Best Online Master’s in Security Programs

Security professionals work to combat these losses by drawing on a variety of skills to evaluate risk and respond to emergencies.

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by Doug Wintemute

Published on May 10, 2022 · Updated on May 13, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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A master's in security prepares students for leadership and management careers in law enforcement and security organizations. The training typically runs for two years and equips learners with administrative, problem-solving, and operations skills. Students also gain knowledge of laws, policies, and corporate security protocols.

Similar to a criminal justice degree at this level, a master's in security provides access to many protective service positions, including leadership and senior-level positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the addition of more than 285,000 protective service jobs between 2020 and 2030. The median annual wage for this field was $46,590 in May 2021.

When choosing a graduate school, prospective students often look at program costs and fees, which averaged $19,792 in 2019-20, as per the >National Center of Education Statistics (NCES). Here, we highlight some of the other considerations you should think about. We also look at the best master's in security programs from the top online schools, as well as career outlooks and expectations.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Security Program?

Every online master's in security is a little different, but the programs typically feature 30-45 credits and last two years. The training often includes the history and principles, research, theoretical examinations, and practical applications of security.

Security master's programs teach students how to lead in a protective service organization. In addition to the criminal justice-focused studies such as psychology and criminological theory, students build administration, risk management, and other leadership skills. They also take specialized training in subjects such as cybercrime, profiling, and justice and security.

When preparing for graduate school, prospective students should think about the degree type they want. Schools may offer an MA or MS degree in this discipline. These degree types may result in similar outcomes, but they often emphasize different aspects of the training. MA programs, for example, focus on interdisciplinary leadership training. MS programs emphasize technical and analytical approaches.

In some cases, security training comes as a specialization within a criminal justice program. Students may, however, get to specialize even further to focus their training. Specializations may include homeland security, crime analysis, criminal justice, or leadership and administration.

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Popular Online Master's in Security Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Security Program?

Issues in Public Safety

In this course, students learn about the most pressing issues in the field of public safety. Topics include the use of force, changing legal standards, technology use, and the latest best practices.

Criminal Law

This course teaches students about the histories, purposes, and structures of laws. They examine various laws, the common defenses, and the processes for prosecution.

Surveillance and Security

Students in this course explore national security, its potential threats, and the laws related to it. They also examine the growth in surveillance and the balance between individual freedoms and national security.

Criminology

In this course, learners study the sociological perspectives of crime and criminals. They look at the criminal justice system, the causes of and reactions to crimes, and the effects of corrections, incarceration, and rehabilitation.

Cybersecurity

This course explores the cybersecurity field, providing students with knowledge of the types of cybercrimes, their motivations, and detection and protection methods.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Security Program?

The admission requirements for an online master's in security can vary by program, but they usually include a bachelor's degree at a minimum. More competitive programs may require a minimum undergraduate GPA and specific bachelor's degrees, such as a criminal justice degree.

Online programs typically feature the same applications as on-campus programs, along with any technological requirements. The following section provides details on the most common application components, as per our graduate admissions guide.

Application

The standard college application requires students to fill out their personal information and indicate which program they are most interested in. At the graduate level, prospective students usually apply directly to the school of their choice. Although, they may apply to multiple schools at once through one of the college application systems.

Test Scores

Schools often require prospective graduate students to submit standardized GMAT and GRE test scores in their applications. These tests help distinguish between applicants during the admissions process. Not all schools require students to submit test scores. But applicants can still improve their admission chances with adequate test scores after completing GMAT prep and GRE prep.

Letters of Recommendation

Most college applications require three letters of recommendation. These letters usually come from former teachers or employers. They provide insight into the candidate's work and education history and potential. The more relevant the references are, the better chance the letters will improve the application.

Resume and Work Experience

A resume often accompanies an application, though it does not need to highlight relevant work experience. Instead, a college application resume provides more details about the candidate's professional journey and strengths. In some cases, however, work experience may be required, particularly for programs with practical requirements.

Essays

Grad school essays help applicants paint a clearer picture about themselves and their study interests. Prospective master's degree students may need to write about a provided topic in their essays. Or they may need to address why they chose the school and program and describe their research and postgraduate interests.

Official Transcripts

Almost all schools require transcripts as part of the application package. These records provide details on the prospective student's former studies and how they fared. As per our transfer guide, transcripts can also lead to transfer credits and help satisfy course prerequisites.

What Can I Do With Online Master's in Security Degree?

Career Outlook

Communities everywhere want to improve public safety. As a result, the BLS projects 8% growth for protective services occupations between 2020 and 2030. This figure is equal to the projected growth for all occupations during that same period.

Graduates with an online master's in security degree can access many positions within this field, including police and detective, and security guard roles. The type of role and employer impact expected salaries considerably.

For example, gambling surveillance officers and investigators earned median annual wages of $31,470 overall in May 2021, as per the BLS. State government positions, however, paid median annual wages of $75,490.

Check out what a master's in security degree can do for your professional future.

Career Paths

Security Guards

Security guards protect an organization's people and property. They conduct patrols and surveillance, monitor suspicious behaviors, and deter criminal activities. They also alert police and other first responders in the case of an emergency.

Median Annual Salary: $31,470

Gambling Investigators

Gambling investigators specialize in casino and gambling operations. They may work for casinos, providing security and monitoring illegal behavior. They may also work for law enforcement and investigate illegal activities by casinos and gambling operations.

Median Annual Salary: $35,450

Police and Detectives

Police and detectives respond to calls, patrol areas in their jurisdiction, and enforce laws by issuing citations and arresting offenders. Detectives and investigators may specialize in specific crimes, collecting evidence and monitoring suspects. Security graduates may need to complete academy training to qualify for these positions.

Median Annual Salary: $66,020

Security Manager

Security managers oversee the security teams and operations for organizations. They may be in charge of setting up security technology, planning and evaluating operations, and ensuring staff have the appropriate security training and follow regulations. Security managers may need to collaborate with management and law enforcement personnel.

Median Annual Salary: $72,060

Federal Agents

These professionals work for federal agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security. They investigate federal crimes and threats to national security. They may also take over for local or state police when the crimes are large or of a particularly serious or sensitive nature.

Median Annual Salary: $93,970

Security Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

Continuing Education

In addition to the professional opportunities, a master's in security can lead to various continuing education paths. Graduates can, for example, continue their training in a doctorate in security or doctorate in criminal justice program.

They can also pursue an interdisciplinary field, which would expand their career options. One of the most common continuing education paths for graduates in this field is a law enforcement academy program. Many agencies require candidates to complete their internal training programs to qualify for employment.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Security Program?

Cost

When looking at school and program costs, prospective students may want to start by comparing online and on-campus program costs. They should also compare private and public school costs and in-state and out-of-state program costs. They can calculate the true program cost by considering how their studies will impact their income.

Program Format

Prospective students should think about program format to ensure they get the ideal learning experience for their needs. They can, for example, compare synchronous and asynchronous studies and the experience of part-time and full-time students. If their schedule allows it, they may want to consider accelerated programs.

Location

After choosing between online and on-campus programs, prospective students should think about location. If they plan to study on campus, they need to find a school within traveling distance of where they currently live or plan to live. Online learners need to ensure they can visit campus if they must complete residency requirements.

Accreditation

According to our accreditation guide, accreditation is one of the most important considerations for students. Institutional accreditation can impact financial aid, transfer credits, and employment. Security and criminal justice programs may also receive programmatic accreditation from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences.

Student Support

Schools and programs offer many different types and levels of student services. For online learners, the learning experience can be considerably impacted by the online student services provided. Prospective students can look for career services and academic support programs, along with mentorship programs and internships and practicums.

Best Accredited Online Master's in Security Programs

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Best Online Master's in Security Programs

  1. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Tuition

    $27868

    Johns Hopkins enrolls over 26,000 students annually, many of whom earn their credentials remotely. The graduate catalog contains an online master of arts in global security studies that emphasizes policy analysis and development. Distance learners may complete a fully remote curriculum or engage in hybrid learning by taking some classes in Washington, D.C.

    Core requirements include classes in global political economy; military strategy; and energy, security, and defense. Master's in security candidates personalize their degree plans by choosing five electives, which they can use to pursue a concentration in strategic studies or energy and environmental security. Full-time students can graduate in 16 months.

    Applicants should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit a 1-2-page statement of purpose, two recommendations, a current resume, and a five-page academic essay that responds to a designated prompt.

  2. University of Texas at Austin
    Location

    Austin, TX

    Tuition

    $14156

    UT Austin delivers remote programs using the Canvas platform. Distance learners can enroll in an online master of science in information security and privacy program. Candidates gain a broad perspective on national and global security issues concerning public policy, law, technology, and communications.

    Students complete 30 credits of classes, including risk and benefit analysis, business governance and controls, and information management and repositories. They also delve into the anthropological study of information and societal norms. Students also gain experience in a professional setting. This master's in security program culminates with a capstone project.

    Distance learners enroll in the fall and generally earn their degree in 21 months. Prospective students need to send in GRE/GMAT scores, a two-page personal statement, three recommendation letters, and a resume or CV.

  3. University of Denver
    Location

    Denver, CO

    Tuition

    $34337

    DU provides a variety of remote certificate and degree options through its University College department. Offerings include an online master of science in security management program that learners can complete in 18 months. DU builds the 48-quarter-credit curriculum with input from ASIS International, training students to protect customers, organizations, intellectual property, and physical assets.

    Master's in security candidates pick from four concentrations, including information security, emergency planning and response, and organizational security. They may also pursue a supply chain management track, learning about business functions of security and assets protection. Candidates round out their graduate education with a practicum and a capstone project.

    Applicants need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 2.5 GPA. They must also submit a personal statement, a resume, and two recommendations. DU does not require standardized test scores.

  4. East Carolina University
    Location

    Greenville, NC

    Tuition

    $13746

    ECU maintains its flagship campus in Greenville, North Carolina, serving more than 28,000 students each year. Its academic catalog contains almost 90 graduate degrees, including an online master of science in security studies. After completing this program, graduates are prepared to occupy leadership positions at think tanks, multinational corporations, and intelligence agencies.

    Required coursework covers topics like weapons of mass destruction and policy/practice of security. This online master's in security program allows candidates to choose from four emphasis areas: technology security, homeland security, international security, and environmental health and occupational safety.

    ECU requires applicants to hold a minimum 2.7 GPA and adequate GRE/GMAT scores. However, the university waives testing requirements based on one of four criteria, including relevant career experience.

  5. John Jay College of Criminal Justice
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $4745

    John Jay delivers 13 remote degrees and certificates. These distance options include an online master of science in security management that totals 36 credits. With eight-week classes and a fully asynchronous format, distance learners enjoy ample flexibility.

    Core classes include protection management systems and models/applications for private security. Students also learn to apply organizational theories and analytical methods for IT security. The remaining credits are dedicated to electives, with options like business continuity planning, design of fire protection systems, and event and executive protection.

    This online master's in security program accepts applications on a rolling basis. Prospective learners must submit a 500-word personal statement, GRE scores, and 2-3 recommendation letters. They also need a minimum 3.0 GPA.

  6. The Citadel
    Location

    Charleston, SC

    Tuition

    $16396

    The Citadel powers distance education with Blackboard, offering 20 remote certificates and degrees. Its graduate catalog includes an online master of arts in intelligence and security studies program that teaches students best practices for information collection and analysis. The Citadel is recognized by the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.

    Totaling 36 credits, this degree plan contains core classes like homeland security and organizational leadership. Online master's in security candidates take advanced coursework in a cybersecurity or leadership concentration. The former track covers topics like advanced operating systems, principles of computer security, and data communications and networks.

    Applicants must send in GRE or MAT scores. They also need to submit a resume/CV and an academic writing sample that demonstrates strong communication and critical thinking skills.

  7. Webster University
    Location

    Saint Louis, MO

    Tuition

    $22727

    Webster is a longtime leader in distance education. The university provides over 50 remote academic programs, including a master of arts in business and organizational security management. Candidates may complete an entirely online curriculum or create a hybrid learning experience by taking certain classes at select campuses across the U.S.

    The curriculum totals 36 credits and contains courses like business assets protection and emergency planning. Students also examine pertinent legal, ethical, and behavioral issues in security management. This program holds specialized accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.

    Applicants should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA; however, some candidates who do not meet this requirement may still enroll on a provisional basis. For students who want to expand their education, Webster offers a dual-degree track that allows learners to earn an online master's degree in security and an MBA in about three years.

  8. Nova Southeastern University
    Location

    Fort Lauderdale, FL

    Tuition

    $25867

    Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU serves over 20,000 students every year. Distance learners can enroll in an online master of science in national security affairs and international relations program. Through a 36-credit degree plan, candidates learn to assess terrorism threats.

    Required coursework covers topics like border protection and applied research methodologies. Master's in security candidates personalize their curriculum with 15 elective credits, choosing from options like civil liberties, American government and domestic security, and bioterrorism. They can also use their electives to complete an optional cybersecurity concentration.

    Prospective students need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA. They must submit a 500-1,000-word personal statement, a resume/CV, two recommendation letters, and an academic writing sample.

  9. University of Massachusetts Lowell
    Location

    Lowell, MA

    Tuition

    $18257

    UMass Lowell oversees more than 100 graduate programs. Options include an online master of arts and an online master of science in security studies. These programs teach students the research, communication, and program administration skills needed to tackle global threats.

    Course topics vary based on which master's in security track a candidate chooses. The MA option prepares candidates for careers with defense contractors by providing concentrations in homeland defense, international security, and industrial/economic security. Alternatively, students who enroll in the MS program can focus their training on cybersecurity, learning how to conduct forensic analyses and develop information security standards for diverse organizations.

    Admission criteria include a minimum 3.0 GPA and adequate GRE scores. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose and two recommendation letters.

  10. Bellevue University
    Location

    Bellevue, NE

    Tuition

    $9635

    BU enrolls about 9,000 students in over 80 academic programs each year. Candidates may earn an online master of science in security management through a fully remote curriculum or a blended learning format. By completing this 36-credit program, graduates prepare to occupy leadership roles in government agencies and private security firms.

    Major requirements include classes in terrorism and homeland defense fundamentals, critical infrastructure, and cybersecurity and information protection. Candidates also learn to identify security vulnerabilities and evaluate risks. This online master's in security program emphasizes hands-on skill development and requires distance learners to complete four group projects.

    BU requires applicants to hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA. The university provides a variety of financial aid opportunities, including scholarships based on academic merit and extracurricular achievements.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Security Programs

Is a master's in security worth it? true

A master's in security allows graduates to enter various protective service fields. This gives them the opportunity to help their communities and the people in them.

An online master's in security also provides the added value of an online degree. Through online learning, students can expand their school and program searches to find more suitable training and program costs. Online learning can also provide a more accommodating schedule for working professionals and busy learners.

What can I do with a master's in security? true

After completing a master's in security, graduates can enter the workforce directly. They may choose a security position or look for a law enforcement career. Both paths may require them to complete extra training programs, such as a police academy program.

Graduates can also pursue a more advanced degree. They may, for example, tackle a doctorate in security or a related discipline. They can also choose to complete a postgraduate certificate, such as a criminal justice or criminology certificate.

Are security graduates in demand? true

Yes. For the protective services field, the BLS projects 8% growth and the addition of about 286,000 new professionals between 2020 and 2030. This is roughly the same as the projected growth rate of 8% for all occupations.

For the security profession specifically, the BLS projects 15% growth between 2020 and 2030. The expansion of legalized gambling and remote surveillance technologies will play a large role in this growth.

How much money can I make with a master's in security?

The salaries available to graduates with a master's in security vary by many factors. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for protective services occupations was $46,590 in 2021. Yet, master's degree graduates can qualify for the highest-paying positions in these fields.

While the median annual wage for security guards and gambling surveillance officers was $31,470 in May 2021, the top 10% of gambling surveillance officers earned more than $56,730. The top 10% of security guards made over $50,040. State government gambling surveillance officers made median annual wages of $75,490.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in security?

The highest-paying jobs for graduates with a master's in security depend on their specific employer and location. However, the position with the highest median annual wage, according to the BLS, belongs to police and detectives.

In May 2021, these professionals made median annual wages of $66,020. The top 10% of earners made more than $105,540. The wages also varied depending on what level of government employed them. For example, federal employees made median annual wages of $93,970, state government employees made $72,280, and local government employees made $64,610.

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Explore our IT skills list to learn which soft skills can improve your chances of landing a tech job and finding professional success. Follow our five simple steps for how to prepare for graduate school and get tips on the best ways to start off the semester smoothly. Learn about popular cybersecurity careers and their earning potential in this guide.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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