Homeland Security Career Path

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A lock on top of a keyboardThose who are interested in immigration, passionate about cybersecurity, or dedicated to safeguarding the country and assisting others need look no further than the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Created as a response to the 9/11 terror attacks, the DHS is an umbrella organization that encompasses multiple agencies that previously acted separately from one another.

Now under one cabinet-level department, these agencies more easily share information and work together in response to emergencies, intentional and unintentional disasters, security risks and to protect the U.S.

Individuals interested in a homeland security career path must first equip themselves with an education that can lead to success, such as a master’s degree in safety, security and emergency management.

How to Get Into Homeland Security

The first step to landing a homeland security job is earning a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the desired type of job, the exact degree requirements may differ. For cybersecurity, a degree in information technology or computer science would be best, other options for different jobs may include degrees in public relations, psychology, or occupational safety.

Once the bachelor’s degree has been completed, an advanced education can supplement the foundation established in the bachelor’s program. Master’s degrees provide a more specialized education, helping students develop advanced skills and knowledge for maximum desirability in the job market.

Finally, the criteria of certain homeland security jobs are subject to change, but some things to always expect include: passing a background check, passing a physical fitness exam, and passing a civil service exam among other things.

Careers in Homeland Security

Homeland security is a broad term that encompasses more than defense against attacks. It includes securing the U.S. border, regulating immigration, enforcing cybersecurity, protecting the president, and preventing and recovering from disasters. Homeland security requires an expansive commitment to protecting the U.S., which in turn, can translate into offering fulfilling careers to Americans.

A DHS career requires more than interest and passion, however. It requires mastering highly coveted skills and demonstrating exceptional commitment. Being able to communicate effectively, solve problems and focus on details are a few of the abilities needed in most DHS jobs. It is also important to note that U.S. citizenship is a major requirement.

Immigration Services Officer

Median Annual Salary: $59,800

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency is one of the components under the DHS. It is responsible for enforcing immigration regulations and granting citizenship. Among their career opportunities is the position of immigration services officer.

These men and women represent a strong immigration system that protects against threats while offering citizenship for those who want to start a life in the U.S. They work to carry out ICE responsibilities through duties such as processing immigration applications, identifying people who are a threat-risk and interviewing immigration applicants.

IT Security Specialist

Median Annual Salary: $103,590

The DHS Office of Cybersecurity and Communications offers careers that are responsible for fortifying the security and strength of information technology infrastructures. IT security specialists, or those involved in information security (INFOSEC), serve as the defense against cyberattacks on the U.S., a key occupation now more than ever.

As the world races toward the future of connectivity, online systems and virtual intelligence, IT specialists have become increasingly crucial. Their responsibilities include: providing cybersecurity evaluations, creating reliable networks, anticipating and minimizing IT system risk and updating security requirements.

Information technology is a field that continues to expand at a rapid rate, adding new technologies and therefore new vulnerabilities almost daily. Government INFOSEC requires individuals who can adapt quickly to changing situations.

Emergency Management Specialist

Median Annual Salary: $63,300

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), another branch under the DHS, provides the nation’s defense and response to disasters. Those who desire to work in a job that is dedicated to helping those in dire situations should consider the role of emergency management specialist.

These specialists help those in need and in some cases save lives. The COVID-19 pandemic, hurricanes Michael and Harvey, 2018’s California wildfires, and the 2016 blizzards showcased modern emergency management in action and provide many examples of the importance of the field.

A position in emergency management offers some unique job responsibilities. Specialists must be able to work at a moment’s notice and potentially in dangerous situations. Emergencies happen suddenly and randomly, so being flexible is extremely important.

Among an emergency management specialist’s standard duties are: coordinating recovery efforts, working with other agencies to benefit victims, preparing for emergencies, and helping state and local officials understand public assistance regulations during and after a crisis.

Homeland Security Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that protective service jobs will grow by 3%, or 95,200 new jobs, between 2019 and 2029. The expected growth for information security analysts is much higher, with a projected 31% increase in jobs by 2029. Certain jobs will be needed in higher numbers depending on their location, as well. For example, jobs that require in-person responses may see increased demand in densely populated areas such as cities.

As technology becomes more advanced — and more organizations seek protection from terrorism, cyberattacks and other forms of harm — the numbers of DHS jobs will continue to rise for dedicated and skilled workers.

History of Homeland Security

The attacks of 9/11 united the nation. The U.S. quickly came to the realization that everyone was vulnerable to terrorism. Eleven days after the horrible events, the newly created Office of Homeland Security was spurred to action. Led by its first director, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, the organization began to shape its foundations as a future cabinet-level department.

A year later, in 2002, the Homeland Security Act passed the nation’s legislature and the Department of Homeland Security was born. DHS unified national security efforts by integrating 22 other government departments and agencies to function more efficiently and effectively. Some of these separate entities include the U.S. Customs Service, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The formulation of the DHS was one of the largest government organizational tasks undertaken in our nation’s history. As a natural consequence, modification and growth was needed to perfect and optimize this suddenly larger government department.

Two evaluations took place — one in 2005 and the other in 2010 — that scrutinized all DHS operations and organization, making changes where necessary. It was the 2010 review and reorganization — led by then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano — that perfected the homeland security goals with which the U.S. is familiar today.

Explore the Benefits of a Master’s of Science in Safety, Security and Emergency Management

The U.S. will always need to provide protection, regulation, and assistance for its citizens. That’s what the DHS does best. In tandem with the nation’s growing ‘homeland’ needs, is the need for passionate and knowledgeable professionals who want to commit to the security and safety of the nation.

Whether it be interviewing and welcoming immigrants, protecting the country’s cyberinfrastructure or assisting those affected by a disaster, the DHS offers job roles that can be uniquely fulfilling and exciting.

Earning a master’s in safety, security and emergency management from Eastern Kentucky University can help you increase your knowledge of the safety industry and demonstrate a continued commitment to learning and leadership. Our distinguished faculty of safety professionals deliver a comprehensive curriculum that can translate wherever safety matters most. Courses cover the knowledge and skills to work in a variety of safety roles at a governmental level or in the private sector.

Recommended Readings

5 Careers in Emergency Management

The Demand for Safety Professionals in the U.S.

Eight Skills of a Successful Public Safety Leader


Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, Cybersecurity Division Mission and Vision

Department of Homeland Security, Creation of the Department of Homeland Security

Department of Homeland Security, Join DHS Cybersecurity

O*NET Online, Customs and Border Protection Officers

PayScale, Average Emergency Management Specialist Salary

PayScale, Average Immigration Officer Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Information Security Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,  Protective Services Occupations

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, History of ICE

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Working for ICE

USA Jobs, Employment of Non-Citizens