The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects security jobs will grow through 2026, including a remarkable 28% increase for information security analysts. The proper education and professional experience empowers you to not only enter these professions, but also advance into leadership roles and shape the future of security in the U.S. and abroad. Whatever your career aspirations, the right master's degree in intelligence and security studies online program can help you achieve your goals.

Security professionals protect human, material, and information assets. They collect and interpret data in order to create defense networks and response procedures. Longtime experts can even anticipate and safeguard against crises long before they occur. An online master's degree in security studies prepares you for a lucrative career in expanding fields such as financial risk management, international business, counterterrorism, and homeland security.

What are the best computer engineering programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:

Rank School Location
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

2020 Best Accredited Online Master's in Security Programs

Rank School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

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.


The Citadel

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.


Webster University

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.


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.


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 University

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 Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Security Program?

To maintain government and industry accreditation, online master's degrees in security studies must adhere to certain academic standards and professional development outcomes. This often translates into similar core requirements across programs. However, beyond these base similarities, degree pathways vary greatly based on departmental focus and individual student needs.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Security

  • Contemporary security studies: This course provides all future security professionals with an overview of current practices in the field. Topics include strategies in crisis management, professional leadership, and theories in data gathering and analysis. Students also research and discuss contemporary challenges in security studies.
  • Network infrastructures: A fundamental course for information security specialists, this class trains students to effectively use applications and implement protocols for computer information systems. Topics include network architecture programming interfaces, routing and data linkage, and emerging network technologies. Students also learn key administration skills, including how to install, configure, and automate popular network-based services.
  • Digital forensics: This course trains cybersecurity professionals to identify, extract, and preserve electronic data. Students also learn how to recover data from operating or file systems. The course teaches students how to handle digital data in an ethical and law-abiding manner, so that the information they present can be used in legal proceedings if necessary.
  • Homeland security and terrorism studies: Combining theory with application, this course is required for border and homeland security professionals. Topics include types of terrorist threats and changes to domestic and foreign security policies in the wake of 9/11. Students also analyze and discuss case studies in contemporary counterterrorism measures, including successes and alternatives to current practices.
  • Information regulatory compliance: Focusing on enterprise-related information security, this course benefits professionals who want to work for private businesses. Students learn how information is governed — and therefore how risk can be managed — on a mass organizational level. Key principles include government compliance with regard to e-documents, instant messaging, mobile and cloud computing, and social media.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master's in Security?

Online master's degrees in security studies require at least 30 credits and generally take two years to complete. Curricular differences between programs can affect how long it takes to earn your degree. Certain capstone and internship experiences may take longer than others. And while remote courses are usually asynchronous, some schools hold real-time online sessions to encourage group work and discussion.

Similarly, programs can structure their coursework in a cohort learning style, which requires you and a small group of peers to progress through the program as a group, usually taking one class at a time. This option benefits nontraditional students who need to juggle work and school obligations, but may also lengthen the time needed to graduate. For maximum flexibility, seek out a master's degree in intelligence and security studies online that offers individually paced learning, accelerated classes throughout the year, and the ability to complete internships where you live or with your current employer.

Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Security Prepares For

  • (ISC)² Information Security Certifications: A global leader in the field, (ISC)² provides 10 professional certifications for information security professionals. Options include recognition for general practice and specialized certificates for cloud computing, software lifecycle, and security architecture. Entry requirements vary for each certificate, but candidates must possess a certain amount of paid work experience.
  • GSHNSP Homeland Security Professionals: In conjunction with the National Sheriffs' Association, the Global Society of Homeland and National Security Professionals offers two certification pathways: the introductory certified homeland protection associate (CHPA) and the advanced certified homeland protection professional (CHPP). While the first few levels of the CHPA don't require college education, the remaining certificates as well as the CHPP require at least an associate degree.

Accreditation for Online Master's in Security Degrees

U.S. colleges and universities must maintain national and/or regional accreditation in order to bestow valid degrees. Organizations under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) confer national accreditation. National accreditation signifies a school's adherence to academic standards defined by both the federal government and CHEA. This official backing also grants schools access to important resources such as federal funding.

The ED and CHEA grant national accreditation through subsidiary organizations. The ED is a government entity whose mission includes ensuring that schools work with the federal government when it comes to curriculum planning, testing, and program outcomes. Established in 1996 as a private nonprofit, CHEA advocates for educational research and the rights of its 3,000+ member institutions. For more information, check out the ED and CHEA websites.

Regional accreditation is granted by one of six organizations, depending on where the school is located. Similar to CHEA's mission, these organizations ensure that colleges and universities standardize their curricular outcomes and professional support services. Generally speaking, employers prefer regional over national accreditation due to the fact that they must engage with local and state authorities more intimately. Ideally, you should enroll in a school that holds both forms of accreditation. Additionally, a program may possess professional accreditation from organizations such as the International Assembly for Collegiate Business Education.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Security Graduates

Master's in Security Salary

Using data from PayScale, the table below details five popular career choices for security professionals, along with their average salaries. This information suggests that the primary determining factor for salary is work experience, though education, professional training, and certification also contribute to pay increases.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ years)
Immigration Officer $55,997 $50,000 $82,000 $85,000
Information Security Analyst $70,439 $64,135 $79,852 $93,493
Intelligence Analyst $66,352 $55,000 $67,000 $88,000
Network Security Engineer $83,805 $72,318 $86,602 $110,323

Master's in Security Careers

An online master's degree in security and risk management equips you with the theoretical knowledge, best practices, and hands-on experience to pursue entry or advancement in growing fields such as law enforcement, public policy, and information security. Security specialists have exceptional critical thinking and leadership skills that enable them to handle sensitive situations effectively. Many work in group settings as managers and counselors, while others perform their tasks independently as analysts and private investigators.

Intelligence Analyst

Intelligence analysts provide information about security threats for government agencies, contractors, and private businesses. These professionals typically digest large amounts of data along with confidential or classified information. They may need to be familiar with automated systems like databases, imagery analysis, and signal intelligence. A bachelor's degree in a relevant field is usually the minimum requirement.

Information Security Analyst

One of the fastest growing careers, these security professionals implement and manage systems that protect their organization's sensitive information. They also monitor systems for security violations and investigate breaches. Information security analysts must obtain advanced computer and IT skills, usually through a graduate degree program and specialized professional certification.

Military Career

Providing crucial security and civil services to their communities, military personnel may occupy combat-specific roles or pursue civilian careers as doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers, or linguists/translators. The military offers professional advancement resources such as leadership training and funding for college.

Professional Organizations

While an online master's degree in security studies prepares you for a variety of job opportunities, it may also be helpful to receive external support from professional associations. Membership in a professional association provides additional networking, research, and funding opportunities that are important for career success. Organizations usually charge an annual membership fee, but in return you receive academic scholarships, research and project grants, and access to discussion boards and job listings. Many even give substantial discounts on the price of conference attendance and training seminars. Most professional organizations host workshops such as the SANS Institute's live security training programs.

Financing Your Online Master's in Security Program

When conducting research on online master's degree in security studies programs, you should strongly consider affordability in addition to how each school fits your professional interests and goals. Student loan debt not only cripples you financially, but can also inhibit your career advancement opportunities. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) enables you to sign up for several loans and awards simultaneously. Additionally, you should look into funding opportunities from community, professional, and government organizations, including scholarships from the CIA and the American Society for Industrial Security.


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