Improving the security of the United States is a Herculean task that falls to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its more than 250,000 employees with a wide range of skills and talents.
“The purpose of the Department of Homeland Security is to protect the country from external and internal threats by protecting its borders and maintaining stable immigration,” says Dr. Halil Akbas, Associate Chair of Anthropology, Sociology and Criminology at Troy University.
He adds, “Some of the largest agencies in the Department of Homeland Security work towards these objectives. These agencies include Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Coast Guard and the Secret Service.”
If you are wondering how to work for homeland security, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a homeland security minor from TROY could be your first step to unlocking a rewarding DHS career. Dr. Akbas notes that many graduates of TROY’s criminal justice degree program work for DHS.
As a criminal justice major at TROY, you will dive into law enforcement, corrections, constitutional law, criminology, and law and criminal procedure. These required courses act as an academic cornerstone, helping expose you to various areas in the criminal justice field so you can find your perfect career fit. That could be working as a police officer, a crime scene investigator or one of the many different roles with DHS.
A minor in homeland security adds value to your criminal justice degree by providing an improved understanding of how we safeguard the United States against potential foreign or domestic threats. Throughout the program, you will learn how homeland security has evolved post-9/11. You’ll also delve into crisis preparedness and recovery strategies, with a specific focus on the roles and responsibilities of national, regional and local response teams.
9/11 Prompts Creation of the Department of Homeland Security
DHS was formed in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Established in 2002, DHS combined 22 federal departments and agencies related to homeland security into one unified agency.
“In a relatively short period, many of the nation’s existing security agencies moved to the Department of Homeland S
ecurity, and several new agencies were created,” TROY’s Dr. Akbas explains. “Now it’s one of the largest security departments in the United States.”
By combining intelligence from across the multiple agencies operating under the same banner, the Department of Homeland Security can monitor the movements of hundreds of thousands of people traveling to and through the United States every day. Dr. Akbas explains that the visible presence of customs and immigration officers stationed at the nation’s borders is just the tip of the iceberg.
“When anybody buys a flight ticket anywhere in the world, everything is checked,” says Dr. Akbas. “When people take an unusual route into the country, or there are red flags with their visa, there is an automatic risk analysis.”
Ten years ago, there was a big problem managing the border efficiently and effectively. But DHS fixed many of those issues using integrated border management systems, Dr. Akbas shares.
“Security doesn’t just happen at our international airports,” he says. “Creating a high level of protection takes an extensive process. Now, that same level of protection is available at hundreds of land borders and seaports.”
But homeland security isn’t just about protecting the country from international and domestic terrorism and criminality. It also includes preparing for, responding to and recovering from natural disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is part of DHS, serving as the emergency management and preparedness agency for the federal government. FEMA was created after Hurricane Katrina struck the Southeastern U.S., hitting New Orleans hard in 2005.
FEMA, Dr. Akbas notes, has “a lot of responsibility.”
Dr. Akbas explains that FEMA supports citizens and first responders to build, sustain and improve their capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to and recover from disasters of any kind. For example, in August 2023, more than 190 search and rescue workers and more than 380 FEMA employees were deployed to Hawaii to help residents after the devastating wildfires on the island of Maui.
Homeland security thus holds promise for criminal justice degree graduates with a wide range of interests. Whether you want to help analyze security risks or help our nation recover from disastrous events, you’re likely to find a job in homeland security that works for you.
Jobs in Homeland Security Challenge Your Mind and Reward Your Talents
Those who work for DHS can do so in the air, on the land or at sea. Homeland security offers opportunities in every state and across the world, recruiting in areas ranging from aviation and border security to emergency response, cybersecurity analysis and chemical facility inspections.
The Department of Homeland security also holds opportunities for women and underrepresented groups. DHS is committed to building a diverse, resilient, and skilled workforce that mirrors and represents the nation it serves. As such, it is keen to highlight roles in law enforcement to underrepresented groups in its ranks. One career path DHS is proactively promoting is for women in law enforcement. With roles across multiple DHS agencies, it promises “unique career opportunities that will challenge your mind and reward your skills and talents.”
DHS also employs veterans, service members and their spouses in a variety of critical roles, including Transportation Security Administration officers, U.S. Border Patrol agents, Homeland Security investigators and different mission support positions within DHS, including contract specialists and intelligence analysts. DHS also offers the military community resources to help military personnel and veterans, including those with disabilities, transition to federal employment.
But just because there are many jobs in homeland security doesn’t mean they are easy to secure. A criminal justice degree with a minor in homeland security helps you stand out from other candidates. It highlights your unique skill set, specialized knowledge and broad understanding of security issues. This combination of knowledge and skills is particularly valuable in a world where security threats are continually evolving. They will make you a sought-after candidate for various positions within DHS and the broader criminal justice field, including the security and law enforcement sectors.
TROY’s Program Stands Out from Other Homeland Security Degrees
So what makes TROY the best choice for your criminal justice degree? Dr. Akbas describes TROY as a historic institution with a modern outlook.
“TROY was founded in 1887, but that doesn’t mean we are set in our ways,” he says. “We are always looking to improve the delivery of our programs and embracing technology to enhance our students’ learning experience.”
At TROY, you can expect to learn from faculty members with both academic credentials and years of real-world experience, he adds. Dr. Akbas has a long professional history that he can bring to the classroom. He was a police sergeant in his home country of Turkey, where he managed national and international projects relating to immigration, human trafficking and terrorism. Having survived a terrorist attack where he was shot in the neck, Dr. Akbas understands the importance of national security. Other TROY faculty also have rich experiences in the field.
“The faculty here are excellent,” says Dr. Akbas. Caitlyn Ramirez, who earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in criminal justice, affirms this. She attests, “My instructors paved the path for me to be great in my everyday job with the amount of drive they instilled in me to be nothing but great. Instructors in the program will not let you down. TROY has the best instructors by far.”
Beyond supportive, expert faculty, TROY also has a proud history of serving the military community, including helping them prepare for DHS careers.
“Many of our military students are attracted to jobs in homeland security,” says Dr. Akbas. “Unsurprisingly, the Department of Homeland Security welcomes them with open arms. They believe that employing military veterans and their spouses honors the promise and sacrifice they made to protect the nation. But it also gives them access to a highly disciplined and organized workforce. They are a great fit.”
Unlike some programs for homeland security degrees, faculty at TROY also have deep connections within the criminal justice system and DHS. Because of those connections, you’ll also learn from expert guest speakers who visit TROY and share their insights. You’ll also have access to a variety of career-shaping internships and job opportunities.
“Federal agencies themselves often approach us,” says Dr. Akbas. “They come into our classes, discuss what they do and highlight potential career options for our students. It’s like a recruitment fair in the classroom.”
Dr. Akbas encourages students to take their time before deciding what homeland security degrees — and careers — are best for them.
“There’s a real opportunity at TROY to learn as much as possible about the criminal justice system and homeland security before embarking on a career,” says Dr. Akbas. “We don’t only teach our students the theory. They’ll also get the practical knowledge they need to excel in this field.”
An Online Criminal Justice Degree Providing a Rigorous Educational Experience
Dr. Akbas says online students can expect to receive the same rigorous education they would receive in person.
“Our online degree creates opportunities for students who might not be able to access the program any other way,” says Dr. Akbas. “But that doesn’t make it an easy option.”
The program is built on a highly structured curriculum and delivered by a dedicated and highly experienced faculty. To facilitate the best possible online learning experience, TROY’s faculty are committed to making themselves highly available to students via email, video conferencing and phone.
TROY’s long history of delivering online education programs, dating back to 1997, means students can access the very best digital tools and platforms to facilitate interactive learning. Discussion forums, video conferencing and collaborative tools enable students to engage with course material and their peers, fostering a dynamic learning environment.
“Students will still need to carefully manage their personal motivation, time management skills and commitment to the learning process,” says Dr. Akbas. “But we have the structure and experience to make sure their experience is rewarding.”
Ramirez speaks to the benefits that come with a rigorous program. She says, “It’s hard, it’s a lot of information, but it will prepare you when you are in the work field. You will use this degree every single day.”
Learn More About How to Work for Homeland Security
Learn more about how TROY’s criminal justice degree can help you launch your homeland security career.