Useful Skills in Homeland Security
- Complex Problem Solving - Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Coordination - Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
- Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
- Instructing - Teaching others how to do something.
- Judgment and Decision Making - Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Service Orientation - Actively looking for ways to help people.
- Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Systems Analysis - Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
- Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Agencies, Major Functions, and Mission Areas
Careers in homeland security exist at every level of government—local, state, and federal. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operates twenty two different agencies including Customs and Border Protection, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Transportation and Safety Administration, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and carries out counterterrorism activities.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) divides its career fields into four major functions. These are Mission Support (i.e. the headquarters elements), Law Enforcement, Immigration and Travel Security, and Prevention and Response.
- Mission Support Careers—involve medical, human resources, facilities, budget, procurement, science and technology, training, intelligence, planning and coordination, detection, civil rights, fraud detection, and more.
- Law Enforcement Careers—offer positions in protection of the President, Vice President, their families, heads of state and other designated individuals; securing the nation’s borders; interagency law enforcement training; and enforcing economic, transportation and infrastructure security.
- Immigration and Travel Security Careers—involve protecting the nation’s transportation systems and overseeing the lawful immigration process.
- Prevention and Response Careers—protect the public, environment, and U.S. economic and security interests in any maritime region, as well as provides preparedness, protection, response, recovery, and mitigation to reduce loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards.
Must-Know Security Clearance Information
Although not required for all positions, obtaining a security clearance is important when trying to enter the field of homeland security. While not all positions require applicants to already have one in place, most do require that applicants be able to obtain a clearance. It is important to understand what is required to obtain a clearance, the limitations, and how one is obtained before beginning the job search. One key piece of information to keep in mind: never trust a company offering preapproval for a clearance, no matter how small the fee they are charging.
- There are three basic clearance classifications: Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. Within each clearance level there are different levels of clearance.
- Security clearances can be issued by many U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense (DoD), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Energy (DoE), the Department of Justice (FBI and CIA both fall under the DoJ umbrella).
- To acquire a clearance, individuals must be sponsored by an employer and in a position for which a clearance is required.
- Individuals who are naturalized U.S. citizens may acquire a clearance in the same way that a natural-born U.S. citizen might.
- Although non-U.S. citizens are prohibited from obtaining a clearance, they may be granted Limited Access Authorization (LAA) in circumstances where they possess critical skills or qualifications.
The Homeland Security field offers various types of opportunities, for which O*Net, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, has position descriptions. Related job titles include Emergency Management Directors, Security Managers, Regulatory Affairs Managers, Loss Prevention Managers, Compliance Managers, First-Line Supervisors of Police and Detectives, and Investment Fund Managers.
Sample occupations found within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provided by Bureau of Labor and Statistics include, but are not limited to:
- Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Customs and Border Protection
Border Patrol Agent
- U.S. Coast Guard
- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
Law Enforcement Specialist (Instruction)
- Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Directorate
Protective Security Advisor
Intelligence Operations Specialist
IT Specialist (Information Security)
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Detention and Deportation Officer
Immigration Enforcement Agent
- Office of the Inspector General
- Secretarial Offices
Human Resources Specialist
- U.S. Secret Service
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
Federal Coordinating Officer
- Transportation and Security Administration
Intelligence Operations Specialist
Program and Management Analyst
Transportation Security Screener
- Science and Technology Directorate
Getting Started: Internships
Breaking into a new field can be difficult, and often ‘entry-level’ positions require some previous experience in the field. The best way to gain experience is through an internship. There are several different forms of an internship, such as a fellowship, volunteer, co-op, and the federal government's pathways program.
To search for government agencies, visit the Internships and Fellowships link on the career services website. The ‘Federal Agency Listing' and the ‘Interest-Based Internships’ links can help you determine what types of internships have been available in the past, as well as what is currently available.
Additional information about how internships can assist students in obtaining security clearances, as well as jobs can be found on the clearance jobs website.
Volunteering in a homeland security-related position is a great way to gain experience. Examples of organizations that provide volunteer opportunities include the following organizations. Also see individual state agency websites for possible volunteer or other experiential opportunities as well as the student volunteer page on USAJobs.gov.
Examples of internships offered by DHS, and constituent agencies include:
Getting Hired: Government Agencies, Organizations and Search Engines
There are several government agencies and organizations that seek candidates with a foundation in counter terrorism, along with advanced degrees, experience, and other qualifications. The list below provides examples of such places.
A Homeland Security ‘think tank’, also known as a policy institute, is an organization whose primary responsibility is to conduct research and engage in advocacy in various public policy areas. Several examples of these organizations, whose focuses are related to Homeland Security, are listed below.
If you are a veteran or have experience with a State Vocational Rehabilitation Office, contact a Homeland Security Selective Placement Coordinator. You may be specially qualified for Department of Homeland Security positions, and they may also have additional resources available for you.
Keeping Current: Professional Organizations and Associations
Professional organizations provide job seekers with an excellent opportunity to network with fellow practitioners in their field of study, and can assist in staying-up-to date on the new technology, tools, and best practices in the homeland security field. Below are a few professional organizations you may be interested in within the homeland security field.
Social Media and Publications
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