How to Become a Homeland Security Agent
As part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security agents are responsible for conducting investigations into terrorist threats and behavior, the smuggling of illegal substances into the country, illegal immigration, and other issues that affect national security. Homeland Security also handles international affairs and represents national security abroad. According to the ICE website, there are currently 6,700 Homeland Security agents working throughout the U.S. and in 47 different countries.
Homeland Security agents need strong problem-solving and critical thinking skills to be successful in their careers. The ability to work with a team is also important, as investigations cannot be conducted alone. As Homeland Security agents frequently investigate crimes, the ability to research, collect data, and gather evidence is also important. Homeland Security agents should also be able to handle high-stress situations, use firearms, and write reports.
Education & Training
While earning a degree is not necessary, there are degrees for homeland security careers, which can improve job prospects. Typical degrees for homeland security candidates include online degrees in homeland security, criminology, criminal justice, forensics, and psychology. Classes should include courses that hone communications, research, and problem-solving skills. The best degrees will also give students the opportunity to fulfill an internship position within a law enforcement agency.
Before a candidate can qualify for a homeland security agent position, he or she must have some experience in criminal investigation or a closely related field. Typically, candidates come from a police officer, corrections officer, or other law enforcement officer background. The more specialized experience that a candidate has in handling evidence, conducting investigations, and analyzing data, the more qualified he or she will be for the position. For more information regarding the hiring process and required qualifications, call your local Homeland Security Investigations Office.
Before being hired, candidates must undergo a lengthy hiring process consisting of interviews, evaluations, and background checks – a process that can take up to a few months to complete. It is typical for Homeland Security agents to begin at a pay grade of GS-07, however the position has the potential to advance into a pay grade of GS-13, the ICE website reports. This means that agents can earn between $33,979 and $93,175 annually, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. However, exact pay statistics vary based on location and experience. Agents qualify for benefits like sick leave and vacation time, insurance, and a retirement plan. Agents also have the added benefit of being able to work abroad. To learn more about Homeland Security agent compensation, visit the ICE website.