Homeland Security Careers
By Jannine M. Wilmoth, RN, MPH
Unique opportunities await you in the field of homeland security. It does sound like an advertising campaign, but jobs in homeland security are about preparing for the unexpected--working with agencies from all disciplines to prepare, protect and secure the United States from natural and manmade hazards. A degree in homeland security provides a foundation of principles and theories that you can apply in your area of interest or expertise. There are homeland security careers at all levels of government and in many different capacities.
For those with a background in law enforcement or criminal justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) serves as the country’s lead agency for law enforcement and intelligence. The bureau partners with local, state and other federal agencies, as well as private partners, to gather intelligence, plan for and respond to threats in the United States. Intelligence analysts evaluate available information to determine emerging threats. Intelligence reports are prepared and shared with local, state and federal partners. Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) teams, comprised of representatives from all levels of government, are located around the country. They work to gather intelligence, investigate cases, support special events and respond to major incidents.
A degree in homeland security provides a foundation of principles and theories that you can apply in your area of interest or expertise.
Another possibility for those individuals with law enforcement or military experience is the Department of State, more commonly known as the State Department. Special agents with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security are assigned around the world to conduct investigations, establish security programs and coordinate international resources. The State Department also has several bureaus where civil service officers and foreign service specialists assist to develop policy guidance on international military affairs, counterterrorism and nonproliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Similar to the FBI, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research collects, analyzes and distributes intelligence to support other members of the intelligence community.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers a variety of experiences depending on your area of interest. Information technology? The National Protection and Programs Directorate includes cybersecurity and communication offices that contribute to the efforts to create a resilient national infrastructure. Immigration and border security? Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents provide the civil and criminal enforcement support to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), preventing illicit transport of weapons and technology to criminals and terrorists.
Emergency management jobs are available at the federal, state, and local level. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides national resources in the event of catastrophic disaster. Positions range from contract analysts to command positions on incident management teams deployed around the country. State and local emergency management roles vary by region, depending on the types of hazards and populations. Planning positions at the state level may focus more on mitigation, reducing the risk from hazards and disaster recovery. A career in local emergency management allows one to experience preparedness, response and recovery. This position may also include educating the community, working with city departments to develop operations plans, and if necessary, coordinating information and resources for disaster recovery.
Opportunities exist in other fields such as public health, transportation, communications and public affairs. The private sector, including corporations, hospitals and insurance companies also employ individuals with homeland security or emergency management experience.
A degree in homeland security lays the foundation required to prepare for the unexpected. There are different paths and levels of government where that knowledge can be applied, but whether it is developing an operations plan with your public works department or developing foreign policy guidance, jobs in homeland security contribute to a more secure, resilient nation.
Jannine Wilmoth worked as an Emergency Room Nurse until completing her Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Disaster Management. Since 2006, Wilmoth has worked in local emergency management: developing training and exercise programs, coordinating a mass casualty response program, and participating in large-scale special event operations. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Homeland Security Leadership and Policy at Northcentral University.