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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began life as an organization dedicated to protecting the United States from terrorism. However, in the 20+ years since its founding, it has evolved into so much more than that.

Pursuing a career with the DHS can be a rewarding path for those who are diligent, dedicated, enthusiastic, and want to do their part to help make the country a better place. Before you make up your mind, there are key things you should know about the DHS.

What Does the DHS Do?

Established in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the mission of the United States Department of Homeland Security is straightforward: secure the county’s air, land, and sea borders to “prevent illegal activity while facilitating lawful travel and trade.”

Five Guiding Principles of DHS

There are five guiding principles that not only shape the overall mission of the DHS but also the essential work that people are doing daily to help further it:

  1. Champion “relentless resilience” for all threats and hazards.
  2. Reduce the country’s risk of homeland security dangers.
  3. Promote citizen engagement while strengthening and expanding trusted partnerships.
  4. Uphold privacy, transparency, civil rights, and civil liberties.
  5. Guarantee mission-driven management and integration.

Collaboration Across Agencies

The DHS works with agencies at the federal, state, local, territorial, and even tribal levels. They help coordinate agency programs into a single, consolidated effort focused on protecting American citizens.

Incorporated Departments

Examples of the incorporated departments that exist and operate within the larger umbrella of the DHS include:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
  • United States Coast Guard (USCG)
  • United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA)
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC)

Types of Homeland Security Careers

The answer to the question “What does the homeland security department do?” will vary depending on which homeland security job description you are talking about. Ultimately, the number of available career paths is every bit as varied as the threats these dedicated individuals help protect us from.

Law Enforcement

The DHS has available positions in a wide range of law enforcement-related capacities. These include playing to the strengths of those with degrees in things like criminal justice, criminology, and more.

Immigration and Travel Security

Working for organizations like Customs and Border Protection (CBP), these DHS officials help to empower legal trade and travel by enforcing regulations that include a variety of laws relating to immigration and drugs. They also help keep not only weapons out of the United States, but terrorists as well.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also helps to oversee legal immigration into the country.

Prevention and Response

The primary example of how the DHS  helps prevent and respond to disaster takes the form of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This brings together citizens and first responders to build and improve upon our capability to prevent and respond to all types of natural disasters.

Mission Support

There are also career paths that see people in positions that help support the larger mission of DHS, like the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). This branch helps teach law enforcement professionals how to live up to their responsibilities as safely and as effectively as possible.


Another viable career path for those interested in the DHS has to do with CISA, or the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. These hardworking people lead a nationwide effort to understand the types of threats that we face in the digital era, to manage them, and to help mitigate the risk to both our cyber and physical infrastructure.

Mission-Critical Occupations

According to the DHS’s own website, examples of mission-critical occupations include the following:

  • Police (Uniformed Division)
  • Emergency Management Specialist
  • Marine Interdiction Agent
  • Law Enforcement Instructor
  • Deportation Officer
  • Federal Air Marshal
  • Transportation Security Officer
  • Criminal Investigator
  • Customs and Border Protection Officer
  • Border Patrol Agent
  • Cybersecurity

How to Pursue a Job With Homeland Security

Pursuing a job with the DHS begins with the federal application process. Most jobs for the DHS are found on USAJOBS, and applicants can find available positions by keyword, location, work schedule, and other factors that matter most to them.

Once applicants submit their job applications there is the possibility they could receive a request to provide more personal information and documentation. They will also have to answer eligibility questions and complete an occupational questionnaire, among other requirements.

Education Requirements

The precise education requirements for a DHS career will vary depending on which job you are considering. It might be beneficial for applicants to major in a program like criminal justice at the associate, bachelor’s, or master’s level. Applicants could also major in a focused program like a bachelor’s in emergency management and homeland security. These types of programs could help provide them with the critical knowledge and insight that applies to most positions that will be available within the agency. More specialized degrees may also be necessary to get into leadership or even training positions, though again, it will vary depending on your intended path.

Work Experience

Typically, most positions within the DHS value applicants with relevant experience. During your education, for example, internships are a recommendation or to, at the very least, complete volunteer hours so that you can show practical experience in a related field on your resume. If you want to work in law enforcement within the agency, for example, it would also be helpful to have previous law enforcement work experience at the local or even state level.

If you want to find out more information about what homeland security careers entail and whether they are a good fit for you, or if you would like to speak to someone about our bachelor’s in emergency management and homeland security program, contact Post University today.

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Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s program and its outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.