Contrary to popular belief, homeland security professionals do not all have the exact same job or work in the exact same way. In fact, professionals in the field can choose from a wide range of different career options.

Homeland security professionals could work, for example, in mission support, in general law enforcement, in immigration and travel security, or in prevention and response.

Even within these categories, there are hundreds of different jobs that can be had by qualified professionals with experience and/or education in the field. The trick to your success is to know what job you wish to have and then to plan for it accordingly.

Of course, you can’t really accomplish this without a little research. That is why you are advised, before you do anything else, to spend some real time researching the homeland security field. Learn about the many different jobs that exist within the categories referenced above.

Be sure to take special note of any jobs that are of particular interest to you and/or that you think you might possibly like to have someday. Once you have completed your research and have a list of career possibilities put together, it’s time to go even more in depth.

Learn all about the qualifications and responsibilities necessary for doing the jobs you have selected. If at all possible, make contact with and ask questions of professionals currently doing the jobs that interest you or who have done the jobs in the past.

This is often even a good time to try a job shadowing or observation experience. Learn all that you can, and be honest with yourself about how far you are willing to go and what you are willing to do to have a particular career. At the end of your research, you should be able to set a realistic career goal.

Once you have done this, it is time to start planning your education around the career goal that you have set. Most jobs in the field will require you to possess at least a bachelor’s degree, though there are a very select few positions available to those with only an associate’s degree. In any case, education is the next step for most people.

If you already have an education, but find it is unrelated to what you want to do, you might think about supplementing it with a certification or training type course not resulting in a degree, or about taking your education to the next level.

Many graduate and post graduate level programs are more than willing to accept students from diverse and unrelated educational backgrounds.

As an Arizona resident, you are certainly at an advantage in terms of pursuing an education in the field. This state is home to so many wonderful colleges and universities, many of which offer programs specifically in homeland security. Others offer programs related to homeland security or to specific jobs within the field.

Top choices for general homeland security degrees in the state include Argosy University in Phoenix, which has an online master’s degree program in homeland security, and Chandler Gilbert Community College, in Chandler, which offers a certification program in homeland security. There’s also Cochise College, with a certification program in public safety communications officer training.

Other fine educational choices in the state are Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona Western College in Yuma, and Brookline College, which has locations in Mesa, Phoenix, and Tucson. Brown Mackie College, with locations in both Phoenix and Tucson, is also quite well known for its bachelor’s degree program in legal studies.

Plus, there’s Central Arizona College, in Coolidge, with its associate’s degree program in administration of justice, and Coconino Community College, in Flagstaff, which has an excellent associate’s degree program in criminal justice.

Other choices with relevant programs include East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa, Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher, Estrella Mountain Community College in Avondale, Everest College (locations in both Mesa and Phoenix), and Fortis College in Phoenix. Keep in mind that these choices represent just a select few of many, and that there are also a ton of virtual or online schools to choose from as well.