Unlike degrees in many fields, a homeland security degree offers a diverse range of work opportunities and environments. Careers in homeland security can be in the field of law enforcement, travel security, immigration, prevention of terrorist attacks, response to terrorist attacks, or support for the work of others through training, planning, gathering and disseminating information, detecting terrorist activities, or creating budgets and procuring equipment for carrying out such activities. Someone in homeland security might be concerned with preventing attacks on physical structures such as dams or power plants, with preventing attacks on the food supply, or with detecting or preventing cyber-attacks on computer systems. Those in homeland security might work for an agency of the federal government, but they might also work at the state or local level or for a large corporation in a key industry such as transportation, energy, IT services, or telecommunications. Online homeland security degree programs are available that will prepare you for work in this important field.
Where to Start
Courses for homeland security degree programs overlap with courses for programs in criminal justice and public safety. Criminal justice programs, however, focus on criminal law, the legal system, and law enforcement. Public safety degree programs focus on the administration, organization, and funding of public service agencies and on disaster response. Homeland security degree programs focus on terrorism preparedness, prevention, and response. A bachelor’s degree in homeland security commonly offers an overview of the areas of specialization with courses in intelligence analysis, computer crime, hazardous materials, and forensic science. While it is difficult or impossible to find an online bachelor’s degree in some fields, that is not the case in homeland security. Some of the schools with top ten online master’s degree programs in homeland security also offer bachelor’s degrees. An online degree allows working adults to earn their degrees while keeping their current job and meeting the needs of their families. Earning a security degree online also can reduce tuition costs. Pursuing an online degree in homeland security, with the wide range of career options available, is smart for many people.
The Top Ten Online Homeland Security Programs
In 2015, U.S. News and World Report ranked schools with online degrees in criminal justice. However, not all criminal justice degree programs have a degree with a specialization in homeland security. Additionally, some schools offer specializations in homeland security for degrees in public administration or public policy. For those reasons, these courses have been selected from the list of Top Ten Homeland Degree Programs provided by the Criminal Justice Degree Hub, the list of the 10 Best Online Homeland Security Degree Programs provided by the Security Degree Hub, and the list of the Top Five Master of Homeland Security Programs Online provided by MasterDegreeOnline.com. Selections were made based on the overall quality of the school, faculty experience in homeland security, school connections to homeland security agencies, recognition of the school or its degree by homeland security agencies, the range of homeland security degrees offered, the area of specialization offered within the degree, and assistance offered to military personnel and their families. The schools and the degrees they offer have enough diversity to make placing them in a strictly ranked order difficult. Simply browse the list and consider which of the programs is of the most interest.
The Graduate Program in Homeland Security at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania offers online students who already have a master’s degree a Homeland Security Online Graduate Certificate. The certification program is designed to enhance the training of those who are already working in criminal justice or to help those already working in the field to transition to homeland security. The online program allows students to continue working while providing graduate level study in homeland security without the commitment of time and finances required to earn a master’s degree. However, those who complete the six courses required for the certification program may apply the credit hours earned from those courses toward a Master of Science in Homeland Security. Only 12 more credit hours of coursework would be required.
Saint Joseph’s University is one of the oldest Catholic universities in the U.S. and U.S. News and World Report ranks it number eight on the list of the nation’s top schools in 2013. Saint Joseph’s Master of Science in Homeland Security is highly esteemed. Students have access to a network of active homeland security professionals, and faculty members have years of experience in the field, providing students with a practical, real-world education. Graduates have become federal officers, chiefs of police, and directors of public safety, among other positions.
Walden University offers bachelor, masters, and doctoral degrees with homeland security specializations that cover most of the areas in which homeland security is a concern. These degrees include:
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice with a Homeland Security Specialization
- Master of Public Administration with a Homeland Security Policy and Coordination Specialization
- Master of Public Administration with a Terrorism, Mediation, and Peace Specialization
- Master of Public Policy with a Homeland Security Policy and Coordination Specialization
- Master of Public Policy with a Terrorism, Mediation, and Peace Specialization
- Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a with a Homeland Security Policy and Coordination Specialization
- Master of Science in Criminal Justice with a with a Terrorism, Mediation, and Peace Specialization
- Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management with a with a Homeland Security Policy and Coordination Specialization
- Master of Science in Criminal Justice Leadership and Executive Management with a with a Terrorism, Mediation, and Peace Specialization
- Master of Science in Emergency Management with a Homeland Security Specialization
- Master of Science in Emergency Management with a Terrorism and Emergency Management Specialization
- Master of Science in Psychology with a Terror and Security Specialization
- Master of Science in Psychology with a Crisis Management and Response Specialization
- Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.) with a Homeland Security Specialization
- Ph.D. in Criminal Justice with a Homeland Security Policy and Coordination — Track I Specialization for those with a master’s dgreein criminal justice or a related field
- Ph.D. in Criminal Justice with a Homeland Security Policy and Coordination — Track II Specialization for those with a master’s degree in a field other than criminal justice
- Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration with a Homeland Security Policy and Coordination Specialization
- Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration with a Terrorism, Mediation, and Peace Specialization
These degrees prepare students to approach homeland security and terrorism through addressing the psychological stresses of terrorism and breaches of homeland security, through law enforcement or emergency management, through the legal system, through policymaking, or through planning and policy administration. While the time required to complete the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice depends on the number of undergraduate credits that can be transferred to the program, if any, the master’s degree programs require less than two years for most students. The length of time required to complete a doctoral degree depends on the progress of the individual student. Some of the master’s degree programs culminate in a capstone seminar. The doctoral programs require four days of face-to-face residency that allow faculty to work directly with doctoral candidates. It also gives students the opportunity to form network contacts for the future. For convenience, the residencies are held at a number of locations inside and outside of the United States, and some doctoral candidates may be allowed to participate in virtual residencies.
Walden University was founded in 1970 as a student-centered university that focuses on positive social change and that allows students to continue working while earning their degrees. Walden University is an educational partner of the FBI National Academy Associates (FBI NAA), the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Officials.
In February 2014, Dr. Linda Kiltz, a program director for the School of Public Policy and Administration, co-edited Critical Issues of Homeland Security: A Casebook that includes case studies involving cyber-security, the use of drones, and emergency management after natural disasters such as the major earthquake suffered by Haiti in 2010. Also in 2014, Walden alumni were appointed general manager of the water management agency that serves the Dana Point, Laguna Beach, and San Juan Capistrano area of California; elected president of the Los Angeles County Management Council and served as director of the Los Angeles County Child Support Services Department; promoted to assistant special agent in charge with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in Colquitt; published with an article about the long-term implications of the army’s quick reaction protocol in the April-June 2013 issue of Army AL&T magazine while serving as a logistician for the Department of Defense; and accepted for publication with article on terrorism preparedness of law enforcement agency to appear in the FBI Law Enforcement Journal and awarded the 2014 Executive Office of the United States Attorneys Director’s Award for Superior Performance while serving as a special agent for the FBI.
Penn State offers the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security through its online Penn State World Campus. The degree offers five areas of specialization:
- Homeland Security
- Homeland Security – Information Security and Forensics Option
- Homeland Security – Public Health Preparedness Option
- Homeland Security – Geospatial Intelligence Option
- Homeland Security – Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense Option
The comprehensive degree program is designed to be applicable to the student’s workplace, whether that is in the private sector or in the public sector at the local, state, or federal level. Class assignments focus on the student’s current work. Over the five years that Penn State has offered this master’s degree, courses have been designed to cover all hazards to homeland security, and coursework culminates in a capstone research project.
Penn State has been offering online courses for 10 years and has been involved in distance learning for over 100 years. Penn State began offering one of the first correspondence courses in the U.S. in 1892, and in 1998, Penn State become one of the first major accredited universities to offer online education. With the Penn State World Campus, the university offers online learners the same level of academic quality that they would experience in a face-to-face classroom. However, online learners pursuing the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security find an advantage in being able to interact with and gain the perspectives of a diverse group of fellow students from all over the world.
The American Military University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security, a Master of Arts in Homeland Security, and a Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management & Homeland Security. The Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security is based on a liberal arts foundation that develops analytical skills and adds to the knowledge base needed for understanding all aspects of homeland security issues and formulating policy solutions. The Master of Arts in Homeland Security broadly covers critical topics such as homeland defense and homeland security threats, intelligence and homeland security, terrorism, consequence management, and interagency collaboration and organization. Students select additional courses based on their personal, professional, or research interests. The Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management & Homeland Security is a dual degree comprised of the core courses from the Master of Arts in Emergency and Disaster Management and the Master of Arts in Homeland Security together with elective courses selected by the student. The bachelor degree culminates with a senior seminar on homeland security while the master’s degrees culminate in a capstone project.
The American Military University was founded to fill an existing gap in counterterrorism educational programs. The courses are taught by expert practitioners and leaders in the military or in the fields of intelligence, security, emergency management, public safety, and homeland security who bring their first-hand knowledge to online discussions. Further, The university’s homeland security programs are constantly assessed to be certain that they align with current U.S. Department of Homeland Security policies and industry standard practices. Consequently, the university has some of the most developed courses and one of the foremost homeland security programs available in the U.S. For veterans and those on active duty in the military, the American Military University offers free textbooks or e-books to undergraduates with no impact on military TA. Technology fees and fees for transfer credit evaluation are waived for those currently serving in the U.S. military, the National Guard, or the Reserve as well as for veterans who use VA benefits. Course credit may be given for military education and training courses including CCAF, JST, DANTES, and ACE-evaluated training.
The Master of Science in Security Management offered by Bellevue University in Bellevue, Nebraska prepares students to apply the philosophy of the Department of Homeland Security best practices in leadership roles for security management and emergency preparedness in the public or private sector. The courses for the degree are taught in a cohort format. Students registered in the degree program join a group of peers following the same degree track. Although enrolled as full-time students, the group goes through the entire degree program together, course-by-course, one course at a time. The cohort provides a highly interactive environment that allows all members to benefit from the varied experiences and perspectives of other group members. This interaction strengthens relationships within the group and promotes networking and professional connections. Tuition costs are locked in because students enroll for all the courses in the degree at the same time.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated Bellevue University as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education. Government Security News awarded the First Annual Homeland Security Award to Bellevue’s Master of Science in Security Management.
Utica College offers both a Bachelor of Science in Cyber Security and a Master of Science in Cyber Security.
The bachelor degree offers specializations in either Cybercrime Investigation and Forensics or Information Assurance. Those specializing in Cybercrime Investigation and Forensics learn the latest techniques for investigating and prosecuting hacking and terrorism as well as credit card fraud, intellectual property theft, and pedophilia. Those specializing in Information Assurance gain insight into the range of threats and vulnerabilities affecting both government and corporate computer networks and learn how to protect critical information. The bachelor’s degree includes a required internship.
The master’s degree offers specializations in Intelligence, Computer Forensics, and Cyber Operations. The Intelligence specialization is for professionals interested in cyber intelligence and counter intelligence, cyber counterterrorism, and cyber counter sabotage. Those specializing in Intelligence learn to analyze global and national cyber security policies, to protect critical infrastructure, and to conduct operations involving cyber threats and defense. Those specializing in Computer Forensics learn the forensic tools and techniques used to investigate and analyze network related incidents and to preserve digital evidence of cyber crimes such as fraud, corporate or government cyber espionage, and child pornography. Those selecting the Cyber Operations specialization learn to protect and defend government and corporate computer networks through a lab oriented, in-depth exploration of cyber tactics, techniques, and procedures. The master’s degree includes two capstone projects and a four-day residency during which students and professors meet and interact, work in the on campus labs or on case studies, examine technology, and form friendships and professional network contacts.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have designated Utica College as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Education (CAEIA/CD). Utica College is also a pilot school for the Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) and a member of International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts (IALEIA), the Consortium of Digital Forensics Experts (CDFE), the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, and Cyber Watch. In addition, Utica College sponsors the Cyber Security Forum Initiative and has partnerships with the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS), the CompTIA Authorized Partner Program for Academy Partners, the New York State Cyber Research Institute (CRI), the Northeast Cyber Forensics Center (NCFC), the Cyber NY Cyber Alliance, and the Grifiss Institute. The faculty is experienced both in working in cyber security and in educating others to work in the field.
Colorado Technical University offers a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security and Emergency Management and two master’s degree. The Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security prepares students for administrative positions in law enforcement, the court system, or correctional institutions. The Master of Science in Homeland Security is for those interested in working in homeland security at the strategic, policymaking level.
The bachelor degree offers a general concentration of courses as well as specializations in cyber crime and security, forensic investigation, and human services, a specialization that focuses on law enforcement, the legal system, and corrections institutions.
The Master of Science in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security consists of a general concentration of courses.
The Master of Science in Homeland Security also offers a general concentration of courses along with specializations in cyber security policy and emergency management and public health. The core curriculum for the bachelor’s degree is comprehensive, and both master’s degrees include a capstone project.
The Diverse Issues in Higher Education annual list of degree granting colleges for minorities has repeatedly placed Colorado Technical University among the top 10 schools in a number of categories from 2008 to 2015. Colorado Technical University is also a participant in and contributor to the Toolkit for Veteran Friendly Institutions. The university has been named Best for Vets two years in a row by the Military Times. G.I. Jobs magazine has named CTU to its list of military friendly schools from 2010 to 2015. Military Advanced Education has recognized Colorado Technical University as “one of the top universities filling the educational needs of the Armed Forces in 2008 – 2015.” CTU received the Council of College and Military Educators (CCME) Institution Award in 2008.
Grantham University offers a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a specialization in Homeland Security that prepares students to work in border security, intelligence, analysis and prevention of terrorism and emergency and disaster planning.
This university is friendly to the military and first responders. First responders and military personnel may be able to receive course transfer credit for previous training. The university offers scholarships for veterans and for military service members on active duty or in the reserves. Grantham also offers scholarships for military families, and military spouses. Military spouses may be eligible for tuition assistance through a Military Spouse Career Advancement Account.
Keiser University also offers a Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security. This online degree focuses on developing management skills in the field of homeland security at the local, state, and federal level. In addition to emergency management planning for multiple agencies, the degree covers cross-cultural management, protection of critical infrastructure, and bioterrorism. The degree includes a capstone project built around current topics in public safety.
The staff of the Department of Student Services at Keiser University assists online students with preparing a resume and coaching to improve interview skills. The department also conducts mock interviews and professional development workshops. Online students can further enhance their personal and professional development with involvement in the Student Government Association, the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and the Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society. Students can find job postings in the online career center.
Capella University offers a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security. The degree prepares students to manage public security with federal resources. Courses cover domestic and international terrorism, technological security, multijurisdictional coordination, multijurisdictional investigations, diplomatic approaches to national security, and media and civil liberties issues. The degree culminates in a public safety capstone project. Students also take advantage of the cutting edge, adaptable learning environment of Capella’s simulated Riverbend City. Students assume a leadership role as they work through mission scenarios that are tied to course discussions and assignments. The simulations strengthen the collaboration skills needed during real-world homeland security incidents. To date, no other university provides such a learning experience for students.
The National Security Agency (NSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have designated Capella University as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAEIAE). The university collaborates with the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI National Academy, and the International Association of Emergency Managers.
Capella offers FlexPath for more flexible, efficient learning. Students can take up to two courses at a time and work at their own pace throughout the quarter without weekly due dates or discussion. Students can complete as many courses as they wish per quarter. Free eTextbooks are available for some classes. Capella also offers students a wide range of scholarships, including scholarships specifically for military personnel, their spouses, and their children. Those on active duty, reservists, veterans, spouses of those on active duty, those receiving Dependents Education Assistance from the VA, civilian employees of the Department of Defense, and members of the U.S. Public Health Survey Commissioned Corp and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Corp are eligible for 10 percent tuition discounts on graduate degrees and 15 percent discounts on bachelor degrees.
From careers in law enforcement, corrections, and the court system to careers in intelligence, cyber security, and public planning and policymaking, homeland security has opportunities for people with a wide range of interests, goals, skill sets, and work environment preferences. Those working in homeland security can have physically active outdoor jobs, computer related jobs, or analytical, mentally demanding jobs. With this list of schools and degree programs to choose from, anyone interested in this field should be able to find the degree that will prepare them for the homeland security career they want to pursue.