If you’re wondering, “What can I do with a homeland security degree?” you might be surprised to find just how many career tracks are open to you once you earn such a degree.
It might apply to more than you think.
“Many of our active-duty military, veterans, and adult students are interested in getting into law enforcement,” says Kenneth Christopher, associate professor and academic program director for the degree. “And there are three times as many options in terms of security or enforcement in the private sector, in risk assessment, emergency planning, and fire services.”
Homeland security careers can also include protecting critical infrastructure, Christopher says, such as at an airport or a hospital.
Students learn to plan for, analyze, and react to many different security situations. Classes examine terrorism cultures, operations management, crisis recovery, and emergency management, and can be applied to the following areas.
Homeland security jobs can include federal law enforcement, such as customs officers, border patrol officers, and members of the FBI. Students enrolled in on-campus classes or pursuing an online degree can take what they learn and apply it to careers in local, state, or federal law enforcement.
Many U.S. Department of Homeland Security jobs, such as law enforcement roles, might require a degree to advance into higher levels of responsibility, Christopher says.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for police work in 2018 was $63,380 annually, with an average projected growth rate of jobs available at about 7%. In California, more than 72,000 roles exist in law enforcement, with an annual mean wage of $101,380.
Emergency Management and Disaster Relief
Many professionals in homeland security careers work in emergency management, such as recovering from a mass shooting, or in disaster relief, such as helping on site following destruction from a hurricane.
“This degree provides a foundation,” Christopher says. “We’re preparing students to be specialists, supervisors, and managers.”
Many organizations prepare for an emergency or disaster with policies and plans based on the situations they may be at the highest risk for. A school must plan for any potential crime on their property, acts of violence, and fire emergencies, among other things. Businesses located in areas of the country susceptible to tornadoes or hurricanes must have plans in place for weather-related emergencies.
The median annual salary for an emergency management director in 2017 was $87,440, according to the BLS. In California, the annual mean wage was $120,240 for this role. Available jobs in the sector have more than doubled since 1990, and the industry’s growth is projected to continue into 2026, the BLS reports.
Homeland security can also translate to a variety of jobs in the private sector. Students pursuing online degrees can find many opportunities in corporate security for industries, such as transportation, medical, banking, and information security, Christopher says.
“There are a lot of unique security needs in some specialized areas you might never think about,” he says. “For example, security is a concern at art museums, laboratories, nuclear and other power plants, mining, and special industrial settings.”
According to the BLS, overall job opportunities in the security sector are excellent and will continue growing. Median salaries for a security guard in 2018 were $32,050. In California, more than 151,000 people are employed in security roles, with a mean annual salary of $31,560.
Taking It to the Next Level
Many students wondering ‘What can I do with a homeland security degree?’ may find the degree can launch the next phase of their careers.
“This knowledge allows you to work at a higher level of an organization,” Christopher says.
Students will learn to evaluate a variety of models to approach emergency response plans, walk through developing a plan, and analyze all the factors that could come into play, all of which are important in Department of Homeland Security jobs.
Homeland security careers also offer plenty of opportunities to continue to specialize through further professional certifications or particular skills.
“It depends on the occupation, but there are many options,” Christopher says. “For example, ASIS International, a large organization of security professionals around the world, has multiple professional development certificates.”
The Right Path Forward
National University’s Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management can lead to homeland security jobs in law enforcement, emergency management, disaster relief, and security operations. For many, this degree can lead to advancement opportunities or the ability to take on more responsibility at work.
At National University, you can work the four-week class schedule around your busy life, pursue options such as the school’s fully online degrees, and access a myriad of resources for students. Visit our law and criminal justice degrees program page to learn more about the Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management and to contact us for additional information.