Although homeland security is a booming professional field in high demand these days, many adults remember a time before it was even a part of the national conversation. An online homeland security degree is a new field of study, spurred by the attack of September 11, 2001. Since that day, the threat of foreign attack on American soil has come to be a recognized and persistent danger. In response, the U.S. government created the Department of Homeland Security with the goal of protecting America from different threats caused by man and nature. Colleges rapidly designed new online homeland security degree programs in an attempt to respond to the need for trained professionals in this new government career specialty. Homeland security covers many different bases, so your career options range from mission support to law enforcement to prevention and response.
THE CAREER PATH
Although its intention has been defined as a ‘concerted effort to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States and to reduce the country’s vulnerability to terrorism,’ less than two decades later and homeland security has grown to encompass a massive scope of responsibilities related to emergencies and disasters beyond terrorism. There are careers for those that are intrigued by technology and want to use their skills to help prevent digital crimes and security breaches, as well as those who love the environment and want to bring their perspective into the planning for natural disasters.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) gives an overview of some of the careers that are possible through homeland security:
- Transportation Security Screening – These professionals are the ones that we all hold our breath around at the airport. They are responsible for keeping us safe during our travels, which means they are also the ones who have the pleasure of digging through our bags when we accidentally set off the security alerts. Transportation security is a great entry-level gateway into homeland security, since it doesn’t require any higher education. Even without strict qualification requirements, it pays nearly $40,000 on average.
- Emergency Management – Professionals that direct emergency management operations usually have a bachelor’s degree and a history in emergency response. They use their knowledge and experience to guide the necessary tasks before, during, and after emergency events. The availability of jobs for emergency management directors is expected to grow along the same rates as the rest of the nation, around 8% in the next few years, and they make more than $70,000 on average each year.
- Information Security Analysis – Professionals in this line of work typically plan and carry out whatever security measures are necessary to protect an agency’s computer networks, systems, and data. The time is ripe for careers as an information security analyst. The increasing number and intensity of international cyberattacks is causing an increased demand for highly skilled professionals to create innovative solutions to new threats—these types of jobs are anticipated to grow by nearly 28% in the coming decade. Information security analysts can typically get started with a bachelor’s degree and can anticipate making more than $92,000 each year on average.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Critical-thinking and decision-making are two must-haves for successful homeland security professionals, who must be able to anticipate threats and make timely decisions under stressful circumstances. The field requires clear communication about preparedness planning to various levels of government as well as the public, and the interpersonal skills to build relationships between agencies and communities.
Professionals in homeland security also demonstrate a level of ingenuity that allows them to anticipate risks and adapt accordingly. They have an eye for detail that can catch even the tiniest change or shift out of the ordinary. Certain careers in homeland security also involve leadership skills to motivate teams of professionals and organizational skills to navigate across types of networks. If you are using your unique interests and skills to defend the safety of the country, then you could start your career path in homeland security.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
The vast majority of homeland security jobs are available through the U.S. government. As more and more qualified individuals are needed for homeland security work, some colleges and universities are receiving special funding through the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Directorate. This helps ensure students are receiving the training and opportunities necessary for a successful career spent protecting America.
The homeland security degree major is now one of the most popular law enforcement specialties offered by distance learning programs. Expect an homeland security degree online to include core courses in corrections, the psychology and sociology of criminal behavior, constitutional law and crime scene analysis. Online degree and certificate programs may also include courses in security, hazardous materials, corrections, international law, emergency medicine, bio-terrorism, counter-terrorism, competitive intelligence, criminal psychology, forensics, cultural anthropology and evidence collection.
If you're already a seasoned criminal justice professional or military veteran, consider earning a master's degree in homeland security. You could explore specialized courses of study in public administration, leadership, information security or public health preparedness. Your new base of knowledge may open up higher level positions in homeland security.
Many programs will also offer coursework in specialized fields according to students’ professional goals and interests in subjects like immigration or emergency management. Certain programs may also offer hands-on learning and work experience through internships or similar opportunities. Professionals may be interested in obtaining a certification such as the Certified Homeland Protection Professional (CHPP) that is offered by the Global Society of Homeland and National Security Professionals (GSHNSP). Some specific certifications exams may be included in certain programs. Likewise, some employers may offer incentives or assistance to obtain certification.
An online homeland security degree—at the bachelor level—costs $50,000, on average. The most affordable programs will charge under $30,000 for tuition. The price of tuition, generally, does not include the additional funds needed for certification(s). Compare both the cost and the unique perks of each degree program you are considering to find the best choice.