Homeland Security: Career and Salary Information

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The job of DHS professionals is to protect the citizens of this country from attack, at home and abroad. DHS employees are involved in securing the nation's borders, airports, seaports, and waterways. They are also involved in developing and testing new security technologies. In addition to responding to terrorist threats, the DHS also responds to natural disasters.

There are many DHS divisions that provide opportunities for homeland security professionals. These include Immigration Enforcement, US Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Secret Service, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and others.

Homeland Security Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

A career in homeland security can span many different jobs, from border patrol agent to FBI agent to secret service agent. Homeland security employees work with governments, people within communities, and businesses to ensure the safety and security of our infrastructure to keep us safe. Homeland security professionals work to prevent terrorism, keep our borders safe, and plan for natural disasters such as floods or hurricanes. The Department of Homeland Security encompasses fields such as counter-terrorism, border security, customs, and cybersecurity, so daily activities will depend largely on the type of job you hold.

Degrees for Homeland Security

If you are looking to enter the field of Homeland Security, you can get started by pursuing one of these related degrees:

Steps for Becoming a Homeland Security Professional

homeland security careersFormal education and training is recommended to prepare for the challenges of working in this rapidly changing and complex field. Many colleges and universities now offer homeland security degree programs that prepare students for careers in law enforcement, the investigation of international and domestic terrorism, the investigation of cybercrime, the management of hazardous materials, and industrial and commercial security. A bachelor's degree in criminal justice or a related field is recommended for most positions within the Department of Homeland Security, but a lesser degree or a high school diploma may be sufficient with adequate training and experience. Higher-level and supervisory positions may require a graduate degree or a suitable combination of education and experience. However, some positions, such as TSA screeners, have less stringent education requirements for entry-level hires. To be hired as a Homeland Security Professional, aside from being a US citizen, you should expect to follow steps similar to the following.

  1. Attend a degree program and/or gain the experience needed for the job.*
  2. Apply for an open position on the USAJobs website.
  3. Take and pass a medical exam.
  4. Take and pass a psychological examination.
  5. Take and pass a polygraph test.
  6. Undergo a background investigation.
  7. Take and pass a drug test.
  8. Be interviewed.
  9. Get hired as a Homeland Security professional.
  10. Get trained on the job once hired.

*Check with the particular job requirements for more information.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Prior experience in law enforcement or a related field can be helpful when applying for a job in homeland security. Applicants should be analytical, good communicators, team players, and critical thinkers. Applicants who are open to travel may be preferred for some positions.

Possible Job Titles for This Career

Learn more about specific careers including job descriptions, requirements, and salary information. The careers listed below fall within the Department of Homeland Security unless otherwise noted.

Homeland Security Salary & Job Outlook

Positions in the DHS offer competitive salaries and benefits. The salary varies depending on location, experience, education, and job function. Federal employees are typically paid based on the federal General Schedule (GS) pay tables, which can be viewed at the US Office of Personnel Management website.1 In addition to salary, there are many federal benefits including health, life, and long-term care insurance policies, the government's thrift savings plan (which is similar to a 401(k)), flexible spending accounts, and pension plans. Another benefit is personal leave days that may be used for vacation, illness, and care of family members. In some positions, there may be opportunities for additional benefits like tuition reimbursement, health and wellness programs, fitness centers, and a uniform allowance. The outlook for positions in the Department of Homeland Security is positive as the demand for qualified professionals in this field remains stable in light of the ongoing threat of terrorism. An increase in the retirement of officers and agents from the Baby Boomer Generation may provide additional opportunities. Job openings can be found on the DHS site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What jobs can I get in homeland security?

Answer: Homeland security jobs encompass a broad range of fields. Homeland security jobs include positions such as border patrol agent, detention and deportation officer, mission support specialist, and asylum officer, to name a few. Explore more homeland security jobs on the USAJobs website.

Question: Do I need a degree for a homeland security job?

Answer: It depends. Many federal jobs do require a degree, but some may require a high school diploma (usually in addition to relevant experience in the field). The most competitive candidates hold a bachelor's degree or master's degree. Pursuing a four-year degree program or a graduate degree may be a good place to start if you are considering a career in homeland security.

Top Blogs

Our list of top homeland security blogs provide news, insights, and commentary on the work of professionals in this field.

Additional Resources

1. Office of Personnel Management 2019 General Schedule: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2019/general-schedule/

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