What Does it Mean to Study Homeland Security?
Students who choose to pursue a criminal justice degree in homeland security will discover that this important field offers many professional opportunities for those who are interested in devoting their careers to the protection and security of our population.
Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, educational and job opportunities in this field have dramatically increased. The DHS is meant to coordinate the activities of various branches of government in order to more effectively handle the threat of terrorism in the world and primarily in the United States. The success of the Department of Homeland Security depends on the strict cooperation of many other federal, state, and local government agencies. Though financial budgets are tight, many agencies have developed and implemented new jobs that deal directly with the Department of Homeland Security. Under the Homeland Security Act, many federal agencies transferred their functions and responsibilities to the newly established DHS.
Types of Homeland Security Degrees
Many accredited colleges and universities have responded to the security needs of our country by offering on-campus and online degree programs in homeland security. The increase in online college courses has made it easier than ever for students, working professionals, and parents to reach their educational goals and to begin a rewarding career in the field of homeland security. By obtaining a college degree online, students in all situations can easily make education a part of their daily lives.
Students enrolled in a degree program in homeland security will study topics like political science, psychology, engineering and disaster and emergency preparedness. Emergency training, counterterrorism, and national and local security are often stressed in the coursework. These programs teach students the "who, what, where, why, when, and how" of situations that pose a potential threat to national security.
In the last four years, many organizations in the United States have created new and highly effective security systems or expanded existing ones. Many of these companies and organizations have developed homeland security departments or initiatives. By earning a college degree in homeland security, students will be equipped to take advantage of the many new career opportunities that have recently been created in the field.
Students may earn a homeland security degree at the associate, bachelor's, and master's levels. Certificate programs are also available that are closely related to homeland security, such as intelligence analysis, emergency preparedness, and disaster management.
Many homeland security professors are government experts who have significant technical and analytical experience working with and researching government-related issues. Under the instruction of such experts, students may learn about the most effective ways to strengthen the safety of essential systems such as energy facilities, nuclear power plants, and expansive computer information networks. They'll study how to obtain, disengage, and destroy a weapon that is active in a biological attack. They may learn how to recognize and effectively handle an attack on vital computer systems. They may also conduct analysis about how government officials in the past have handled situations in which national security was threatened.
Online Degrees in Homeland Security
Online degree programs in homeland security are designed to give students the information and skills they will need in order to assess and effectively handle threatening situations when they enter the workforce. Emphasis is placed not on any political ideology, but on the development of practices that will most efficiently solve problematic situations in which safety might be compromised.
Career Training for Homeland Security Jobs
Degree programs in homeland security provide students with an in-depth examination of the Department of Homeland Security, and its laws, authorities, agencies, and exercises. Students will look closely at the legislation that gives power to the various DHS agencies. Students will also explore the responses of these agencies to terrorist acts and threats of terrorism.
Students are generally required to complete courses in identifying and handling hazardous materials, as well as courses on international terrorism and terrorism at home. Through the completion of required coursework, students become prepared to inspect, monitor, and coordinate crime prevention and safety protection strategies for private clients in a variety of situations. Students also learn techniques developed for the protection of properties, such as private homes and businesses.
Many two-year homeland security degree programs focus on the training of first responders such as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical workers and technicians, and other emergency professionals who are essential to the local community in which they live. Some programs offer certificates that emphasize specialized training within the broader subject of homeland security. Certificates can be obtained in crisis and disaster management, national security, telecommunications security, and computer information security, to name a few.
Other programs offer a concentration in homeland security within the boundaries of an academic major such as criminal justice, computer science, or sociology. The students who choose this approach to their homeland security studies may decide to concentrate their studies even further, exploring topics such as bioterrorism and computer network security. Still other programs offer degrees in homeland security with a pre-developed area of concentration, such as law enforcement and criminal justice, disaster management and emergency preparedness, or financial security.
Homeland Security Curriculum
Each homeland security degree program has its own unique curriculum, requirements, and set of prerequisites. It is important for students to gain as much information as possible about the various degree programs available. This way, students may make a wise decision about which college degree program is right for them.
A typical associate degree program in homeland security may include the following courses:
- Introduction to Criminal Justice
- Introduction to Homeland Security
- Bio-Terrorism and its Effects
- The Handling of Hazardous Materials
- Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Domestic Terrorism
- International Terrorism
- Constitutional Law
- Emergency Planning and Disaster Preparedness
Students who choose to pursue a four-year bachelor's degree in homeland security may also be required to complete the following courses, or courses like them:
- Political Science
- Security Concepts
- Theories of Security Management
- Security Methods
- Security Systems
- Evaluating Security Programs
- Security and Business
- American Law Enforcement
- Criminal Evidence
- Security of Information
- Security Personnel Law
- The Workings of Organized Crime
- Risk Analysis
- Loss Prevention
- White-Collar Crime
Depending on the concentration of studies and the degree obtained, students will be prepared to work in private or public businesses, private security, airports, police law enforcement, the FBI, the Secret Service, the DEA, U.S. Marshals, customs investigations, special agents, and border patrol, among others.
Homeland Security: Is It for You?
Potential homeland security students should consider the following questions when choosing the degree program that is most appropriate for their educational goals:
- What kind of educational background does the degree program require prospective students to have?
- Do I meet the degree program's applicant eligibility requirements?
- In what direction do I wish to take my career in Homeland Security?
- Will the degree program help me reach my career goals?
- What are my potential areas of focus in the field of Homeland Security?
- What areas of focus does the degree program offer?
- What kinds of skills and experience do I wish to gain from the degree program?
- What is the length of the degree program?
- What is the degree program's philosophy?
- What is the degree program's application process?
- What level of degree in Homeland Security does the program offer?
- What level of degree in Homeland Security do I wish to obtain?
- What level of degree in Homeland Security will I need to obtain in order to reach my career goals?
- Does the degree program require any fieldwork?
- Does the degree program require extensive research?
- Will classroom observation be a necessary facet of the degree program?
- Can I enroll part-time?
What Can You Do With a College Degree in Homeland Security?
The Department of Homeland Security comprises 22 federal agencies and 170,000 employees, with a budget of over $40 billion per year. People who work for the Department of Homeland Security are employees of the executive branch of the federal government. DHS is constantly advertising openings in the field, in addition to recruiting transfers from other government agencies, such as the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of the Treasury. These jobs will fall under four major directorates: Border and Transportation Security, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Science and Technology, and Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection.
Many government agencies offer entry-level and internship positions to help students develop the skills they need to successfully fill homeland security jobs. But because of financial constraints, the use of private companies and contractors, and the transfer of some functions, powers, and responsibilities to state and local governments, the growth in the homeland security job market may be accompanied by a decrease in the employment opportunities in other areas of the federal government.
Homeland Security Career Outlook
Since 2001, the government has spent over $130 billion on initiatives and strategies related to homeland security. Because the demand for employees with expertise in the security field is so high and is only increasing, the employment prospects for graduates with a college degree in homeland security are positive. Graduates will be eligible for careers in law enforcement, protective services, private security, public security, and other security-related careers at the local, state, or federal government levels.
People with college degrees in homeland security may find careers in such arenas as:
- Transportation Security Administration
- The United States Capitol Police
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- The United States Coast Guard
- The United States Customs Services
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- The United States Marshals Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)