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Designed for students with a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field who are eager to gain advanced skills in protecting organizations and individuals from in-person and cyber threats, a master’s in security will prepare you for several potential career paths. This may include options such as becoming an Information Security Analyst with a median salary of $120,360 or pursuing a career with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which employs over 260,000 people.

Most master’s in security programs can be completed within 18 months to two years, depending on whether you enroll full-time or part-time. The average tuition for these programs was $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year, making it a significant but worthwhile investment in your professional future.

How to Choose a Master’s in Security Program

Choose your area of study

The first step in choosing a master’s in security program is deciding on a specialization that aligns with your career goals and interests. Potential paths include cybersecurity, which is ideal for those interested in protecting digital infrastructure, and homeland security, which is suited for individuals aiming to work in disaster response and anti-terrorism. Some programs may offer a specialization in corporate security, which focuses on safeguarding business assets and information.

Each specialization tailors its curriculum to prepare graduates for specific challenges and roles within the broad field of security. By selecting a concentration that matches your aspirations, you’ll also gain a focused education that will prepare you with the necessary skills to excel in your chosen area.

Research schools and programs

After selecting a specialization, you can begin researching schools and programs that align with your focus and can advance your career. Consider using the following questions to guide your research:

  • Does the program offer courses specific to my chosen specialization?
  • What are the faculty’s credentials, and how relevant is their industry experience to my future career?
  • How well do the program’s alumni succeed in this field?
  • Are there opportunities for internships and practical experience?

You can find information on program specifics, faculty, and alumni success on university websites, through information sessions, or by contacting an admissions counselor.

Prepare for tests and applications

Now that you’ve shortlisted your preferred schools, it’s time to prepare for tests and applications. Begin by requesting transcripts and letters of recommendation early, as these can take time to gather and are crucial for your application. You’ll want to dedicate sufficient time to write your personal statement, reflecting your goals and overall fit for the program. If the GRE is required, consider enrolling in a test prep program to boost your scores.

Select your program

After receiving acceptance letters, revisit your initial research criteria to choose the right master’s in security program. Focus on what’s most important — be it the faculty you’ll learn from, curriculum relevance, or networking opportunities. Carefully consider the overall cost of attendance and explore financial aid opportunities, including scholarships and assistantships, to make an informed decision that balances educational benefits with economic feasibility.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Financing your degree without incurring substantial debt may seem impossible, but many financial aid resources are available.

Start by looking into scholarships and grants, as these don’t need to be repaid and can significantly offset education expenses. In addition, many universities offer teaching or research assistant positions, typically including tuition waivers and a stipend.

If you’re currently employed, ask whether your employer offers tuition reimbursement for continued education — especially if your degree is relevant to your field.

Lastly, federal loans can be used to bridge any remaining financial gaps — but it’s important to avoid relying on these too heavily, as all loans will eventually have to be repaid with interest.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Security Programs

Best Master's in Security Degree Programs_badge 2024

The University of Texas at Austin

East Carolina University

Johns Hopkins University

University of Denver

John Jay College

University of Massachusetts Lowell

Northeastern University

Nova Southeastern University

Webster University

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide

University of New Haven

Regent University

The George Washington University

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How we rank schools

We reviewed many master’s in security degree programs, including online, traditional, and hybrid options. The available degree types include Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Public Administration (MPA), and Master of Professional Studies (MPS). Each has a slightly different focus, and you should choose whichever one best suits your interests and professional aspirations.

All of the listed programs are regionally accredited, and many have programmatic accreditation through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), or a similar body.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best master’s in security degree programs are affordable, respected, and flexible. (For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.)

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Security Program?

A relatively new degree path, a master’s in security allows students to tackle both physical and cyber threats, protecting government and corporate assets. The most innovative curriculums combine theory with practical application, covering risk assessment, emergency response, and the latest in cybersecurity measures.

While studying, you’ll learn to develop, implement, and manage security protocols that address the challenges in today’s threat landscape. Most coursework can be completed remotely, but it’s important to note that some programs might require in-person attendance for specific components, especially those conducted online.

These programs can be completed in 18 months to two years, depending on your pace of study and the program’s structure.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in security program

  • Cybersecurity Fundamentals: Considered a cornerstone in most curriculums, this class provides a comprehensive overview of the critical concepts in cybersecurity, including threat analysis, encryption, and secure software design. Students will learn how to identify vulnerabilities and implement security measures to protect information systems against cyber threats.
  • Risk Management and Analysis: Another common core requirement, this course delves into strategies for assessing and mitigating risks associated with both physical and cyber threats. The syllabus often covers various methods for risk evaluation while emphasizing how to create effective risk management policies to improve organizational security.
  • Counterterrorism Strategies: Often offered as an elective, this course focuses on counterterrorism measures and policies from a global perspective, including analyzing historical and contemporary terrorist threats and the effectiveness of different counterstrategies.
  • Digital Forensics: This elective explores techniques for gathering and analyzing electronic data for security purposes. Students learn about the tools and methods for forensic examination of digital devices and networks, which is crucial for investigating cybercrimes and enforcing network security.

Master’s in Security Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in security degree program?

To apply for these programs, start by reviewing the specific requirements of your chosen institution, as they can vary. However, many programs share common criteria, including:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Official transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Relevant work experience
  • GRE scores, if required

Speaking with an admissions counselor before applying is essential, as they can help you understand the specific requirements and application process for your intended program.

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

The average cost of a master’s in security degree was $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year. However, costs vary widely based on factors such as whether the institution is public or private, the program’s reputation, and your residency status.

Beyond tuition, you should also budget for expenses like textbooks, technology fees, commuting, housing, and potentially lost income. It’s important to factor in these extra costs to fully understand the overall financial commitment.

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

Earning this degree takes 18 months to two years for full-time students. Part-time students might take longer, often three to four years, as they balance coursework with other responsibilities.

When calculating these timelines, it’s essential to note your intended program’s number of required credits, as this will directly influence how long it takes you to complete your degree. Most programs range from 32 to 45 credits, but some may require more or less.

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