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Homeland security goes beyond law enforcement, although many people with these degrees work in that field. An online homeland security degree program also can launch your career in cybersecurity, emergency management, and dealing with natural disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes.The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth of 35% (much faster than average) for information security analysts from 2021 to 2031, with a median annual salary of about $103,000. This data also projects job growth of 3% (slower than average) for police and detectives and emergency management directors, earning a median annual salary of about $66,000 and $77,000, respectively.

Generally, a bachelor’s degree takes about 120 credits to complete over four years, while a master’s degree requires about 30 credits over one to two years. Costs vary by school and program. At bachelor’s and master’s levels, average tuition rates are typically lower at public universities than at private schools. Undergraduate tuition costs range from about $200 to $950 per credit, while graduate tuition ranges from about $475 to $1,100 per credit.

How to Choose an Online Homeland Security Degree Program

Choose your area of study

The first step in choosing an online homeland security degree program is deciding on your goals. For undergraduate students, options for a degree in homeland security include a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS). Graduate students can earn degrees like a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Professional Studies (MPS). Knowing their ultimate career and education goals will help students select the type of degree that’s right for them.

Some schools consider homeland security and counterterrorism a concentration of a criminal justice degree, focusing on criminal law, politics, and psychology. Other homeland security degrees have their own concentrations, including cybersecurity, counterterrorism, disaster and emergency management, public safety, and public health.

While some people use a homeland security degree as an entry into a law enforcement career, this degree also helps people in law enforcement advance their careers. If you’ve completed any law enforcement training, such as through a corrections, police, probation, or parole academy, check whether your school will apply this training as credit toward your degree.

Research schools and programs

As you research programs and schools, you’ll want to check whether a reputable entity accredits your prospective schools. Accreditation ensures that the program and institution meet quality educational standards and can also affect a student’s eligibility for federal financial aid, further post-secondary education, and employment opportunities. Students can confirm their school’s accreditation status by visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s accreditation database.

To ensure that you collect all the information necessary to help you decide which program you’d like to attend, ask the following questions:

  • Who are the program faculty, and what are their qualifications?
  • Are there opportunities for hands-on learning, such as internships?
  • What support services are available for online students?
  • Are there networking opportunities for online students?
  • What is the culture of the program and the institution?
  • Are classes delivered in a synchronous, asynchronous, or hybrid format?

This information is typically available on the school’s website, social media platforms, or by talking directly with program representatives and admissions counselors.

Prepare for tests and applications

Each program varies in its application requirements and process. Contact an admissions counselor to confirm requirements, deadlines, and eligibility criteria.

Most bachelor’s degree programs in homeland security require:

  • An official high school transcript or GED test scores
  • Any transcripts from other schools or proof of training and certifications
  • Standardized test scores, such as from the ACT or the SAT
  • An essay or personal statement about your goals
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from professional and personal references

Depending on the program’s focus to which students apply, there might be other prerequisites, such as a particular GPA.

Most online master’s degree programs in homeland security require:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher with transcripts from previous colleges
  • A resume or work history
  • Letters (s) of recommendation from personal and professional references
  • An essay or statement outlining your goals

You also may need to submit standardized test scores, such as those from the GRE. If you need to take the GRE, prepare and sit for the exam while researching schools.

Select your program

Some students submit multiple applications to increase their chances of acceptance, while others apply to a single program that suits their interests and needs. Whatever you choose, most schools charge an application fee, which can add up if you apply to several schools. If you need financial assistance with these fees, talk with the school about a fee waiver.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

As you conduct your research, be sure to confirm with the school’s financial aid office the total cost of the program (including fees) and any available financial aid, including scholarships, grants, assistantships, fellowships, work-study, and military discounts.

Students should also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which schools will use to determine eligibility for federal student loans and need-based institutional aid.

If you are employed while earning your online homeland security degree, check if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits, especially if a homeland security degree relates to your current job. Contact the school’s financial aid office with additional questions or concerns about financing your online education.

Best 50 Accredited Online Homeland Security Degree Programs

Best Online Homeland Security Degree Programs

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Arizona State University

Mercer University

University of Alaska Fairbanks

Florida Institute of Technology

National University

Herzing University

Utah Valley University

Marian University

Keiser University

Mercy College

Campbell University

DeSales University

Anderson University

Saint Leo University

Angelo State University

Franklin University

Excelsior College

California University of Pennsylvania

Thomas Edison State University

Southern New Hampshire University

SUNY College of Technology at Canton

Vincennes University

New England College

Bellevue University

University of Akron

Eastern Kentucky University

Medaille College

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How We Rank Schools

There are a few types of degrees one can earn in homeland security. At the bachelor’s level, programs are usually either a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA). For master’s programs, most are either Master of Science (MS) or Master of Professional Studies (MPS). We reviewed various programs so you could select the one that best fits your educational status and career goals.

The programs are offered online, although some can be completed in person or a hybrid format.

The programs on our list are all offered by schools with regional accreditation, which is a guarantee that they meet high standards for quality education.

Once we refined our list of programs, we evaluated their coursework, cost, reputation, flexibility, and faculty, and then we calculated an Intelligent Score for each on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect From an Online Homeland Security Degree Program?

While online homeland security degree programs vary based on the school, expect a core curriculum focused on preventing and responding to threats to public safety, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters. Along with specialized courses, expect an emphasis on critical thinking, decision-making, leadership skills, and effective communication.

Psychology plays a significant role in a homeland security degree, which includes studies about human motivation and behavior. Students also learn ethics and cultural awareness, analytical skills, policy skills, intelligence gathering, and how to interpret intelligence. Depending on whether a student focuses on cybersecurity or other acts of terrorism, they’ll likely also learn a history of these areas and how to respond to and combat them.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online homeland security degree program

  • Introduction to Counterterrorism. Students explore the origins and motivations of terrorists to design techniques and strategies to defend against them. Expect to learn how to evaluate assets for potential risks, conduct basic field research, and create ethical contingency plans.
  • Emergency Management. Part of homeland security is responding to and mitigating human-made and natural disasters. A course of this type covers how to prepare for these, with lessons on risk assessment, emergency preparedness, crisis management, and disaster recovery and response.
  • Research Methods. Students learn basic analytical thinking skills and research methods. They’ll also practice evaluating data, thinking critically, and writing professionally and clearly to present their findings.
  • Immigration Law and Policy. Understanding the immigration structure within the United States legal system is another component of homeland security. Students here learn more about citizenship laws, undocumented migration, detention policies, naturalization, and immigration enforcement.
  • Cybercrime. A course of this type covers prominent cyberattacks and other computer-related crimes so that students can learn how to detect, investigate, and prevent them. Expect to discuss data encryption, cybersecurity standards and best practices, legal protocols, and digital forensic analysis.

What Can I Do With an Online Homeland Security Degree?

Earning a bachelor’s degree in homeland security can lead to a variety of roles, including many with federal government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Beyond working for the federal government, this degree also prepares graduates for positions in local and state law enforcement agencies, like police officers and detectives. Individuals who focus on cybersecurity can work for private organizations as information security analysts, preventing and investigating cybercrimes.

A bachelor’s degree is typically sufficient for obtaining entry- and mid-level homeland security positions. However, those who are interested in pursuing management roles may benefit from additional study in a master’s in homeland security program.

Career outlook

  • Information security analysts — Monitor an organization’s networks for security breaches, develop and implement security standards and best practices to protect an organization’s networks and sensitive data, and investigate and mitigate security breaches when they occur.
    • Median annual salary: $120,360
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 32%
    • New jobs projected: 16,800 per year
  • Emergency management directors — Prepare plans and procedures for responding to natural disasters and other emergencies and help lead the response during and after emergencies, often in coordination with public safety officials, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.
    • Median annual salary: $83,960
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New jobs projected: 900 per year
  • Police officers — Perform various law enforcement duties, including patrolling, responding to emergency and non-emergency calls, investigating crimes, and performing arrests.
    • Median annual salary: $74,910
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New jobs projected: 64,500 per year

Online Homeland Security Degree Programs Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online homeland security degree program?

Each school’s application process varies. Check the school’s website or contact their admissions office to confirm what materials you must submit and how to submit them. Most schools accept applications and supporting documents online. Some schools may take the Common Application at the bachelor’s degree level, which enables students to apply to multiple schools with a single application. Also, find out if the school accepts applications on a rolling basis or if there are hard application deadlines. Talk with a school admissions counselor to verify you have everything the school needs, especially if you seek credit for any previous law enforcement experience.

How much does an online homeland security degree program cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average tuition for an undergraduate degree program in 2021-22 was $7,869 at public universities and $37,095 at private colleges. For graduate students, the average tuition was $12,394 at public schools and $26,621 at private schools.

However, many factors ultimately determine how much a student will pay for an online homeland security degree. As demonstrated in the average costs, public institutions are more affordable than private schools, although they may charge different tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students.

Online students have some money-saving advantages, including not having to pay transportation costs like gas and parking and having the ability to live in a more affordable location, if necessary.

How long does it take to earn an online homeland security degree?

Generally speaking, an online bachelor’s program in homeland security takes about four years of full-time study, while a master’s program takes one to two years. Students attending their program part-time will likely need an additional few terms to finish. Accelerated programs are available that allow students to compress their coursework into a shorter timetable.

If you need to balance your education around a full-time job, talk with an admissions counselor about any evening or weekend classes or other flexibility the school offers. Some students succeed through a hybrid program or classes with asynchronous learning, where they can complete required lessons and assignments at their own pace.

Is an online homeland security degree worth it?

As the U.S. continues to face domestic and international security threats, having a degree in homeland security can be beneficial to those who want to help prevent or investigate these threats. However, before selecting this degree program, students should consider their specific career goals, as there may be more relevant degrees available, such as emergency management or cyber security.

From a financial standpoint, having a bachelor’s degree increases an individual’s earning potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median weekly earnings for individuals with bachelor’s degrees is $1,493, compared to $992 for those with no degree. This translates to an additional $26,052 annually for bachelor’s degree holders.

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