What is the DHS?

The Department of Homeland Security or DHS officially began on March 1, 2003, in response to the tragic events of 9/11. The Homeland Security Act passed by Congress in November 2002 and signed by President George W. Bush, resulted in the formation of a unified national agency to safeguard the United States. Consequently, the government condensed and amalgamated twenty-two different federal departments under the banner of the DHS. The Department is principally administrative in function, with leaders assigned to each of the agencies under the direction of the DHS.

Today, there are more than 240,000 employees in a variety of jobs, including border patrol, emergency response, cybersecurity, aviation, immigration services, and more. It has a budget of $51.672 billion allocated for the 2020 fiscal year. The mission of the dedicated employees is to ensure the safety of the Homeland through prevention, detection, and recovery. Supporting its purpose is the motto “Relentless Resilience.” These two words became one of the five Guiding Principles of the agency.

Diversity of Jobs

As mentioned, there is an array of employment possibilities at the DHS. You could work in a support capacity or be on the front line of combating cyber threats or conducting airport security. The number of employees (240K) is the combination of all federal and state departments under the marquis of the DHS. Therefore, this includes the Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Coast Guard, FEMA, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The latter enforces 400- federal statutes that focus on immigration, human trafficking, illegal movement of goods, and terrorism.

The range of opportunities creates potential careers for graduates with an assortment of degrees. The DHS site provides detailed information on which major applies to potential jobs. From entry-level to experienced professionals, from fieldwork to office setting, there are numerous possibilities. An abbreviated list of the majors, alphabetically, is accounting, anthropology, business, criminal justice, cybersecurity, finance, history, human resources, IT, journalism, law, mathematics, psychology, sociology, and more.

The DHS has been described as the guns, guards, and gates organization because of its concentration on law enforcement. Approximately 50,000 people are working as law enforcement officers.

DHS jobs

The following is an examination of agencies under the directive of the DHS based upon the fiscal budget for 2020:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA has a budget of $28.7 billion, with a workforce of over 11,300. Since 2003, FEMA became part of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Directorate of the Department of Homeland Security. The organization takes action to prepare, mitigate, and respond to natural and human-made disasters. The government site lists several job openings that range from an hourly wage to salaries in the $150,000 range. A degree in emergency management, accounting, management, policy analysis, and many more may provide the qualifications.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a budget of $20.85 billion with over 62,400 employees. More than 21,000 CBP officers inspect goods and passengers at 328 ports of entry to the United States. It has more than 20,000 Border Patrol Agents protecting 1,900 miles of the border along the edge of Mexico. The CBP also uses the services of canines with the largest K-9 unit in the nation.

CBP Agents are not relegated to ocean ports and states that border Mexico and Canada. They are in all 50 states, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, and The Virgin Islands. For example, Nebraska has only one Port of Entry in Omaha, but employees are still needed to fill U.S. customs jobs there. In July 2011, a fugitive wanted by the Croatian government for a murder charge was arrested CBP at this entry port.

Jobs at the CBP cover different majors, including criminal justice, homeland security, agriculture, and intelligence analysis.

The United States Coast Guard, also under the DHS umbrella, has a budget of $11.340 billion with 40,992 active duty employees, 7,000 reservists, and 8,577 full-time civilian employees, for a total workforce of 56,569. Because of the number of civilian positions, you do not need to attend the Coast Guard Academy to apply for a job. There are prospective openings in electronics and mechanical engineering, environmental and maritime law, intelligence analysis, IT, paralegal, marine inspection, HR Specialist, family advocacy, cyber systems, and the list continues.

Those considering the Coast Guard Academy may apply without Congressional nominations. Admission is determined solely on merit for high school graduates between the age of 17 and 22 years, unmarried, U.S. citizens, and no financial debt. According to its website, half the cadets are in the top 10% of their high school class, and all are in the top 50%.


Telling someone you work for the DHS, is analogous to saying you work in the medical profession. The latter could mean you are a receptionist in a doctor’s office or you are a neurosurgeon. Similarly, the DHS has many avenues to pursue a career, just as there are in medicine.

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?