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Career Profile: Homeland Security

Why Is Homeland Security a Job of Tomorrow?
With an increasing U.S. population and a flood of visitors and new residents coming into the country daily, the demand for homeland security officers will heighten to make certain people, borders and communities are kept safe. International visitors to the U.S. reached a record high of 58 million people, a 4 percent increase from 2007's number, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration. In fact, the U.S. is second only to France in the number of international visitors. Employment opportunities for police officers, which include homeland security officers, are expected to increase 11 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Police officers make an average salary of $47,460 annually.

What Does a Homeland Security Officer Do?
Homeland security officers handle many aspects of national security. There are several agencies within the homeland security sector that employ officers, including customs and border protection, immigration and customs enforcement, the U.S. Secret Service and federal air marshals. Customs and border protection officers primarily work along the U.S. and Mexico border to make certain that only legal means of entering and exiting the country are used. They conduct routine sweeps of the area, patrolling on foot, by air and by motorized vehicle to look for undocumented immigrants who may be trying to get into the country as well as smuggled goods. Immigration and customs enforcement officers work with international immigrants coming into the country. They check passports and visas for validity and authenticity, and also ensure that food, plants and animals brought in from other countries are inspected thoroughly for pests and other contaminants. These include imported goods on cargo ships as well as personal items brought by tourists. The U.S. Secret Service protects the president and other important elected officials and their families. Federal air marshals safeguard the passengers and crews of aircrafts, enforcing air security.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Homeland Security Officer?
Homeland security officers must have at least a bachelor's degree in law enforcement, homeland security, criminal justice or a related field. A bachelor's degree takes four years to earn, and courses would include legal procedures and law enforcement techniques. Agencies within the homeland security sector have different requirements for their employees, but most stipulate the successful completion of a training program and examination.