Homeland security is an interdisciplinary field concerned with maximizing public safety and security throughout the United States. The term has been commonly used since 2002, when the Bush Administration created the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Homeland security encompasses a wide range of professions, including emergency management and logistics, law enforcement and criminal justice, fire protection, public health and information security.
An associate degree in homeland security will introduce students to the fundamental areas of this exciting, often challenging field. Coursework will delve into topics like terrorism, the justice system, disaster response, epidemiology and cybersecurity. Homeland security associate programs often include internships, which allow students to receive supervised onsite training from experienced professionals. A capstone research project may be required, as well. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their associate degree in homeland security online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same number of job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) schedule and study-from-home format are also ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other responsibilities that could possibly interfere with campus-based learning.
What are the best homeland security programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Keiser University||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|2||Hawai'i Pacific University||Honolulu, HI|
|3||Campbell University||Buies Creek, NC|
|4||Central Wyoming College||Riverton, WY|
|5||Georgia Military College||Milledgeville, GA|
|6||University of Maine at Fort Kent||Fort Kent, ME|
|7||Barton Community College||Great Bend, KS|
|8||White Mountains Community College||Berlin, NH|
|9||Coastline College||Fountain Valley, CA|
|10||Trident Technical College||Charleston, SC|
Learn more about what you can do with an online associate in homeland security and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE ASSOCIATE IN HOMELAND SECURITY PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Associate in homeland security online degree programs prepare students for different disaster and emergency scenarios. Many programs are geared toward students with specific career pathways, such as law enforcement, information technology security or public health. Internships can also boost a student's skill set in key areas, and provide them with real-world working experience.
WILL AN ONLINE ASSOCIATE IN HOMELAND SECURITY PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Associate in homeland security online degree programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional higher education. Students are able download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors on their own schedule. Current educational technology also allows them to study away from their home computer using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other Wi-Fi-compatible devices.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY ASSOCIATE IN HOMELAND SECURITY?
Job availability for homeland security associate degree recipients will largely depend on their career goals. A growing number of homeland security professionals work in tech-related roles, such as information security analysts, cybersecurity specialists and network administrators. Law enforcement is another popular career destination for homeland security degree recipients; jobs are widely available in local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Other graduates with an associate in homeland security go on to become logisticians, project coordinators or emergency management and response personnel.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE ASSOCIATE IN HOMELAND SECURITY PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online associate in homeland security programs in the United States. If you are considering an online associate in homeland security, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
2020 Best Accredited Online Associate in Homeland Security Programs
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 65%||
Established in 1977, Keiser caters specifically to the career-focused educational needs of nontraditional students. The school currently ranks as the third-largest nonprofit university system in Florida, with a student body of approximately 20,000 members.
The school offers an online associate in homeland security that is a good introductory credential for aspiring antiterrorism professionals. The program helps graduates secure employment in homeland security-related positions.
Students learn how to identify and safely handle hazardous materials, and they also cover professional incident response and disaster recovery techniques. Those in financial need can access a generous aid program; Keiser has awarded more than $75 million in scholarships over the past two years.
Hawai'i Pacific University
|Honolulu, HI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 47%||
HPU boasts favorable student-to-teacher ratios and offers an associate in homeland security that students can complete entirely online. This 60-credit, two-year program centers on major core requirements that cover essential aspects of disaster preparedness.
HPU also grounds its homeland security curriculum in important cultural, historical, and theoretical approaches. By engaging in detailed examinations of recent U.S. history, degree-seekers build advanced understandings of the root causes and presentations of terror threats.
These broad perspectives frame a skills-focused curriculum that encompasses aspects of political science, criminal justice, and U.S. cultural history. Learners emerge with a process-oriented understanding of government response to ongoing threats. Graduates are prepared to pursue immediate employment.
|Buies Creek, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Campbell's entirely online associate in homeland security teaches learners about disaster response and emergency preparedness techniques, strategies, and infrastructure. Students also delve into intelligence analysis, antiterrorism operations, and homeland security administration.
The study path includes 62 credits built around a 24-credit core. In the core curriculum, learners explore terrorism and security from national and international perspectives. Degree-seekers with military backgrounds may qualify for transfer credits and advanced program standing.
Based in North Carolina, Campbell functions as a nondenominational Christian school. The university holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Central Wyoming College
|Riverton, WY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 42%||
CWC offers an online associate degree in criminal justice. Learners can configure their studies to earn an associate of arts or an associate of applied science.
The arts path — designed for transfer to a four-year college — takes a multidisciplinary perspective, incorporating topics in sociology, political science, civics, and law. Students can use their electives to learn more about homeland security-related issues. The applied science path serves as a standalone credential for individuals preparing for entry-level careers related to criminal justice and homeland security.
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1976, CWC offers more than 125 academic scholarships. The school's degree and certificate completion rates have increased sharply since the mid-2000s and now top all Wyoming junior colleges.
Georgia Military College
|Milledgeville, GA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 24%||
GMC allows students to earn an online homeland security and emergency management degree with an associate of arts or associate of science designation. Both options prepare graduates for entry-level careers or bachelor's programs at four-year institutions.
The academic requirements in the arts and science study paths differ somewhat. AA students complete 70-73 credits, while AS students need 65-69 credits for graduation. The AA pathway has a foreign language component, which requires students to take at least two French, German, or Spanish classes.
GMC specializes in career-focused academic programs that empower graduates to make meaningful contributions to society. It holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of Maine at Fort Kent
|Fort Kent, ME||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 46%||
UMFK offers an online associate of science in cybersecurity and information security that teaches students direct applications related to antiterrorism and domestic protection. The skills that participants develop in this program also translate well into enterprise settings.
Functioning as both a standalone credential and a transitional pathway into a four-year bachelor's program, the program covers topics like vulnerability and threat reduction, incident response strategies, system resilience, recovery methods, and cyberattack deterrence. Participants complete capstone projects and develop a computer portfolio that reflects their academic growth.
Graduates can pursue work as information security analysts — a profession that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects to grow by 32% between 2018 and 2028.
Barton Community College
|Great Bend, KS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 32%||
Kansas-based BCC offers an online associate of applied science in emergency management that features a homeland security emphasis. The 64-credit program features 36 credits of major requirements and 10 credits of major electives.
Core classes introduce students to essential aspects of emergency preparedness, with a special focus on terrorism-related events. Learners also take a series of response-oriented classes, learning how to delegate tasks and responsibilities, manage and mobilize volunteers, deal with hazardous materials, and conduct emergency operations.
BCC delivers its virtual classes through its proprietary BARTonline portal. More than 60% of BCC students take at least one course through the web platform, reflecting the system's quality and reliability.
White Mountains Community College
|Berlin, NH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 54%||
New Hampshire's WMCC hosts a hybrid associate of science in criminal justice/homeland security that focuses on the criminal aspects of antiterrorism. Learners cover the causes and manifestations of foreign and domestic threats, and the program delivers a balanced mix of academic theory and practical application.
This online associate in homeland security examines key topics from legal and criminal corrections standpoints. The program trains students for law enforcement careers, while simultaneously supporting transfer into a four-year institution. WMCC maintains formal transfer agreements with multiple New Hampshire colleges, giving graduates a direct path to advanced standing in bachelor's programs.
Graduates of recognized police and state corrections academies can enter this associate track with advanced standing. Applicants should note that the program requires on-campus meetings every other week in Berlin, New Hampshire.
|Fountain Valley, CA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 21%||
California's Coastline College supports an associate of arts in emergency management and homeland security program to help aspiring emergency response professionals land entry-level jobs. The program may also appeal to experienced workers who want to improve their management and communication skills.
Built around a 24-credit core, the program covers the fundamentals of emergency management and homeland security through detailed explorations of preparedness and response, disaster recovery, and hazard mitigation strategies. Learners customize the program through electives, which offer focused study opportunities in targeted areas such as border security, intelligence analysis, and crisis response.
Excellent student retention rates indicate high levels of satisfaction with Coastline College. Data from 2018-19 indicates an 87% annualized end-of-term retention average, which far exceeds nationwide averages.
Trident Technical College
|Charleston, SC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 14%||
At TTC, degree-seekers pursuing an online associate of applied science in homeland security management study in seven-week terms. The program's curriculum focuses on managing and responding to incidents of international and domestic terrorism.
Classes build critical skills in key response-oriented areas, covering strategic planning, emergency preparedness, and infrastructure protection. Degree-seekers also study international relations and learn how to analyze and evaluate intelligence related to pending threats.
Regionally accredited by the Southern Association on Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, TTC features small class sizes. This online associate degree in homeland security program hosts an intimate learning community that encourages high levels of interaction between students and their instructors.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Homeland Security Associate Degree Program?
|Timeline||18 months to 2 years|
|Program Costs||$6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition|
|Popular Minors and Dual Areas of Study||Emergency Management, Information Security, Cybersecurity, Network Administration, Logistics, Management, Nonprofit Administration|
|Accreditation||There is no formally recognized accreditor for associate degree programs in this field. Please defer to an individual school's regional or national accreditation status.|
Employment Outlook for Associate in Homeland Security Graduates
Job Placement: Associate in Homeland Security
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that homeland security jobs are available through a wide range of agencies and organizations. More than 240,000 individuals are currently employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; this number has risen roughly 31% over the last decade. Other federal agencies that hire homeland security specialists include the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. State and local government agencies often hire police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other homeland security personnel classified as 'first responders'. A growing number of homeland security jobs are available through private companies and nonprofit organizations, as well.
Due to the high demand for qualified security and safety specialists, the employment outlook for the homeland security sector is fairly strong. Using BLS data, the following table looks at the 10-year growth projections for four of the most common careers in homeland security.
|Occupation||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)||Number of Jobs|
|Emergency Management Directors||4%||+33,100|
|Information Security Analysts||18%||+14,800|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||8%||+30,200|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
As the table indicates, more than 110,000 new jobs will be created for these four occupations alone between 2014 and 2024.
Earning a Living
Due to the extensive number of job titles that fall within the field, salary expectations for homeland security professionals will often vary by an employee's area of specialization, as well as the agency or organization that employs them. The next table looks at career salary growth expectations for four leading employers of homeland security personnel.
|Agency or Organization||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)|
|U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)||$52,163||$75,648/td>||$77,423||$117,095|
|Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)||$57,170||$75,500||$77,454||$89,962|
|Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)||$67,005||$76,467||$105,043||$92,984|
|U.S. Department of Health||$45,951||$42,555||$50,022||$53,240|
Of the four organizations listed on the table, employees of the Department of Homeland Security reported the highest rates of salary growth: a staggering 124.5% increase between the entry-level and late-career phases. FEMA employees placed second with 57.4% salary growth, followed by FBI employees with 38.8% growth.
Students who graduate with an associate in homeland security will be qualified for dozens of positions in different organizations and agencies, although individual eligibility will depend on additional factors like experience level and city/state of employment. Four popular career pathways in homeland security are outlined in the section below.
Police and Detectives: Although day-to-day duties will vary, police and detectives follow the same guiding objective: to protect people, property and natural resources from criminal threats and disasters. Police officers play a direct role by conducting patrols in their areas of jurisdiction, while detectives oversee the investigation process whenever a crime is committed. Postdegree training and certification is usually required for police and detectives; specific requirements vary by agency.
Project Coordinators: Project coordinators oversee the various administrative and logistical tasks associated with short- and long-term projects. These employees are found throughout the homeland security sector; their projects often concern emergency response, disaster relief and reconstruction efforts, as well as the development and evaluation of contingency plans.
Project Coordinators: Information security analysts design, develop, implement and evaluate different programs and tools used to safeguard networks and computer systems from outside threats. These threats may concern terrorism, hacking and other criminal activities, as well as information leaks, equipment malfunctions and other technical issues. Security analysts will conduct thorough investigations whenever their organization is attacked, and revise their security systems accordingly to prepare for future disruptions.
Logisticians: These professionals are responsible for coordinating various resources ― such as food, water, supplies, transportation and manpower ― that are required in emergency and disaster scenarios. Logisticians must keep a thorough inventory and perform regular checks to ensure their supply chain is up to date, and keep meticulous financial records for their company or organization.
|Profession||Median Annual Salary|
|Police and Detectives||$60,270|
|Information Security Analysts||$90,120|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to homeland security is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for homeland security professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.
- National Homeland Security Association: The NHSA sponsors a national homeland security personnel conference, which was first held in 2005. The association's website also features an extensive blog network, career tools, and archived transcripts from the most recent conferences.
- International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals: The IACSP's mission is centered around two overarching goals: the development and dissemination of tools and resources used to minimize the threat of terrorism, and promotion of legal and ethical behavior within counterterrorism. Member benefits include online journal and newsletter subscriptions, discounts on entrance fees to IACSP events, and access to additional resources on the organization's website.
- SEARCH: SEARCH is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to connect and improve communication between various state, local, and tribal law enforcement and public safety agencies. SEARCH's website is a compendium of resources: visitors will find information about cyber-crime, data analysis, public safety, and other subfields of law enforcement and homeland security, along with podcasts, blog posts, and other multimedia resources.
Financing Your Online Associate in Homeland Security Program
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
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