Natural and manmade hazards are threatening the security of the U.S. at any given moment. Protecting our country from these dangers and keeping both lives and property safe falls to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While the foundation of all homeland security work is to prepare and respond to the unexpected, the work toward that goal takes place across a wide array of government agencies and in just about every field.
Whether you are interested in working in the field, on the front lines of securing our borders and transportation infrastructure, putting your communication and leadership skills to work in policy development, or using your technological expertise to secure our country’s information systems, there is a homeland security job for you.
Many of these jobs begin with a degree in homeland security. By learning the principles and theories that guide our nation’s security strategies, you’ll be better prepared to take your career to the next level while providing a vital service to our nation.
As you consider your options, here are four popular homeland security careers:
1. Emergency Management
Hurricanes. Floods. Tornados. Terrorist attacks. Whether a disaster is natural or manmade, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is often among the first on the scene to begin the response. As a division of DHS, FEMA coordinates with state and local first responders to prepare for and respond to disasters, as well as help with the recovery and future risk mitigation. This includes disaster planning, coordinating and implementing response programs, and coordinating and delivering necessary information.
FEMA is a diverse agency, and as such, it offers a wide range of career options. Among the possible roles are first responders – such as firefighters and EMS professionals – site coordinators, community liaisons, IT and insurance specialists, and financial professionals. FEMA also employs program specialists who work in specific aspects of emergency management; for example, some experts might work in national security and terrorism response, while others are focused on disaster recovery or mitigation. Ultimately, though, all FEMA workers share the common goal of disaster preparedness and response.
2. Customs and Immigration
Within the realm of DHS, customs and immigration falls into several different agencies, including Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. And within each of these agencies, there are a wide range of roles that you can fill and put your knowledge of homeland security to work.
One of the most common jobs within Customs and Border Patrol is border patrol agent, where you defend our nation’s borders. This includes working at border crossings, as well as in airports, ship terminals, train stations and anywhere else that travelers might enter the U.S. This work may include physically patrolling the borders – on foot, by air, in vehicles, or by boat – to monitor and catch any illegal activities. While this is in large part a law enforcement role, ensuring that everyone who enters or leaves the U.S. has the right to do so, there are other roles as well. Some customs and border agents are agricultural specialists, ensuring that only approved plants and livestock cross our borders.
While Customs and Border Patrol focuses on keeping the borders safe, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works to ensure that only the people and products that are legally allowed in the U.S. are here. The largest investigative agency in DHS, ICE conducts investigations – including criminal – and handles all detentions and deportations. While ICE does a great deal of work blocking threats to the U.S., the agency is also heavily involved in stopping human trafficking and child exploitation. Although a background in law enforcement is helpful, ICE also has a need for individuals skilled in cybersecurity, data analysis and intelligence gathering.
Not all wars are fought on the ground. Every day, the U.S. is under attack from hackers and cyber criminals from all over the world who are relentless in their attempts to access key data and networks.
The DHS employs IT experts who ensure that our nation’s key infrastructure – such as communication lines, electric and water systems, etc. – remains secure. They also identify viruses and monitor the activities of suspected terrorists. Information security is a top priority for DHS, and individuals well versed in computer science and the principles of security will find a wide array of opportunities.
4. Transportation Security Administration
Perhaps the most visible arm of the DHS, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is present in every airport, train station, cruise terminal and other transportation hub in the U.S. Anyone who has flown on an airplane since 2001 has encountered the TSA, but this department controls more than just airport screeners. Air marshals, cargo inspectors and aviation regulatory specialists are also part of the TSA, working to ensure that our transportation system remains safe and functioning.
How to Start
These are just a few of the many varied career options within the Department of Homeland Security. Whether you’re interested in communication, law enforcement, business, education or any other field, a degree in homeland security can prepare you to do the important work of keeping our country safe and secure.
To learn more about Columbia Southern University’s online bachelor’s degree in homeland security, visit ColumbiaSouthern.edu/Homeland.