Homeland Security Topics

Guide to a Career in Homeland Security

What is Homeland Security?

Students who choose to pursue a degree in Homeland Security will discover that this essential field offers many professional opportunities for those who are interested in devoting their careers to the protection and security of our population.

Since the events of September 11, 2001, the interest in homeland security has dramatically increased. Many colleges and universities offering online and distance learning degree programs have responded to the security needs of our country by offering many levels of degree programs in Homeland Security.

Because there has been such a major increase in the amount of online and distance learning degree programs in Homeland Security, it is easier than ever for students, working professionals, and people with families to reach their educational goals and to begin a rewarding career in the field of homeland security. By obtaining a college degree online, students in all situations can easily make education a part of their daily lives.

Students enrolled in a degree program in Homeland Security will study topics ranging from political science to psychology to engineering to disaster and emergency preparedness. The analytical aspects of emergency training, counterterrorism, and national and local security are often stressed in the coursework of Homeland Security degree programs. The programs of study teach students the "who, what, where, why, when, and how" of issues that pose a potential threat to our security.

In the last four years, many companies and organizations in and around the United States have expanded existing security systems or have created new and highly effective security systems. Many of these companies and organizations have developed homeland security sectors or initiatives. By obtaining a college degree in Homeland Security, students will be equipped to take advantage of the many new career opportunities that have recently been created in the field.

Students may obtain a Homeland Security degree at the associate, bachelor, and Master's levels. There are also certificates that may be obtained in areas closely related to homeland security, such as counter terrorism, emergency preparedness, and disaster management.

Career Education in Homeland Security

Undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs

Many instructors teaching courses in an online or distance learning degree program in Homeland Security are government experts who have much technical and analytical experience working with and researching government-related issues. Under the instruction of such experts, students enrolled in a degree program may learn about the most effective ways to strengthen the safety of essential systems such as energy facilities, nuclear power plants, and expansive computer information networks. They may learn how to obtain, disengage, and destroy a weapon that is active in a biological attack. They may learn how to recognize and effectively handle an attack on vital computer systems. They may also study and conduct analysis about how government officials in the past have handled situations in which national security was threatened.

Online and distance learning degree programs in Homeland Security are designed to give students the information and the know-how they will need in order to assess and effectively handle real threatening situations when they enter the workforce. The skills taught to the students enrolled in such degree programs are practical strategies for dealing with problems of security. The emphasis in Homeland Security degree programs is not placed on political ideology. Instead, the emphasis is placed on the development of practices that will most efficiently solve problematic situations in which safety might be compromised.

Homeland Security degree program coursework
Many students who enroll in an online or distance learning degree program in Homeland Security are retired law enforcement officers or military officers who wish to gain new education and use their previous field experience to enter the field of private or public security. Many students, however, are high school graduates who are entering a college degree program for the first time. Some students who have already earned their two-year college associate's degree in Homeland Security or a related area wish to continue their studies of Homeland Security in a four-year college bachelor's degree program.

Degree programs in Homeland Security at all levels will provide students with an in-depth examination of the Federal government's Department of Homeland Security, and the department's laws, authorities, agencies, and exercises. Students will look closely at the legislations that give power to the many various agencies of the Department of Homeland Security. Students will also explore the responses of these agencies to terrorist acts and threats of terrorism.

Students will most likely be required to complete courses in identifying and handling hazardous materials as well as courses on international terrorism and terrorism at home. Through the completion of required coursework, students become prepared to inspect, monitor, and coordinate crime prevention and safety protection strategies for private clients in a variety of situations. Students also learn techniques developed for the protection of properties, such as private homes and businesses.

While enrolled in a distance learning or online degree program in Homeland Security, students will gain knowledge about criminal justice, information security measures, and the prevention of loss. The program will likely also provide information about specific kinds of security systems such as alarms, fences, and others. Students will discover techniques of preventing the theft of sensitive information, valuable items, and human beings. Students will learn how to assess, evaluate, and provide the security needs of individuals, families, homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, airports, and other facilities and locations.

Many two-year Homeland Security degree programs focus on the training of first responders such as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical workers and technicians, and other emergency professionals who are essential to the local community in which they live.

Some programs offer certificates that emphasize specialized training within the broader subject of homeland security. Certificates can be obtained in crisis and disaster management, national security, telecommunications security, and computer information security, to name a few.

Other programs offer a concentration in Homeland Security within the boundaries of an academic major such as political science, computer science, or sociology. The students who choose this approach to their homeland security studies may decide to concentrate their studies even further, exploring topics such as bioterrorism and computer network security.

Still some other programs offer degrees in Homeland Security with a pre-developed area of concentration, such as law enforcement and criminal justice, disaster management and emergency preparedness, or financial security.

Homeland Security degree program curriculum

No online or distance learning college degree program in Homeland Security is exactly like the next. Each degree program has its own unique curriculum, requirements, and set of prerequisites. It is important for students who are interested in earning a college degree in Homeland Security to gain as much information as possible about the various degree programs available. This way, students may make a wise decision about which college degree program is right for them.

Many degree programs in Homeland Security require prospective students to have completed certain courses in high school. Some common prerequisite high school level course requirements are:

four years of English
three years of mathematics
three years of social studies or history
two years of science
two years of a second language
A typical two-year associate's level college degree program in Homeland Security may include the following course requirements:

Introduction to Criminal Justice
Introduction to Homeland Security
Bio-Terrorism and its Effects
The Handling of Hazardous Materials
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Domestic Terrorism
International Terrorism
Constitutional Law
Emergency Planning and Disaster Preparedness
The War on Terrorism
In addition to the courses typically required by a two-level college degree programs in Homeland Security, students who choose to pursue a four-year bachelor's degree in Homeland Security may also be required to complete the following courses, or courses like them:

Political Science
Security Concepts
Theories of Security Management
Security Methods
Security Systems
Evaluating Security Programs
Security and Business
American Law Enforcement
Criminal Evidence
Security of Information
Security Personnel Law
The Workings of Organized Crime
Risk Analysis
Loss Prevention
White-Collar Crime
All of these courses, and others like them, are designed to provide students entering the workforce with the skills needed to protect people, information, and locations from threats to their safety. Depending on the concentration of studies and the level of degree obtained, students will be prepared to work in a variety of setting and capacities such as private or public businesses, private security, airports, police law enforcement, the FBI, the Secret Service, the DEA, U.S. Marshals, customs investigations, special agents, and border patrol, among others.

What to consider when researching online degree programs in Homeland Security

Potential applicants to online and distance learning college degree programs in Homeland Security should consider the following questions when choosing the accredited program that is most appropriate for their educational goals:

What kind of educational background does the degree program require prospective students to have?
Do I meet the degree program's applicant eligibility requirements?
In what direction do I wish to take my career in Homeland Security?
Will the degree program help me reach my career goals?
What are my potential areas of focus in the field of Homeland Security?
What areas of focus does the degree program offer?
What kinds of skills and experience do I wish to gain from the degree program?
What is the length of the degree program?
What is the degree program's philosophy?
What is the degree program's application process?
What level of degree in Homeland Security does the program offer?
What level of degree in Homeland Security do I wish to obtain?
What level of degree in Homeland Security will I need to obtain in order to reach my career goals?
Does the degree program require any fieldwork?
Does the degree program require extensive research?
Will classroom observation be a necessary facet of the degree program?
Can I enroll in the degree program part-time?

What Can You Do with a University Degree in Homeland Security?

Options for careers in emergency response, transportation security, infrastructure protection, and more

The Federal Government's Department of Homeland Security is meant to strengthen the Government's executive branch in order to more effectively handle the threat of terrorism in the world and primarily in the United States. The success of the Department of Homeland Security depends on the strict cooperation of many other Federal, state, and local government agencies. Though financial budgets are tight, many agencies have developed and implemented new jobs that deal directly with the Department of Homeland Security. Under the Homeland Security Act, many Federal agencies must transfer their functions and responsibilities to the newly established Department of Homeland Security.

Some government agencies offer entry-level and internships positions to help students develop the skills they need to successfully fill homeland security jobs. Those who are interested in obtaining a homeland security job should conduct employment research with USAJobs, potentially searching under one or more of these categories:

Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection
Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Countermeasures
Border and Transportation Security
Emergency Preparedness and Response

The structure of Federal employment

The duties of the Federal Government can be separated into four categories: representing the interests of the United States internationally; enforcing domestic and international laws and regulations; developing and implementing domestic programs; and protecting and defending the United States and its people from acts of aggression and terrorism. The Federal Government is arranged in a way that is meant to most effectively fulfill these duties.

There are three branches of the Federal Government to which particular sets of responsibilities, functions, and powers are assigned. Though the three branches of Government - the legislative, judicial, and executive branches - have different powers and responsibilities, the levels of authority are balanced among them.

The legislative branch of the Federal Government has the job of forming and amending the legal structure of the United States. The legislative branch's largest section is Congress, made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The legislative branch of the Federal Government employs only about one percent of all Federal employees, all of whom live in Washington D.C.

The judicial branch of the Federal Government has the job of interpreting the laws enacted by the legislative branch. The Supreme Court is a part of the judicial branch. The judicial branch employs only about one percent of all Federal employees, though these employees live in many different places in the United States.

The executive branch of the Federal Government has the most expansive set of powers and responsibilities. The executive branch is comprised of the Office of the President, 15 executive Cabinet departments (including the Department of Homeland Security), and 90 independent agencies. The Office of the President is comprised of the Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council, and the Council of Economic Advisers. The executive branch of the Federal Government employs nearly 98 percent of all civilian Federal employees, not including employees of the United States postal service.

People who work for the Department of Homeland Security are employees of the executive branch of the Federal Government. The Department of Homeland Security will provide new position openings in the field, in addition to position transfers from other government agencies, such as the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Treasury. The agencies will fall under four major directorates: Border and Transportation Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Science and Technology, and Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection.

Career Statistics and Outlook

Because of financial constraints, the use of private companies and contractors, and the transfer of some functions, powers, and responsibilities to state and local governments, the growth in the Federal homeland security job market may be accompanied by a decrease in the employment opportunities in other capacities of the Federal Government.

The Department of Homeland Security is comprised of 22 Federal agencies and 170,000 employees. The budget of the Department of Homeland Security is estimated to be over $40 billion.

Because the demand for employees with an expertise in the security field is so high and is only increasing, the employment prospects for students who graduate with a college degree in Homeland Security are positive. Graduates from online and distance learning degree programs in Homeland Security will be eligible for careers in law enforcement, protective services, private security, public security, and other security-related careers at the local, state, or Federal government levels.

In 2003 alone, American states, cities, the private sector, and the United States Federal Government spent over $100 billion on initiatives and strategies related to homeland security. In a speech, President Bush declared that this concentration on security measures will only increase. The President states that the current administration has the responsibility to future generations "to leave them an America that is safe from danger, and protected by peace." Half a million first responders have been trained since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

People with college degrees in Homeland Security may find careers in such arenas as:

Transportation Security Administration
The United States Capitol Police
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
The United States Coast Guard
The United States Customs Services
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
The United States Marshals Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)