What is Homeland Security?
Homeland security is a broad professional field focusing on domestic protection in the face of risks like terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and natural disasters. Yes, homeland security can mean the government and any of those three-lettered agencies. But, homeland security can also include public and private sectors and is closely tied to various companies within these industries:
- Air travel
- Infrastructure management
- Information technology
Because this field is so broad and so engrained in so many fields and sectors of the economy, a homeland security degree has the potential to open numerous career doors. Keep reading to learn more about homeland security degrees, what they offer, and what they can do for you.
What to Expect as a Homeland Security Major
Students enrolling in a homeland security degree can expect a curriculum that offers foundational topics, core competencies, and academic specializations. Common academic concentrations can vary, but often include the following:
- Economic security
- Law enforcement
- Emergency management.
Throughout a homeland security program, students are often challenged to hone their analytical and critical thinking skills while mastering a broad swath of topics relevant to homeland security, including international relations, economics, political science, and law. Students can also expect to apply theoretical topics to group-based projects. Upon graduation, students typically hold the skills needed to secure entry-level positions in various fields related to homeland security.
Types of Homeland Security Classes
Homeland security classes can vary pretty substantially between schools. When reviewing potential schools, be sure that the curriculum mirrors your academic and career goals. Be sure to check a program's available academic specializations, as some programs offer specialized training in areas like cybersecurity and emergency management.
Additionally, the types of homeland security classes will vary even further depending on their academic level. Associate, bachelor's, and master's coursework inevitably vary in content and rigor. Keep reading to learn more about the specifics of each level of degree in homeland security.
Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Degree
Homeland Security Associate Degree
A popular option for students interested in varying careers in law enforcement or emergency management, an Associate Degree in Homeland Security introduces students to some foundational topics. An Associate in Homeland Security is typically offered through community colleges and provides students with an affordable option to jumpstart their academic or professional careers.
Associate degree programs traditionally require students to complete about 60 credits of coursework. Throughout their associate degree program, students tackle general education requirements and major classes. Whether attending online or on campus, full-time students often graduate in about two years.
During their associate degree program, homeland security majors often encounter courses in criminal justice, cybersecurity, and emergency management. While some students may complete their associate degree and join the workforce, many graduates go on to enroll in bachelor's degree programs in homeland security, criminal justice, or pre-law.
We list some common homeland security associate degree classes below:
- Introduction to Homeland Security
- Introduction to Criminal Justice
- Securing the Border
- Issues in Emergency Management
- International and Domestic Terrorism
Homeland Security Bachelor’s Degree
Whether attending online or on-campus, students pursuing a Bachelor's in Homeland Security can expect to spend at least four years completing the required 120 credits of coursework. Throughout this undergraduate degree, students complete a mix of general education classes, electives, and major requirements.
In addition to gaining foundational homeland security knowledge, students are often challenged to build leadership skills, develop strong communication skills, and learn to work cooperatively in a group environment. In addition to core classes, some programs offer academic specializations in areas including military leadership, law enforcement, cybersecurity, economic security, and emergency management. We highlight some common homeland security major requirements below:
- Immigration Law and Policy
- International Relations
- Domestic Terrorism
- Research Methods in Homeland Security
Homeland Security Master’s Degree
For emergency management directors to cybersecurity professionals, a Master's in Homeland Security is often a flexible and affordable option that helps students hone marketable skills for career advancement. A master's in homeland security typically requires students to complete 30-40 credits, and full-time learners usually graduate in about two years.
Whether online or on campus, a homeland security master's degree traditionally requires students to complete a combination of core classes and electives. These topics can include everything from critical national infrastructure to community health issues. Before graduation, students often complete a capstone course, exam, or internship as degree-culminating experiences.
Alongside core requirements, some Master's in Homeland Security programs require students to select an academic concentration. These specializations vary but can include topics such as emergency management, cybersecurity, military leadership, safety and security, and organizational management.
While coursework for a Master's in Homeland Security varies, some common classes exist. Let’s highlight some common classes in a homeland security major below:
- Contemporary Issues in Homeland Security
- Crisis Leadership
- Research Methods in Homeland Security
- Ethics and Law in Homeland Security
- Sociology of Terrorism
- Risk Assessment and Management
- Network Security
Online Homeland Security Degree
When determining whether to attend a program as an online or in-person student, students should consider their unique needs before enrolling. For working professionals, an online program offers the freedom to complete coursework while keeping up with personal and professional obligations. That said, some students may perform better with the structure of a traditional, campus-based environment.
For the cost-conscious student, online programs sometimes have a little lower price tag than in-person options. In addition to similar tuition rates, online students can save money on gas, food, and various campus-based fees. Who needs the health center or gym when you’re taking classes at home?
Whether or not you complete your degree virtually, online programs typically mirror the requirements and rigorous standards of campus-based programs. Upon graduation, an online student's diploma is identical to that of in-person students.
Homeland Security Careers And Salary Information
What Can You Do With a Homeland Security Degree?
Salaries for homeland security careers can vary depending on location, the particular job, level of education and expertise, and the specific job requirements. Although pay can vary, homeland security professionals typically boast strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Homeland security careers are common within both the public and private sectors. We highlight some common homeland security careers below.
Median Annual Earnings (2021)
Job Growth (2020-2030)
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Best Colleges With Homeland Security Degrees
Homeland security isn’t as common of a major as business or communications, you could say. So we’ve done the work of narrowing down the best schools that offer a homeland security degree program.
Based in Pullman, Washington, Washington State University (WSU) is a public research institution that serves more than 28,000 students each year. Amongst its deep catalog of undergraduate and graduate degrees, students can tackle WSU's Master's in Political Science with specializations in global justice and security studies. This degree prepares graduates for various professional careers in the public sector. Graduates have gone on to careers in homeland security, for non-profits, and within local, state, and federal government.
Throughout this 31-credit master's program, students complete a mix of required courses and electives. Core classes include topics such as U.S. national security policy, comparative criminal justice systems, and a seminar in comparative policing.
Prospective students must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. In addition to a completed application, applicants must include official transcripts and letters of reference. Successful candidates typically have an undergraduate GPA over 3.0.
Established in 1879, Sam Houston State University (SHSU) is a public institution based in Huntsville, Texas. SHSU has an enrollment of nearly 22,000 students and offers dozens of undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a flexible and affordable online bachelor's and master's degrees in homeland security.
The online Bachelor's in Homeland Security requires 120 credits for graduation, and students can choose between a bachelor's of arts or sciences. Alongside general education coursework, students tackle homeland security classes such as homeland security intelligence, introduction to cybersecurity, and global terrorism and homeland security.
SHSU's online master's in homeland security encompasses 36 credits, and full-time degree-seekers can complete the requirements in about two years. Core academic requirements include global perspectives in homeland security, critical infrastructure protection, and law and ethics in homeland security.
A private institution based in Washington, D.C., American University offers Master's Degrees in Homeland Security that students can complete either online or on campus. Whether virtually or in-person, grad students encounter a 36-credit, interdisciplinary curriculum that includes core classes, research-centric coursework, and an internship.
Throughout the online program, students complete core classes, like these:
- Justice in the face of terror
- Intelligence analysis
- Causes of terrorism and political violence
- Domestic terrorism and political violence
Before graduation, online learners complete an internship at an approved site that's convenient to their location.
Applicants to these programs must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution. Alongside a completed application, prospective students must include a professional resume, two letters of recommendation, transcripts, and a personal statement outlining academic and career goals. American University does not require GRE scores for admission.
Located in the state capitol and part of the State University of New York (SUNY) network of schools, SUNY Albany is a research institution that offers online bachelor's and master's degrees in homeland security.
SUNY Albany's bachelor's in emergency preparedness, homeland security, and cybersecurity seeks to prepare students for various careers in the public sector. Alongside general education credits, online learners complete core courses such as homeland security, emergency preparedness, and leadership and ethics. Students also choose from academic concentrations in cybersecurity risk management, emergency preparedness, or homeland security. Before graduation, students also complete 100 hours of approved training opportunities.
In addition to the bachelor's, students can complete a master's in emergency management and homeland security entirely online. This 36-credit program includes core classes such as fundamentals of emergency management, fundamentals of homeland security, and research methods. Before graduation, students either complete a hands-on practicum experience or a master's thesis.
Applicants can apply online and must include official transcripts—strong applicants typically have a GPA of 3.0 or greater. Prospective students also include three letters of recommendation, a professional resume, a statement of goals, and GRE scores. Applicants already holding a master's degree are not required to submit GRE scores.
Based in Davie, Florida, and serving more than 20,000 students, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) plays home to a Master's in National Security affairs and international relations. This program capitalizes on the growing number of careers in both the public and private sector and offers marketable skills through online or hybrid deliveries.
Throughout this 36-credit curriculum, students complete a mix of core classes, and electives, and can choose to complete a concentration in cybersecurity. Core requirements include courses such as current issues in national security, foreign policy and national security, national intelligence collection, and border protection and military issues. Before graduation, degree-seekers must complete a comprehensive exam or a thesis project.
Interested learners can apply online and must include academic transcripts from all previous institutions. Prospective students also include an admissions essay, an academic writing sample, two letters of recommendation, and a professional resume.
Homeland Security Scholarships
Completing your homeland security degree can get expensive, and scholarships are a popular way that students can cut costs. Other common financial aid options include work-study programs, grants, loans, and teaching assistantships. Continue reading as we spotlight several scholarships for homeland security students.
The Exabeam cybersecurity award supports women seeking a degree or career in cybersecurity. The Exabeam group offers a $10,000 award that accompanies a paid summer internship. Additionally, the runner-up is awarded a $5,000 scholarship.
Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) offers a scholarship opportunity where students compete against one another through various simulated online activities. Prospective award winners moving past the first stage must submit an application essay and complete various community engagement activities.
The Women in Defense scholarship is earmarked for students interested in pursuing careers in areas such as defense or homeland security. Scholarship applicants must demonstrate financial need and submit an essay, a resume, and academic and/or professional references. Award-winners typically major in areas like homeland security, cybersecurity, international relations, and political science.
How to Get Started on a Homeland Security Degree
Students without a bachelor's degree often choose to jumpstart their homeland security careers through a homeland security degree. While academic prerequisites, admission requirements, and application materials can vary between schools, there are some common elements that prospective students can expect.
For undergraduate homeland security majors, here are some details that can help get you started:
- Online Application and Fees
- High School Diploma or GED
- Official High School Transcripts
- Admission Essay
- Admission Interview
For students who already have a bachelor's degree who want to enhance their homeland security knowledge, or those wanting to break into the homeland security field, a master's degree is often a flexible way to boost career options. Below, you can review some common requirements and materials that are often part of the graduate school admissions process.
- Online Application and Fees
- Bachelor's Degree
- Official Transcripts
- Minimum 3.0 Undergraduate GPA
- GRE Scores
- Professional Resume
- Letters of Recommendation
- Admission Essay