core, homeland security is about anticipating, preparing for, preventing and reacting to dangerous diseases, natural disasters, and of course, terrorism. Anything, in fact, that threatens the U.S. Because of the nature of the work (keeping people safe), there are more kinds of jobs than you can imagine, even abroad from the U.S.
- You could work for FEMA as a fire, flood, or national security specialist.
- You could work as an air marshal with the TSA.
- You might work as a detention officer in immigration and customs.
- If you work in science and technology, you might be a biologist, chemist, computer scientist, engineer, or cybersecurity specialist.
- If you work for TSA or the Secret Service, you might be a criminal investigator or diplomatic security special agent.
- If you are interested in working abroad, you could find a place as a consular officer.
The list goes on and on, and there’s no one job description that defines the Department of Homeland Security. The career you pursue depends on you: your interests, your desire, your aptitude, your training, your commitment.
Keep reading to learn more about the DHS and the training you’ll need to join the ranks.
Skills You’ll Need
Jobs within the DHS are so diverse that there’s no one profile that fits everyone. However, there are fairly common personality traits you’ll need if you want to work for the law enforcement branches of DHS:
- You have a desire to serve
- You are a good problem solver
- You can take and give orders
- You’re dependable
- You keep cool under pressure
- You like interacting with people
- You think and act quickly and efficiently
- You’re practical
As you saw above, it’s also impossible to give one homeland security salary for every profession. After all, there are over 200,000 people who work for DHS domestically and internationally.
With a homeland security degree, salary expectations may be healthy. Here are some median annual salaries for common jobs you’ll find in the department:
|Computer Systems Analyst||$93,730|
|Emergency Management Director||$76,250|
|Police and Detectives||$67,290|
|Information Security Analyst||$103,590|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2020 edition
The salary information listed is based on national median salaries, unless noted. Conditions in your area may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and a variety of other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.
There were over 795,000 police and detectives in the U.S. in 2020, the latest year for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has data. (There is no specific information for those jobs within DHS.)
And employment in law enforcement is expected to grow 7% through 2030, which is right at the national average for all careers. The BLS predicts that continued interest in public safety will lead to new job openings for police officers.
The Department of Homeland Security is always looking for good men and women to join the effort to keep America safe. Check online at usajobs.com to see what jobs are currently available in your city. At the time of writing, DSH was looking to fill the following job openings:
- Emergency management specialist
- Emergency mitigation specialist
- Criminal investigator
- Personnel security specialist
A common path to get into the Department of Homeland Security is to get a law enforcement degree or a degree in criminal justice. Law enforcement and corrections management are other popular degree options.
All of these programs will give you the background you need to participate in this segment of homeland security. You’ll learn about search and seizure, the laws of evidence, the criminal (and terrorist) mind, and more, in an effort to protect your fellow citizens.
What You’ll Study: A degree in criminal justice with a minor in homeland security will give you the background knowledge and skills to work with the DHS. You’ll take the following classes, and more:
- Intro to Homeland Security (HS)
- Intro to Criminal Justice
- Correctional Administration
- Criminal Investigation
- Drug Abuse and Crime
- HS and Intelligence
- HS and International Relations
- Legal and Political Issues
- Law Enforcement Administration
- Security Management
Length of Program: Depending on the degree you choose to pursue (associate’s or bachelor’s), you can expect to spend two to four years getting your college education in criminal justice, law enforcement, or homeland security.
A homeland security master’s degree may help you break into senior or administrative roles. Or, why not get a homeland security degree online, to make it all the more convenient?
Homeland Security Master’s Degrees: If you aspire to management positions or want to give yourself an edge over the competition (many of these jobs are very competitive), a homeland security master’s degree is your best option.