Many people who want to make a difference and play a role in keeping our country safe find the field of homeland security appealing.
A sense of patriotic duty, however, isn’t the only reason that individuals choose to pursue a security-focused career; competitive pay and growing demand also play an important role for many. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alone employs roughly 240,000 individuals in a range of positions, a figure which does not include positions at the state, local, or private level.
Are you considering a career in homeland security? Below, we explore some trends in the field and have compiled a list of some of the highest-paying, fastest-growing careers, and offer advice that can help you prepare for the job you want.
What Is “Homeland Security”?
Homeland security broadly refers to any work that is undertaken to protect the U.S. homeland, its citizens, and its domestic and international interests. As such, many different careers and job titles fall under the umbrella. Individuals who work in emergency management, disaster preparation and mitigation, cybersecurity, or counterterrorism at state, federal, and private organizations can all be considered homeland security professionals.
Homeland Security Careers Trends
“Homeland security is an ever-changing, always-growing field that is still forming even 18 years after the attacks of September 11,” says John Terpinas, Professor of the Practice and lead faculty for Northeastern’s MA in Homeland Security program and retired Supervisory Special Agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
While homeland and national security have always required a close partnership between federal, state, and local authorities, it has largely been viewed by the public as a federal effort. But according to Terpinas, this is changing.
“Every state is beefing up its homeland security efforts,” Terpinas says. “Every corporation has a security function. The field is growing at every level.”
Jack McDevitt, director of Northeastern’s Institute on Race and Justice and Professor of the Practice in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice agrees, and points to specific roles within the field that have seen—and are likely to continue to see—increased demand.
“As data collection becomes more commonplace and important to decision making, analyst positions are going to become increasingly important,” he says, a sentiment echoed by the DHS. “Similarly, increasing climate change events such as forest fires, floods, hurricanes, etc. are all going to require individuals with disaster management skills, while an increase in terror-related events is going to require individuals with very specific counterterrorism skills.”
Homeland Security Careers to Consider
With the above trends in mind, we have compiled a list of homeland security careers likely to see an increase in demand over the coming years.
1. Intelligence Analyst
Average Salary: $68,959
Intelligence analysts are employed by a range of government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, as well as by companies that work with or for the government and private businesses or organizations. Intelligence analysts spend most of their working hours gathering and analyzing information related to security threats, though the specific duties of the position will depend on which agency by which they are employed. These duties may include maintaining intelligence databases, coordinating with state and local authorities, investigating a variety of threats, analyzing images and data, developing and maintaining relationships with sources, and more.
2. Cybersecurity Analyst
Average Salary: $75,871
Cybersecurity analysts, also called information security analysts, are employed by government agencies and private companies or organizations. They work in a number of capacities to ensure that critical data and the networks that store this data are secure from intrusion or vulnerability. This may include everything from the planning and implementation of security plans and strategies to routine monitoring of the system, resolution and analysis of security incidents, and more.
Learn More | Homeland Security & Cybersecurity: Exploring the Intersection
3. Counterterrorism Analyst
Average Salary: $89,500
Counterterrorism analysts are most often employed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as certain other government agencies and, occasionally, private businesses that operate in regions of risk. According to the CIA’s description of the counterterrorism analyst’s role, their mission is to “assess the leadership, motivations, capabilities, plans, and intentions of foreign terrorist groups and their state and non-state sponsors.” The end goal is for the analyst to be capable of identifying threats, warning of attacks, and disrupting terror networks.
Learn More | Top Counterterrorism Careers & the Skills You Need to Land Them
4. Disaster Recovery Specialist
Average Salary: $80,000
Disaster recovery specialists are employed in large numbers by federal and state government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In this capacity, they perform a range of duties related to preempting and reacting to natural disasters and man-made emergencies such as hurricanes or acts of terror. Depending on the specific role and position held, this may involve analyzing various risks, creating and implementing disaster recovery plans, training others on processes and procedures, assessing damage, and coordinating a response to a disaster event.
5. Business Continuity Manager
Average Salary: $93,809
Business continuity managers are to private businesses and organizations what disaster recovery specialists are to federal and state agencies. They work to develop a protocol to be leveraged in the event of an emergency or disaster (manmade or otherwise) that will ensure the ability of the business to continue to operate during and after the emergency. Exact responsibilities will vary depending on the type of organization they work for, but very often include risk assessment, the documentation of business continuity and disaster recovery plans, and constant evaluation and monitoring of said plans. In the event of an emergency, business continuity managers are typically responsible for overseeing the implementation of their plan.
Preparing for the Job
If you believe that a career in homeland security is right for you, there are a number of steps that you can take to prepare for the job and improve your chances of being hired. One incredibly valuable step is to pursue a graduate degree related to the field in which you would like to work.
Northeastern University offers a number of graduate programs designed for individuals interested in the careers outlined above, including master’s programs in:
- Homeland Security
- Strategic Intelligence and Analysis
- Security and Resilience Studies
- Criminal Justice
Our curricula are created with the input and expertise of industry-sourced faculty who have years of experience working in the field. These curricula, paired with a variety of experiential learning opportunities such as internships and co-ops, ensure that graduates walk away from our programs with the skills, knowledge, and experience employers are looking for. They’re Particularly valuable for those seeking to advance their careers into leadership roles in both the private and public sectors.
A close partnership with a global network of security employers, such as the U.S. Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the U.S. Department of State, and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), offers students numerous opportunities to connect with potential employers.