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Cybercrime resulted in almost a $600 billion economic loss worldwide in 2017, and cybercriminals continue to find new ways to attack government agencies, businesses, and consumers. Security professionals work to combat these losses by drawing on a variety of skills to evaluate risk and respond to emergencies.
Cybersecurity remains a popular career path within the security field. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 31% employment growth for information security analysts between 2019 and 2029. Security jobs can also be found in many other career fields.
Earning a master's in security prepares graduates for leadership positions in emergency management, cybersecurity, and law enforcement. Read on to learn more about common courses and admission requirements for online master's degree in security programs, as well as typical careers for program graduates.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Security Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:
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|1||Johns Hopkins University||Baltimore, MD|
|2||University of Texas at Austin||Austin, TX|
|3||University of Denver||Denver, CO|
|4||East Carolina University||Greenville, NC|
|5||John Jay College of Criminal Justice||New York, NY|
|6||The Citadel||Charleston, SC|
|7||Webster University||Saint Louis, MO|
|8||Nova Southeastern University||Fort Lauderdale, FL|
|9||University of Massachusetts Lowell||Lowell, MA|
|10||Bellevue University||Bellevue, NE|
- How We Rank Schools
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Our rankings are grounded in a few guiding principles and use the latest statistical data available from trusted sources. Read our Ranking Methodology. We hope our approach helps you find the school that is best for you.
2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Security Programs
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Johns Hopkins University
|Baltimore, MD||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 25%||
Johns Hopkins enrolls over 26,000 students annually, many of whom earn their credentials remotely. The graduate catalog contains an online master of arts in global security studies that emphasizes policy analysis and development. Distance learners may complete a fully remote curriculum or engage in hybrid learning by taking some classes in Washington, D.C.
Core requirements include classes in global political economy; military strategy; and energy, security, and defense. Master's in security candidates personalize their degree plans by choosing five electives, which they can use to pursue a concentration in strategic studies or energy and environmental security. Full-time students can graduate in 16 months.
Applicants should hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. They must also submit a 1-2-page statement of purpose, two recommendations, a current resume, and a five-page academic essay that responds to a designated prompt.
University of Texas at Austin
|Austin, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 23%||
UT Austin delivers remote programs using the Canvas platform. Distance learners can enroll in an online master of science in information security and privacy program. Candidates gain a broad perspective on national and global security issues concerning public policy, law, technology, and communications.
Students complete 30 credits of classes, including risk and benefit analysis, business governance and controls, and information management and repositories. They also delve into the anthropological study of information and societal norms. Students also gain experience in a professional setting. This master's in security program culminates with a capstone project.
Distance learners enroll in the fall and generally earn their degree in 21 months. Prospective students need to send in GRE/GMAT scores, a two-page personal statement, three recommendation letters, and a resume or CV.
University of Denver
|Denver, CO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 21%||
DU provides a variety of remote certificate and degree options through its University College department. Offerings include an online master of science in security management program that learners can complete in 18 months. DU builds the 48-quarter-credit curriculum with input from ASIS International, training students to protect customers, organizations, intellectual property, and physical assets.
Master's in security candidates pick from four concentrations, including information security, emergency planning and response, and organizational security. They may also pursue a supply chain management track, learning about business functions of security and assets protection. Candidates round out their graduate education with a practicum and a capstone project.
Applicants need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree earned with a minimum 2.5 GPA. They must also submit a personal statement, a resume, and two recommendations. DU does not require standardized test scores.
East Carolina University
|Greenville, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 18%||
ECU maintains its flagship campus in Greenville, North Carolina, serving more than 28,000 students each year. Its academic catalog contains almost 90 graduate degrees, including an online master of science in security studies. After completing this program, graduates are prepared to occupy leadership positions at think tanks, multinational corporations, and intelligence agencies.
Required coursework covers topics like weapons of mass destruction and policy/practice of security. This online master's in security program allows candidates to choose from four emphasis areas: technology security, homeland security, international security, and environmental health and occupational safety.
ECU requires applicants to hold a minimum 2.7 GPA and adequate GRE/GMAT scores. However, the university waives testing requirements based on one of four criteria, including relevant career experience.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
|New York, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 7%||
John Jay delivers 13 remote degrees and certificates. These distance options include an online master of science in security management that totals 36 credits. With eight-week classes and a fully asynchronous format, distance learners enjoy ample flexibility.
Core classes include protection management systems and models/applications for private security. Students also learn to apply organizational theories and analytical methods for IT security. The remaining credits are dedicated to electives, with options like business continuity planning, design of fire protection systems, and event and executive protection.
This online master's in security program accepts applications on a rolling basis. Prospective learners must submit a 500-word personal statement, GRE scores, and 2-3 recommendation letters. They also need a minimum 3.0 GPA.
|Charleston, SC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 20%||
The Citadel powers distance education with Blackboard, offering 20 remote certificates and degrees. Its graduate catalog includes an online master of arts in intelligence and security studies program that teaches students best practices for information collection and analysis. The Citadel is recognized by the Department of Homeland Security as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.
Totaling 36 credits, this degree plan contains core classes like homeland security and organizational leadership. Online master's in security candidates take advanced coursework in a cybersecurity or leadership concentration. The former track covers topics like advanced operating systems, principles of computer security, and data communications and networks.
Applicants must send in GRE or MAT scores. They also need to submit a resume/CV and an academic writing sample that demonstrates strong communication and critical thinking skills.
|Saint Louis, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 11%||
Webster is a longtime leader in distance education. The university provides over 50 remote academic programs, including a master of arts in business and organizational security management. Candidates may complete an entirely online curriculum or create a hybrid learning experience by taking certain classes at select campuses across the U.S.
The curriculum totals 36 credits and contains courses like business assets protection and emergency planning. Students also examine pertinent legal, ethical, and behavioral issues in security management. This program holds specialized accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs.
Applicants should hold a minimum 2.5 GPA; however, some candidates who do not meet this requirement may still enroll on a provisional basis. For students who want to expand their education, Webster offers a dual-degree track that allows learners to earn an online master's degree in security and an MBA in about three years.University
Nova Southeastern University
|Fort Lauderdale, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 9%||
Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU serves over 20,000 students every year. Distance learners can enroll in an online master of science in national security affairs and international relations program. Through a 36-credit degree plan, candidates learn to assess terrorism threats.
Required coursework covers topics like border protection and applied research methodologies. Master's in security candidates personalize their curriculum with 15 elective credits, choosing from options like civil liberties, American government and domestic security, and bioterrorism. They can also use their electives to complete an optional cybersecurity concentration.
Prospective students need a regionally accredited bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA. They must submit a 500-1,000-word personal statement, a resume/CV, two recommendation letters, and an academic writing sample.Lowell
University of Massachusetts Lowell
|Lowell, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 14%||
UMass Lowell oversees more than 100 graduate programs. Options include an online master of arts and an online master of science in security studies. These programs teach students the research, communication, and program administration skills needed to tackle global threats.
Course topics vary based on which master's in security track a candidate chooses. The MA option prepares candidates for careers with defense contractors by providing concentrations in homeland defense, international security, and industrial/economic security. Alternatively, students who enroll in the MS program can focus their training on cybersecurity, learning how to conduct forensic analyses and develop information security standards for diverse organizations.
Admission criteria include a minimum 3.0 GPA and adequate GRE scores. Applicants must submit a statement of purpose and two recommendation letters.
|Bellevue, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 2%||
BU enrolls about 9,000 students in over 80 academic programs each year. Candidates may earn an online master of science in security management through a fully remote curriculum or a blended learning format. By completing this 36-credit program, graduates prepare to occupy leadership roles in government agencies and private security firms.
Major requirements include classes in terrorism and homeland defense fundamentals, critical infrastructure, and cybersecurity and information protection. Candidates also learn to identify security vulnerabilities and evaluate risks. This online master's in security program emphasizes hands-on skill development and requires distance learners to complete four group projects.
BU requires applicants to hold a regionally accredited bachelor's degree and a minimum 2.5 GPA. The university provides a variety of financial aid opportunities, including scholarships based on academic merit and extracurricular achievements.
What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Security Program?
Students can tailor their degree to their career goals by pursuing concentrations in cybersecurity, homeland security, and international security.
Earning an online master's in security can build upon your education and work experience in the security field. The degree also provides an opportunity for career changers to gain the necessary skills to begin a security career. Security professionals need good communication, logical reasoning, and critical thinking skills.
A master's in security offers a multidisciplinary curriculum that typically requires 30-36 credits and takes 1-2 years to complete. Students can tailor their degree to their career goals by pursuing concentrations in cybersecurity, homeland security, and international security. Concentrations typically feature 3-4 courses on a specific topic.
Programs may offer a master of arts (MA) or master of science (MS) degree. An MS track provides more emphasis on research and analysis, while an MA track uses more of a liberal arts approach to build critical thinking skills. Both options focus on career-specific knowledge and competencies.
Many students can qualify for professional certifications after completing coursework, particularly those taking cybersecurity courses. Fieldwork complements lecture and discussion courses, with opportunities for internships available. Most students also complete a capstone experience, demonstrating their mastery of the knowledge and skills required to succeed in the security industry. This experience may involve an internship, a professional project, or a master's thesis.
Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Security Programs
Master's in security programs evaluate each applicant's academic background and professional experience. Prospective students need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school, and they may need a 3.0 GPA or higher. Programs welcome students with degrees in a variety of disciplines. Many schools also require applicants to share their GRE scores.
Applicants may be asked to submit recommendations from former instructors, managers, and/or professional colleagues. Some schools also require a statement of purpose.
Read more about this process in our Graduate Admissions Guide.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Security Program?
The curriculum of a master's in security generally includes 30-36 credits. Specific course requirements vary by school and concentration, although most programs feature a blend of leadership and management courses with behavioral psychology and criminology. The following section highlights common courses often found in these programs.
- Contemporary Security Studies
This course examines contemporary national and international security issues like migration, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation. Students review relevant history and explore each topic's unique threats, developing policies and procedures to mitigate risk.
- Intelligence Analysis
This course builds skills in logical reasoning and critical thinking. Often, intelligence resources provide bits and pieces of information related to emerging security issues. This course helps students piece together that information to inform policymakers about upcoming challenges and world events. Students learn about intelligence agencies' structures, discuss possible biases, and analyze foreign policy issues.
- Crisis and Emergency Management
Crisis management involves planning for and responding to natural disasters, infrastructure failures, infectious diseases, and human-initiated disasters. This course examines the leadership and organizational strategies needed to respond to each crisis type. Students learn to identify resources, coordinate with agencies, and communicate effectively with the public.
- Threat Assessment and Risk Management
This course builds skills in evaluating and mitigating threats and risks to infrastructure, assets, health, and community safety. Readings and discussions on contemporary issues allow students to analyze various security risks and create protection strategies.
- Transportation System Security and Safety
Transportation systems play an essential role in the economy. These systems also pose challenges in terms of safety and security, both from natural disasters and human-made crises. This course helps students understand security measures, evaluate types of risks, and develop mitigation and response plans.
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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Security?
Graduates who earn an online master's in security may qualify for leadership roles in government agencies, local law enforcement, and corporate offices. Some careers require passing stringent background investigations for security clearance.
Career growth varies by specialization. For example, between 2019 and 2029, the BLS projects 31% growth for information security analysts but only 3% growth for protective service occupations. Increasing their education, work experience, and specializations can help graduates secure leadership positions in a competitive job market.
Learn more about security careers, and see where an online master's in security can take you.
- Information Security Analysts
These analysts evaluate and monitor computer networks for security breaches. They set up firewalls and data encryption, develop data use policies and procedures, and conduct tests to find vulnerabilities. The BLS projects 31% employment growth for these analysts between 2019 and 2029, and these workers earn a median salary of $99,730. A master's degree can help set aspiring security analysts apart from their peers.
- Emergency Management Directors
These managers work for local and state governments, nonprofit organizations, and many businesses. They assess hazards, organize training, and plan for emergencies and disasters. The BLS projects 4% growth in this field from 2019 to 2029. These professionals earn a median salary of $74,590. Some organizations may prefer to hire directors with a master's degree.
- Police and Detectives
Law enforcement officers protect individuals and property and investigate crimes. They often work for local governments, but state and federal agencies may also offer career opportunities. The BLS reports a median salary of $65,170 for officers and detectives and projects 5% job growth for this field between 2019 and 2029. Gaining experience and/or a graduate degree can help qualify officers for advancement.
- FBI Agents
These agents work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, serving as investigators who collect evidence and interview people of interest. To qualify for an FBI special agent position, individuals must have at least two years of relevant work experience, or at least one year of experience and an advanced degree, such as a master's in security. According to PayScale, these agents make an average salary of about $65,550 per year.
- Immigration Officers
Immigration officers work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to apply U.S. immigration law in individual cases. They process visas and residency applications. They also coordinate with state and federal authorities on national security issues, illegal trafficking, and terrorism cases. PayScale reports that immigration officers earn an average annual salary of about $60,760. Earning a master's degree can help increase your earning potential.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Security Programs
- Is a master's in security worth it?
Earning a master's in security helps equip you with the critical thinking and reasoning skills needed to assess security risks, mitigate risks, and respond to emergencies. This field offers career opportunities in various industries, such as emergency management, cybersecurity, and law enforcement.
- What can I do with a master's in security?
Graduates with a master's in security may qualify for leadership positions in corporate security departments, state and federal agencies, and local governments. Many programs offer concentration options tailored to specific careers. For example, you can specialize in cybersecurity, homeland security, or international security.
- Is security in high demand?
Many security-related positions are in demand. For example, the BLS projects 31% job growth for information security analysts between 2019 and 2029; this growth is driven by an increase in cyberattacks and the need to protect sensitive information. During the same period, the BLS projects 5% job growth for police and detectives and 4% growth for emergency management directors.
- How much money can I make with a master's in security?
The salary potential for security careers varies by job, industry, education, and experience. Protective service occupations, including police, detectives, and security guards, earn a median annual salary of $41,580, although professionals with a master's degree tend to earn higher wages. Emergency management directors make a median annual salary of $74,590, while information security analysts earn $99,730 per year.
- What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a master's in security?
According to the BLS, information security analysts make a median annual salary of $99,730. However, wages vary by industry and location.