Pursuing a Career in Homeland Security

By Richard Nieman, MA, CHS-IV, CAS, MFI
 College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

With millions of dollars being funneled into homeland security, for those seeking to break into the field those funds do not necessarily translate into job opportunities. While the field of homeland security can be rewarding, pursuing a career in the field requires research and patience.

The field of homeland security offers a host of opportunities if you understand how to navigate the landscape and have an idea of the field you’re interested in and your qualifications. For the average person with no experience looking to enter the field, you should begin with a basic understanding of homeland security and the subcomponent agencies that interest you most. Careers in this area are not limited to just governments positions, private contractors are often outsourced to fill vacancies as well.

Homeland security is divided into two primary functions with several subsections within the organization that make up or contribute to the overall goal and mission of securing our homeland. However the two primary areas are (1) operations or enforcement and (2) support.


The enforcement area of homeland security is made up of state, local, and federal law enforcement positions. Each law enforcement area has a different mission and hence different requirements for employment. Prior to deciding on a career, you should take the time to research each aspect of the position you are after in order to better understand the road ahead. For instance, most law enforcement jobs require at the very least a physical fitness assessment and a written test, followed with a background investigation. In most cases, an agency today will require additional coursework beyond a high school diploma (such as an associate’s degree) to be eligible for employment. In almost every enforcement position, specialized position such as CSI, SWAT, K9 and Investigators are pulled from the core of the agency and based on career record, length in grade, and other factors determined by the agency.

In addition to a formalized education, employers often seek candidates with diverse backgrounds and specialized skills sets. For instance, those with a degree in finance or financial auditing skills could be sought to handle complex and protracted money laundering, fraud, and other white collar investigations. Language capabilities are very attractive to most agencies and could provide additional opportunities if the candidate can read, write, and speak in a foreign language. Further, today’s increasing cybersecurity threats could offer career options for those with relevant computer skills.


The support function is made up of careers in the areas of consequence management, human resources, public works or facilities, training, and community service or outreach. Intelligence and analysts roles fall in this category as well as records clerks, IT, encryption specialists, and biometrics, science and technology positions.  The private sector may augment a support position as a contractor awarded a contract to provide services in a specialized or niche area.

Take the time to understand what your personal and professional goals are and ask yourself, what do you see yourself doing and in what capacity?  Where do you see yourself as being able to make the biggest contribution and—once you answer honestly—do your homework to better understand the minimum requirements and what is needed to for to excel in the hiring process.

Pursing employment within any position, whether at the state, local, or federal level, is not without a few obstacles and navigating the bureaucratic process can be time consuming and even frustrating. However, don’t allow yourself to get discouraged—use this time to gain valuable work experience in the private sector, enroll in a language course, and brush up your computer skills while you navigate the landscape to the career you always wanted.  

Remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…

Good luck in your journey and be safe!


Did you find this article interesting? If so, share it!

And if you are considering pursuing higher education, we invite you to find out more about Purdue Global’s programs and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.