What is Homeland Security?
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal government coined the term ‘homeland security’ to refer to the efforts made to prevent further terrorist activity against the United States. The Department of Homeland Security was subsequently established, with the primary goals of preventing terrorism, enhancing national security, enforcing immigration law, combating cyber crime, and ensuring public safety in the event of a terrorist attack or other disaster. Federal law enforcement agencies that play an active role in carrying out the Department of Homeland Security’s mission include the National Guard, Border Patrol, Customs and Immigration, and the United States Secret Service. It’s important to note that both the FBI and the CIA do not operate within Homeland Security’s scope.
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Working for the Department of Homeland Security
As of January 2013, the Department of Homeland Security employed more than 240,000 individuals in a vast range of career fields. There are four primary job paths to choose from: mission support, law enforcement, immigration and travel security, and prevention and response. Careers in Mission Support encompass an array of fields, including human resources, science and technology, intelligence, and civil rights. Mission support specialists may work in the Office of the Secretary, the Office of the Inspector General, the National Cybersecurity Center or in the Citizens and Immigration Services division.
At the Law Enforcement level, the Department of Homeland Security encompasses individuals working for Customs and Immigration, Border Patrol, the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Protective Service, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are responsible for enforcing immigration and customs law, including the detection of illegal goods trafficking as well as the deportation of illegal aliens. Customs and Border Protection Agents are responsible for patrolling U.S. borders to detect drug and terrorist activity and enforcing immigration law.
Careers in Immigration and Travel Security involve working for organizations like the Transportation Security Administration while Prevention and Response career paths include working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Homeland Security Degree Programs
The area of homeland security you’re interested in working in may ultimately decide what kind of degree you need. A degree in criminal justice, for example, may be helpful if you’re interested in working for Customs or the Secret Service. An increasing number of colleges and universities are now offering associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in homeland security. The coursework for each program varies but generally, you can expect to take classes in emergency management, problem analysis, disaster preparedness and response, counterintelligence, terrorism, and public administration.