Homeland Security Degree

A homeland security degree can help individuals qualify for a wide range of positions within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies that aid in protecting the United States from the growing threat of terrorism. Homeland security degree programs are available online and at college campuses across the US at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels. The average salary in this sector varies depending on the type of job and required education but may range between $40,580 to $79,970.1,2,3

Homeland Security Training and Courses

Homeland security degree programs at universities and colleges aim to provide students with a strong foundation of knowledge and analytical skills in the areas of emergency management, intelligence, border security, and counter-terrorism. Students gain an understanding of the modern challenges of transnational security, terror groups, and cyber warfare through a mix of theoretical and applied knowledge. By the end of a homeland security program, graduates will know how to identify and neutralize domestic and international threats and how to perform homeland security investigations. In addition, students in graduate-level programs will learn the managerial skills necessary to lead teams and departments while identifying and neutralizing threats to US security. Those who are interested in particular areas of homeland security may consider more specialized training like a emergency management degree or a cybersecurity degree.

CJDS FACT: The Department of Homeland Security has become one of the federal government's largest employers, with over 240,000 employees.4 Homeland security careers include law enforcement, immigration and travel, emergency management, security analytics, and more.

Here is a sample of courses in homeland security that may be offered through such a degree program:

  • Concepts of Terrorism
  • Psychology of Terrorism
  • The Politics of Terrorism
  • Root Causes of Terrorism
  • Covert Action & Intelligence
  • Homeland Security and the Legal System
  • Homeland Security Administration: Policies and Programs
  • Border Security
  • Public Health Evaluation of Disasters and Bioterrorism
  • Critical Infrastructure Protection
  • National Security and Intelligence
  • Emergency Organizations and Management
  • Risk and Vulnerability Assessment
  • Constitutional Issues and Global Security
  • Network Security and Cyberterrorism
  • Domestic Terrorism Prevention and Analysis
  • Technology Solutions for Homeland Security
  • International Security and Trade
  • Open-Source Intelligence

Traditional Homeland Security Degree Programs

San Diego State University logo

San Diego State University (San Diego, CA)

San Diego State University offers a Master of Science in Homeland Security degree, which was the first degree of its kind to be offered in the US. The academically challenging curriculum combines scholarship, academics, and research in the study of real-world situations. Many of the program faculty work professionally in homeland security and have other experience working at high levels in law enforcement. The program also has close partnerships with government agencies, private companies, and non-governmental organizations. The curriculum includes courses on emergency preparation and response, intelligence, international security, and ideology and conflict. Enrolled students may elect to undertake a semester of studying abroad in Mexico or another partner country for a border security thesis and practicum. Program graduates are prepared to become leaders in preventing, defending, and responding to homeland security incidents in public, private, and non-profit spaces in a variety of homeland security-related industries.

Tulane University logo

Tulane School of Professional Advancement (New Orleans, LA)

Tulane University's School of Professional Advancement offers a Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Homeland Security Studies degree program that emphasizes practical, applied learning. The core curriculum of the program consists of four 600-level courses: Health and Medical Issues in Emergency Management; Intelligence Analysis/Critical Thinking; Homeland Security and Approaches to Counter-Terrorism; and Maritime and Border Security. Students take six additional master's courses beyond the core curriculum to complete the degree, choosing from approved courses in homeland security, public health, social work, politics, and related disciplines. The tailored curriculum allows students to develop individualized plans of study that complement personal and career goals. The academically rigorous program typically requires students to maintain a 3.0 GPA across all graduate courses for graduation eligibility. Candidates with a bachelor's degree from diverse disciplines are welcome to apply to the program. The program was offered online for the first time in the Fall 2016 term.

Virginia Commonwealth University logo

Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, VA)

At Virginia Commonwealth University, you can complete a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Arts, or a graduate certificate in Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness. The bachelor's program has a foundational curriculum for students with no previous education in liberal arts and science. Students learn about the origins and development of various security threats, including natural disasters and terrorist organizations to better understand contemporary issues. Then, students learn how to use theories in practical situations by conducting practical assignments, such as vulnerability assessments, policies, and intelligence analysis related to these threats. In preparation for potential international fieldwork, all students must demonstrate at least an intermediate proficiency in a foreign language through coursework, internships, or examination, in order to graduate. The master's degree and graduate certificate build on this learning and include more advanced research and topics.

Online Homeland Security Degree Programs

Arizona State University logo

Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ)

Arizona State University's College of Public Service and Community Solutions offers a fully-online Master of Arts (MA) degree in Emergency Management & Homeland Security. The master's degree comprises 33 credit hours and a total of 11 classes, with each class lasting between seven and eight weeks. Concentrations are available in community resilience, homeland security, biosecurity and threat management, and emergency management. Courses include Hazards Governance, Applied Data Analysis in Criminal Justice, and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Analysis. An applied project is the program's final experience, wherein students apply what they have learned to make a positive impact in their home communities. Applicants should have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 during the final 60 hours. A bachelor's degree in a related field such as criminal justice, public administration, sociology, or environmental science, is required to apply.

Penn State University logo

Penn State University (Philadelphia, PA)

Penn State awards a Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security that prepares graduates to work in leadership positions in the private and public sectors. This master's program takes 33 credit hours to complete, with the entire program taking place online. The core curriculum is formed around courses in homeland security administration, social and ethical issues, and domestic and global violence, threats, terror, and insurgency. A capstone research project is also included in the curriculum. Students can choose from five specializations in general homeland security, public health preparedness, geospatial intelligence, information security and forensics, or agricultural biosecurity and food defense. Students may also choose to pursue additional graduate certificates in homeland security and defense from Penn State to complement the master's degree.

Southern New Hampshire University logo

Southern New Hampshire University (Manchester, NH)

Southern New Hampshire University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security & Counterterrorism. Students can access course content 24 hours a day, seven days a week and students can complete the coursework at their own pace, making the degree convenient and flexible. Courses in the bachelor's degree program include Research Methods for Criminal Justice, Judicial Administration, Criminal Law, Terrorist Techniques, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Writing for the Criminal Justice Profession. There is no application fee and a 30% tuition discount is offered to active-duty military and their spouses.

Homeland Security Job Description

homeland security degreeThere are a wide range of career opportunities in the DHS for individuals who want to serve and protect their country, including positions in mission support, law enforcement, and cybersecurity. These opportunities are offered through many government departments and agencies that fall under the Department of Homeland Security umbrella, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Customs and Border Protection. Emergency management is a common work area, which involves emergency disaster planning in the event of large natural or terrorist threats. Another common area of employment is gathering intelligence, which may involve significant work in the field, and analyzing intelligence, which involves extensive technical aptitude. In addition to federal jobs, the DHS also employs a large number of contractors for various roles.

Related Jobs

With a Homeland Security degree, you can get jobs in many different areas related to law enforcement and intelligence. Some examples of jobs you can get with a homeland security include:

You can find current openings at the Department of Homeland Security at USA Jobs.

Homeland Security Professional Certification

Certification may not be necessary depending on the job; however, it is possible to earn certification in many areas related to homeland security through the Certified Homeland Protection Associate Certification. This certification may demonstrate knowledge and expertise to potential employers in related areas. To earn CHPA certification, individuals must currently be students or graduates from an accredited university and take an online course to pass the Homeland Protection Associate test. Note that some jobs in homeland security require applicants to be or to become sworn law enforcement officers.

Homeland Security Salary and Job Outlook

As homeland security is a diverse and relatively new field, there is little centralized data available on salaries and projections for related jobs. O*NET uses data for detectives and criminal investigators as a proxy for intelligence analysts and immigration and customs inspectors; however, this data should be reviewed with caution as these jobs have different educational requirements and job responsibilities. According to this data, individuals in these jobs are grouped together with detectives and criminal investigators, earning a median salary of $79,790.1,2 Jobs growth is projected at 5 to 9% from 2016-2026, with an anticipated 7,500 new and replacement openings nationally during this period.1,2

Comparatively, data for transportation security screeners suggests a lower median salary at $40,580 with jobs in this industry projected to grow at 2 to 4% through 2026.3 Law enforcement officers working for the federal government are paid according to the federal general pay schedule for law enforcement (GL). Data from the US Office of Personnel Management indicates that border patrol agents earn a minimum of $35,209 per year at GL-05 and secret service agents earn a minimum of $40,075 per year at GL-07 (as of 2017).4 Those who have attained higher levels of education and/or experience may start at a higher salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those in the related job of emergency management directors earned an average salary of $72,760 in 2017.5 This field is projected to grow by 8% through 2026.5

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do you need a master's degree in homeland security to find a job?

Answer: There are a number of certificate and associate's degree programs in homeland security available; however, many federal jobs in homeland security require a minimum of a bachelor's degree. A master's degree can help individuals advance in their field by acquiring specialized knowledge in the field of homeland security. Research the common education level of the position that you are targeting by visiting the DHS website, USA Jobs, or talking to people who are currently in your desired position.

Question: What skills do you need to work in the homeland security sector?

Answer: Working in homeland security involves continuously analyzing new information and making decisions quickly under pressure; therefore, individuals in this sector should be confident critical thinkers who handle stressful situations well. They should also enjoy working in teams and have good communication skills in order to build trust with their colleagues.

1. O*NET OnLine, Intelligence Analysts: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3021.06
2. O*NET OnLine, Immigration and Customs Inspectors: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-3021.05
3. O*NET OnLine, Transportation Security Screeners: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/33-9093.00
4. US Department of Homeland Security: https://www.dhs.gov/about-dhs
5. US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Law Enforcement Officers: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2017/law-enforcement-officer/
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Emergency Management Directors: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/emergency-management-directors.htm

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