What does a Homeland Security Specialist do?

T. L. Childree

The basic job of a homeland security specialist is to develop, monitor, and evaluate different types of emergency preparedness programs. These programs are designed to deal with threats including border violations, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks. The duties of a homeland security specialist are performed in accordance with guidelines set forth by the United Sates Department of Homeland Security.

A homeland security specialist might screen freight as well as passengers at an airport.
A homeland security specialist might screen freight as well as passengers at an airport.

A homeland security specialist must fully understand the rules, regulations, laws and policies of the United States government. These security experts may be employed by either a government agency or a private company.

A homeland security specialist may be trained to enforce laws, such as border security.
A homeland security specialist may be trained to enforce laws, such as border security.

In the United States, homeland security has become a top priority in recent years, and it's estimated that there are more than 1 million homeland security specialists employed in the United States. These specialists spend part of their time researching, analyzing, and developing resourceful new security techniques to make them better able to perform their duties in the event of an emergency situation. A homeland security specialist is also responsible for analyzing intelligence data in order to detect or deter any potential threats to the homeland.

In the private sector, homeland security specialists are not only responsible for protecting sensitive data, but also the systems that transfer this data from place-to-place. They must have a good understanding of computer systems in order to securely manage the storage and transfer of vitally important information. A homeland security specialist also plans and implements emergency measures to reestablish necessary business activities in the event of a natural disaster or other disruption of services.

In the government sector, Homeland Security specialists are responsible for safeguarding the basic infrastructure of a community such as transportation, public health, communication, banking, and utilities. Specialists in this field develop and implement procedures to make a community’s infrastructure less vulnerable to natural disasters or terrorist activities. If a breakdown of any of these systems does occur, a homeland security specialist must execute the necessary procedures to restore its functionality.

Many homeland security specialists are utilized in certain types of law enforcement. A homeland security specialist who is trained in law enforcement helps to maintain order, enforce laws, patrol secured areas, and apprehend persons involved in prohibited activities. These homeland security specialists are primarily responsible for the security of United States airports, seaports, and borders in order to prevent dangerous materials from entering the country. These types of specialists are used in airports to screen not only passengers but freight as well.

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Discussion Comments


@ allenJo - The problem with preventative security is simply that if you do your job well, it looks like nothing ever happens. Which leads the people who pay for security to wonder why they need it in the first place. Which defeats the entire purpose of having security.

This can be really frustrating to a security professional. Two things always seem to annoy management and accounting: IT and security. So they get cut. Until something goes wrong. Then they want to know why you're "not doing your job", when they took away all of your tools to do so. Irritating.


@David09 - There is one exception I would take to this rule. It appears that some people in homeland security work for seaports and airports.

You could easily call that preventative in nature in my opinion. If you stop a bomb from entering a seaport or an airplane, you’ve prevented a plot from taking place.


@MrMoody - Yeah, if you visit the web page for the Office of Homeland Security you will find that they are focused on preparedness and recovery. There is not much there in the way of preventing things from happening.

They have travel advisories and precautions and things like that, but these are more for the average citizen just to be alert and aware and hopefully avoid putting themselves into dangerous situations.

I think if you want to work in a position where you get involved in intercepting plots, you need to work with the FBI or CIA or something like that. I am sure there will be a lot of back and forth between these agencies and the Office of Homeland Security, but it’s the field agents that uncover the actual plots from what I understand.


@everetra - I generally agree. The only difference that I see between homeland security specialist jobs in the government versus those that are in the private sector is that the government focuses on emergency processes and procedures for municipalities and such, whereas in the private sector they are focused on backing up data and making sure business can get back to normal.

The one difference that I would like to note is that neither of these positions seem to be preventative in nature. I don’t see the homeland security specialist as someone who tries to piece information together to intercept potential terrorist plots.

It’s quite possible that they may be used in that fashion, but at least a cursory reading of the article suggests that they are focused on emergency plans that get implemented after the fact, like first responders and stuff like that.


I’d expect that one of the most common tasks of any homeland security program would be to engage in continual “What if?” scenarios.

What if terrorists decided to penetrate the United States through the Mexican border? What if they decided to blow up an airplane? What if they successfully carried out a cyber attack and brought down the nation’s communications and electrical infrastructure, even if only for a few hours?

As you can imagine, the specialist must always try to put himself in the mind of the potential criminal, trying to out think him and stay several steps ahead of the game.

He must also piece together pieces of data and try to determine what shape the data is taking, and does it fit any particular what-if scenario, or does it suggest new ones? As you can imagine, this would be a very challenging job.

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