Law Enforcement vs Homeland Security: Career ROI

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Updated: February 28, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

Law Enforcement vs Homeland Security - featured image

Have you ever thought of pursuing a career where you can significantly impact society while also ensuring national security? If so, Law Enforcement and Homeland Security careers are two of the best pathways for you. 

Which one would best fit you more?

Law Enforcement and Homeland Security are relatively similar majors. Homeland Security is a primary subject in Law Enforcement which, in turn, features a broader scope of foundational knowledge applicable to any relevant career.

A Quick Look At the Differences Between Law Enforcement and Homeland Security

Explore how these two all-important degree programs and career pathways differ, and assess the job that best fits your interests, skills, and career goals.

Law EnforcementHomeland Security
Average Salaries$62,148$95,100
Job Growth 2022-20323 percent32 percent
Scope and Focus* Deals with a broad range of criminal activities, from minor infractions to major offenses
* Primarily deals with addressing and preventing criminal activities within communities.
* Safeguards critical infrastructure, responding to emergencies
* Coordinates efforts across different agencies to ensure national security

Although they both have important roles to play in preserving public safety and security, Law Enforcement and Homeland Security differ in terms of their reach, priorities, duties, qualifications, and career routes. Both roles tackle diverse issues and safeguard the welfare of people and communities.

What is Law Enforcement?

What is Law Enforcement - Image

Law Enforcement is crucial to maintaining order and security within our society. It involves various agencies and professionals playing unique roles in maintaining public safety and upholding the rule of law.

At the federal level, these agencies are primarily tasked with investigating and combating various terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime:

Other specialized units and task forces also focus on specific types of crime or operate in specialized environments.

Regardless of which agency or position you pursue, you have to fulfill your primary duties. As a law enforcement professional, you must:

Law Enforcement: Education and Career Path

If you have what it takes to pursue a career in Law Enforcement, the first thing you should do is to obtain the appropriate education. Law enforcement degrees are vast and varied, with specializations from psychology and law to criminal justice and cybersecurity.

To give you an overview of law enforcement education opportunities, we will list some of the top majors for a Law Enforcement career.  

A Master’s degree in Law Enforcement is ideal for professionals seeking to specialize or advance in their field. Notably, a Criminal Justice degree leads to high-paying law enforcement jobs

To qualify for even higher positions, focus on research, or pursue teaching, earning a Doctorate in Law Enforcement is a frequent route that professionals take.

Would-be law enforcers must complete practical experience requirements and become certified. You will undergo rigorous training and certification processes, including physical fitness assessments, background checks, and psychological evaluations. Law enforcement academy or training programs make you adept in defensive tactics and emergency response procedures.

Law Enforcement ROI: Education Cost and Salaries 

The average cost of earning an undergraduate degree depends on where you pursue your studies. To have a more affordable learning experience, you should pursue a degree in an in-state public college. According to the NCES, the average undergraduate tuition of public in-state institutions is $9,596, and out-of-state is $27,457. 

However, if you want to pursue an out-of-state college, you might as well apply to private colleges. Out-of-state public colleges and universities are known to charge more for non-resident applicants. Private colleges often follow a flat-rate tuition policy; NCES reports that private education costs $34,041. 

If you plan to pursue a law and psychology major for a law enforcement position, you must also obtain a master’s degree. The average cost of a master’s degree is $20,513.

ROI-wise, any career in Law Enforcement offers a decent venue for growth and job stability. Recent data from Statista shows that there are over 708,000 working in law enforcement positions, and these opportunities are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. 

The average salary for law enforcement careers greatly depends on which sector you are in. However, ZipRecruiter reports that the average annual salary for law enforcement workers is $62,148. Moreover, the US BLS shows an expected 3 percent growth rate for police and detectives.

Here are some of the most common career paths for a law enforcement degree: 

A career in Law Enforcement is for you if:

A career in Law Enforcement is not a great fit if:

What is Homeland Security?

What is Homeland Security - Image

Homeland security is one of the many branches of law enforcement careers. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security is the largest agency in the United States. It focuses on protecting the whole country, including its domestic population, sovereignty, territory, and critical defense infrastructure. 

It takes extreme knowledge and skills to pursue a position in the DHS. This is especially true as the world becomes more interconnected and technology advances, new vulnerabilities emerge, making securing the homeland more challenging. 

When hearing the term homeland security, the first threat that may come to your mind is “terrorist attacks.” But this is not the only threat you’ll deal with—it’s not even the largest. As a homeland security professional, you will also deal with natural disasters like hurricanes and infectious diseases. 

Homeland Security: Education and Career Path

A Homeland Security degree offers various professional career paths. You can pursue positions like:

A Bachelor’s in Homeland Security equips you with the legal and policy framework, skills for identifying and safeguarding US infrastructure, and tools for addressing security challenges.

After earning your bachelor’s degree, consider a Master’s in Homeland Security that lets you in on the processes of strategically implementing policies, and developing tactics related to Homeland Security. This academic level will also allow you to obtain a specialization, such as Intelligence Analysis, Emergency Management, Cybersecurity, Border Security, and Vital Infrastructure Protection.

A graduate degree is frequently the minimum requirement for many high-level positions within the DHS. Many who pursue a Master of Arts in National Security Studies or a Master of Public Safety Administration also find employment at the DHS.

For top-level positions that may or may not be research-intensive, as well as for pursuing a teaching career, earn a Doctorate in Homeland Security degree.

Homeland Security ROI: Education Cost and Salaries

The average annual costs of your educational journey of becoming a Homeland Security officer will be similar to those pursuing a law enforcement degree. 

Here’s an overview of the average tuition for undergraduate and graduate degrees:

As a professional in Homeland Security, you can expect to have a rewarding career. You will be crucial in ensuring the safety and security of communities, nations, and the global population. In return, you can expect to receive excellent benefits, such as health care and retirement benefits. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual Homeland Security salary is $95,100

With the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters and the ongoing threats of terrorism and cyber attacks, the need for skilled homeland security professionals will only continue to rise. The US BLS projects an increase in many homeland security careers between 2022 and 2032, including a 32% growth of information security analysts.

A career in Homeland Security is for you if:

A career in Homeland Security is not a great fit if:

Law Enforcement vs Homeland Security - fact

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