Securing a Country, Secure a Job: Careers in Homeland Security

I wouldn’t mind working for this company: One group designs, operates, and defends against video equipped, flying drones the size of a football. A team of computer experts patrols a digital world, standing guard against invisible attacks, while analytical chemists research methods of responding to biological weapons threats. Organizational gurus coordinate multiple federal agencies to prevent panic and provide resources when disaster strikes.

Over 300 million people depend on this diverse group of public servants, all of them brought together under one umbrella: The US Department of Homeland Security.

Unity of Purpose

“There’s not an industry or business out there today that’s not impacted by homeland security,” according to business liaison director Rich Cooper. The Department of Homeland Security serves as a nexus for multiple careers. With diverse educational and experience requirements, career options abound for almost everyone.

The Department of Homeland security was founded immediately following the 9/11 attacks with a simple purpose: coordinate federal programs to better deal with foreign and domestic threats to our nation’s safety. Smart, well-trained individuals continue to be in demand.

Prospective workers need to be US citizens, and, due to the sensitive nature of homeland security, applicants should expect thorough background checks. Beyond those hurdles, however, many careers await people who want to develop their talents while providing a valuable public service.

Securing Jobs

The job outlook for those working in homeland security is uniformly positive, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This shouldn’t be a surprise, given the variety of tasks necessary to keep a country secure. Pay also varies significantly, since the education and experience needed is different for every job. Consider a few examples:


Someone has to protect people and the planet from the threat of chemical and biological weapons. It’s up to the analytical chemists to keep harmful substances from creating a new domestic disaster. Analytical chemists make an average of $57,000, topping out at around six figures. Opportunities abound for those with Bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctoral level degrees.

Border Security

Job prospects look good for those who live near a border area, and who aren’t afraid of a challenging job in difficult terrain. Pay starts around $25,000 to $31,000. New applicants may need a Bachelor’s degree, or a combination of education and relevant experience. Knowledge or ability to learn a foreign language is also necessary.


Security depends on computers, so demand is huge for specialists who stand guard over databases, computer networks, or computer software. Pay varies widely, as does training requirements. A degree in computer science is common, but experts suggest that much training occurs on the job.

Emergency Management

These folks need organizational leadership skills and experience, in addition to a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. They also need excellent communication skills, since they are coordinating multiple agencies, including local government, in order to provide timely response to emergencies.

Many individuals find pathways to this career through a specific Bachelor’s or graduate degree in homeland security. More schools are recognizing a growing need for qualified individuals, and they are responding by tailoring specific programs toward training emergency managers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that this occupation in particular will continue to grow as local and state governments pursue the most efficient response to emergencies. Pay averages around $45,000, with the highest earners taking home close to $80,000.

Homeland Security Degrees

Many job seekers are parlaying their existing skill set into careers with homeland security, but colleges are responding to an increased demand by offering a variety of degree programs aimed specifically at homeland security.
A multitude of institutions like Kaplan and University of Phoenix offer Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees focusing emergency management and preparedness and some offer degrees with broad course offerings covering cyber security, counter terrorism, and emergency management.

Some schools offer Master’s degree programs with a research focus. The Center for Homeland Defense and Security operates an extensive research-based Master’s degree culminating in a thesis. And San Diego State offers what they call “the first of its kind” graduate degree using a “living laboratory” at the border of Mexico and the US.

Nothing Typical About It

Securing an entire country is a monumental task, and there is no easy way to narrow down a “typical” career in homeland security. For those just getting started, pursuing one of many degree options may be the best way to begin. For those who already possess expertise in management, security, computers, or science, their skills are probably already in demand. Job prospects look good, pay is competitive, and a variety of tasks await. We need homeland security.

Got what it takes to be in homeland security? Talk to an adviser about criminal justice degrees and get started today!

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