Homeland Security Careers

Keeping Americans safe and secure

Fears over national security in the U.S. have created a need for more jobs that involve ensuring the safety of the country and its citizens. The employment outlook for anyone in Homeland Security is very positive.

Homeland Security officers patrol boarders, airports, seaports and waterways to prevent illegal immigration and combat terrorism. Some Homeland Security professionals will research and develop security technology or analyze intelligence reports while others will be prepared to respond to natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

The Department of Homeland Security is a relatively new Cabinet department within the Federal Government's executive branch. Staff work together to reduce the country's vulnerability to terrorism, prevent attacks and minimize damage in the event an attack does occur.

How long will it take?

There are many associate's and bachelor's degree programs focusing on homeland security being offered by community colleges, vocational schools and universities. These programs typically last between two and four years.

Students who wish to become special agents in the Secret Service are required to earn bachelor's degrees and have three years of related work experience before they can apply for an agent position. They will then receive initial training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and further training with their agency.

Border Patrol agents must be under 37 years of age, hold a driver's license and pass an exam composed of reasoning and language skill questions. Bachelor's degrees may be required.

Skills and requirements

Workers in the Department of Homeland Security must be U.S. citizens and pass stringent background checks into their credit, employment history and whether they have committed any crimes. Military veterans often get preference over others with equal qualifications.

Depending on the specific job, required skills can vary. In general all of these professionals will have to possess excellent communication skills, be highly knowledgeable in their fields and be thorough and diligent while doing their jobs. They should be ready for action at a moment's notice and always be alert for signs of trouble.

Many who are hired in a Homeland Security job, such as Border Patrol agents, will receive mandatory training after being hired.

Typical Homeland Security jobs:

  • Customs and border protection - Border Patrol agents are responsible for thousands of miles of land and water boundaries. They identify and prevent attempts at smuggling and illegal immigration by air, sea and land. Customs inspectors search cargo, baggage and travelers' clothing for the purpose of enforcing import and export laws. Inspectors may examine and weigh cargo, interview suspects, seize prohibited items, detain and arrest lawbreakers and conduct surveillance and investigations.
  • Immigration and customs enforcement - Immigration inspectors scrutinize people seeking entrance to the country. They inspect passports, conduct interviews, prepare reports, keep records and process immigration or temporary residence applications.
  • U.S. Secret Service - Special agents in the Secret Service are charged with protecting the President and Vice President (as well as their families), Presidential candidates, ex-Presidents and visiting dignitaries. They may also investigate counterfeiting, check and bond forgery and credit card fraud.

Homeland Security professionals may also work for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Coast Guard, Citizenship and Immigration Services or the Transportation Security Administration.

Many people in the homeland security industry are graduates of criminal justice schools.