Homeland security is a relatively new term referring to the systems, resources and personnel in place to respond to terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other large-scale emergency situations that threaten people and property in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was launched in 2002 (largely in response to the 9/11 attacks), and has since grown into one of the largest federal agencies; DHS currently employs more than 240,000 full- and part-time staff working in areas like airport and border security, cyberterrorism, emergency response, and public health.
What are the best homeland security programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||George Washington University||Washington, DC|
|2||Mississippi College||Clinton, MS|
|3||Pennsylvania State University||University Park, PA|
|4||Tulane University||New Orleans, LA|
|5||Saint Joseph's University||Philadelphia, PA|
|6||Nova Southeastern University||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|7||Towson University||Towson, MD|
|8||Sam Houston State University||Huntsville, TX|
|9||Drexel University||Philadelphia, PA|
|10||Northeastern University||Boston, MA|
The academic discipline of homeland security is concentrated in the laws, ethics, protocols, and processes that guide various federal and nonprofit agencies. Coursework covers a wide array of topics related to different branches of homeland security like terrorism, health, and resource protection. Most careers in homeland security are attainable with a bachelor's degree ― or less, in some cases ― but a master's degree in homeland security is the ideal pathway for students who plan to assume leadership positions after graduation.
Master's in homeland security programs often culminate in a capstone course, during which students must use the skills and knowledge they have gained to address real-world concerns related to public safety and security. Internships may also be required. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their master's degree in homeland security online, rather than in a classroom. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curriculum as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, often leading to the same number of post-degree job opportunities. The flexible, study-from-home schedule are ideal for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties and other important commitments.
Learn more about what you can do with an online master's degree in homeland security and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
2020 Best Accredited Online Master's 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 master's degree in homeland security programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online master's in homeland security, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
George Washington University
|Washington, DC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 82%||
Based in the nation's capital, George Washington University offers popular public affairs, public policy, international diplomacy, and law programs, including a master of professional studies in homeland security pathway.
This 36-credit program reviews best practices in intelligence analysis, counterterrorism, and understanding evolving threats to national security. The program favors applicants with backgrounds in public and private safety, law enforcement, emergency response, public policy, and the military.
Course instructors focus on applied knowledge and the practical applications of theory, preparing graduates for careers as homeland security professionals. Students can graduate in 16 months, and online learners begin taking classes in the fall, spring, and summer.
|Clinton, MS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 53%||
Regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, Mississippi College is the state's oldest higher education institution. The college educates about 5,000 students a year, many of whom study online.
The college's master of social science in homeland security program can be completed by distance learners and provides advanced study in antiterrorism and border protection. The curriculum includes core courses like legal aspects of homeland security and grant writing for homeland security.
Graduates of this Christian university are prepared to work in numerous federal agencies. For example, degree-holders can pursue jobs in immigration and customs enforcement, emergency management, transportation security, and the private sector.
Pennsylvania State University
|University Park, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 29%||
Pennsylvania State University offers a fully online master of professional studies in homeland security through its virtual World Campus. The program gives learners a comprehensive view of homeland security issues, preparing graduates to advance in the field or transition to a new career path.
The 33-credit curriculum examines homeland security issues through the lens of geopolitics. After completing a core set of required classes, students can declare a specialization in one of seven areas.
The generalist option focuses on government policy and operational organization. Learners can also pursue a highly focused concentration in cybersecurity, counterterrorism, public health, geospatial intelligence, information security and digital forensics, or agricultural biosecurity.
|New Orleans, LA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 85%||
Tulane University's online master of professional studies in homeland security studies focuses on the practical applications of essential security and emergency management principles. Coursework covers domestic and international threats to homeland security. Learners also examine policies and actions that neutralize the harms these concerns can cause.
Core classes review major homeland security strategies and the policies that inform their design. Students engage in one-on-one consultations with the program director to create a degree completion pathway that reflects their individual interests.
Tulane holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Students local to Tulane's New Orleans-based campus can also pursue this master's in homeland security in a traditional campus-based or hybrid delivery format.
Saint Joseph's University
|Philadelphia, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
Based in Philadelphia, Saint Joseph's University offers an online master's in criminal justice with a homeland security concentration that prepares learners for front-line careers in emergency preparedness and disaster management. Students also explore homeland security and counterterrorism theories.
This 30-credit program examines the causes and effects of human-made threats. The curriculum covers issues in public policy, sociology, political science, and history. It helps guide students to advanced understandings of how and why threats evolve.
Degree-seekers are introduced to the organizational structures of homeland security agencies, as well as their various functions and roles. Graduates emerge with a comprehensive, professional understanding of homeland security best practices.
Nova Southeastern University
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Offered through Nova Southeastern University's Department of History and Political Science, this master of science in national security affairs prepares students for both professional and academic careers in the emerging field of homeland security.
The 36-credit program includes 21 core credits and 15 elective credits. Required courses frame contemporary national security issues in their historical and cultural roots. Students also learn about essential aspects of policy, ethics, applied theory, and organizational structure.
Electives provide opportunities for participants to specialize their degree, and the program also offers a cybersecurity concentration for students interested in the digital aspects of the field. This degree culminates with a final examination or a six-credit directed thesis.
|Towson, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
Maryland-based Towson University offers an online master of science in integrated homeland security management that expands its focus beyond terrorism to include natural disasters, environmental factors, and human error. The program teaches learners to respond to many types of threats.
To gain admission into the program, applicants must possess a bachelor's degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0, as well as at least three years of professional experience in a health-related, security-related, IT, or emergency response field. Prospective students must also prepare a three-page assessment of a current homeland security issue and propose a policy-based response to address it.
Specialization options include security policy, information assurance, and health preparedness. Degree-seekers must take at least one elective in each concentration area.
Sam Houston State University
|Huntsville, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Based in Huntsville, Texas, Sam Houston State University prepares graduates for careers at government agencies and private organizations. The school's 36-credit master of science in homeland security studies features coursework that covers topics like factual analysis, strategic decision-making, and public safety policy.
This master's in homeland security program accepts applications on a rolling basis, and learners can enroll in the fall or spring. Coursework applies theory to real-world practice through instructive examples and case studies. Faculty members possess the highest degrees in the field, as well as extensive first-hand experience.
SHSU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and about three-quarters of its students continue to work while studying.
|Philadelphia, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 74%||
Drexel University — a leading provider of public safety education — offers an online master of science in national security management. This program features a project-based learning method that creates high levels of engagement with applied homeland security theory.
Courses include a trio of applied projects that review recent examples of crisis situations, as well as risk assessment techniques and integrated learning. Through these experiences, degree-seekers learn to evaluate and improve policy, enhance organizational emergency preparedness standards, and apply their knowledge to individual areas of interest.
A private research university, Drexel holds regional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
|Boston, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 74%||
Boston's Northeastern University offers digital education through its Lifelong Learning Network, which was founded to deliver advanced study opportunities to a global student base. Distance learners can pursue an online master's degree in homeland security on a part-time or full-time basis, graduating in 2-3 years.
The program develops leadership skills that are applicable to crisis periods. Students receive an introduction to emergency planning and learn about disaster response tools that apply to a variety of scenarios arising from human-made and natural causes.
Program faculty are seasoned professionals who provide multiple perspectives on core issues. In addition to undergraduate academic transcripts, applicants must furnish two letters of recommendation, a current resume, and a 500-1,000-word statement of purpose.
- IS A MASTER'S IN HOMELAND SECURITY WORTH IT?
Many of the fields that graduates are prepared to enter will experience above-average growth rates, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Professionals with a master's degree also have a higher earning potential. Read more here..
- WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A MASTER'S IN HOMELAND SECURITY?
Graduates are prepared for many careers, including emergency management specialist, emergency response coordinator. and disaster recovery coordinator. Read more here..
- WHAT IS A MASTER'S IN HOMELAND SECURITY?
Homeland security refers to the systems, resources, and personnel used to respond to terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and other emergency situations. The academic side of homeland security focuses on the laws, ethics, and protocols, that guide various federal and nonprofit agencies. Read more here..
- WHAT COLLEGES OFFER HOMELAND SECURITY DEGREE?
Many colleges offer a master's in homeland security, either online or on-campus. This includes George Washington University, Mississippi College, and Nova Southeastern University. Read more here..
- WHAT DEGREE DO YOU NEED TO WORK IN HOMELAND SECURITY?
Most master's in homeland security programs require applicants to have an accredited undergraduate degree, which does need to be in any specific field. However, students with a degree in an unrelated field may be required to complete prerequisite courses. Read more here..
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN HOMELAND SECURITY PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
A master's degree in homeland security will prepare students for the challenges of this demanding ― yet often rewarding ― career path. Many programs allow students to concentrate their studies on specific areas of homeland security, such as cybersecurity, chemical warfare, narcotics, and public health. Those who follow a specialized track will be especially well-positioned for job opportunities in their chosen niche field. Capstone experiences and internships further boost a student's career prospects by exposing them to real-world problems and conditions they can expect to encounter upon entering the workforce.
WILL AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN HOMELAND SECURITY PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online master's degree programs offer a flexible, easily accessible alternative to traditional higher education. Students are able to download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams and communicate with their professors from their home with minimal (if any) required campus visits. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable Wi-Fi devices. For added convenience, students can usually coordinate internships at locations that are reasonably close to their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY MASTER'S DEGREE IN HOMELAND SECURITY?
Job eligibility for online master's in homeland security degree recipients will largely depend on their chosen specialization. Those who concentrate their studies on cybersecurity and digital forensics will be well-positioned for careers in IT, while a specialization in epidemiology or disease prevention will be the ideal track for a career in public health. Other common roles for these degree-holders include emergency management directors, information security analysts, logisticians, and security consultants. Doctoral degrees in homeland security are quite rare, so the master's is considered a terminal degree path.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Homeland Security Program?
From concentrations to curriculum and program structure, the options a program offers for earning a homeland security master's degree online will help you determine which program is right for you. As you explore the best homeland security degrees online, keep in mind that the details of these programs will vary from school to school.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN HOMELAND SECURITY
|Concentration||Description||Careers this concentration prepares for|
|Emergency Management||Learn how to develop and execute contingency plans for emergencies, from natural disasters to terrorist attacks. You'll learn how to complete Geographic Information Systems analysis, develop a strategic plan, and budget for disaster relief and humanitarian aid.||Emergency management specialist, Peace Corps member|
|Port Security||Examine ways to keep U.S. ports safe and secure. You'll learn about the policies, laws, and international agreements that govern our ports, including maritime security and aviation security, and which federal agencies play a role in port security.||FEMA research analyst, maritime security manager|
|Cyber Intelligence||Learn about the history of cyber intelligence and the impact it has on U.S. safety and policy today. The topics you'll focus on include computer crimes, the ethics of cyber security, intellectual property and privacy issues, and signals intelligence.||Information security analyst, CIA cyber threat analyst|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE MASTER'S DEGREE IN HOMELAND SECURITY
The courses you choose to take while you earn your online master's in homeland security will influence what kind of careers you'll be eligible for upon graduation. While courses vary between schools and programs, you'll find a sample curriculum below:
- Crisis Communication: Examine how to communicate within organizations and with the public during a crisis, from natural disasters to sexual harassment accusations. This course often includes analysis of case studies from real life crises, allowing students to determine where an organization may have gone wrong in their own crisis communication efforts. Taking this course prepares you for a variety of careers with organizations like the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Critical Infrastructure: Developing a plan to detect the vulnerabilities of critical infrastructure — and how to protect it during a crisis — is a cornerstone of homeland security studies. In this course, you'll learn how to conduct model-based vulnerability analysis, assess risk within systems, and apply risk-reduction techniques. Taking a course on critical infrastructure is a must for those who want to work at the Department of Homeland Security.
- Terrorism: Learn about how to detect and monitor threats of terrorism, both foreign and domestic. This course covers the history and ideology of terrorism and helps you identify major terrorist groups operating today and the role homeland security plays in diminishing the threat of terrorism in the U.S. Courses on terrorism are a good foundation for careers in federal agencies like the DHS, FBI, and CIA.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE MASTER'S IN HOMELAND SECURITY?
Full-time students can typically earn an online homeland security degree in two years. Programs often require you to complete 30 to 40 credit hours. How long it takes you to complete your online master's in homeland security will depend on how many credits you take and whether you have any transfer credits.
As you develop your shortlist of the best homeland security degrees online, consider whether a program follows a cohort model or allows you to study at your own pace. In a cohort model, you will start your online graduate program at a set time and work through the program at a predetermined pace with your peers. Some homeland security online degrees allow you to work through the program at your own pace. That means you may be able to take more credits per semester or complete coursework during summer semesters, allowing you to earn your degree quicker.
CERTIFICATIONS AND LICENSES A MASTER'S IN HOMELAND SECURITY PREPARES FOR
- Geographic Information Systems Professional Certification: Many careers in homeland security require thorough knowledge of GIS analysis. GIS users choose to receive certification from the GIS Certification Institute. Before professionals can apply for the GISP certification exam, they must have at least four years of experience in a geospatial career.
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional: Designed for professionals in the information security field, this certification is granted by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium. It certifies that a professional is competent in their field and capable of designing systems that protect against cyber attacks.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Homeland Security Degrees
Online master's in homeland security programs vary widely, and it's important to make sure that the programs you're interested in are accredited. Accreditation indicates that a school has met certain standards. The schools you encounter will most likely have one of two types of accreditation: national accreditation or regional accreditation. National accreditation is usually reserved for institutions of higher learning that focus on a specific type of education, like distance learning or vocational training. Regional accreditation is given to an institution that has met the standards of a regionally accredited association. There are six regional accreditation associations throughout the U.S. covering different regions, and a degree from a regionally accredited institution is valid in any state.
There is no one organization that's specifically designed to accredit schools within the field of homeland security, but FEMA does keep a list of masters programs for homeland security. You can find FEMA's college list here.
Accreditation associations work in tandem with other organizations to establish the standards that institutions of higher learning must meet. Those organizations include the Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). DOE, a cabinet-level department in the U.S. government, approves accreditors deemed reliable by the Secretary of Education. This is important because the DOE can only provide financial aid to students who attend accredited institutions. The CHEA advocates for self-regulation among accredited institutions of higher learning to maintain high standards. To learn whether a school you're interested in is accredited, you can check the list of schools on the websites of the DOE and CHEA.
JOB PLACEMENT: MASTER'S DEGREE IN Homeland Security
Due to an increased demand for qualified homeland security professionals in recent years, the job outlook is fairly strong for master's degree recipients in this field and healthy growth has been projected in the coming years ― although these trends vary by specific professional title. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the following table has a detailed breakdown of five common career paths in homeland security.
|Occupation||Current Number of Jobs||Projected Job Growth (2014-24)||Projected Job Increase (2014-24)|
|Emergency Management Directors||10,500||6%||+700|
|Information Security Analysts||82,900||18%||+14,800|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||382,600||8%||+30,200|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Comparatively, the BLS estimates that the average job growth projection for all industries between 2014 and 2024 is 6%.
EARNING A LIVING
Earning potential in the homeland security profession is largely tied to one's master's degree field and area(s) of specialization. Using data from the 2016-17 PayScale College Salary Report, the following table features earning estimates for four different homeland security-related master's fields during their first decade in the workforce. Please note that data for the master's in homeland security was not included in the 2016-17 report.
|Master's Degree Field||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)|
|Information Security and Assurance||$71,300||$98,300|
Of the five degree fields listed, the average wage premium (or increase) between the entry-level and mid-career stages is 49.82%. In addition to academic studies, specific job titles also determine how much a master's-holding homeland security employee can expect to make. Other factors include employer size and city/state of employment. The next table looks at 20-year salary growth projections for five popular careers among homeland security professionals with master's degrees.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (10+ Years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)|
|Emergency Management Specialist||$49,680||$57,744||$63,074||$77,713|
|Emergency Response Coordinator||$47,000||$56,000||$61,000||$61,000|
|Disaster Recovery Coordinator||$68,000||$80,000||$97,000||$105,000|
All four occupations experience a salary growth rate of at least 29% after 20 years on the job. Intelligence analysts reported the highest growth rate: a 57% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Emergency management specialists ranked second with 56.4% salary growth, followed by disaster recovery coordinators with 54.4% growth.
Those who graduate with a master's degree in homeland security will be qualified for dozens of positions ― including some managerial roles ― although their eligibility will depend on their areas of expertise. Four common career routes for employees with a master's in homeland security are outlined below.
Emergency Management Directors: Emergency management directors oversee teams that coordinate response and relief efforts when disasters, attacks and other critical situations arise. They strive to create safe, efficient contingency plans for a wide range of emergency scenarios, many of which depend on support from federal agencies, nonprofits and other peripheral organizations. Nearly two-thirds of emergency management directors work for state or local government agencies.
Project Coordinators: Also known as project managers, project coordinators are responsible for the development and execution of short- and long-term projects; in the homeland security sector, these projects often revolve around emergency and disaster response, relief and reconstruction models, as well as optimizing communications between different organizations and agencies with shared homeland security goals.
Information Security Analysts: Information security analysts are responsible for safeguarding sensitive organizational data from different hackers, cyberterrorists and other online criminals, as well as technical problems like equipment malfunctions and viruses. They rely on an array of tools and platforms to do their jobs ― and in some cases, they may be responsible for developing new programs that address the shortcomings of current ones.
Epidemiologists: Epidemiologists study patterns and trends pertaining to diseases and injuries that impact human health. They publish their findings in medical journals, give speeches at seminars and conferences on behalf of their organizations, and often have a hand in policy-writing.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary|
|Emergency Management Directors||$67,330|
|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 the counterterrorism field. 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 niche areas of law enforcement and homeland security, as well as podcasts, blog posts and other multimedia resources.
Financing Your Online Master's Degree in Homeland Security
Despite the relative affordability of online master's degree 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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Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
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