Online Homeland Security Master’s Degree

Online Homeland Security Master’s Degree

    Online Homeland Security Master’s Degree

    Online Homeland Security Degree: An Overview

    In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was established with the mission to guard America against terrorism. The department has grown to become one of the largest agencies in the federal government, employing nearly 230,000 people.

    Professionals with experience in homeland security work in several facets of local, state and federal government. Some work in immigration enforcement and as police, while others protect America from cyberattacks or respond to natural disasters. Homeland security professionals also work in the private sector and for nonprofit organizations.

    As foreign and domestic attacks continue to present a threat to the safety of the country, homeland security professionals have an increasingly important role. An online master’s degree in homeland security prepares aspiring and working professionals to take on leadership positions within the field. Students acquire key management, planning, communications, technological, intelligence and risk analysis skills and become well-versed in the social, political and economic threats facing the U.S.

    An online homeland security master's program offers flexibility for students who are also working professionals. Web-based programs typically follow the same rigorous curricula as brick-and-mortar options, leading to similar advancement opportunities for graduates. The online format is also ideal for students who must tackle additional commitments – such as child or family care – on top of their work and class schedules.

    How long does it take to earn a master's in homeland security online?

    Homeland security master’s degree programs generally require 30 to 36 credits. Program length varies; full-time students typically earn the degree within two years, while some accelerated programs are designed for completion in 12 to 18 months.

    How much does a master's in homeland security cost?

    The cost of an online master’s in homeland security depends on several factors. State residency is an important consideration, since many colleges and universities charge higher tuition for out-of-state students. However, some schools charge flat tuition for online students regardless of state residency. Technology fees are another key factor; these fees often apply to online students but not their brick-and-mortar counterparts.

    Per-credit costs for an online master’s in homeland security typically range from $415 to $1,150. Students should expect to pay between $15,000 and $35,000 in total tuition.

    Online master's in homeland security admissions requirements

    Students pursuing an online master’s in homeland security can include recent college graduates, working homeland security professionals and retired military personnel. Work experience may help applicants gain entry to some programs, although it’s not always required. Applicants typically need to have earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school, but the degree doesn’t need to be in homeland security or a related field. Additionally, some programs do not require GRE scores.

    Choosing an accredited online homeland security degree program

    Accreditation status is one of the most important considerations for prospective students. Colleges and universities in the U.S. receive accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education; the accreditation process involves an extensive review of a school's educational programs and student services.

    A school's accreditation impacts course credit transferability, as well as student eligibility for federal financial aid, so students should ensure the school offering the program has earned national or regional accreditation.

    Online Coursework

    Students earning a homeland security master’s degree online complete core coursework in topics such as intelligence, cybersecurity, ethics and terrorism.

    By the end of a master's in homeland security program, students should be ready to enter leadership positions within the government, private and nonprofit sectors in preventing terrorism, mitigating risks, protecting information and responding to natural and manmade crises. Additionally, working professionals in law enforcement, criminal justice and related areas leave these programs armed with the knowledge and skills necessary to help advance in their careers and perform better in the field.

    Homeland security degree specializations

    Some master’s in homeland security online programs give students the option to pursue a specific concentration, providing them more specialized knowledge in a particular area to boost their job prospects.

    A cybersecurity concentration, for example, could include classes in security technologies, information systems auditing and information security management and governance, which may help prepare students for cybersecurity careers, such as an information security specialist.

    Similarly, an information assurance concentration may be a good option for students who are interested in cybersecurity positions within homeland security because they can take classes that explore information, web and data security, as well as managing, creating, operating and auditing security systems.

    Other concentrations focus on protecting citizens’ well-being and resources. An agricultural biosecurity and food defense concentration, for instance, may be ideal for homeland security students who aspire to or currently hold positions as food safety analysts, quality control specialists, food defense coordinators and other related areas.

    Students may also consider a public health preparedness specialization, which concentrates on responding to man-made and natural disasters and can prepare students for leadership positions in public health, emergency management and the military.

    Example concentrations
    Agricultural biosecurity and food defense
    Information assurance
    Public health preparedness

    Internship or practicum

    Many master’s in homeland security online programs require students to complete a capstone course, which may include a final project, research paper, internship or practicum. Students typically complete their internship or practicum at their workplace or a homeland security agency.

    Professional Associations in Homeland Security

    Students earning a homeland security master's degree online can join a professional association to gain access to networking opportunities and certifications in their field. These organizations also offer members training programs, access to job boards and conferences.

  • ASIS International: ASIS International is “a global community of security practitioners” who protect people, property and information. Members can benefit from the organization’s career center, which offers resume postings, tips for job seekers and career development tools. ASIS also features networking groups for young professionals and women, certificate programs, certifications and an annual conference.
  • International Association of Emergency Managers: IAEM is a nonprofit educational organization representing protection professionals. It offers certification, an annual conference and a website that includes a resources section with a discussion board and a jobs board.
  • International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts: IALEIA works to represent law enforcement analysts through regional chapters around the world. It offers international conferences, training, certification and networking opportunities.

  • Example courses

    • Domestic and international terrorism
    • Border protection and military issues
    • Contemporary issues in homeland security
    • Natural disasters and search planning
    • Network security and cyberterrorism
    • Risk assessment in homeland security

    Job Outlook

    There are many types of careers within homeland security, and job prospects in the field are healthy.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for information security analysts, for example, will grow 28 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for emergency management directors are also expected to increase as local and state governments, as well as private organizations, will require more workers in order to prepare for and provide services after emergencies and disasters, according to the BLS.

    What can you do with a master's in homeland security?

    Homeland security professionals work in a variety of areas within government, from border protection to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to law enforcement. Students who specialize in cybersecurity during an online master’s in homeland security program are especially needed by the Department of Homeland Security.

    While many homeland security jobs are in local, state or federal governments, there are also opportunities in private companies and nonprofit organizations.

    Although there are positions in homeland security that require only a bachelor's degree – like intelligence analyst or information security analyst – earning a master's degree in the field can help professionals advance to managerial roles. For the jobs listed below, a master's degree is preferred.

  • Geographic information systems analyst: Geographic information systems analysts work with large sets of data to create graphics, maps and charts. They must have extensive knowledge and experience with GIS techniques and have a strong proficiency with computers. Although a bachelor's degree in a relevant field is generally the requirement for this position, those who have advanced education and/or professional experience with GIS may find better employment opportunities.
  • Government program manager: Government program managers oversee projects and programs to meet organizational goals. They must also assess the potential risks of projects and evaluate their success. A bachelor’s degree is typically required, but an advanced degree may be preferred. Applicants also generally need work experience, as well as excellent communication skills and knowledge of basic computer software.
  • Security analyst: Security analysts are tasked with maintaining the security of company networks in addition to diagnosing and resolving network problems. A bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree, as well as at least one year of computer science or electrical engineering experience, are generally required. Applicants must also be well-versed in Windows- and Linux-based systems and Microsoft platforms.

  • Licensure and certification

    Some jobs within the homeland security field may require certification, while certain employers may prefer certified candidates. For example, an employer seeking a GIS analyst may prefer someone who's certified in the area. Many colleges and universities also offer certificates in emergency management, which could supplement an online master’s degree in homeland security.

    How much can you earn with a master’s in homeland security?

    Median salaries
    Job title
    Geographic information systems analyst

    Security analyst

    Government program manager