Homeland Security Detective Careers

The scope of a homeland security detective’s job is often far-reaching and complex. These professionals are found in nearly every agency and department within the Department of Homeland Security and all branches of the military.

Homeland security detectives, also often referred to as investigative specialists, investigative operations specialists, or simply investigators, are called upon to analyze, collect, and disseminate criminal intelligence and plan, coordinate, and participate in investigations associated with homeland security and counterterrorism. Homeland security detectives, in short, are called upon to support all law enforcement efforts of any agency within the Department of Homeland Security and any state or local government by planning and executing often-complex investigative actions.

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Homeland Security Investigations – HSI

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations Division (part of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency – ICE) is responsible for investigating both domestic and international activities that result from the illegal movement of people and goods into, within, and out of the United States.

The HSI investigates human rights violations, immigration crime, human smuggling, export enforcement issues, cybercrime, financial crimes, and the smuggling of weapons and other contraband.

This HSI also oversees Homeland Security’s international affairs operations and intelligence functions. This massive agency includes more than 10,000 employees, which includes about 6,700 special agents. HSI operates in more than 200 cities in the United States, as well as 47 countries around the world.

HSI includes 6 key divisions:

  • International affairs
  • Intelligence
  • Domestic operations
  • National intellectual property rights
  • National security investigations
  • Mission support

National Security Investigations Division – NSID

The National Security Investigations Division (NSID), within the Department of Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, works to protect the safety and security of the United States from criminal enterprises and terrorist organizations.

NSID consists of the following programs:

  • Counter-Proliferation Investigations Program
  • Student and Exchange Visitor Program
  • National Security Program

There are also a number of units within the NSID:

  • Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit
  • Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit
  • Export Enforcement Coordination Center
  • Counter-Proliferation Investigations Unit
  • National Security Integration Center
  • National Security Liaisons
  • National Security Unit


Job Description of a Homeland Security Detective

Homeland security detective jobs involve the following:

  • Inventorying and processing all physical evidence received into the evidence unit
  • Collecting and analyzing all criminal intelligence data
  • Extracting all pertinent data for database retention and disseminate the information to pertinent officials
  • Maintaining an investigative case log and preparing concise reports of investigations and investigative summaries
  • Planning and executing all investigative actions, including coordinating efforts with officials from various agencies or jurisdictions
  • Conducting on-site investigations as to collect and document evidence and take statements from subjects or witnesses
  • Conducting fact-finding examinations in a discreet and confidential manner
  • Analyzing investigative reports and presenting conclusions and recommendations
  • Briefing appropriate officials and preparing case summaries

Although detectives in homeland security may conduct investigations involving terrorist threats or actions, these professionals, many times, investigate matters related to fraud, waste, abuse, logistics, information systems, and safety within the agency or department.

How to Become a Homeland Security Detective

Individuals who want to pursue homeland security detective jobs should first obtain a number of years of experience by working in local or state law enforcement. Many candidates also pursue bachelor’s or master’s degrees in criminal justice or a similar field. In addition, detectives in homeland security also often have military backgrounds.

Before securing a job as a homeland security detective, individuals should expect to undergo a comprehensive background investigation, complete a written examination, and successfully pass a number of specific training programs and exercises.

Criminal investigators/detectives in federal agencies must meet specific education and experience requirements, depending on the pay grade. In general, however, individuals are required to possess at least one full year of graduate-level education beyond a bachelor’s degree or superior achievement (3.5 GPA or higher in all courses related to the major field of study and rank in the upper one-third of the graduating class) in an undergraduate degree.

Salary Statistics for Homeland Security Detectives

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that detectives earned a median annual salary of $55,010, with the top 10 percent earning more than $88,870.

In addition, recent job postings in federal positions show the following salary ranges for detectives/investigators:

  • Investigative Operations Assistant, Department of the Army: $42,209 – $54,875
  • Federal Trade Investigator, Federal Trade Commission: $50,408 – $115,742
  • Supervisory Investigators, Office of Personnel Management: $89,033 – $115,742

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