What is homeland security?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in 2002. Its primary goal is to protect the nation from a variety of threats, both local and international. Homeland security personnel face distinctive situations that often require specialized training.
For this reason, the standard criminal justice and law enforcement degrees aren’t adequate preparation for this type of career. Many schools offer security programs covering specific topics such as border security, counterterrorism, and emergency response.
Anyone interested in providing safety and guidance to citizens during crises or even day-to-day life may enjoy a career in homeland security. As a potential candidate, you should be determined and compassionate, with the ability to maintain your composure and courage during catastrophes.
You must be able to work well within a team and be able to follow directions. During your studies, you’ll be trained in I.T., finance, healthcare, and sometimes military operations. A key trait to have is strong analytical skills as part of the job entails evaluating research data.
The growth rate in opportunities for homeland security jobs is increasing from year to year. For example, the expected job outlook rate for an Information Security Analyst for the period of 2019-2029 is 31%, which is much faster than the average rate of 4% of similar professions. On the other hand, police and detective careers expect a rate of 5% for the same period. More specialized positions require a higher education level and training, but this sector’s growth prospects for students are promising.
On the other hand, police and detective careers expect a rate of 5% for the same period. More specialized positions require a higher education level and training, but this sector’s growth prospects for students are promising
There are a couple of ways that you can get started in a career in homeland security. Various degrees are available, starting from associate’s degrees and going all the way up to doctoral in homeland security.
- If you want to sign up for an associate’s degree you’ll need a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED. You can complete an associate’s degree at a community college, but that doesn’t need to be your starting point. You can apply directly for a bachelor’s degree if you meet the college’s requirements.
- To get admission into the bachelor’s program, you’ll need to submit an SAT or ACT score with most applications. Schools don’t always ask for specific scores, but they expect at least
- 15 on the ACT or 1,000 on the SAT. Other requirements include a high school transcript and 2 letters of recommendation from people who know your academic and work history.
- Many colleges offer the degree online, while others allow you to take a full-time campus program. Hybrid programs may be college-specific, so it’s best to find out from your chosen school if it has this option.
- The degree you choose depends on what career you want to pursue. If you want to be a firefighter, then an associate’s degree is an excellent start. However, there’s a lot of other training that you need to get through to qualify as a firefighter.
Below are some career options and the required qualification
|Police Officer/Firefighter||High school diploma/associates degree (extra training required)|
|Corrections Officer||Associate’s degree (extra training required)|
|Emergency Management Director, Information Security Analyst, FBI Agent||Bachelor’s degree|
|Intelligence Officer, Computer and Information Systems Managers||Master’s degree|
|Fire/Police Chief||Master’s degree|
The 2 primary certifications are:
- A Certified Homeland Protection Professional (CHPP) Certification
- NSA/GSHNSP Certified Homeland Protection Associate attestation consisting of levels I-IV (CHPA)
These were established by the Global Society of Homeland Security Professionals and the National Sheriff’s Association. The primary aim is to certify that individuals have proven their knowledge, competency, skills, and aptitude in the discipline of homeland protection through a rigorous qualification program.
You’ll need to pass specific requirements to become certified. The CHPP has the following minimum criteria:
- Must be 21 years or older
- No felony convictions, disciplinary action records, or dishonorable discharges from the U.S. military
- 4 years of experience as a responder, security officer, emergency manager, or similar
- A degree is recommended with a minimum score of 80%
Those who have been awarded a level I through IV CHPA have demonstrated to future employers that they are ready to begin their careers. The certifications provide an objective way of distinguishing highly competent homeland protection professionals from less experienced colleagues.
Specializations in homeland security
If you decide to study for a homeland security qualification, there are various specializations that you can consider doing. It allows you to tailor a degree towards your primary interest and goals. Some of the subfields that you can focus on include:
- Emergency management
- Public safety
- International relations
- Public health
- Community resilience
When choosing a college, you should take note of the program accreditations. If you attend a regionally accredited program, it ensures your financial aid eligibility. It also allows you to transfer credits more easily and guarantees quality education.
If you want to check that the program you’re interested in taking is accredited, use the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs website for confirmation.
Cost of degrees
The cost of a degree depends on the college and the type of tuition you choose. Most online programs are less per credit than campus study options.
Students can expect to pay between $7,000 and $27,000 in total tuition for an associate’s degree. A bachelor’s degree ranges between $43,000 and $55,000, while a masters is around $15,000 to $35,000.
Many colleges have funding options available in the form of loans, grants, or scholarships. Each year the DHS hosts a scholarship program that provides up to $5,000 to select undergraduate students.
To be eligible, students need to be U.S. citizens, hold a security clearance, have reached sophomore or junior level standing and agree to a 1-year service commitment at a DHS approved facility once they graduate.
The DHS isn’t the only institution that offers scholarships for homeland security degrees. Some other prestigious ones include:
The career options that you have with a qualification in homeland security are vast and varied. You can become a firefighter or a police officer, but these require extra on-the-job and academy training. For more I.T. oriented students, there are opportunities to pursue work as a cybersecurity specialist, information security analyst, or network administrator.
If law enforcement is within your scope of interest, you’ll find that there are many jobs available in local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. Some popular jobs include:
Police Officers and Detectives
These dedicated professionals are responsible for collecting evidence from crime scenes, responding to emergency and non-emergency calls, and patrolling neighborhoods. They also interview victims, investigate crimes, arrest suspects, and write detailed daily reports.
Firefighters have a primary duty to extinguish fires and save lives by doing first aid where required. They drive fire trucks and other emergency vehicles when needed. Another aspect of the job is conducting fire safety and physical fitness training.
The job of a CIA officer depends on their location and training. It includes a wide variety of duties both inside the office and out in the field. They often focus on foreign intelligence to help the government make informed decisions about national safety.
Information Security Analysts
These analysts monitor online activity on the lookout for security breaches. They investigate any violations when they occur. Their primary focus is using technology to protect an organization’s computer networks and online information.
Fish and Game Wardens
The state employs the wardens to perform a variety of tasks. The most important being the enforcement of hunting, boating, and fishing laws. They must also impose any federal laws that pertain to these activities.
Other career options include logisticians, emergency management and response, and project coordinators. In the table below, you can get an idea of what the pay scale is for some careers.
You can start with an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. To further your studies you can pursue a master’s, and finally a doctorate in homeland security. Each qualification opens up different opportunities for career growth.
By studying further, you can improve your chances of getting a promotion, or you could move in a different direction altogether. Once you’ve established which area you want to focus on, you can branch out into one of many homeland security disciplines such as:
- Law enforcement
- Intelligence analysis
- Information security
- Infrastructure protection
- Emergency management