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Homeland Security Career Options and Education


The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2002, as a result of the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It is governed by the Department of Homeland Security Act of 2002 (the "Act") and headed by the Secretary of Homeland Security.

DHS Flags

The Mission of The Department of Homeland Security

The mission of the DHS is to prevent terrorism and increase defenses against acts of terrorism in the United States. In addition, DHS's mandate is to assist with recovery and implement damage control arising from terrorist acts and natural disasters (i.e. Hurricane Katrina).

The Homeland Security Advisory System

A Homeland Security Advisory System was designed to inform both public safety personnel and citizens of possible safety threats. The Security Advisory Systems utilizes the following codes:

  • Green - Low
  • Blue - Guarded
  • Yellow - Elevated
  • Orange - High
  • Red - Severe

Due to global terrorist activities and perceived threats to the United States over the years since institution of the Advisory, Codes Orange and Yellow have been the only codes utilized. Thus, the DHS has never enjoyed a low or guarded status or, thankfully, a severe status. This information tells us the DHS must be ever on the alert for terrorism dangers, as well as ensuring emergency preparedness plans are in place for natural disasters.

DHS Divisions

Implementation of the Act effectively consolidated 22 agencies, formerly the responsibility of several government agencies, under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security. There are six major divisions within the DHS:

  • Customs and Border Protection
  • Transportation Security Administration
  • Coast Guard
  • Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Secret Service

Within each of the above components are subcomponents consisting of literally hundreds of occupations. The DHS is the third largest Government Department and, due to its diversity of responsibilities, requires qualified employees of innumerable capabilities. Today, the DHS employs approximately 208,000 personnel.


Three basic elements are necessary for employment with the DHS:

  • You must be within the minimum and maximum age range for your preferred occupation. For instance, you cannot apply for a border guard position if you are over the age of 37 years;
  • You must be a United States citizen;
  • You must undergo security clearance checks, an interview and, possibly, a polygraph test.

Employment with the DHS is dynamic and ever-changing with new developments constantly emerging in security procedures and emergency preparedness. Depending on your career choice, it can involve long days, shift work, intense stress and considerable travel. You can choose an occupation in the forefront enforcing security procedures or in the administration and management background of DHS operations.

DHS Day-to-Day Operations

To illustrate the immense career potential the DHS offers, the following are selected excerpts from " A Day in the Life of Homeland Security", published by the DHS:

  • The Customs and Border Protection handles in excess of 1.1 million people;
  • The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement makes 21 drug seizures;
  • The Transportation Security Administration has 45,000 security officers on duty;
  • The US Coast Guard saves 14 lives;
  • The US Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalize 3,000 new citizens;
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency trains thousands of emergency responders;
  • The DHS Science and Technology supports colleges and universities in security research projects;
  • The DHS Office of Operation Coordination monitors the threat environment;
  • The DHS Management Directorate hires 100 new employees;
  • The DHS National Operations Center collects and amalgamates information from across the nation;
  • The DHS Office of intelligence and Analysis reviews and distributes intelligence information;
  • The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office provides radiation detection to scan 70,000 cargo containers;
  • The Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers trains 3,500 federal and agents;
  • The DHS Health Affairs retrieves BioWatch collectors testing results;
  • The National Protection and Programs Directorate identifies 40 illegal migrants;
  • The Office of Legislative Affairs advocates for the DHS program;
  • The Ready Campaign educates Americans on emergency preparedness;
  • The United Secret Services protects US government officials,visiting dignitaries and monarchy.

The above is, by no means, a comprehensive list of all the functions of the DHS. Within each department, there are multiple responsibilities to ensure a smooth and efficient operation meets the expectations and goals of that particular department.

DHS Careers

A non-exhaustive list of careers at DHS includes:

Many of these careers are interchangeable amongst the various divisions of the DHS, while some are exclusive to a specific department. Employment with the DHS does not necessarily involve relocation. There are employment positions in Washington, DC, and in every State at the Federal, State and Local levels. For those interested in working abroad, job opening are available overseas for selected careers.

Education Required for DHS Careers

A minimum of an Associate's Degree is typically required, depending on the type of career you intend to pursue. A Bachelor's Degree is likely necessary for science and technology vocations, with Master's Degrees needed for managerial positions. The DHS offers a very limited Scholarship Program for students who plan to specialize in specific fields.

DHS Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage and salary employment is expected to increase by 10 percent up to 2018. As the DHS employs a multifaceted workforce, the specific career outlook for a particular occupation can vary. That said, information technology and security, information research scientists, physical science, life science and engineering, law enforcement and investigators are noted as occupations likely to experience growth. In addition, retirement in many occupations over the next ten years will contribute to job growth. Homeland security will always remain a priority and, therefore, this may add to job security. Employment by the Federal Government is generally considered more stable than private industry.

How to apply for DHS Employment Opportunities

The DHS posts current openings on Each posting lists information regarding location, prerequisites, educational requirements, job description, salary, benefits and travel requirements. The "How to Apply" section provides details on required documentation, procedures and due dates. You can also use USAJOBS to track your application status

The DHS also holds recruiting events and workshops throughout the nation. A schedule of recruiting events can be obtained from the DHS website.


The DHS offers careers of virtually every interest. The DHS is an immense operation, which requires a large workforce for implementation and management of programs. If a vocation in law enforcement, computer technology, first responders, Coast Guard, intelligence, corrections, sciences and so many more appeals to you, the DHS may be an excellent choice as an employer. If you are interested in a career in Homeland Security, take a look at the online college degrees in Homeland Security available to you.