Guide to Homeland Security Degrees

Homeland security jobs include careers for engineers, technicians, trainers and more. Discover top careers and schools for homeland security degrees.

The Department of Homeland Security was formed shortly after the September 11
th attacks. Homeland Security was designed to keep the nation safe from future attacks. With such a broad goal, there are many positions available in the department, each requiring a different set of skills and training. Homeland security degrees are classified as criminal justice, but the type of classes you take greatly varies depending on your interest. For example, some homeland security jobs require extensive knowledge on cyber security, while others involve counterterrorism training.

There are several levels of homeland security degrees available, ranging from a traditional two-year associate degree all the way to a doctorate. Which degree you needs varies based on your position, but in most cases, you are recommended to get at least a four-year bachelor’s degree. Listed below are some of the top homeland security professions, as well as recommended colleges to get your degree.

Civil Engineer

Civil engineers are employed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Civil engineer is a popular job because it is so versatile. Some of the positions are entirely office-based jobs. In these positions, you either act as a team manager, or lead design projects for airports, water supply systems, roads and tunnels throughout the nation. Other positions take place almost entirely at construction sites. Other engineers work directly with towns and cities after an emergency to repair the damage.

The exact requirements to become a civil engineer vary based on your position. Applicants are encouraged to have at least an associate degree in homeland security, as well as a bachelors in an engineering specialty. Your salary also varies based on your position, but typically civil engineers are paid higher wages, earning around $120,000 on average.

Postal Inspector

If you want to start your career in homeland security but are unsure where to begin, postal inspector is an excellent career. You must be at least 21 years of age and no older than 37 to work as a postal inspector. At minimum, you must have a bachelor’s degree in homeland security. In addition to investigating suspicious packages, postal inspectors are also responsible for overseeing any criminal, civil or administrative crimes relating to mail. Many inspectors go on to pursue other criminal or law related careers after working as a postal inspector. Postal inspectors on average make $110,000 a year.

Fraud Investigator

Fraud investigators are technically part of FEMA, but they primarily work out of the Chief Security Office. In order to work as a fraud investigator, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree and several years of experience investigating legal misconduct on either a federal, state or local level. While most of the work is done in the office, investigators are sometimes required to travel to emergency sites to work with state officials and perform in-depth investigations. On average, fraud investigators make between $110,000 and $115,000, based on experience.

CIA Agent

Officially, CIA officers are known as information security agents. In addition to passing an extensive background check, you must have at least an associate homeland security degree before applying for any CIA job. It is common for applicants to finish their bachelor’s before applying to be an information security agent. Agents are responsible for analyzing and improving existing security structures, building on network infrastructures and performing security audits on government data. Agents are paid $80,000 as a starting salary, but more experienced agents receive as much as $110,000 a year.

Federal Law Enforcement Advisor or Trainer

If you want a physical job, consider working as a federal law enforcement trainer. Becoming a federal law enforcement advisor or trainer does not technically require a degree, but most trainers have at minimum an associate in homeland security. This is because you must be able to pass a Federal Law Enforcement Training certification program. All of the knowledge needed to pass the program is covered in homeland security courses.

Top Schools for Homeland Security Degrees

  • George Mason is one of the top colleges for homeland security degrees. The university is best known for their legal programs, as well as law enforcement training programs. Earning a bachelor’s from George Mason requires 120-credit hours. If you are interested in counterterrorism training or border protection, 
    Tulane University runs an excellent bachelor program. Tulane also has classes for infrastructure defense and emergency management, which is helpful if you want a job with FEMA.

  • Thomas Jefferson University has multiple homeland security programs. It is also one of the universities that offers an accelerated degree program, as well as having a generous credit transfer policy. Some of the notable programs include disaster recover and response. There are also general policy management classes if you are more interested in working in a traditional office setting.

Online Schools for Homeland Security Degrees

Some homeland security degrees require you to attend classes in person because of the practical elements. If you are more interested in technical and information-based careers, there are several online programs to earn your homeland security degree.

  • DeSales University runs an online bachelor program, focusing on cybercrime and cyberterrorism. There are also classes for critical infrastructure protection and digital forensics. There is also an accelerated program to get your master’s degree within five years.

  • Mercer University runs an excellent program for emergency management and fraud investigations. There are also legal classes covering ethics and public safety laws, which are important for FEMA investigators.

  • Angelo State University has many homeland security programs available. In addition to a robust program on cyber security, there are also classes focusing on rebuilding infrastructure and wildlife crimes. Legal courses focus on immigration and trafficking laws.