What to Do With a Homeland Security or Emergency Management Degree


Individuals who take pride in their ability to remain calm and productive during crisis situations may want to focus their…

Individuals who take pride in their ability to remain calm and productive during crisis situations may want to focus their career on the prevention and mitigation of catastrophes such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

For civic-minded people who are capable of being rational in scenarios when others might panic and who are also skilled at demonstrating compassion for victims of calamities, a degree in homeland security and emergency management could be an excellent fit.

Experts say that this type of degree provides solid preparation for careers that focus on ensuring safety and protecting people from harm, including jobs in law enforcement and the military. This academic credential also qualifies someone for positions at government agencies where a central mission is to counteract threats to public well-being, ranging from food poisoning and environmental pollution to fire hazards and cyberattacks. These types of civil servant roles exist at the local, state and federal levels.

[See: Homeland Security and Emergency Management Program Rankings.]

A qualification in homeland security or emergency management can also lead to employment at a nongovernmental nonprofit or at a for-profit organization in a job that relates to security or risk management, experts note.

Experts note that someone with training in this discipline can work in a wide range of places where assessing and minimizing danger is a high priority, ranging from hospitals to ports. The huge scope of career options for someone with a background in this field means that their earning potential can vary tremendously, depending on where they work, what position they hold and whether they possess an advanced degree, experts say.

Moreover, because the coronavirus pandemic has raised awareness of the profound impact that a crisis can have if it is not resolved quickly, demand for trained crisis managers and emergency responders could skyrocket, some experts predict.

“I just have to say, now is the time,” says Rebecca Briscoe, a manager with a federal agency she didn’t want us to name and who has a postgraduate certificate in homeland security and emergency management from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University–College Station. “This is the best time to look forward to these opportunities when we have these major catastrophes going on … They are going to need some of the brightest minds to help set their neighborhoods, their corporations, their nonprofits up for success. This is the best time to get into the field.”

According to experts, someone with a degree in homeland security, emergency management or both would be marketable for any of the following types of positions, plus others too numerous to mention here:

— Business continuity manager

— Chief crisis manager

— Crisis communications manager

— City planner

— Counterterrorism analyst

— Crisis intervention planner

— Crime prevention specialist

— Customs & border patrol agent

— Cybercrime agent

— Cybersecurity analyst

— Disaster specialist

— Disaster prevention and mitigation budget analyst

— Emergency management coordinator

— Emergency management exercise designer

— Emergency management planner

— Emergency management training coordinator

— Emergency manager

— Emergency operations coordinator

— Facility security officer

— Federal air marshal

— Flood plain manager

— Fraud investigator

— Hazard mitigation planner

— Homeland security director

— Homeland security intelligence specialist

— Information security agent

— Public information officer

— Protective security officer

— Recovery specialist

— Secret Service agent

— Security consultant

— Security specialist

Experts note that a credential in this field isn’t required to work at an organization that is devoted to homeland security or emergency management, but suggest that the degree provides valuable training that can be applied within this line of work.

Academic programs within this discipline are a fairly recent innovation that didn’t exist until the early 2000s, says Glen Woodbury, director of the Naval Postgraduate School‘s Center for Homeland Defense and Security, the No. 1 program in the U.S. News homeland security and emergency management program rankings.

Although these types of degree programs are a recent addition, they serve a vital purpose, Woodbury says. “Every level of government and every industry needs security professionals to develop policies and strategies to protect communities, employees and critical services,” he wrote in an email.

Public policy, criminal justice and law degrees can all be applied within the homeland security and emergency management field, Woodbury notes, so they might be viewed as alternatives to a degree that focuses solely on homeland security or emergency management.

[Read: What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice?]

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr. — a former senior specialist for crime prevention and victim services for the U.S. Department of Justice and a former director of information services for the National Crime Prevention Council — notes that tackling any job in homeland security or emergency management will require a steep learning curve. Many lessons about handling crises are best learned from experience rather than from books, says Sipes, who runs the website CrimeinAmerica.net.

Anyone who intends to work in this field needs to be able to realistically assess threats and make sense of conflicting reports, says Sipes, who also served a stint as director of public information for the Maryland Department of Public Safety.

[Read: Consider a Master’s in Public Policy for Pursuing a Law-Related Career.]

Woodbury explains that prospective students within this discipline should know that it addresses a wide variety of security-focused issues. He notes that people with credentials in the field don’t necessarily work at the federal agencies that initially come to mind when the phrase “homeland security” comes up in conversation, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Transportation Security Administration.

“We take a very comprehensive look at homeland security and emergency management,” Woodbury says of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, which is sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The center’s homeland security and emergency management program is designed to prepare students for careers that protect “health, safety and security,” he says, adding that those words are meant to be interpreted “broadly.”

Training on how to protect people from danger can be applied in many ways, Woodbury emphasizes, noting that it could be used as a firefighter, a lieutenant of the U.S. Coast Guard, an FBI agent or a naval or Marine officer. Plus, he adds, the critical thinking skills cultivated via this education are applicable to any profession that requires creative problem-solving.

Searching for a grad school? Access our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.

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What to Do With a Homeland Security or Emergency Management Degree originally appeared on usnews.com


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