Homeland security is a broad, constantly changing field. Professionals don't just fight international terrorist attacks (including cybersecurity attacks); they also combat domestic terrorism and respond to both natural and human-made emergencies. Homeland security professionals even handle immigration and border protection.
To succeed in this field, you need excellent planning and leadership capabilities. You also need well-developed technical and analytical skills, since so much of homeland security involves computing and big data. Many professionals opt for a master's degree in homeland security or emergency preparedness. While these programs can be time-consuming, especially for working professionals, they can lead to excellent job opportunities.
This article answers the question what jobs can you get with a master's in homeland security? It covers:
Homeland security involves more than patting down travelers whose metal buttons go off at airport security. Roles range from boots-on-the-ground law enforcement and criminal justice professionals to computer scientists who monitor cyberspace. Federal government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Security Agency (NSA), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) employ many homeland security professionals. Others serve in the armed forces, including the Navy, Coast Guard, and Army, or private sector contractors to the military. Homeland security jobs are available for those at every level of education, including bachelor's degrees and advanced degrees.
Homeland security is a vast field with myriad opportunities for job candidates with a master's degree in homeland security. We've listed a cross section of interesting career options below.
Emergency management directors create plans for situations that include natural disasters, nuclear power plant malfunctions, oil spills, hostage situations, and wartime emergencies. According to O*Net, one in five emergency management director positions requires a master's degree. Many of those roles are in upper management and leadership.
Emergency management directors collaborate with teams, including government and law enforcement, to establish plans and response frameworks, often relying on project management software and Powerpoint to communicate. Some roles require familiarity with geographic information systems and databases.
Job duties depend on employer and specialization. The emergency management director of a college has different priorities and prepares for different emergencies than FEMA professionals.
Where you live is another factor. In the South, you'll need to know how to plan for hurricanes. On the Great Plains, you'll need to prepare for tornadoes. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says most emergency management directors work for local and state government agencies. Other work environments include hospitals, universities, and science and technology services.
There's no clear advancement pathway for emergency management directors—these professionals have usually already spent years in lower-level positions. To advance further, you may need to acquire additional skill sets, perhaps in data analytics or cybersecurity. The BLS says these professionals (as a group) earned a median income of $76,730 in 2021, with the top ten percent making over $133,580.
Remote sensing scientists evaluate remote sensor data from systems like satellite cameras and sonar equipment. They typically spend their days identifying trends and representing their findings. They work extensively with database management software, video editing tools, and development environment software to create reports, develop maps, and devise new data collection and visualization strategies.
The DHS uses remote sensing to monitor security threats like terrorist attacks and environmental catastrophes. It sometimes outsources work to private contractors.
O*Net says 36 percent of remote sensing scientists have master's degrees, and another 25 percent have doctorates. They earn an average income of $104,100. Those employed by the government earn raises based on the General Schedule, which favors work experience. A senior scientist at the National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) makes between $135,468 and $203,700 annually.
Cybersecurity is an increasingly important aspect of homeland security. The DHS employs many cybersecurity experts, as do private companies, many of which contract with the government to provide supplemental services.
Cybersecurity experts at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency work with officials in all levels of government—federal, state, local, and tribal. They help identify and implement new programs to improve security infrastructure, including specific goals like maintaining safe elections. Effective cyber-response teams include computer science professionals with diverse specializations. Because they must explain complex computer issues in simple terms to non-technical stakeholders, communication skills can be a huge plus.
Important cybersecurity roles include:
The Naval Postgraduate School offers the top homeland security program in the nation. Its curriculum serves as a model for curricula at other universities. Coursework covers both logistics and leadership and prepares graduates to develop plans and policies that mitigate or prevent acts of terror and other emergencies. Relevant course titles include:
It's possible to pursue an online master's degree—like the one at Virginia Commonwealth University. Students in the Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness study risk assessment, planning, cybersecurity, and public health. Online homeland security degree programs are especially beneficial for working professionals hoping to pursue continuing education while continuing at their current jobs.
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