Security Clearance: Although not required for all positions, obtaining a security clearance is important when trying to enter the field of counter terrorism. While not all positions require applicants to already have one in place, most do require that applicants be able to obtain a clearance. It is important to understand what is required to obtain a clearance, the limitations, and how one is obtained before beginning the job search; check out our guide to security clearances to get you started.
Never trust a company offering preapproval for a clearance, no matter how small the fee they are charging. This is almost certainly a scam.
Advanced Degrees Preferred: While your degree prepares you for a variety of career options, you may decide to use your degree as a foundation for advanced degrees or other career options. Often, advanced degrees beyond the undergraduate level include areas in International Relations, National Security, Middle Eastern Studies, Homeland Security, Intelligence Studies, Political Science, and Public Policy.
Desirable Backgrounds: To help our nation prevent acts of terrorism against the U.S. and U.S. targets, there is a preference for candidates with the following:
- Knowledge of area studies in Central Asia and the Middle East
- Comprehension of languages such as Chinese, Mandarin, Taiwanese, Arabic, Farsi, Persian, Urdu, Pashto, or Dari languages
- Expertise in financial security, international banking, international migration, religious conflicts, international organizations, physical sciences, engineering, or computer science
- Previous military experience
To identify what education or training is typical for careers within the counter terrorism field, use the O*Net hyperlinks below and click on “Job Zone.”
As with all majors, the education you receive serves as a foundation of knowledge that prepares you for what you may face in the professional world. The career field you chose may require additional education or experience.
As always, research is vital. Positions which will require students to seek additional education, certification, or credentials are listed below:
Gaining real-life experience is an ideal way to start a new career. The career services website has an extensive list of internships and fellowships. Browse through the internships, organized by interest or by federal program, and review the list below of internships in the counter terrorism field.
There are also government-organized internship programs, many of which require students to maintain either a half-time or full-time student status. The best ways to identify potential opportunities such as these are to contact branch offices directly, to search USAJobs.gov, or to look at the agencies' career portals. Keep in mind that these positions are not always posted online, so direct contact with the agency is key.
The Pathways Program is a federal initiative that offers internship programs for current students and training and career development opportunities for recent graduates. Recent graduates must apply within two years of degree or certificate completion (except for veterans, due to their military service obligation, will have up to six years to apply).The internship program for current students replaces the former Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) and Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP).
The Presidential Management Fellows Program (PMF)
PMF is designed to attract to federal service outstanding men and women from a wide variety of academic disciplines who have a clear interest in, and commitment to, a career in the analysis and management of public policies and programs. To be eligible for nomination, an individual must be a graduate student completing or expected to complete, during the current academic year, an advanced degree from a qualifying college or university.
The Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP)
WRP is coordinated by the Office of Disability Employment Policy and the U.S. Department of Defense, and aims to provide summer work experience, and in some cases full-time employment, to college students with disabilities. The program develops partnerships with other federal agencies, each of whom makes a commitment to provide summer jobs and a staff recruiter. Each year, recruiters interview about 1,500 students with disabilities at college and university campuses across the nation, and develop a database listing the qualifications of each student.
There are several government agencies and organizations that seek candidates with a foundation in counter terrorism, along with advanced degrees, experience, and other qualifications. The list below provides examples of such places.
Involvement in professional organizations is a great way to stay up-to-date on new technology, tools, and best practices in your field. Professional organizations are also a great networking opportunity. Below are a few professional organizations you may be interested in as a counter terrorism major.