Complete a high school diploma or GED.
Complete a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, homeland security, or a related field.
Complete an internship or volunteer hours for practical experience.
Locate and apply for a job opportunity on USAJOBS.
Interview for the position, which may involve a test.
Pass several rounds of review, including background, criminal, and security clearance checks.
Complete an orientation and on-the-job training.
Homeland Security Requirements
While requirements for homeland security professionals vary by individual, position, and location, the following sections look at typical applicant expectations regarding education and experience. Interested candidates should research the specific requirements for their location and desired position.
Education Requirements for DHS Jobs
The DHS employs professionals from a variety of educational backgrounds. Candidates may gain a competitive advantage or qualify for more advanced positions and pay rates depending on their type of training. DHS salaries, as mentioned above, typically follow the GS system, which tends to increase pay for professionals with more advanced training.
In addition to education level, discipline and specialization can influence applicants’ employment chances. Majoring in criminal justice at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s level, for example, can provide students with a relevant knowledge base and skill set, which DHS employers value. Completing continuing education or advanced degrees can equip experienced professionals to pursue managerial or supervisory roles.
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Required Experience for Homeland Security Professionals
Similar to education, experience requirements vary considerably within the DHS and its many divisions. In general, however, experience is an important factor in determining candidates’ eligibility for initial employment, professional growth, and salary. Applicants may even qualify for positions with only a high school diploma and relevant experience, such as military or law enforcement service.
Within the GS system, experience helps determine how employees progress in their careers. Professionals typically spend designated amounts of time at each level. For example, they may spend one year each at steps 1-3, two years each for steps 4-6, and three years each for steps 7-9. Depending on the position, merit, education, demand, and other factors may influence professionals’ progress.
Where Can I Work for the DHS?
The DHS offers a variety of professions within its many divisions and locations. This diverse collection of careers enables students to follow their interests and find positions that suit them. The availability of these positions depends on a variety of factors, including location and agency. The sections below explore how these factors come into play and highlight possible work opportunities within the DHS.
Location strongly influences career opportunities. DHS divisions typically hold locations in areas of relevance to their mission, such as near borders, airports, or coastlines. For obvious reasons, relevant locations have greater availability and demand of positions in certain fields. Interested DHS candidates may choose to focus their training in relevant fields based on a location of interest or where they live.
Places with higher population density tend to offer more opportunities. These typically urban areas usually host more DHS agencies and require more professionals to fill their ranks. A higher cost of living in urban city centers may impact wages, as well, since employers need to pay more to provide a decent quality of life to professionals in those areas.
The DHS maintains a variety of divisions, each dedicated to safeguarding and supporting the nation and its people in unique ways. These divisions cover the country’s land, air, and water, and available careers within each vary considerably. To gain a clearer picture of potential opportunities, the following list details some DHS divisions and career options.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services This division mostly handles the administrative work involved with citizenship and immigration, including processing work visas, citizenships through naturalization, and asylum applications.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection Enlisting more than 58,000 agents, officers, agriculture specialists, and trade specialists, this division patrols and regulates activities across the country’s borders. This may include international trade, immigration, and customs.
- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement This division surveils and investigates activities related to illegal immigration and border crimes. The agency employs professionals in intelligence, administration, and removal.
- Transportation Security Administration Tasked with improving the safety of flights and airports, the TSA seeks to identify, prevent, and stop any illegal or suspicious activity. The division employs officers to screen travelers in airports and air marshals to fly undercover.
- U.S. Coast Guard This division controls the defenses, law enforcement, and security of the country’s waterways and coasts. Agents and officers perform search and rescues, emergency operations, and drug interdiction.
- U.S. Secret Service This division of the DHS protects the country’s leaders and financial infrastructure. Professionals protect government officials and their families and investigate financial crimes, such as fraud, counterfeiting, and identity theft.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency The nation’s disaster response organization, FEMA prepares for emergencies and rolls out operations and plans in times of need. Professionals may work in administration and planning or on the ground in recovery and support positions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a homeland security professional?
Depending on the position and applicant, how long it takes to become a homeland security professional can vary considerably. In general, applicants need a bachelor’s degree, which takes approximately four years to complete. The hiring process alone can take more than a year, as well.
What degree is needed for a homeland security job?
Homeland security professionals can hold degrees at various levels, including associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees. A bachelor’s degree is the most common minimum requirement, but experience may allow candidates with less education to qualify.
How much do homeland security professionals make?
Several factors influence DHS wages, but the average employee in the organization earns an annual median salary of approximately $75,000, according to PayScale.
What requirements are there to work for the DHS?
Job requirements vary by position, but candidates should boast relevant training or experience, a clean background check, American citizenship, and the desire to improve U.S. safety and operations.
Professional Resources for Homeland Security Professionals
Find information about the department, what it does, and available jobs.
This page includes resources to assist law enforcement officials in their daily jobs.
This site offers resources for employees, including an employee survey, career development information, and the balanced workforce strategy.
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