Napolitano speaks during a ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services December 19, 2012 in Washington, DC.
U.S. officials say Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is resigning to take a senior posting in the University of California system.
Napolitano told senior staff Friday she was leaving for California. Napolitano has led the department since the beginning of the Obama administration, just the third person to hold this post.
The University of California also announced Napolitano's nomination pointing out that in her role as Homeland Security Secretary she has been "an ardent advocate for the federal Dream Act."
"She will bring fresh eyes and a new sensibility - not only to UC, but to all of California," said UC Regent Sherry Lansing.
She will become the president of the University of California system, which includes UCLA, the University of California, Berkeley and UC San Diego among other campuses.
The full board of regents must approve the nomination before Napolitano officially assumes her new responsibilities.
Napolitano was the third person to head the department, appointed by President Obama in 2008.
President Barack Obama issued a statement commending Napolitano for what he called "her outstanding work on behalf of the American people over the last four years."
The former governor of border state Arizona, Napolitano was the first female valedictorian at Santa Clara University according to the UC system statement.