If protecting your community and country from disasters, terrorism, and cybercrime interests you, consider a degree in homeland security. A bachelor's degree in homeland security equips holders with the knowledge to work in disaster management, law enforcement, and public safety positions.
The degree offers a path to many innovative and lucrative careers. For instance, many information security analysts hold a homeland security degree, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) anticipates that information security analysts will see a 28% employment increase from 2016 to 2026 -- far above the national average rate of 7%. In our complicated world, careers open to homeland security degree holders constantly need to keep up with changing security and hazard needs.
This page provides both an overview of what to expect from a typical bachelor's degree in homeland security and some tips on selecting the right program for you.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Homeland Security?
How you use a bachelor's in homeland security depends on your specific interests and academic history. While some students seek out an on-campus homeland security bachelor's immediately after high school, others opt for an online degree to change careers. For instance, someone with a background in computers might pursue a homeland security degree to prepare for a information systems security career. Likewise, a law enforcement officer might pursue a bachelor's in homeland security to qualify for a more specialized position. A working professional or second-time student will likely feel more suited for an online bachelor's in homeland security than a first-time undergraduate student.
A degree in homeland security equips students with skills in teamwork, critical thinking, and information systems literacy. The teamwork skills you gain from this degree allow you to network with colleagues and faculty. The ability to look at information with a critical eye enables you to pick and choose which relationships and connections help you with your desired career. Graduates also find that information systems literacy skills provide them with a competitive edge in finding technology jobs.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Homeland Security?
Homeland security degree holders find themselves in positions related to cybersecurity, law enforcement, and emergency management. While the majority of jobs may occur at the local, state, and federal government levels, many private companies and nonprofits welcome this degree. Students often find that a bachelor's degree in homeland security offers more options than previously thought. The unique set of skills offered by a homeland security degree holder proves useful in many professions, including ones as diverse as fire-fighting and information system security.
- Emergency Management Director
An emergency management director organizes relief in public safety emergencies and natural disasters. They communicate with state government officials and nonprofits to successfully implement relief plans. A bachelor's degree in homeland security with a concentration in emergency management can qualify the holder to work in a state or federal government position.
Median Annual Salary: $72,760
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Information Security Analysts
Information security analysts design security measures to prevent cyber attacks. On a typical day, one might review an information system for penetration issues to prevent future attacks. A bachelor's in homeland security with a concentration in information security can qualify the holder to work in a position protecting sensitive systems from cyberterrorism.
Median Annual Salary: $95,510
Projected Growth Rate: 28%
- Security Guards and Gaming Surveillance Officer
A degree in homeland security caters to security guards looking to work in a state or federal government position. Security officers work in many capacities, protecting assets, preventing illegal activity, and operating technology meant to catch criminals -- such as the work they do in a TSA screening area in an airport.
Median Annual Salary: $26,960
Projected Growth Rate: 6%
Firefighters put out and manage fires and respond to emergencies that threaten life or property. A bachelor's degree in homeland security could boost the career of a firefighter looking to move into a management or teaching position.
Median Annual Salary: $49,080
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Police Officer or Detective
Police officers and detectives enforce laws, respond to emergencies threatening life or property, and organize the arrests of lawbreakers. 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: $62,960
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Homeland Security Program
When choosing a homeland security degree, you need to consider factors that influence your experience. For example, find out how long the program lasts. Transferring credit from previous education could reduce the length of the degree. Additionally, find out whether or not the school allows you to take the program part time or full time. Taking a lighter course load results in more time expended, but for working professionals, this may prove necessary.
You also need to consider whether you want to take an online or on-campus program; nontraditional students, especially working professionals, may prefer flexible online programs. Find out how much the program costs and consider whether you can realistically afford it. Private schools tend to cost more than public schools.
Additionally, you want to make sure you attend a regionally accredited institution. Check whether the program ends with a thesis or capstone project. If you think you want to pursue a specific specialization, such as emergency management or information systems security, make sure that the program actually offers this specialization.
If you end up wanting to attend an on-campus program, or you need to complete an in-person residence, learn as much as possible about the school's location. Would you want to live there? A lower cost of living might come at the expense of quality of life. Also consider whether the area could offer post-graduation employment opportunities.
Accreditation for Bachelor's in Homeland Security Programs
Accreditation ensures that an institution upholds standards consistent with those set by the Department of Education. Regional accreditation comes from one of the six regional accrediting bodies and remains the most widely used. Programmatic accreditation comes from specific agencies that oversee niche degrees such as a medical doctorate or nursing degree. National accreditation applies more to trade and vocational schools.
Attending an accredited, especially regionally accredited, school shows others that you received your education from a source held to sound educational standards. If you do not attend an accredited school or program, you may find it more difficult to transfer credits.
Bachelor's in Homeland Security Program Admissions
When applying to an on-campus program, you may need to schedule an in-person interview with the school as part of the process. The admissions process to an online program often proves more involved than an on-campus program since some institutions' online schools require admission to both the on-campus and online program.
Ideally, you should apply to between four and eight schools. Applying to too many schools can leave you overextended, while applying to too few can backfire if you do not get into the schools of your choice. Students should also make sure that they can afford the tuition, that they can adapt to the program's format, and that each school they apply to holds accreditation.
- Minimum GPA: Most schools require at least a 2.0 GPA. Occasionally, schools may evaluate applications on a case by case basis and waive this requirement if you present high enough SAT or ACT scores.
- Application: Your college application asks you for general personal information and for your academic plans. Typically, an application takes about an hour to complete. Standardized applications such as the Common App expedite this process.
- Transcripts: You need to include your official high school transcript with an undergraduate program application. To get your transcript, you must fill out a transcript request form and pay a small fee.
- Letters of Recommendation: Typically, you only need two letters of recommendation. Give the individuals writing your letters of recommendation at least two weeks to complete the task.
- Test Scores: You need to present an SAT or ACT score with your application. 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: When filling out your application, you must include a small application fee, usually around $40. The school may waive this fee if in cases of financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Homeland Security Program?
Bachelor's in homeland security programs vary in structure. Many programs may not offer concentrations, and some schools may only offer homeland security as a concentration in another bachelor's program. Carefully research prospective programs to determine their offerings.
|Homeland Security||A concentration in homeland security focuses on issues related to terrorism, counterrorism, and homeland security law and policy. This concentration appeals to students interested in work in the private sector. Ultimately, holders may work in law enforcement, security, or management-related positions.||Security officer, security specialist, police officer, intelligence operations specialist|
|Emergency Management||An emergency management concentration caters to students who want to work as emergency management directors. This concentration features coursework on how to deal with natural disasters and public safety threats such as terrorist attacks. This concentration gives students the communication and teamwork skills to coordinate relief efforts for threats.||Emergency management director|
|Cybersecurity||Some programs offer a concentration in cybersecurity management. These students learn about information systems management and infrastructure in order to protect these systems and their sensitive information from cyberterrorism. Ultimately, they work with information technology, installing firewalls and monitoring systems for security breaches.||Information systems analyst|
|Fire Administration||A fire administration concentration tailors to students interested in pursuing an emergency management degree specifically related to firefighting or firefighters looking to move up in their careers. Students learn about how the management of a firehouse relates to government agencies, as well as topics such as ethics and teamwork.||Firefighter, emergency management specialist|
|Emergency Medical Management||An emergency medical management degree equips students to administer medical treatment in the fast-paced, stressful environment of emergency medical services. This degree tailors to students looking to advance to leadership and management-related EMS positions and may feature coursework on topics such as ethics and teamwork.||Emergency management specialist|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Homeland Security Program
Course lists for homeland security programs vary depending on the school. Some programs choose to focus more on certain topics, such as emergency management; you may not, however, find equivalents for many courses across programs. That said, certain courses consistently re-occur in many programs, such as the courses listed below.
- Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance
This course gives students an overview of the theory and practice behind gathering information on possible security threats, often using sophisticated technology. Students learn to organize the gathering of intelligence, monitor surveillance systems, and lead reconnaissance teams in dangerous situations. This class caters to students interested in working with the federal government.
- Emergency Management
Emergency management teaches students the basics behind dealing with public safety threats such as disasters and terrorism. Students learn strategies for coordinating relief efforts as a team. Additionally, they may get an overview of public policy to learn how to effectively deal with the public during these crises.
Counterrorism courses teach students strategies for how to investigate, detect, and effectively respond to terrorist activity. Students get a solid grounding in the legal issues, policy, and sociological concepts that inform counter-terrorist operations. They may also learn about the sophisticated technological tools at the disposal of these operations.
- Homeland Security Law and Policy
Some programs offer courses that give an overview of the law and policy behind homeland security theory and practice. Students learn about the ethics and history behind homeland security and the sociological concepts that inform the Department of Homeland Security's activities. This course interests those focused on management and teaching positions.
A course on terrorism details the sociological, political, and psychological background for terrorist organizations and their activity. It also illustrates the history of terrorism and common terrorist tactics for recruitment, political control, and attack. Readings and other coursework may focus on specific contemporary terrorist groups.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Homeland Security?
Typically, it takes four years to complete a bachelor's in homeland security degree. On average, the degree takes between 120 and 125 semester credit hours. Several factors could influence the length of the degree. Transferring credit from previous education can reduce the amount of time you spend on your degree. Taking a heavier course load can also expedite your degree. However, a working professional may only take on a part-time course load, extending the time it takes to complete the program.
It usually takes less time to complete an online degree than an on-campus one. Most online degrees come in a self-paced format which allows you to work on assignments on your own schedule. Additionally, many online homeland security degrees come in an accelerated format, which allows you to complete the degree at a much faster pace, sometimes within two years.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Homeland Security?
The cost of a bachelor's degree generally runs between $5,000-$50,000. Several factors could influence the cost of a bachelor's in homeland security. Fortunately, undergraduate degrees cost less than graduate degrees. Additionally, going to school out-of-state costs more than staying in-state for schooling, as many schools charge in-state students lower tuition rates.
Students should also keep other costs beyond tuition in mind, like the cost of housing, additional fees, and technology. If you attend an on-campus program, you need to buy expensive textbooks and either deal with the cost of housing or with commuting. Online programs do not entail the costs of housing, commuting to school, or textbooks.
The annual cost of tuition for a homeland security degree can vary widely. For instance, California University of Pennsylvania offers an annual tuition of $7,656, while Pfeiffer University's tuition costs $13,500. You can expect to pay between $6,000 and $15,000 annually for your bachelor's degree in homeland security.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Homeland Security Prepares For
- Security Officer Licensure
Though requirements vary from state to state, most security officer positions require only a high school degree. With a bachelor's in homeland security and security officer licensure, you may want to pursue work as, for instance, a TSA officer.
- Police Officer Certification
Law enforcement officers need to undergo training, usually on-site, in order to obtain certification. This job usually only requires a high school diploma; however, more and more police academies look favorably on bachelor's degrees. A bachelor's in homeland security might help you move up quickly in the ranks or qualify you for special assignments.
- Certified Information Systems Auditor
Certifications exist for different kinds of information systems analysts. A degree in homeland security could equip you with the knowledge to take a certification exam with an organization such as the Information Systems Audit and Control Organization. This degree and certification could help you gain a foothold in a government position protecting systems containing sensitive information.
Resources for Homeland Security Students
The IACA advocates for and promotes excellence among crime analysts in law enforcement. This agency offers job listings, articles, and educational software through its website's resource section.
The DHS directs and coordinates homeland security-related activities nationwide, preparing for, preventing, and responding to terrorist activities. The DHS even offers students scholarships for degrees relating to law enforcement and homeland security.
The IAEM advocates for and promotes excellence among emergency management professionals. The organization offers a scholarship program for students in majors related to emergency management and homeland security.
The ACJA promotes excellence among professionals in criminal justice and law enforcement. The organization offers a scholarship to students studying a major related to criminal justice, law enforcement, or homeland security.
WFLE advocates for the equal representation of women in federal law enforcement. Additionally, they offer scholarships for women in majors related to federal law enforcement, such as homeland security.
Professional Organizations in Homeland Security
Professional organizations give new graduates and experienced professionals a support system and opportunities for networking and continuing education. These organizations offer their members access to resources such as conferences, online classes, job boards, and career services. Events such as the National Homeland Security Association's annual conference help new graduates establish long-lasting mentoring and peer relationships. Membership with these organizations helps establish a sense of community in addition to aiding with the job search and professional development.
The NHSA sponsors the National Homeland Security Conference, the largest annual conference for emergency management and security professionals. The conference features presentations that the organization makes available to the public on the web.
Founded in 1984, APCO advocates for public safety professionals. APCO offers webinars, continuing education services, and certifications for professionals. The organization also offers scholarships for students in public safety-related majors.
Founded in 1915, the IAWP advocates for equal representation for women in law enforcement. The association offers annual conferences, training programs, and scholarships for law enforcement-related majors.
The IALEIA is a nonprofit that promotes law enforcement analysts through a number of regional chapters. The organization offers job services, continuing education opportunities, and a number of research journals, including Journal of Intelligence and Analysis.
APSA advocates for the safe and effective use of aircraft in public safety missions. The organization offers training, education, and even scholarships for majors in public safety.