Border Security Careers: What Can You Learn in an Online Degree Program?

Border Security Careers: What Can You Learn in an Online Degree Program?
Border Security Careers: What Can You Learn in an Online Degree Program?

More students than ever are pursuing online degrees in border security, looking to take advantage of a booming job market in this critical profession. Whenever the border closes, the public is reminded of the key role border security officers play in keeping Canada secure. But their work has a real impact even when headlines focus elsewhere.

Taking specialized courses will help you start your border security career and move up the ranks quickly once you’ve accepted a position. Promotions in the industry are based on a combination of seniority and performance. Taking the initiative to improve your skills ensures that you will stand out from your colleagues in the eyes of ranking officers.

In this post, we’ll look at what you can learn through an online degree in border security and how to apply these lessons on the job. We’ll also survey the current job market in this field and explain the kind of compensation you can expect.

  • What Kinds of Border Security Careers are Available in Canada?
  • What Can I Expect to Learn Through an Online Degree in Border Security?
    • Legislation and Policy
    • Infrastructure: How it All Fits Together
    • The International Perspective
    • Technology and the Border
    • Cybersecurity
  • Enrolling in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Online Border Security Degree Program

What Kinds of Border Security Careers are Available in Canada?

Most border security careers in Canada are with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Border security officers are well paid, even at entry-level, and are protected by the Public Service Alliance of Canada union.

Per the Agency’s most recent numbers, border security officers can expect the following compensation:

  • Paid accommodations, meals and cost of living stipend while attending the CBSA College.
  • $64,234 to $71,525 per year for trainees.
  • $69,486 to $82,411 annually for certified officers who have completed the CBSA’s development program. Pay increases are tied to each officer’s years of service.
  • In addition, after working six months BSO trainees become qualified for health, dental and pension benefits (source).

Once you have achieved the rank of officer, you may have opportunities to move up the CBSA’s operational hierarchy. These higher ranks correspond to managerial positions in civilian employment:

  • Trainer
  • Superintendent and Training Administrator
  • Duty Chief
  • Chief of Operations
  • Director
  • Regional Director General
  • Vice President
  • President

Among the ranks covered by CBSA’s collective bargaining agreement, the highest paid officers may receive as much as $125,381 per year (source). There are also more specialized roles within the CBSA, such as security dog handlers, with their own pay scales.

CBSA officers work out of more than 1,100 ports of entry across Canada and there is flexibility in where you want to serve (source). There are also officers who work internationally and investigators who patrol the nation’s interior.

There are also private companies who offer positions that support the CBSA. Private sector careers include detainee security officers and compliance analysts. Many of the professional insights from an online degree in border security will apply to these roles.

What can I expect to learn through Laurier’s online degree in border security?

What can I expect to learn through Laurier’s online degree in border security?

In most cases, those who enroll in Laurier’s online border security degree programs are already working in the public safety field. The program supplements the professional training students received.

Laurier’s curriculum builds on the on-the-job knowledge you’ve acquired during your career, helping you develop the perspective you’ll need as a leader. While the specifics of other schools’ approaches will vary, you can expect to explore common topics like those covered below.

Legislation and Policy

At the outset of your career in border security, your relationship to the laws and policies that define your duties is simple. Your job is to interpret and enforce the rules within a narrow set of parameters.

If you think back to the 5Ws of problem solving you learned in school, front line workers are mostly concerned with questions of who, what, when and where. More senior officers, however, must take into account why.

Why is immigration and border law the way it is? And how is policy affected by historical events and biases?

An online degree in border security allows you to understand the societal goals these rules were written to achieve. You will learn to engage critically with topics like:

  • Migration and immigration trends
  • Public health and the border
  • The influence of xenophobia and racism
  • Economic and political theories
  • Smuggling and the international drug trade
  • Human trafficking

Through study, you will become familiar with standards surrounding international border control, customs, trade, and immigration. You will also learn how they affect day-to-day management at the border.

Infrastructure: How it All Fits Together

Even working public safety professionals often don’t think about all of the critical infrastructure that makes our country function. Understanding how to protect Canada means understanding where its primary assets and vulnerabilities lie.

Here are a few examples of infrastructure you may or may not realize have a significant relationship to our border:

  • Water systems
  • Telecommunications
  • Power systems, including nuclear plants and hydroelectric dams
  • Hospitals and healthcare facilities
  • Financial systems
  • Airports and seaports

What would happen to the country if a significant piece of infrastructure were damaged or destroyed? What other systems rely on it to function? And what about infrastructure operated jointly across borders?

An online degree in border security will provide you with the foundations you need to understand this web of interdependent assets. It will also teach you about how CBSA and its international partners work to protect them from threats and facilitate their healthy operation.

With these insights in hand, you’ll be able to demonstrate an advanced grasp of the picture “beyond the border” to your superiors.

The International Perspective

Canada is effectively bordered on three sides by the United States, which is our closest military and economic ally. At the Niagara-Buffalo port alone, more than 10.5 million vehicles cross the border every year.

In addition, we also share maritime borders with Europe and maintain memberships in organizations like The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and The United Nations. Therefore, few decisions at the border are made unilaterally.

People and goods must be able to cross the border as quickly and safely as possible. CBSA coordinates with the US Customs and Canada Border Protection (CBD) to ensure:

  • Technologies used by customs on each side, such as biometrics, are compatible
  • Common understanding of threats, and coordinated law enforcement response
  • Effective intelligence-sharing
  • Compliance with international agreements

This relationship has not always been so close.

Following the September 11th attacks in 2001, the United States effectively closed the Canadian border without notice, paralyzing trade and potentially devastating the economy of both countries (source).

In the days and weeks afterward, border security in each country was coordinated on an ad hoc basis to separate commercial and non-commercial traffic. This meant that cargo could still move freely during the lockdown on personal travel.

These improvised solutions formed the foundation of the far-reaching Beyond the Border Action Plan, a shared strategy that moved the two countries into unison on matters such as trade, cybersecurity and counter-terrorism (source).

The influence of these changes is quite clear whenever circumstances force closures at the border. The presence of separate lanes for cargo and non-commercial travel ensure that supply chains remain functional. Meanwhile, standing policy makes for efficient coordination between officials in both countries.

Laurier’s online degree in border security prepares you to take on an immediate leadership role at a time when international cooperation is more important than ever. Understanding how Canada’s border apparatus meshes with our neighbours, as well as the differences that can create complications, helps you make decisions that may save lives thousands of miles from a port of entry.

Technology and the Border

No aspect of society has been spared from the transformative influence of new technologies. Borders are no exception.

Laurier’s online degree in border security ensures you’ll have the most up-to-date knowledge of the technologies that CBSA relies on today, and insights about advances on the horizon.

Late last year we posted a detailed look at Canadian border security technology. It’s worth reading for those interested in learning more about the subject. Some key tools include:

  • Biographical databases, which include records of arrests, warrants, deportations and more
  • Digital cargo manifests
  • Traffic statistics
  • Biometrics, such as fingerprints, voice recognition and facial scans
  • Electronic road sensors, thermal cameras and drones

Each of these technologies has operational implications, and tomorrow’s leaders will be marked by their ability to effectively implement these tools.

For instance, how can big data be leveraged to improve the security and efficiency of border crossings? Using artificial intelligence to analyze the vast amounts of data collected at the border can help identify useful patterns and trends. Using these insights can help leaders optimize how and where they deploy personnel and when processes can be more automated.

However, the significance of these patterns can also easily be misinterpreted. That’s where the wisdom and discretion of educated leadership is required.

Laurier’s online degree in border security will equip you with a functional knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of each technology. It will also teach you examples of past successes and failures, a background you will need to perform accurate risk assessments.

Cybersecurity

Although Canada’s digital borders are less obvious as its land and sea boundaries, defending them represents an increasingly significant part of CBSA’s mandate.

Laurier’s online degree in border security will introduce you to concepts like:

  • Cybercrime
  • Cyberwarfare
  • Cyberhygiene
  • Security interdependence, including the private sector

This last point is of critical importance. Many border security tools are provided by third-party technology vendors. Others rely on access to private data sources.

How can the CBSA ensure that public-private partnerships meet their high privacy standards? How can efforts be coordinated to identify and close vulnerabilities?

One advantage of enrolling in Laurier’s online border security degree is that the pace of changes on the cybersecurity front is unabating. The input you’ll provide on digital security decisions as a recent graduate will be based on the very latest strategies.

Once you have an understanding of how cybersecurity works, you will no longer follow technology guidelines by rote. You will be able to see the points where processes can be improved and new efficiencies created.

This positions you as a leader in one of the most challenging aspects of modern border management and a trusted voice among your colleagues and superiors.

Enrolling in Laurier’s Online Border Security Degree Program

Enrolling in Laurier’s Online Border Security Degree Program

As is many fields, most senior border security careers at CBSA require higher education and specialized training.

Public safety professionals who pursue Laurier’s online degree in border security are looking to add to their credentials and bolster their chances of promotion. By increasing your knowledge of the subjects we’ve discussed in this post, you will become a strategic asset to your employer.

Laurier’s online degree also allows you to continue working while learning. Courses are designed so that you can access lectures, readings and assignments from anywhere, at any time.

Wilfrid Laurier University’s online graduate public safety diploma in border strategies aligns with the current practices of the CBSA and Public Safety Canada. The curriculum was developed by leading public safety professionals and academics.

The goal of Laurier’s courses is to ensure that what you learn in the virtual classroom can be immediately applied on the job. These gains will be reflected in your performance and prepare you for increased responsibility.

A valuable credential on its own, the diploma can also be applied toward achieving Laurier’s Master of Public Safety degree. Learn more about Laurier’s online program or speak with one of our enrolment advisors.