In the state of Utah and throughout most of the rest of the nation, there are a wide variety of traditional colleges and universities, training institutions, community colleges, trade and technical schools, and even online schools all with one thing in common—they make big promises about being able to get you ahead of the game in terms of your homeland security career.

Some of them will even swear that you don’t have to have a degree in the field in order to find work. They say that if you just complete (and of course pay for) a certification course, you will be set. While we’d all like to believe this, it is, quite simply, not the truth.

The truth of the matter really is that every single legitimate job in the homeland security field will require its professionals to hold at least an associate’s degree, with bachelor’s degrees being the far more common requirement. Certifications are in no way, shape, or form a substitute for an actual degree, nor are they the same as one, no matter what some educational institution may promise you. In fact, without a degree backing them up, they are essentially useless. Without a degree under your belt, you can just choose to think of them as very expensive but very worthless pieces of paper.

If you do have a degree, however, the one purpose they can serve is to help you supplement your education. You might do this, for example, if you already have a degree in homeland security or a related area but it is not closely relevant to the job that you wish to have in the field. You might also do it to round out your education or to learn new skills to use on a currently held or soon to be held job.

The only time that a certification program will serve any use without a degree is if you are using it to “test the waters” of a potential homeland security career. If you want to learn about a particular area in the field without committing to a full on degree program, you may find them helpful, so long as you don’t expect anything major, like job opportunities, to come from them.

With that said, Utah residents who are looking for certification programs to use in the right ways can find lots of wonderful options in the state. One such option is offered through Davis Applied Technology College, located in Kaysville. This fine school has relevant certification programs in emergency medical services, firefighting, law office assisting, and paralegal work.

Likewise, Fortis College in Salt Lake City has an excellent certification program in court reporting. Salt Lake Community College has its own certifications as well, including in bail enforcement. Any of these or many other certification programs in the state and/or online will serve you well, providing that you understand what certifications can do and what they cannot do. If you don’t believe in the hype, you should be fine.