7 Top Career Areas to Pursue with Homeland Security Training
Protecting the country is serious business. It's why professionals from all sorts of backgrounds are employed in the fight to keep Americans safe and to keep their interests secure. In fact, this field is so diverse that it consists of hundreds of different occupations. Within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alone, almost 240,000 people work every day to preserve the nation's well-being—a number that has increased by at least 33 percent since 2004.*
The DHS spends billions of dollars each year to prevent terrorist acts, secure America's borders, protect electronic networks, safeguard critical infrastructure, develop resilience to natural disasters, and enforce the country's immigration laws. Without the work of homeland security specialists, America would be more prone to the catastrophic disruptions, loss of life, and economic turmoil caused by terrorism, severe weather, earthquakes, and other major emergencies.
In fact, in 2012, more than 10,000 daily alerts resulted in the DHS responding to (or issuing warnings about) 70 incidents every month, on average.* And the threats cover a substantial variety of areas, which is why the DHS is made up of at least 16 components, including well-known agencies like these:
- Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
- Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA)
- United States Secret Service
- United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
- United States Coast Guard
Beyond the DHS, many other organizations also hire homeland security experts. From local and state governments to large financial and healthcare institutions to small private companies and non-profits, opportunities exist across a lot of different sectors.
And you don't necessarily have to work directly on the front lines. A large percentage of homeland security jobs are performed within office settings, especially those in which you serve in an administrative, managerial, or analytical role.
Take a look at these seven vocational sectors that stand out for what they can offer to those who've graduated from homeland security schools:
State and municipal police departments are often good places to begin a career in the homeland security field. After all, they are more actively involved in helping to prevent terrorism now than ever before. And, increasingly, they are gaining the tools necessary to safeguard possible targets, investigate threats, and apprehend people who commit acts of terror.
Plus, you don't necessarily even have to become a police officer in order to achieve good employment in the law enforcement sector. The typical police agency employs a variety of different professionals who've received criminal justice training.
Still, should you decide to go after a career as a police officer, then you may get to earn attractive pay. For example, in 2015, the average salary of a police or sheriff's patrol officer in the U.S. was $61,270.**
2. Customs, Immigration, or Border Patrol
Global travel and shipping are incredibly important to the world economy, as well as our own. In 2012 alone, agencies within the DHS processed about $2.3 trillion worth of international trade and over 350 million travelers—arriving by land, air, and sea—at U.S. ports of entry.* And the well-being of our nation has long depended on the talents and contributions of new residents and citizens who come from other countries.
But America's strength and security also depends on ensuring that the influx of visitors, goods, and immigrants isn't just a free-for-all—that it is handled according to the nation's laws and best interests. That's why careers in border security or customs and immigration can be so valuable to pursue. The need for such professionals only seems to grow.
Plus, check out the potential salaries: The median annual pay for a U.S. border patrol agent is nearly $70,000. And the salaries of immigration officers and customs officers are also good. On average, they earn about $51,300 or $74,400, respectively.***
3. Transportation Security
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the world was awakened to the need for improved airport security. Today, everyone who travels by air must be screened for things like weapons or dangerous explosives. In fact, about two million airline passengers are screened by the TSA at U.S. airports every day.* In addition, such screening procedures are, in some cases, also making their way to other forms of public transportation.
Being a transportation security screener can be a good way to get into the homeland security field. And the pay is compelling for such an entry-level role. In 2015, the average U.S. salary for this occupation was $40,050. But some screeners made over $47,020.**
Many individuals, businesses, and institutions throughout the U.S. receive threats from would-be criminals and terrorists. In a lot of cases, they amount to little more than that. However, every threat deserves to be taken seriously, and law enforcement agencies aren't always able to respond in a timely manner. As a result, some organizations employ their own private investigators or security consultants to look into threats, review possible targets, secure their property, and search for evidence that can be presented in a court of law.
The average yearly pay for an American private investigator in 2015 was nearly $53,000. However, some people in this field earned more than $85,190.**
Our modern way of life is very reliant on computers and digital networks. The Internet has allowed people, companies, governments, and all types of organizations to expand their capabilities, advance important causes, and reap many other benefits through the power of interconnectedness.
But criminal hackers, whether alone or sponsored by hostile nations, are always looking to take advantage of electronic vulnerabilities. Sometimes they steal private information, including personal identities. And sometimes they try to gain access to the systems that control the nation's most vital infrastructure, such as electrical utilities.
So the threat from cyber criminals needs to be met by professionals who understand how to assess and strengthen our areas of technological weakness. That's where people with training in both computer technology and homeland security come in. Often called information security analysts, they work with all types of organizations to investigate electronic security breaches, design more secure systems, test network resilience, and plan recovery procedures.
Information security analysts in the U.S. made, on average, more than $93,250 in 2015. And some earned over $143,770.**
6. Emergency Management
What happens when a terrorist attack actually occurs or a natural disaster wreaks havoc? Where do the plans for how to respond and recover come from? Who develops them and helps ensure that everyone knows what to do during such an event?
In many companies, governments, and large facilities, those questions help define the role of an emergency management director. It's a job that involves coming up with contingency plans, reviewing daily operations, predicting possible damage, and assisting in the coordination of response efforts when a real emergency arises.
American emergency management directors earned salaries of $73,750, on average, in 2015. And the highest-paid among them made over $127,180.**
7. Intelligence Analysis
One of the most effective ways to prevent terrorism is to gather and analyze information about potential threats. The American government uses several methods to obtain that kind of information. And many corporations also employ people to gather intelligence in the effort to protect their own interests. But as all of that information is collected, it must be sorted through and examined to determine its relevance and legitimacy.
That's why the role of an intelligence analyst is so essential and is becoming even more important as the amount of intelligence collected by governments and companies continues to grow. Plus, it's a career that tends to pay well. The median salary for an intelligence analyst in the U.S. is over $70,100.***
* U.S. Department of Homeland Security, website last accessed on January 26, 2015.
** Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, website last visited on April 29, 2016.
*** PayScale, website last visited on January 26, 2015.