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Understanding Homeland Security

Career advancement in the U.S. government requires a combination of education and experience. If you are interested in a Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ), then you will need a solid understanding of homeland security history, the departments and jobs that this department absorbed and its significance in the U.S. criminal justice system.

An Introduction to Homeland Security History

Prior to September 11, 2001, domestic security was known as civil defense — a general approach to stateside security wherein civilians practiced safety measures to protect themselves against attacks during World War II and the Cold War. By 9/11, however, enemies of the state changed drastically from nation-states to small, difficult-to-predict ideological groups. Labeled as terrorists, these groups operate with little regard to international law, treaties, or rules of engagement, which allows them to circumvent conventional security measures with relative ease.

Four weeks after 9/11, President George W. Bush created the Office of Homeland Security. This new office absorbed 22 government agencies from nine different federal departments: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Justice, State, Transportation and the Treasury. At the time, there were about 100 government agencies involved in emergency response; the Office of Homeland Security sought to streamline the process to fulfill its mandate to prevent terrorist attacks in the United States, to reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism and to minimize the danger from potential attacks and natural disasters.

From the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security absorbed the Domestic Emergency Support Team, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the National Infrastructure Protection Center, the National Domestic Preparedness Office and the Office of Domestic Preparedness. Each agency migrated existing criminal justice jobs and created many new ones.

The Department of Homeland Security

With a better understanding of Homeland Security history, it is important to understand today’s working environment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are about 42,000 detectives and criminal investigators working for the Federal Executive Branch (note: Homeland Security employs over 240,000 individuals). On average, they make about $105,470 annually and are among the highest earners in the profession. As a Homeland Security employee, you help secure U.S. borders, airports, seaports and waterways by contributing to the research and development of security technologies, responding to natural disasters or assaults and analyzing intelligence reports. Although the Department of Homeland Security hires thousands of individuals each year, securing one of these jobs is a competitive process.

Entering a MSCJ Program

If you are interested in contributing to Homeland Security, one way you can stand out is by entering a MSCJ program. These programs will teach you criminal justice theory, leadership skills, ethics and analytical methods; they will also provide in-depth study of Homeland Security and its role in the United States. For the busy working professional, there are even online MSCJ programs, such as Lamar University’s program, which you can complete in as few as 18 months.

U.S. Homeland Security history includes many first-of-their-kind decisions that affected the future of criminal justice and national security. Already, debates over how new technologies affect civil liberties are asking difficult questions about how to balance security and freedom. As a criminal justice professional, you can help contribute to homeland security by enrolling in a MSCJ program and considering career advancement in the Department of Homeland Security.

Learn about the Lamar University online MS in Criminal Justice program.


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