Homeland Security Degrees and Certification in Pennsylvania

On September 11, 2001, four airliners were hijacked after their departure from Boston, Newark and Washington D.C. While two of these planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York,  United Flight 93 crashed into the ground outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  United 93 was carrying 33 passengers and seven crew members in addition to the four hijackers.  This is the only one of the four hijacked aircraft that did not reach its objective; passengers and crew are credited with attempting to overpower the hijackers and aborting their attack.

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Governor’s Office of Homeland Security

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Pennsylvania has installed robust homeland security programs to protect its residents from a variety of terrorist actions. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security (GOHS)  heads the state’s activities and is charged with preventing and mitigating any potential terrorist attacks which may come in the form of nuclear, radiological, biological, cyber or chemical weapons.

The Cyber Security Division is responsible for maintaining the integrity of public and private information systems.  This division works closely with federal agencies like the Federal Communications Commission and the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team.  Cyber Security is also an active partner to private enterprises who operate major public systems like traffic or utilities.

GOHS recognizes the particular importance and vulnerabilities that infrastructure presents.  Roads, dams and rails are of particular importance to the state, and the GOHS is constantly identifying security weaknesses regarding these systems.  This agency assesses infrastructure and develops safeguards on an ongoing basis in an attempt to outwit domestic and international enemies.

How to Become a Homeland Security Professional in Pennsylvania

Of extreme importance to Pennsylvania’s security is who is entering the country and residing within the state.  Since 2001, immigration authorities have significantly restricted who may enter the country in order to diminish entry to potential terrorists.  Many of the services that support the immigration system are provided by private companies like GEO Group Inc., which recently posted the following requirements for an Immigration Case Specialist job in Pennsylvania:

  • Possession of a bachelor’s degree in psychology, sociology, social work or criminal justice
  • At least two years of experience in law, corrections or social work
  • Proficiency in Spanish and English
  • Experience performing duties in a multi-cultural setting
  • Strong problem solving and critical thinking skills
  • Ability to produce reports
  • Strong interpersonal communication skills
  • Proficiency in common word processing and computer applications
  • Knowledge of immigration laws, procedures and regulations

Training for terrorist incidents is provided by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.  First responders, emergency managers and homeland security professionals may participate in exercises that are modeled on federal templates like the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program.  There are also a wide variety of homeland security degree programs offered through campus and online educational institutions.  Many of these schools also offer certification programs in homeland security for professionals, students or volunteers.