If you live in the state of Idaho and are planning on becoming a homeland security professional, you are likely feeling confused about what, exactly, you have to do to make your career goals a reality. After all, there are so many different educational and/or training programs available in the state, all of which make big promises about what you can do once you’ve received an education from their program.

The best way to guard yourself against trumped up advertising claims is, quite simply, to know your stuff. Know, first and foremost, the job you ultimately want to have in the field and what its qualifications are. That way, you will never be misled into believing you’re preparing to do something you’re not. Plus, you can custom-make your education to fit your career goals when you know what they are ahead of time.

Understand, secondly, that almost all jobs in the field will require you to possess some kind of formal education, which is proven by a degree. Most people who enjoy homeland security careers will have at least a bachelor’s degree, either in homeland security specifically, in a related field, or in a field relevant to the job that they currently do.

Bachelor’s degrees are generally obtained in around four years on average and should always be earned from a fully accredited college or university, whether online or in person.

For some people, taking the plunge right into a four year bachelor’s degree program can be quite overwhelming. It is for this reason that may people make the choice to first earn an associate’s degree and then transfer the credits earned to a bachelor’s degree program at a later date.

This is certainly possible with homeland security and relevant degrees as well. Many people, in fact, report that associate’s degree programs gave them the push they needed to succeed later on, and that their educations were more affordable as a result of choosing to earn an associate’s degree first.

These degrees are typically earned in about two years, on average, and are most commonly granted from community colleges or from trade or technical schools.

For those who are beyond the early stages of education and who already possess a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree is the next logical step. The great thing about this is that, for many programs, it doesn’t matter one bit what your undergraduate major was in.

All you have to do Is prove yourself to the program in your essay and other application materials, and you are in. This allows many people, especially those who come to the career field later in late, to pursue their career dreams without starting their educations over from scratch.

Of course, many colleges and universities, both online and traditional, that you will come across will also offer certification programs, commonly known as diploma or training programs as well. Keep in mind that a certificate or a diploma is never the same thing as a degree and should not be viewed as one.

It also doesn’t qualify a person to begin working in the field upon graduation. All the good that a certification will do is enable you to supplement your education with more targeted knowledge or to round out an education in the wrong major. Such programs are also great for continuing education courses as well, geared toward those already working in the field.

Now that you know the basic facts and understand the difference between actual degrees and certifications, it is time to start choosing which course of action is the right one for you, and, of course, which program has the most to offer you.

Currently, top choices in the area include Boise State University, which has both a bachelor’s degree program and a master’s degree program in criminal justice, and Carrington College, also in Boise. Then there’s the College of Southern Idaho, in Twin Falls, offering associate’s degree programs in law enforcement, and in criminal justice, the last of which results in a certificate.

Eastern Idaho Technical School in Idaho Falls, Idaho State University in Phoenix, ITT Technical Institute in Boise, Lewis Clark State College in Lewiston, North Idaho College in Court d’Alene, and the University of Phoenix in Meridian are all excellent places to start researching and learning more.