Homeland security isn’t just a color-coded risk chart at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
In the nearly 13 years since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it’s increasingly permeated Americans’ daily lives, and everyone from local cops to sports stadium managers need to have a background in protecting the country, said Joe Anderson, an instructor at Salt Lake Community College.
Anderson, a former assistant U.S. attorney, is the architect of a new associate’s degree program in Homeland Security/Emergency Management. Set to begin in the fall, it’s the only program of its kind in the Intermountain West aside from a graduate degree offered in Las Vegas.
"Terrorism is with us, and it apparently isn’t going away," Anderson said. "We haven’t figured out exactly how to deal with it yet."
And that means there’s demand for workers familiar with the territory. Some 87,000 agencies work with the Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Labor statistics indicate that demand for emergency management workers could increase by as much as 36 percent by 2018. The median salary for the industry in Utah is $24 an hour.
"Basically, the job market is ever-expanding," said SLCC student Joe Denton of Sandy, speaking in a Introduction to Homeland Security class Friday.
He was about to take a test on how international crime organizations with a profit motive work with terrorist groups. The criminal justice major hopes to get a job in lab forensics when he graduates in two months.
In the new program, students will learn who terrorist groups are, how they work and how to recognize signs of a potential attack.
Even if students like Denton never see a terrorist attack, Anderson said, the homeland security degree still has plenty to offer.
"One of the things we learned from 9/11 is you had emergency management and law enforcement who didn’t communicate with each other," Anderson said. "They had different systems, were on different frequencies."
The need for coordination doesn’t apply solely to terrorist attacks; it’s also important when multiple agencies respond to wildfires, earthquakes, and floods. SLCC also plans to teach police, firefighters and other emergency managers who are already in the field with the program.
Gilbert Prado of West Valley City is aiming for a homeland security management job. The Army veteran returned from Iraq six years ago and, after a stint with the Wounded Warrior Project, he came back to school at Salt Lake Community College to help his job prospects.
"I’ve always been aware of my surroundings," he said.
When he found out about the new program, Prado decided to enroll with the aim of eventually earning a Emergency Management bachelor’s degree from Utah Valley University. UVU has a completion agreement with SLCC.
Others students at Friday’s homeland security class were just interested in the subject matter.
"My whole life I’ve been fascinated with war and crime," said Steven Murray of West Jordan, who is planning get a degree in psychology and work on cold cases for the FBI. "You never know what you might have to deal with."
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