General Information

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), formed in 2002, consists of a dozen federal agencies under the umbrella of the DHS. The government decided to consolidate 22 agencies, departments, and offices into a more uniform structure. Currently, it has a budget of $52 billion spread across the various agencies. A short list includes the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, FEMA, Coast Guard, Secret Service, Directorate of Science and Technology, and the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA). As of 2018, there were approximately 240,000 employees throughout the 12 entities.

The DHS headquarters are in Washington, D.C. There were 3,261 employees at this location in 2018, with an average salary of $119,756. The General Schedule pay scale applies to all federal government workers. Jobs at the DHS headquarters range from support and clerical positions to physicians, dentists, attorneys, consultants, security administrators, scientists, and more.

hiring pix

IMAGE SOURCE: Pixabay, public domain


Individuals interested in working for the DHS have an array of opportunities from a Border Patrol Agent to Paralegal in the U.S. Coast Guard. Of course, you could apply for a position within the DHS home office. However, your chances may increase in one of the federal agencies or departments with more employees. The higher the number of workers, the better chance there is for openings created by retirements, promotions, transfers, and people quitting.

For example, there are 8,577 full-time civilian employees with the Coast Guard in addition to 40,992 active-duty members. Therefore, you do not need to enlist in the Coast Guard to work for it. For a list of current job listings, you may review these at USAJOBS.GOV. It is the official site for jobs in the United States Government. You can find civilian opportunities in the Coast Guard (USCG).

For example, a posting for a Contract Specialist in the USCG/DHS has a salary range of $51,546 to $97,179, which falls within the General Schedule (GS) of 09-12. Part of the hiring process for this position includes a National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI). It is a background check for employees who will not have access to classified information. The government performs a NACI for jobs designated as public trust positions. The investigation exceeds the determination if the employee is honest and trustworthy. There are eight criteria, which the inquiry may apply depending on the level of security clearance necessary for the job.

There are steps to the hiring process that may test one’s patience to commence employment.

  1. Application Received

The agency to which you applied receives your job application. At USAJOBS, you can apply online for the posted positions after creating an account. The posting outlines the job duties, education, experience, and other pertinent information, as well as what documents you need to include. Your resume and application sit until the job closes for all candidates. This time could be three weeks before the agency reviews your application.

  1. Application Reviewed

This step depends on the number of applicants. A larger applicant pool likely means a longer review process. The hiring agency or department does not make a decision. Instead, your applicant and accompanying documentation are forwarded to the hiring manager or human resources manager for further scrutiny. Again, many referrals will delay the process as more prospective candidates’ paperwork is reviewed.

  1. Interview

There is the possibility of an interview in person or video. A select number undergoes an interview until, finally, the hiring manager offers the position to the successful person. The offer does not end the process. A background check follows for all federal employees, whether active-duty or civilian.

Background Check

Applicants will need to submit five years of employment and education records, and the past three years of residence. Law Enforcement checks look at prior criminal offenses, drug use or involvement, credit check, fingerprinting, and citizenship verification. The background checks do not begin until you have a job offer. To reach this point could take weeks or months, and then there is a further wait while the feds conduct the inquiry into your past. Something as trivial, to some, could preclude you from starting the job. For example, a loan you defaulted on payments.

Another posted job at USAJOBS is a Civil Engineer at FEMA. The position also demands a Public Trust background investigation. The hiring process for all applicants involves the completion of Standard Form 85 for Non-Sensitive Positions. A point of emphasis on the form is that your previous employer will be contacted. There is no negotiation with this federal requirement. Failure to provide accurate information on Form 85 could result in fines up to $10,000 and imprisonment of five years.


The hiring process for the DHS or any of its agencies could take months. Jobs demanding a higher level of security clearance involve a thorough and lengthy background investigation. Border Patrol agents (part of DHS), for example, require a polygraph and complete the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. A personal interview is also part of the background investigation. The hiring process to join the CBP could take twelve months or longer.

Additional Resources

What Kind of Profile Does the Secret Service Look for in Applicants?

Are There Requirements to Be an Agent for Homeland Security?

What is Involved in the Background Check to Join the DHS?

What are the Benefits of pursuing a Degree in Law Enforcement?

What Government Jobs are there with a Criminal Justice Degree?

What are the fastest Schools for a Master’s Degree in Criminology?

Are most Homeland Security jobs in or around Washington, D.C.?

What is a good subject to double major or minor with Homeland Security?

Is it easier to get a job with the Department of Justice if I go to school in or around D.C.?