The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – and all its employees – play a vital role in keeping the country safe. This federal agency is responsible for securing the nation’s borders and safeguarding its people from outside threats. If you are considering a law enforcement career, are passionate about protecting others, and wish to make an impact, homeland security may be the career path for you.
Homeland security is brimming with unique career opportunities that go beyond your typical desk job. These roles, as the Department of Homeland Security explains, “will challenge your mind and reward your skills,” as well as promote professional growth. Within this national department, you can pursue:
- Law Enforcement Careers – This may involve protecting the President, Vice President, their families, or other designated government officials. A law enforcement career within the Department of Homeland Security may also mean safeguarding the nation’s borders, securing online data, providing interagency training, and enforcing economic, transportation, and infrastructure security.
- Immigration and Travel Security Careers – A career in travel security would involve protecting the nation’s transportation systems (such as air and waterways) from outside threats. A career in immigration would help oversee and ensure lawful immigration to the United States.
- Prevention and Response Careers – In addition to protecting the United States and its population, homeland security agents prepare for and respond to potential threats. This may include developing preparedness plans, responding to emergencies and threats, helping communities recover from natural disasters, and working to prevent the loss of life and property in the face of hazard.
- Mission Support Careers – Within homeland security, there are also a variety of professionals working in medicine, human resources, public affairs, civil rights, technology and IT, planning, procurement, and more.
Now that you understand the types of homeland security careers available, it is important to know what is required to get into such an important field. Which qualifications are needed to land a career as a homeland security agent? Let’s find out.
What are the Requirements for a Homeland Security Career?
Broadly speaking, the Department of Homeland Security only has two, set-in-stone requirements for job candidates: U.S. citizenship and successful completion of a full background check/drug screening. Other minimum requirements set by the Homeland Security agency include:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Hold United States’ Citizenship
- Pass a criminal background check
- Successfully complete a drug screening
- Take and pass a polygraph examination
- Pass the civil service exam with a competitive score
- Qualify for a Secret or Top Secret security clearance
- Pass a medical exam and exemplify a high degree of physical fitness
Of course, this does not encompass the full list of qualifications needed to become a homeland security agent today. Specific requirements will vary by position, agency, and location – you can find details on the USAJobs website, under the job listing of your choice.
Homeland Security Agent Qualifications
In addition to a series of testing requirements, homeland security agents must possess certain qualities to be deemed right for the job. They must be:
- Well-versed in problem-solving and critical-thinking
- Analytical, and able to examine complex paperwork/information
- Able to work effectively on a team
- Understanding and empathetic of diverse groups of people
- Prepared to handle potentially dangerous people and situations, such as arrests of criminals
- Physically prepared to spend long hours on their feet and/or travel
- Ready for whatever is thrown their way, as no day is the same for a homeland security agent
Homeland Security Education Requirements
Each sector of the DHS has varying prerequisites when it comes to education and training. Many agencies (for example, the DEA) prefer to hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree in hand. However, this is not always required. For some positions – such as a career with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – a high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirement for applicants. For others, an associate degree in a related field, in combination with hands-on training, is sufficient for landing an entry-level job. Advanced, executive positions often require a graduate-level degree.
If you would like to launch a career in homeland security, and want a competitive edge, it is highly recommended that you pursue a college education first. Homeland security is a rapidly evolving and complex field. These professionals are using highly advanced technologies, handling hazardous materials and situations, analyzing intelligence reports, responding to emergencies and assaults, and enforcing intricate laws. They carry a lot of responsibility with their titles, which is why formal education and training is almost always a requirement.
Colleges across the United States, including Goodwin College, offer homeland security degree programs to prepare students for careers in law enforcement, criminal investigation, terrorism investigation, public safety and security, and more. Whether you wish to protect airports or seaports, land borders or cyberspace, or all that falls in between, it is recommended you pursue a degree from an accredited and reputable school. Goodwin College, for example, is an accredited criminal justice school in Connecticut, with degree programs in Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, and Public Safety. We also offer internships in each of these degree programs, so students can get in-field, hands-on experience before launching their careers.
The Department of Homeland Security is committed to recent graduates of college, as well as students working towards their degree, and supports them in their efforts to launch a homeland security career. Specifically, the DHS offers entry-level job opportunities and full-time hiring programs for students/grads, allowing them to build their skills and make a meaningful difference all the while. You can learn more about those here.
Once in a job, you can expect to begin training. Most training programs within the DHS start at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, an interagency organization that prepares new federal agents for successful careers in law enforcement, immigration and travel security, as well as emergency prevention and response careers.
Now that you know the basic homeland security career requirements, are you ready to get started? Contact Goodwin College at 800-889-3282 or visit us online to learn more about our homeland security training program in CT.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.