U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an investigative agency within the Department of Homeland Security, is responsible for investigating and preventing federal crimes related to illegal trade, finance and travel and through effective interior immigration enforcement.
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ICE organizes and manages its efforts through both investigative and national security activities. This federal law enforcement agency oversees a number of major investigative task forces, such as the Joint Terrorism Task Force and the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force, as well as a myriad of national security units and task forces, such as the Counter-Proliferation Investigations Unit and the National Security Investigations Division.
Investigation and law enforcement duties within ICE are carried out through either Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) or Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). As such, ICE agents may be HSI-Intelligence Officers, HSI Special Agents, or Immigration Enforcement Agents.
Educational Requirements for ICE Agents
Meeting the minimum requirements for ICE agent jobs involves qualifying at the GL-7 federal level. Individuals may meet these requirements if they have at least one year of specialized experience equivalent to the GL-5 level. Specialized experience includes work in criminal investigation principles and techniques or preparing investigative reports.
However, individuals without prior experience may qualify if they possess a bachelor’s degree and have achieved superior academic achievement. This includes possessing a 3.0 overall GPA and a 3.5 GPA in all major-related courses and/or graduating in the upper third of their class. Individuals who cannot show proof of superior academic achievement may qualify for ICE agent jobs if they possess at least one full year of graduate-level education beyond their bachelor’s degree.
Individuals who want to become ICE agents at the GL-9 federal level may qualify if they possess either one year of specialized experience at the GL-7 level or a master’s degree (or LLB or JD degree) or two years of graduate education from an accredited college or university.
Degree Programs Relevant to ICE Agent Careers
Although ICE does not specify degree programs through which individuals may qualify for ICE agent jobs, individuals pursuing these types of federal law enforcement careers often seek college and university degrees in programs such as:
- Criminal justice
- Homeland security
- Emergency management
Criminal Justice Degrees and Courses
Criminal justice undergraduate and graduate degrees for ICE careers provide students with in-depth knowledge in criminal justice, with core courses designed to give students a basic understanding of the philosophical, theoretical, and structural aspects of the criminal justice system and its many components.
Core coursework in a criminal justice degree often includes:
- Introduction to criminal justice
- Introduction to philosophy
- Introduction to anthropology
- Policing in America
- American criminal courts
- Research methods in criminal justice
- Ethical issues in criminal justice
- Criminological theory
- Statistical analysis in criminal justice
- Criminal procedure
- Criminal law
Homeland Security Degrees and Courses
Homeland security degrees are often combine the major principles of law enforcement, emergency planning, and intelligence gathering. As such, they focus on understanding the policies and procedures of the Department of Homeland Security, security and surveillance principles, and intelligence gathering as to protect the nation’s critical infrastructures.
Homeland security degrees prepare students to recognize the detailed mitigation, planning, response, and recovery phases within a homeland security incident, while also preparing them to differentiate among the various homeland security threats, whether manmade, natural or technological.
Core courses within homeland security degree programs often include:
- Management of specialized law enforcement units
- Industrial security
- Introduction to homeland security
- Terrorism and emergency management
- Evolution of emergency management
- Foundations of public safety administration
- Intelligence analysis
- Public safety administration
Emergency Management Degrees and Courses
Emergency management degrees are designed to address the short- and long-term effects of emergency situations and bring together the principles of law enforcement, emergency medical services, military, and social services, among others. Emergency management college programs generally teach emergency management from a global perspective and therefore cover a number of relevant events, including natural and technological hazards and terrorism.
Core courses in emergency management college degrees typically include:
- Role of public health in emergency management
- Emergency management technology
- Dissecting disasters
- Principles of biostatistics
- Environmental health
- Disaster exercise design
ICE Educational and College Programs
Individuals who have either completed their formal degree programs or are looking to continue their studies may apply for ICE’s Recent Graduate Program or Presidential Management Fellows Program:
Recent Graduate Program
The Recent Graduate Program is a one-year career development program designed for recent graduates of degree or certification programs. Upon completion of this program, graduates then receive either a permanent or term-appointment position with ICE.
Presidential Management Fellows Program
ICE’s Presidential Management Fellows Program is designed for graduate students who are near graduation from their master’s, doctoral or law degree. Candidates must complete their graduate program within the current academic year to qualify for this leadership program.