Department of Homeland Security

September 11, 2001 changed everything. On a brilliant blue crystal clear morning, terrorists shattered Americans' sense of security. Nearly 3,000 innocent Americans were killed that day just because they had gone to work or were flying for personal or professional reasons. The federal government knew that security measures had to be improved and the lines of communication across federal agencies needed to become seamless. The Department of Homeland Security was formed, and many people were inspired to seek a criminal justice career.

The Department's primary role is to protect the United States from terrorist attacks. It also assists with the federal response to natural disasters. With over 200,000 employees, the Department of Homeland Security is the third largest cabinet department in the federal government. Only the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs are larger. This means there are a variety of criminal justice jobs to pick from.

Department of Homeland Security Job Descriptions

The Department of Homeland Security protects infrastructure, airports, ports, mass transit systems, and the nation's borders against terrorist threats. Dozens of agencies, including the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the U.S. Coast Guard, are under the jurisdiction of this Department.

Department of Homeland Security jobs require a high level of vigilance. A terrorist only has to be successful once, whereas Department of Homeland Security employees need to make the right decision every time. A mistake, like failing to properly screen baggage, could cost thousands of innocent people their lives. Employees must have an in-depth understanding of local, state, and federal laws, especially when it comes to monitoring a person's behavior. Breaking even the simplest law when conducting surveillance can cause the entire case to be thrown out of court. Communication is also essential. The public needs to be reassured that their privacy will not be violated unless absolutely necessary.

If you are looking for criminal justice jobs, this Department offers plenty of options. You will be able to match your own interests with your law enforcement background. In addition, there are a variety of locations where you can find work. Here is a quick look at a few popular Homeland Security job opportunities.

  • Transportation Security Officer - These officers handle airport screening throughout the country. They are responsible for screening baggage, cargo, and passengers for possible terrorist threats. Officers must investigate any items or behavior that appears suspicious and be able to quickly make decisions if trouble arises.
  • Federal Security Director - This director is responsible for the federal security staff located in an airport. She provides the security policies and procedures that need to followed, develops efficient methods to improve security screening wait times, and deals with personnel issues. Security issues that transportation security officers uncover are often handled directly by the director.
  • Cyber Security Agent / Analyst - Terrorist attacks are not limited to physical property or people. The Internet may have made life easier for many of us, but criminals have figured out ways to hack into computer systems to download personal and classified data. These jobs focus on cyber risk and strategic analysis, detection, vulnerability assessments, and cyber incident investigations.
  • Federal Protective Services - The FPS provides law enforcement and security at the majority of federal buildings across the nation. Job duties include assessing a building's vulnerability, using X-ray machines to screen workers and visitors, responding to potential criminal activity, coordinating emergency responses, and conducting crime prevention workshops or lectures. The FPS also offers jobs that focus strictly on criminal investigations.


There are a variety of Department of Homeland Security jobs for people at all skill levels. Each of these jobs requires you to pass a background test and have either a GED or high school diploma. The remaining training and education necessary will be based on the job you apply for. Jobs like a Transportation Security Officer seldom require a college degree. However, you may want to consider taking a few criminal justice classes. The classes will improve your credentials and boost your chances of being considered for the job.

Federal agent, criminal investigator, and forensic crime lab positions require a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Experience is an important factor, but education is too. These jobs require you to have a broad understanding of the criminal justice system. Many workers have a degree in either criminal justice or criminology. Many choose to minor in psychology or sociology.

Projected Salary Ranges

Department of Homeland Security salaries are based on your location, your level of experience, and the job type. Anticipated job growth remains positive as the country continues to fight potential terrorist threats. However, remember that these jobs are funded by taxpayers. As the federal deficit continues to balloon out of control, government agencies will have to learn how to do more with less money. This could possibly impact the number of opportunities available.

Entry level positions start in the mid 20's to low 30's range. Agents can make between $35K and $90K, depending on seniority. Directors can earn well over $100K. The federal government also offers generous benefits in addition to the salary, including health insurance, thrift savings plans (similar to a 401K), retirement plans, paid vacation and federal holidays, tuition reimbursement, and flexible work schedules.

Last Updated: 04/29/2014