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10 Best Degrees for Homeland Security What to study for a career in the Department of Homeland Security

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If working with the government and the private sector to protect and serve the public interests you, then a job in Homeland Security might be exactly what you are looking for. While Homeland Security is a broad term to describe all job sectors that protect and serve the public, many professionals in this career path work in governmental agencies like the CIA, FBI and specifically the DHS or Department of Homeland Security. Many professionals in this expansive career grouping are highly trained and specialized within their fields but most begin with a strong academic basis that begins with a bachelor’s degree in supportive fields.

Careers in Homeland Security

Homeland Security professionals have many different types of jobs in diverse fields as law enforcement, in information assurance and first responders. Some who pursue a career in the Homeland Security field may specialize in preparations for natural disasters while others choose to focus on the cyberworld. Some jobs take Homeland Security professionals to the forefront of fighting cyber threats and cyberterrorism while other careers may focus on defending the public from terrorism threats. Forensics is a popular career path for Homeland Security professionals, and investigators and detectives in local government, the FBI and the CIA all work in this field as well. Border security is another career path that can grow out of Homeland Security that has physical, cyber, medical and psychological job opportunities attached to it within this profession. Many who enter the military may pursue Homeland Security positions like Air Marshals or Emergency Management Specialists.

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Helpful Skills for a Homeland Security Job

Professionals who enter the fields associated with Homeland Security jobs will need both hard and soft skills. Skills that are transferrable to any job situation are called soft skills. Some of the commonly required soft skills in this field are:

  • Effective Communication – All Homeland Security positions will depend on solid communication skills to complete tasks effectively both within their own team or department as well as with the public or other governmental agencies.
  • Teamwork – Working on a team, with a department or with a group is integral to most Homeland Security positions as well as being comfortable with team-to-team job requirements.
  • Critical Thinking – Application of higher-level thinking skills will be utilized to understand issues and seek answers.
  • Adaptability – Homeland Security jobs will require flexibility and the ability to see when new tactics are appropriate.
  • Problem-solving – The ability to creatively seek out solutions to challenging dilemmas is vital in most Homeland Security jobs.

Hard skills are also key in pursuing specific career pathways within the field of Homeland Security. Hard skills are technical knowledge or training that prepares you for specific job activities. Some of the sought-after hard skills in this field may be:

  • Bilingual or multilingual – Dual language skills can be employed in almost every field within Homeland Security careers.
  • Computer expertise – Different skills may be used in cyber forensics, cyber terrorism or intelligence work.
  • Law enforcement – Police training, investigation skills, border security techniques and emergency management skills are all utilized in this career field.
  • Legal knowledge – Lawyers and other legal experts work with all aspects of the Homeland Security career field.
  • Communication expertise – Writing internal and external communications for the Office of Public Affairs or other government agencies as well as developing communications between departments or organizations are all potential uses for this hard skill in Homeland Security positions.
  • Intelligence analysis – Specific skills in the analysis of intelligence information are used to work with law enforcement, border security, terrorism and counterterrorism departments as well as other areas within Homeland Security jobs.

Ten Best Degrees or Majors for a Career with Homeland Security

Not every Homeland Security professional has that specific degree since the field is so vast and covers a wide variety of jobs. Depending on which future profession is pursued, students have a choice in which direction to take for their undergraduate degree that will lead them to a career within some aspect of Homeland Security. For students interested in one of the careers in this pathway, we have curated a list of the ten most popular and helpful majors to have to pursue a career in some aspect of Homeland Security.

1. Criminal Justice and Criminology

Students who major in Criminal Justice or Criminology will usually be interdisciplinary majors so they may take classes in law, psychology, sociology, public administration and courses that support statistical analysis. Students in a Criminal Justice major will learn the ins and outs of the law, and will understand all aspects of crimes, punishments, the law, and the justice system. Students will study court cases to understand how the law was applied and how it can affect future citizens. Students in this major will likely be required to complete an internship in places like a police station, a counseling office, the FBI or even a human rights organization.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Students will know how to apply the tenets of justice to their position and will have a thorough understanding of the law as well as the criminal justice system. Those pursuing a job in criminal justice will be prepared to interpret and analyze data relating to crime or human behavior and may pursue writing policy or defending human rights causes as well.

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2. Emergency Management

Those studying emergency or crisis management may take coursework in ethics, law, risk assessment, medical operations as well as public relations. Students learning about the management of emergencies will learn about natural disasters as well as man-made disasters and the systems that are in place to support citizenry and the emergency response protocols. Students will dive deep into understanding how the medical, legal, national security and volunteer communities work together to mitigate disaster issues and provide relief through internships and research-based coursework.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Students will be prepared to work in the Homeland Security field because they will practice evaluating and using effective communication skills, data analysis and legal requirements related to emergency management. Those who have an emergency management degree will be skilled in applying legal and ethical solutions learned while also utilizing problem-solving and adaptability skills practiced heavily in this major.

3. Sociology

Students interested in a sociology major will learn all about how people interact and what drives human development and decision-making. This degree is heavy in research and data interpretation while students learn about social relationships as well as how societies function. Sociology majors may study how gender, race, cultural influences and geography influence humanity over time. Some typical courses for a sociology major might be Personality and Social Systems, Political Sociology, Sociology of Religion or Research Methods.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: A major in Sociology prepares a student for a career in many fields of Homeland Security jobs because students will practice effective communication and teamwork as they study and analyze human interactions. Careers in counseling, management of groups of people in any Homeland Security setting, and civilian-facing jobs like law enforcement or border patrol may be a good fit for a Sociology major. Hard skills like computer expertise may be gained in this major and bilingual or dual lingual abilities will further increase the application of this major in the Homeland Security career pathways.

4. Public Administration and Social Service

This broad major provides students with many opportunities to narrow down their interests within the field of administration and social services. Common coursework for this major includes classes in management, public speaking, economics, ethics, teaching strategies and psychology. Students may experience an internship with a public agency or community organization to learn how to assist all members of a community with their legal, health, educational or social needs. Those studying this major will learn excellent communication skills as well as practice teamwork to prepare them for a job in this field. In addition, students may also specialize their major further and gain specific hard skills in their area of interest like data analysis, computer science or even learn specific languages to work with targeted communities in the future.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Those who have a Public Administration and Social Service degree will be ready to work in many areas of management, training and social work areas of Homeland Security. They have the soft skills necessary to work with communities to help provide necessary services while also being prepared to instruct and guide adults in different departments on the legal, medical or other social services people in the community require. Those with this major may be a good fit for a position within the Public Affairs arena, as a law enforcement training director or as a political scientist. Hard skill acquisition of specialized computer languages or legal knowledge will further increase the job opportunities within the Homeland Security field of careers.

5. Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis

Those that study law enforcement with a focus on intelligence analysis will work extensively with understanding data as well as learning concrete hard skills in intelligence gathering and interpretation. Students will practice teamwork, effective communication, problem-solving as well as critical thinking skills during their education. Common classes in this major are criminal justice, research methods, world politics and criminal law. Internships within law enforcement agencies, border patrol agencies or other intelligence agencies like the CIA or FBI might be part of a degree in Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Those students with this major will be well prepared to take on many different career paths within the Homeland Security field. Hard skills like intelligence analysis and computer expertise will prepare students to be anything from a surveillance operator, an intelligence analyst, a federal investigator or as a detective or criminal investigator. Soft skills in communication, teamwork and problem-solving will also be a necessary component for a successful career in Homeland Security as well.

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6. Forensic Science

Students who major in forensic science will build strong problem-solving skills as well as robust communication skills in interpreting and evaluating what they are learning. Students in this major may take courses like clinical laboratory practices, forensic serology, chemistry and report writing and research. In addition, students will also gain knowledge about the legal procedures surrounding forensics and will learn about court and criminal procedures. Forensic science majors will gain many hard skills in DNA analysis, computer programming related to the field of forensics as well as medical and dental analysis information pertaining to forensic investigation methods.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Majoring in Forensic Science prepares students for jobs in many investigative fields within Homeland Security. Students will have the hard skills to begin a career as a forensic science technician within a local or national governmental or law enforcement agency as well as become investigative chemists or even a medical examiner or coroner. With heavy coursework in chemistry and understanding how different elements interact with objects as well as the human body, all aspects of forensic investigations will be potential career paths for this major. Some may specialize in forensic photography, forensic genetics or even researching forensic data for use with future investigations within Homeland Security fields. Students will also have a strong background in data analysis and will have excellent communication and computer skills that help them look for answers in forensic investigations.

7. Political Science

Students wishing to pursue a Political Science degree are usually very interested in the political process and procedures of the government. Students in this major may take classes like government, economics, public policy, international relations and political theory. A Political Science major will be a strong communicator with excellent debating skills. Students in this degree will build their soft skills of reasoning, logic, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Hard skills like public debate techniques will be honed in this degree as well, and internships in local or national governmental agencies are common with a political science degree.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Students graduating with a Political Science degree will be well prepared for a career in the field of Homeland Security. Many students use a Political Science degree as the undergraduate basis for pursuing the legal field and may work as a lawyer in the private sector as well as with government agencies or nonprofit organizations. Other students may choose to become political scientists aiding the government or governmental agencies that support all aspects of the Homeland Security field. The hard skills relating to computers and research also help students with this major to land jobs as political data analysts within governmental agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency or the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

8. Cyber or Computer Forensics

Students who wish to major in computer forensics or cyber forensics will need to have a strong interest in computer science as well as a good understanding of how programming and computer language function. Coursework in this major, also sometimes called digital forensics, may contain classes in programming, computer language, computer networks as well as law coursework. Students will hone their soft skills in problem-solving and adaptability as they learn about all types of media and how they play a part in national security strategies. Students will learn hard skills like investigative methods and rely on building their soft skills of teamwork and communication during this major.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Students who major in Cyber or Computer Forensics will be prepared to begin careers as criminal detectives, investigators, information security analysts and cyber security professionals. Strong skills in all aspects of computing will help students with this major land a job investigating cybercrimes with government or local agencies like a Security Engineer, an Information Security Analyst, a Cybercrime Investigator, a military Information Technology Specialist or even a Systems Analyst. Students will be well-prepared with hard and soft skills to also pursue a job as an IT Auditor within the Homeland Security field as well.

9. Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Many times when students become interested in the field of Homeland Security, they imagine a career fighting terrorism or working in counterterrorism jobs. Students who actually major in Terrorism and Counterterrorism will be learning and training to do exactly that, but they will also be prepared to work in many related fields within the Homeland Security field as well. For this major, students may take courses over the topics of domestic and international law, historical terrorism, techniques to combat terrorism and the impact of terrorism. Students will learn to work cooperatively to build their teamwork skills in this major as they problem solve and use critical thinking skills to understand how and why terrorism works. Students in this major will likely intern in agencies at the local, state and federal levels or possibly in private businesses that aid governmental agencies in this field. Students in this major will also work to understand the social, religious and political factors that contribute to terrorism.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Students with this degree will be ready to take on an entry-level position within many governmental agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the FBI or the National Security Agency (NSA). Students can also pursue jobs at law enforcement agencies as customs officers, border patrol officers or managers or emergency services managers. Hard skills in the law enforcement field, computer expertise, language, legal knowledge and intelligence analysis will all be critical skills within these jobs in Homeland Security careers. This degree is one of the most valuable majors for working within a wide variety of careers in this field and can lead to upper-level, managerial positions when coupled with an advanced degree or additional certifications specific to the desired job.

10. Homeland Security

Students interested in working in the field of Homeland Security can major in this field directly. Students in this major may take coursework in areas like bioterrorism, communication, criminal justice and law, sociology, constitutional law and emergency planning. This broad major will provide the opportunity to specialize skills with concentrations in areas like cybersecurity, law, disaster response, political relations or other similar fields. Students in this major will learn problem-solving skills along with strong communication abilities as well as build up their list of hard skills necessary in this field like computer expertise, law enforcement knowledge, intelligence analysis, and legal knowledge. Students in this major may choose to intern in programs within agencies like the DHS or the NSA before entering the workforce.

  • How it prepares you for a job with Homeland Security: Students with this major are likely the most well-prepared of all of the potential degree options available for those interested in having a career within the Homeland Security field. With excellent soft skills in communication, teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking, students with this major will be prepared to take on a job in a variety of fields like an Air Marshal, a Customs Officer, an investigator in the DHS or NSA, an Emergency Services Manager, an Immigration Officer or even a Secret Service Agent. Hard skills for this major will also prepare students to enter into jobs in the Homeland Security field. Intelligence analysis, understanding of the law and law enforcement agencies as well as computer expertise will all be critical parts of just about any job within Homeland Security.

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