While earning a homeland security associate degree online, students train to anticipate, prevent, and react to natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and security threats. Graduates work to minimize the vulnerability of U.S. citizens and the damage caused by catastrophic events. Homeland security professionals work for local, state, and federal government agencies. Graduates also find positions in private industries and nonprofit organizations.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), homeland security professionals who work for local and state governments earn annual mean wages between $74,010 and $109,530, depending on their specialty. According to PayScale, the average salary for employees with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is $76,000. Earning a homeland security associate degree online or on campus qualifies graduates for entry-level positions in a variety of settings. Keep reading to learn how to find the best online associate in homeland security programs for your educational and financial needs.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Homeland Security?

Students earning a degree in homeland security gain specialized knowledge to prepare them for specific careers in the criminal justice and security fields. Homeland security graduates often work in biosecurity, international terrorism, and criminology. Earning a homeland security associate degree online qualifies graduates for entry-level positions as customs officers, immigrant service agents, police officers, and border patrol agents. Many schools offer associate degrees in homeland security both online and on campus. Online programs are ideal for working professionals and students with personal obligations, while recent high school graduates often prefer on-campus programs.

Students in the field learn about how the country's homeland security organizations protect communities. While earning their associate degree, learners explore the foundations of U.S. homeland security and criminal justice systems. Many graduates secure entry-level positions, and others pursue further education in the field.

On-campus students have opportunities to network with peers and professors in person. Peers become professional colleagues after graduation and may lead to internships and employment opportunities. Job seekers face a competitive environment, and a candidate's professional network can be an advantage over other qualified professionals.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Homeland Security?

Homeland security professionals typically work in law enforcement, immigration and travel security, prevention and response, or missions support. Individuals in the field are often physically fit, work well under pressure, and can follow safety protocol. Homeland security jobs are often challenging and fast-paced, with varied workdays.

Transportation Inspector

These professionals ensure that modes of transportation, such as planes, subway cars, trains, and busses, operate efficiently and safely. A homeland security online associate degree qualifies candidates for this position, which offers opportunities for career advancement.

Median Annual Salary: $44,000

Transportation Security Officer

The Transport Security Administration employs the majority of these officers. Transportation security officers perform pat-downs and bag checks at security checkpoints in airports. The position requires a high school diploma or GED, and officers must be at least 18 years of age. Candidates with an associate degree are more competitive for entry-level positions and promotions.

Median Annual Salary: $33,030

Border Patrol Agent

These agents ensure the safe transport of goods across a country's borders. They also patrol areas for illegal trade, trafficking, and terrorism. Candidates must be fluent in a second language, younger than 37 years of age, and physically and mentally fit. Candidates need at least an associate degree in criminal justice or a related field and must complete academy training.

Median Annual Salary: $56,403

Security Officer

Security officers oversee properties and prevent theft, vandalism, and other damages. They may check visitors in and out of secure buildings, perform fire prevention and safety checks, and respond to alarms or emergency situations. Depending on location and type of facility, some entry-level positions require an associate degree in criminal justice or homeland security.

Median Annual Salary: $24,752

How to Choose an Associate in Homeland Security Program

Students should consider several factors before pursuing a homeland security online associate degree. Learners should ensure that every prospective program meets their educational needs and provides any specialized training necessary to enter their desired career. Prospective students must also determine whether an online or on-campus program best fits their needs. Online programs offer convenient, flexible scheduling options and are ideal for busy students and those who do not wish to relocate. On-campus programs, on the other hand, provide structure and in-person interaction with classmates and teachers.

Especially for on-campus students, location is another important factor, which may impact career and networking opportunities. Students who aspire to work for the federal government may consider programs near Washington. Similarly, those who want to work for a particular state government should apply to schools in that state. Choosing schools with ties to specific offices or officials can be beneficial after graduation. Location also affects the overall cost of a degree. Along with tuition, students should consider costs such as housing, food, and transportation. On-campus students who attend schools located in areas with low costs of living save money on these expenses.

Associate in Homeland Security Program Admissions

Admissions offices typically perform a preliminary screening, which may involve an evaluation of the applicant's academic history, standardized test scores, and GPA. The admissions office then passes applications to the academic department, where an admissions team and committee of professors review and rank applicants.

The number of available spots in on-campus programs is based on space, scheduling logistics, and funding. Because space and scheduling are not issues, online programs often accept more students than on-campus programs. Students should consider applying to at least six schools with different levels of prestige.

Admission Materials

  • Application: Students may require several hours to complete applications. Some students spend days or weeks perfecting application materials. Schools typically accept applications online, although some programs request hard copies of letters of recommendation.
  • Transcripts: Applicants must typically submit official transcripts from their high school and any previous postsecondary institutions. Somes schools charge a fee for official, sealed copies of transcripts. Students can request transcripts online, over the phone, or in person.
  • Application Fee: More than 2,000 colleges participate in a program that allows students to apply to college for free. Students who obtained a test fee waiver for the SAT or ACT are automatically eligible to submit four free applications at participating schools.

Educational Paths for Homeland Security Associate Programs

After earning their homeland security associate degree online, some graduates pursue further education. Graduates can transfer credits earned during their associate program to bachelor's programs. Most associate degree holders earn their bachelor's degree in two additional years of study. According to PayScale, homeland security professionals with a bachelor's degree average annual salaries $18,503 higher than associate degree holders.

Bachelor of Arts in Homeland Security

This degree covers the basics of national security and prepares students for careers with the Department of Homeland Security, state and local governments, and large corporations. Most BA programs in homeland security accept up to 90 transfer credits, including liberal arts and general education credits.

Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

After earning an associate degree in homeland security, many students pursue a BS to qualify for careers in the criminal justice field. Students gain professional skills, and many schools offer specializations in areas such as crime scene investigation, forensic psychology, homeland security, juvenile justice, and law enforcement. Specializing can lead to additional employment opportunities.

Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity

Some students who complete a homeland security associate program pursue a bachelor's degree in cybersecurity. This degree prepares students to defend against online criminals, hackers, malware, and other digital security threats. Cybersecurity specialists work at the local, state, and federal levels.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate in Homeland Security Program?

The curriculum for students earning a homeland security associate degree online varies by program. At any school, learners obtain the foundational knowledge necessary to protect citizens from threats. Required courses, program duration, and cost vary by school.

Courses in an Associate in Homeland Security Program

Coursework varies based on the strengths of the specific school and its homeland security program. Because a school's resources and professors influence the curriculum, each homeland security program is unique. Below is a sample curriculum, with courses available in many homeland security programs.

Introduction to Terrorism

Students examine terrorism and known terrorist groups to understand this major national security threat. Learners explore historically significant terrorist attacks and trends, and they learn how to identify and respond to acts of terrorism. Students study innovative counterterrorist strategies, along with prevention and response tactics.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Students learn about nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons commonly used in terrorist attacks. The course includes in-depth study of the history and function of weapons of mass destruction. Students explore moral and ethical aspects of using these weapons and review the effects of these weapons on society and the environment.

Terrorism Operations Response

Students learn about tactical response options and prepare to coordinate response units and agencies during crises. Students learn how to utilize the National Incident Management System and to plan for social and environmental recovery after a terrorist attack.

Computer Networks and Security

This course explores the growing dependence on digital technology and wireless communication and the impact of cybersecurity on civil liberties, global finance, and national security. This course introduces students to methods that local, state, and federal organizations use to protect themselves and U.S. citizens from cybercrime.

Homeland Security Law and Ethics

This course explores constitutional law, international law, and national security policy. Homeland security professionals must understand human rights, codes of conduct, and ethical leadership in the public and private sectors.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Homeland Security?

Degree completion time varies based on courseload, enrollment status, and course availability. Most full-time students complete their homeland security associate degree online in two years. Programs that require in-person training or a capstone project may take longer to complete. Some schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to progress through material more quickly. Students who enroll in summer courses or who take more than the recommended number of credits per semester often graduate in less time.

How Much Is an Associate in Homeland Security?

When determining the cost of a degree, students should consider all education-related expenses, including tuition, food, transportation, school supplies, and housing. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the annual cost of attending a two-year private institution, including room and board, was $24,367 during the 2015-16 school year. The average cost at a public institution was $9,939.

Online students often save on costs such as housing and transportation. Prospective students should apply to programs that fit their educational needs and their budget. Additionally, students should stick to their budget when managing expenses such as entertainment and food.

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations provide opportunities for students and professionals to learn and network. These organizations often host annual conferences and local meetings that foster networking and collaboration. Many associations also offer continuing education programs, career services, and job boards. Members can use connections and experiences gained through their organization to advance their career.

International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals

Open to individuals interested in understanding the security threat posed by terrorism and related conflicts, IACSP is a center for information and educational services. The organization promotes professional ethics in the counterterrorism field.


Formed after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the United States, SAFECOM is a government-funded initiative to improve public safety. SAFECOM fosters collaboration among emergency responders in federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and across international borders.

National Emergency Management Association

This nonprofit organization improves public safety by supporting emergency management professionals at all levels, in the public and private sectors. Members have access to peer networking tools, educational opportunities, and two national conferences per year.