Homeland Security Degree

Why a Homeland Security Degree?

Opportunities in homeland security have been expanding rapidly over the past 15 years along with the nation's growing security needs. Homeland security officers protect airports, seaports, waterways, and borders; anticipate and respond to disasters; and collect and analyze intelligence. The field not only deals with terrorism and man-made emergencies, but also with natural disasters. Events such as floods and hurricanes are likely to increase as a result of climate change.

These professionals work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), related federal agencies, state bureaus, and local authorities. They increasingly work in the private sector, where they protect critical infrastructure. Homeland security is a quickly expanding field that offers high-salary careers.

Homeland Security Undergraduate Programs

There is a small but growing number of schools offering undergraduate education in homeland security; FEMA lists just over 30. These programs aim to develop a broad understanding of safety and security issues including risk identification, border and immigration control, intelligence, and cybersecurity. Students learn how to protect transportation, energy, water, and medical infrastructure from natural and man-made threats. Programs also prepare students to coordinate team efforts and analyze the policies, directives, and legislation that direct homeland security measures. Some programs specialize in particular areas, such as public health, cybersecurity, and agricultural biosecurity and food defense.

What are the education costs associated with earning a bachelor's degree in homeland security?

It's difficult to say how much a particular degree will cost. The expense largely depends on the school attended. At public colleges, in-state students pay an average of $9,139 per year in tuition and fees, while out-of-state students pay nearly $23,000. A bachelor's degree in homeland security from a private college averages $31,231 per year. These figures do not include room and board. Some schools offer credit for prior police academy, fire academy, emergency medical technician (EMT), and military training.

What are the entry requirements for undergraduate programs in homeland security?

A high school diploma or GED is required for program acceptance. Some colleges prefer applicants who have work experience as police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, and other security-related personnel.

What coursework is required for a bachelor's degree in homeland security?

Coursework typically covers foundational concepts in security operations, risk assessment, infrastructure protection, and intelligence. Some programs specialize in particular areas, such as public health, cybersecurity, and agricultural biosecurity and food defense. Students must also complete general education requirements.

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What are my employment options with an undergraduate degree in homeland security?

Graduates find employment at local and state government agencies, private businesses, airports, seaports, local police departments, and private security firms. They may also work for federal agencies as customs and border patrol agents and park rangers.

School Spotlight

Eastern Kentucky University - Richmond

Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky offers a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and related minors and certificates both on-campus and online. The program focuses on critical infrastructure protection, disaster preparedness and response, and intelligence analysis and sharing.

Students initially enroll in the Pre-Homeland Security Program, and must earn a GPA of at least 2.5 in lower-division courses to be accepted to the bachelor's degree program. They complete a total of 120 credit hours, including optional field experience and cooperative placement.

St. John's University - New York

St. John's University
in New York administers a Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security that instructs students in both the theoretical and practical aspects of the field. The curriculum covers criminal justice, cybersecurity, risk assessment, organizational and emergency management, intelligence, and facility protection. It also includes courses in the sociology of disaster, marine security, and emergency management. Students learn about the relationships between federal agencies and private security firms, and are prepared for careers in executive leadership in private security.

Career development services are available through the University's student Homeland Security Association. The group also sponsors guest lectures, seminars, and opportunities to network with practitioners. Undergraduates may opt to study abroad in Rome or Paris. The 126-credit program is ranked among the top 100 “Best Degree Programs” by Security Magazine.

Master's Degrees in Homeland Security

Earning an advanced degree in this field can be a great way to enhance your career. Graduate programs offer areas of specialization that can help you develop and demonstrate an area of expertise. These programs place a greater focus on more advanced aspects of security, including intelligence, counterintelligence, management, and communications. Because of their broad nature graduate programs in homeland security usually accept applicants from a variety of backgrounds.

What are the education costs associated with earning a homeland security master's degree?

A master's degree in homeland security can cost from $11,000 per year at a public college ($916 per credit hour) to $25,000 per year ($2,083 per credit hour) at a private institution. Five-year combined bachelor's and master's programs are an excellent way to earn a bachelor's degree while paying only one year's worth of additional tuition.

What are the entry requirements for graduate programs in homeland security?

A bachelor's degree is required for acceptance into a graduate program. Many graduate-level programs only admit applicants who are employed in homeland security-related jobs, such as fire fighters, police officers, military personnel, EMTs, and disaster planning professionals.

What coursework is required for a homeland security master's degree?

Graduate programs in this field include advanced coursework in homeland security administration, terrorism, geospatial information and geographic information systems (GIS), homeland security law and ethics, and organizational leadership. Many are professional programs that require a capstone research project, rather than a full thesis.

What are my employment options with a master's degree in homeland security?

Homeland security professionals with master's degrees are prepared for leadership positions at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, state and local government agencies, private security firms, and insurance companies.

School Spotlight

Pennsylvania State University

Pennsylvania State University administers an intercollege Master of Professional Studies (iMPS) in Homeland Security.

Students in this 33-credit program may choose one of five specializations: the generalized program which focuses on policy and organization; public health preparedness; information security and forensics; agricultural biosecurity and food defense; and geospatial intelligence. Penn State is well-known for geospatial studies, which is used by homeland security professionals to collect intelligence, analyze the potential for natural disasters, and plan response activities for threats of all kinds. In addition to the master's degree, the program offers five online certificates, including the Homeland Security and Defense Graduate Certificate.

San Diego State University

San Diego State University offers a Master of Arts in Homeland Security. The program covers cybersecurity, emergency preparedness and response, international security, natural disasters and global trade, imaging and GIS, epidemiology, and global supply chain management. SDSU's core course in Science, Technology, and Homeland Security teaches students to facilitate scientific and technological research in the discipline. Students also learn to evaluate and redesign laws and policies. Many classes take place in the SDSU Visualization Lab, a center for data analysis, mapping, imagery, and decision support. The Lab is also available for graduate student research.

This interdisciplinary program emphasizes student service-learning opportunities and collaboration with public, private, and nonprofit partners. The faculty is well-connected; some SDSU faculty members serve on subcommittees of the Regional Network on Homeland Security. The University requires a study abroad experience for graduation. Shorter trips are available for working professionals.

Online Schools

Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts offers an online Master of Arts in Homeland Security. This program focuses on developing high-level management skills and communication skills for addressing the media. Students learn advanced intelligence gathering and analysis techniques. Graduates also gain a solid understanding of the legal and technological issues surrounding homeland security.

The program incorporates coursework developed by the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. The department's ALERT Center (Awareness and Localization of Explosives-Related Threats) is part of a multi-university Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence. Student will also have the opportunity to work with Northeastern University's Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security. The 45-credit program is based on a quarter system.

Doctoral Programs in Homeland Security

There are only a handful of doctoral programs in homeland security. FEMA lists just six. Because these programs are usually quite broad in nature, they typically accept applicants from a variety of backgrounds, such as political science, law, criminal justice, and related areas.
What are the education costs associated with earning a doctorate in homeland security?
The cost of a doctorate in homeland security will vary by school. Most Ph.D. programs require 60 credits, which can amount to a total of $55,000 at a public college and $125,000 at a private university.

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What are the entry requirements for Ph.D. programs in homeland security?

Applicants to combined master's/Ph.D. programs must have at least a bachelor's degree. Other programs require a master's degree in a related field. Most programs only accept candidates who are currently working as emergency management professionals.

What coursework is required for a doctorate in homeland security?

Doctoral candidates typically take about 42 hours of coursework that emphasizes homeland security theory and policy. Students also take courses in statistics, research design, and research methods that will help them analyze and design programs on the job. Through about 18 hours of dissertation research, candidates develop an in-depth specialization in a particular area of homeland security, such as biodefense. Candidates usually must pass a qualifying exam and successfully defend a dissertation before they are granted their doctorate.

What are my employment options with a doctoral degree in homeland security?

Professionals with doctorates in homeland security enter senior leadership positions in public safety, law enforcement, emergency medical care, and disaster preparedness. Others conduct research and teach at colleges and universities.

School Spotlight

George Mason University - Arlington

George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia has developed a Ph.D. program in Biodefense in response to the growing threats of bioterrorism and biological warfare. Candidates learn about natural and man-made biological agents, analyze policies and strategies, and develop a background in the science and technology of biodefense. Coursework also covers intelligence, nonproliferation, and public health preparedness.

In addition to core requirements, students take four classes in a specialization such as international security, terrorism, or technology and weapons of mass destruction. Candidates can also take up to 12 credits outside of the program.

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University issues an online Doctor of Management in Homeland Security that combines management with emergency planning and response. Students begin with core courses in management theory and ethics, leadership development, strategic thinking, and research methods. They continue with classes on homeland security strategy, risk assessment and management, public health and emergency planning, and related areas. The 96-credit doctorate prepares students for positions in upper-level management, consulting, and teaching in the private sector, government, nonprofits, and higher education.


Homeland security specialists find well-paid positions in both the public and private sectors. While many work for federal, state, and local government agencies, a growing number are employed by private security firms.

Most work in offices, though they may need to travel frequently to attend meetings. They must work overtime during emergencies. Handling these emergency situations can be stressful.

Homeland security specialist are employed nationwide. Jobs in emergency management are projected to grow at an average rate of six percent from 2020 to 2030. An increase in opportunities in the private sector will likely be balanced by fewer openings in the public sector as budgets are cut. More frequent adverse weather events due to climate change may drive job growth in this area.

2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for Emergency Management Directors reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.

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Core Skills You'll Develop While Studying Homeland Security

  • Critical thinking - Homeland security specialists must think critically when synthesizing intelligence and assessing potential threats.
  • Management - Constructing security programs and planning emergency response activities requires the ability to manage funds, resources, and people.
  • Problem-solving - Homeland security specialists must develop problem-solving skills so they can address unpredictable events and circumstances.