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Published on November 12, 2019

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By earning a homeland security degree online, you become qualified for positions in law enforcement, emergency management, and information security. You can also apply your skills in forensic investigations and criminological research. According to Data USA, the most common occupations for those with a homeland security degree include police officer, bailiff, and correctional officer. You may also find opportunities in social work.

Most learners complete traditional bachelor's programs in homeland security in four years. Accelerated tracks can expedite the process significantly. These intensive programs consist of four- and eight-week classes, enabling students to graduate in about two years. The typical curriculum covers core topics like criminal procedures, correctional systems, and court systems.

You can learn more about bachelor's in homeland security programs by consulting this guide, which covers course details, admission criteria, and potential career opportunities.

What Is Homeland Security?

Homeland security encompasses occupations that focus on identifying, preventing, and ameliorating national security risks. While many people view homeland security as strictly dealing with terrorist attacks, the field also comprises emergency response, infectious disease control, and cybersecurity. Homeland security professionals can also work in criminal justice and social services.

Homeland security occupations predominantly exist within national, state, and local government agencies. However, job seekers can also find opportunities in the private sector, particularly in banking, manufacturing, and aviation. Depending on their role, homeland security professionals protect borders and ports, coordinate relief efforts during hurricanes, and analyze global intelligence to counteract terrorist attacks.

Homeland security is a particularly suitable field for military veterans, due to their service training and experiences. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security actively recruits veterans to federal posts.

Growing threats related to global terrorism and climate change drive the expansion of homeland security careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% increase in emergency management director positions from 2018 to 2028. Information security analysts stand to benefit from a projected 32% increase in demand during this time frame.

You can discover more about homeland security by checking out our in-depth program guide. This page contains details about the best online homeland security degrees, including prerequisite requirements and student outcomes.

What You Can Do With a Bachelor's in Homeland Security

Those with a homeland security degree primarily seek positions related to cybersecurity, law enforcement, and emergency management. While the majority of these jobs are in local, state, and federal government, students often find that a bachelor's degree in homeland security offers additional opportunities with private companies and nonprofits. The unique skills gained by earning a homeland security degree prove useful in many professions, including firefighting and information system security.

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors organize relief efforts in public safety emergencies and natural disasters. They communicate with officials in state government and nonprofits to successfully implement relief plans. You can qualify for a state or federal government position by earning a bachelor's degree with a concentration in emergency management.

Median Annual Salary: $74,420*

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts design security measures and review information systems to prevent future attacks. A bachelor's in homeland security with a concentration in information security can qualify you for roles involving the protection of sensitive systems from cyberterrorism.

Median Annual Salary: $98,350*

Security Guard or Gaming Surveillance Officer

A degree in homeland security empowers security guards to seek careers in state or federal government. Security officers work in many capacities, protecting assets, preventing illegal activity, and operating technology meant to catch criminals -- such as the work that TSA agents perform in airports.

Median Annual Salary: $28,530*


Firefighters manage and extinguish fires and respond to emergencies that threaten life or property. A bachelor's degree in homeland security can boost the career of a firefighter looking to move into a management or teaching position.

Median Annual Salary: $49,620*

Police Officer or Detective

Police officers and detectives enforce laws, respond to emergencies that threaten life or property, and work to arrest criminals. With a bachelor's in homeland security, a law enforcement officer may qualify for a position in state or federal government, protecting homeland security interests related to intelligence, terrorism, or immigration.

Median Annual Salary: $63,380*

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Consult this extensive career guide to explore additional opportunities available to online homeland security degree candidates. You will learn about job options by degree level, general entry requirements, and professional development opportunities.

What to Expect in a Bachelor's in Homeland Security

An online degree in homeland security generally consists of at least 120 credits of coursework. Core classes typically include criminology, criminal investigations, and juvenile justice. Students learn about criminal justice organizations, including their administration, scope, and interactions. Learners also train in field-specific ethics and research methodologies.

Unlike associate tracks, bachelor of homeland security programs allow you to personalize your curriculum through a chosen concentration. Popular options include fire management, information assurance, and organizational leadership. Some schools also provide a military leadership concentration, often with specialized classes in crisis management, joint force operations, and the role of the U.S. Coast Guard. Most programs include an internship and/or capstone research project to provide real-world experience.

The list below provides greater details on typical course offerings.

Emergency Planning: An integral topic for emergency management directors, this course trains students in risk assessment and operational staffing. Candidates also learn to create a continuing testing program and coordinate supporting agencies. Domestic Terrorism: Here, students examine how the U.S. government defines domestic terrorism with respect to the enforcement of hate crime laws and the Patriot Act. This course also explores the role of social media and the internet in radicalizing militias and extremists. Infrastructure Security: In this course, students investigate the security policies of airports, railways, public transit systems, and communication networks. Additional topics include public-private security partnerships and distributed infrastructure control systems. Cybercrime: On top of providing an overview of the technical aspects of cybercrime, this course delves into the behaviors of computer hackers and cyberterrorists. Students also analyze law enforcement practices and legislation aimed at prosecuting these crimes. Research Methods: Research methods courses provide learners with the skills to conduct social science research and evaluate the research of others in the field. Students learn to identify data types, apply analytical measures, and interpret results.

Expert Interview

Matt C. Pinsker is an award-winning criminal defense attorney who has previously served as a magistrate, state prosecutor, and federal special prosecutor. He is also an adjunct professor teaching homeland security at Virginia Commonwealth University. A captain in the JAG Corps of the U.S. Army Reserves, he also holds an LL.M. in national security and U.S. foreign relations law. Mr. Pinsker has co-authored one textbook and has a book on border security coming out in 2020.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in homeland security? Did you earn a related degree?

I’ve always been interested in national security issues. In particular, I am interested in civil rights and liberties and how they are impacted by national security threats. To this end, after becoming an attorney, I earned a master of laws degree (LL.M) in national security and U.S. foreign relations law.

What did your career trajectory look like after you graduated?

Immediately after graduating, I started teaching homeland security as an adjunct professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and also started practicing law, first as a prosecutor and later as a defense attorney. I also joined the JAG Corps of the Army Reserves to practice law for the military. This intersection of military life, criminal defense and prosecution, and education has exposed me to a variety of issues and led to many opportunities, including writing articles for journals and two books.

Why did you decide to become a homeland security professor? Is this a common path for individuals who receive a homeland security degree?

Very few individuals with a degree in homeland security use it to teach. I’ve simply always loved teaching, whether it was tutoring third graders or teaching a university class. It is an opportunity to share my love for national security with others. Also, teaching homeland security is very meaningful because what we talk about isn’t mere hypotheticals existing only in ivory towers, but very much real-world issues that concern life and death. Many of my students are going into homeland security, and it is a real responsibility for me to teach them how to do their job effectively, safely, and legally.

What are some of the most challenging aspects of your position?

The most challenging part of my position as a criminal defense lawyer is dealing with emotionally charged individuals, often under much stress. The hardest part about teaching is coming up with new test questions each semester, but fortunately real-world events often lend inspiration.

How much time do you spend on continuing education, either as a requirement for your profession or for your own personal growth in the field?

Every week, there is always something I’m doing. I either teach myself a new skill to continue practicing law, or I have to stay up to date on changes in the law, or I’m just learning something new.

What advice would you give to individuals considering pursuing a degree and a career in homeland security?

I’d advise the person to get some real-world experience to determine if it is what he or she really wants to do before spending a lot of time and money getting a degree in it. So many people are interested in the hypotheticals or think it seems neat but end up doing something unrelated to the degree.

What are some of the skills someone considering pursuing a career in homeland security must have to be successful?

Anyone interested in a degree in homeland security should be committed to civil rights. Those who sacrifice liberty for the illusion of security deserve neither and will soon lose both.

How to Choose a Bachelor of Homeland Security Program

To earn a valid online degree in homeland security, you must attend a higher education institution that maintains national or regional accreditation. Colleges and universities become nationally accredited through authorities supported by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. Schools earn regional accreditation from one of six organizations, depending on location.

Bachelor's programs in homeland security may also obtain specialized accreditation from the Emergency Management Institute. Some criminal justice schools hold programmatic accreditation from the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences. By earning a degree from an accredited school or program, you ensure that your knowledge and skills meet the standards employers expect of qualified candidates.

Other important factors you must consider in your search include:

To minimize student loan debt, you should attend a school that offers affordable tuition and adequate financial support. Many online programs provide low per-credit tuition rates that ignore residency status.

Most universities allow you to take as few or as many classes per term as you wish. However, certain institutions implement a cohort learning format that requires you to take courses with a group of peers at a predetermined pace.

You can boost your chances of success by attending a college that provides personal academic counseling and tutoring services. Internship placement, resume assistance, and other career resources are also important.

Bachelor of Homeland Security Program Admissions

Applying to homeland security degree online programs can be a complicated process. In this section, you will learn about common application materials, such as recommendation letters and academic transcripts. While not all undergraduate homeland security programs have prerequisite requirements, the most common include:

Minimum GPA Prerequisite coursework Work experience

When in doubt, seek the guidance of a school's admission specialists. These counselors can help you submit necessary documents and apply for financial aid in a timely manner.

Admission Materials

Application A college application typically requires at least an hour to complete and contains sections for both your personal information and specific academic plans. Standardized applications such as the Common App expedite this process.
Transcripts You need to include official high school transcripts with each undergraduate program application. To receive your transcripts, you must submit a transcript request to any prior schools attended and pay a small fee.
Letters of Recommendation In general, colleges request at least two letters of recommendation from people who know your academic and work history. Be sure to provide the individuals writing your letters at least two weeks to complete the task.
Test Scores You need to submit an SAT or ACT score with most applications. Most schools do not require specific scores; they may, however, expect at least a 1000 on the SAT or a 15 on the ACT.
Application Fee Most schools require a small application fee in order to process your materials, usually around $40. They may waive this fee if in cases of financial hardship.

Resources for Bachelor of Homeland Security Students

International Association of Crime Analysts

The IACA promotes excellence among crime analysts in law enforcement. This agency offers job listings, articles, and educational software through the resource section of its website.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security

DHS directs and coordinates homeland security-related activities nationwide to prepare for, prevent, and respond to terrorist activities. DHS also offers student scholarships for degrees relating to law enforcement and homeland security.

International Association of Emergency Managers

IAEM advocates for emergency management professionals. The organization offers a scholarship program for students in majors related to emergency management and homeland security.

American Criminal Justice Association

The ACJA promotes excellence among professionals in criminal justice and law enforcement. The organization offers a scholarship to students in majors related to criminal justice, law enforcement, or homeland security.

Women in Federal Law Enforcement

Initially created by U.S. Departments of Justice and Treasury, WFLE is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the equal representation of women in federal law enforcement. Additionally, the organization provides scholarships for women in majors related to federal law enforcement, such as homeland security.

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