Homeland security professionals have the weight of the nation on their shoulders. They are tasked with protecting the U.S. from threats ranging from hurricanes to terrorist attacks by anticipating potential problems and preparing plans to manage them. Careers available in the field are diverse, including positions as computer specialists, law enforcement officers and first responders.
"It’s a challenging field," Dave Gilmore, a security consultant, told the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "You have plans to deal with the more likely problems, but you can’t prepare for every eventuality. You also need to be able to react."
An online bachelor’s degree in homeland security can help students develop the critical thinking, management and problem-solving skills they will need to succeed in a demanding, unpredictable field.
Students who earn a homeland security degree online can pursue employment in the private sector or with federal, state and local governments. The Department of Homeland Security is one of the largest federal employers – around 170,000 people work for the agency – according to the BLS.
Professionals with a bachelor’s degree in homeland security can also go on to earn an online master’s degree in homeland security. These programs generally do not require any previous homeland security coursework.
How long does it take to earn a bachelor's in homeland security online?
Completing an undergraduate homeland security degree online typically requires between 120 and 124 credits, which students can complete in four years of full-time study.
How much does a bachelor's in homeland security cost?
The cost of a homeland security degree online 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 a homeland security degree online typically range from about $200 to $475. Students should expect to pay between $43,000 and $55,000 in total tuition for one of these programs.
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.
To give students an introduction to the many facets of homeland security, bachelor’s in homeland security programs may include basic courses in criminal justice, emergency management, terrorism and public safety. Homeland security professionals need solid, foundational training in law enforcement and safety to properly handle real-world situations.
Other coursework may focus on risk analysis, border security, response and recovery, and intelligence gathering. A great deal of what the Department of Homeland Security does is scour the world for threats as they are in the early stages, requiring access to the latest technology and methodologies to be effective, so some online homeland security programs also offer courses on cybersecurity.
Some online bachelor’s degree programs in homeland security offer capstone projects or internships that allow students to explore a particular topic in the field extensively. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security offers several programs for students who wish to gain practical experience while pursuing their degree.
Professional Associations in Homeland Security
Students should consider joining or connecting in some way with various professional organizations and associations. These groups offer conferences, seminars, webinars and newsletters for aspiring and established homeland security professionals. Additionally, students and graduates can turn to these organizations for networking and employment opportunities.
- National Emergency Management Association: NEMA gathers emergency managers from across the U.S. to discuss emergency management techniques and how best to implement new policies.
- Association of Threat Assessment Professionals: Founded by police officers, prosecutors, mental health experts and others working in threat and risk assessment, ATAP works to address the best way to protect victims of stalking, harassment and threat situations.
- National Homeland Security Association: This organization brings together various types of first responders to share lessons learned in the field.
- Domestic and international terrorism
- Threat assessment fundamentals
- Disaster response operations and management
- Homeland security policy and law
Job Outlook and Salary
These are just two of the jobs open to graduates who complete a homeland security degree online.
What can you do with a degree in homeland security?
Graduates with a bachelor’s in homeland security often work for local law enforcement, the federal government and private companies and nonprofits.
Employees work throughout the country for the Department of Homeland Security and the agencies under its umbrella, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Transportation Security Administration.
Working for these agencies often requires a security clearance, which can typically only be obtained by U.S. citizens who meet specific guidelines.
Those who earn a bachelor’s degree in homeland security could pursue one of the positions listed below.
- CIA operations officers: CIA operations officers recruit and work with non-U.S. citizens who have access to foreign intelligence directly relevant to U.S. foreign policy. These professionals often spend the majority of their careers overseas, addressing issues in areas like counterterrorism and cybersecurity.
- Emergency management directors: Emergency management directors work to design and implement procedures for dealing with various types of emergencies and disasters. They often coordinate efforts with elected officials, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.
- Emergency management specialists: These specialists create and manage emergency response programs to prevent and deal with natural disasters and other emergencies. In addition to coordinating emergency response workers on the ground, their work often involves predicting the impact of catastrophes and designing management plans accordingly.
- Police officers and detectives: Among the most visible roles for professionals in homeland security, police officers and detectives enforce the rule of law through patrols, arrests, searches and investigations. Professionals in these roles can choose to specialize in areas like SWAT and canine units.
How much do homeland security graduates make?
Median annual wages for homeland security professionals vary by job title. Some of the higher-paying positions, like emergency management director, require years of experience or certain certifications in addition to a bachelor's degree.