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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security employs more than a quarter of a million individuals working across various specialty areas, including border security, emergency response, counterterrorism, chemical facility inspection, and cybersecurity. An online master’s in homeland security prepares students for a leadership position within the field.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are dozens of career paths under the homeland security umbrella, such as information or cybersecurity analysts, occupational health and safety specialists, or emergency management directors. BLS data predicts that employment opportunities for these positions will grow much faster than average, and individuals can typically expect a salary between $75,000 and $100,000.

Most online master’s programs in homeland security require between 30 to 40 credits; full-time attendees typically complete the coursework within two years, but some accelerated programs allow students to finish the program quicker. Attendees can expect to pay an average tuition of $25,000.

How To Choose an Online Master’s in Homeland Security Program

Choose your area of study

The homeland security field is vast, with multiple specialty areas. While all programs feature similar core topics such as homeland security strategy, administration, and ethics, students should expect to choose a concentration. Typical concentrations include counterterrorism, cybersecurity, public health, and biosecurity. Selecting a school based on your desired concentration is essential, as only some institutions support the same focus areas.

Research schools and programs

After identifying your preferred concentration, there are several other factors to compare. First, ensure that a national accrediting agency recognizes the institution and the online program. Accreditation agencies aim to standardize the quality of education and professional preparedness. Accreditation status informs federal aid and the ability to transfer academic credit.

From there, compare other facets of each program.

  • What is the online experience like? Some programs facilitate learning through asynchronous, independent study. Others may require you to attend scheduled online classes or work on projects alongside a team. You should determine which modality works best for your style of learning and flexibility needs.
  • What is the online community like? Do students and faculty engage in virtual office hours? Will you study alongside a cohort? The online experience can vary dramatically, so be mindful of what you seek as a student.
  • How does the program provide an opportunity for practical application? Most online master’s programs in homeland security require a capstone assignment, whether a project, an internship, or a practicum experience.
  • What supplemental resources do online students have access to? Your tuition should cover more than the coursework itself. Online students often have access to mental health support, tutoring, free software and subscriptions, military student aid, disability services, and 24/7 tech support. Consider what you need to succeed in your studies.

You can discover this information by speaking to an admissions officer, researching the program website, speaking to current students and faculty members, and attending virtual information sessions.

Prepare for tests and applications

Research the admissions eligibility standards for your chosen programs. Typically, an online master’s in homeland security requires that applicants have an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution. Common accepted undergraduate areas of study include criminal justice, public administration, public health, social work, parks and recreation management, environmental science, and geography. Many master’s programs set a minimum undergraduate GPA.

In many cases, graduate homeland security programs require their candidates to show evidence of employment within the field. Students should expect to submit a professional resume along with their application materials. Most programs do not mandate GRE scores. International or ESL applicants will need to submit proof of English language proficiency.

Select your program

Select the programs or programs that best fit your personal and professional goals based on the program’s concentration, online community, student support services, and cost. Some schools are more competitive than others, so you should apply to several programs to increase your chances of getting accepted.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

No matter your situation, all students should complete the FAFSA to determine their federal aid or loan eligibility. Speak to your current employer. Some agencies offer tuition stipends to their employees. Discuss financial aid opportunities with the school’s admissions or financial aid office. These individuals can help you identify potential scholarships or other funding opportunities you qualify for. Military veterans may receive tuition assistance, so contact the school’s veteran’s affairs office.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Homeland Security Programs

Best Online Master's in Homeland Security Degree Programs

George Washington University

Penn State World Campus

Tulane University

Mississippi College

Saint Joseph's University

Towson University

Northeastern University College of Professional Studies

Sam Houston State University

Nova Southeastern University

University of Central Florida

Arizona State University

East Carolina University

UMass Lowell Division of Graduate, Online & Professional Studies

Virginia Commonwealth University

Salve Regina University

Adelphi University

Endicott College

Monmouth University

Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Liberty University

Pace University

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Arkansas Tech University

Anna Maria College

Southern Illinois University

Angelo State University

University of Maryland Global Campus

Wilmington University

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How We Rank Schools

We reviewed a variety of homeland security degree programs, including Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), Master of Professional Studies (MPS), and Master of Public Administration (MPA). Each type of degree has its own pedagogical approach, but all will prepare you for a career in homeland security.

Our list includes programs delivered in online, on-campus, and hybrid or blended formats. This gives you more options when choosing which program is right for your lifestyle and availability.

To ensure the quality of the education, we only reviewed programs that have regional accreditation. This type of accreditation is important because it means the school is eligible for federal financial aid, and your credits can transfer more easily.

We evaluated the programs on their course strength, cost, reputation, faculty, and flexibility. Then, we calculated the 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 Master’s in Homeland Security Degree

Students pursuing an online homeland security master’s degree will learn the fundamentals of homeland security, covering topics such as cybersecurity, ethics, administration, and counterterrorism. Individuals will need to select a specific concentration to focus their studies. Most programs require a two-year commitment, and many students choose to continue working full-time while earning their degree. To graduate, students must complete a capstone assignment, likely through an internship, an independent research paper, or a hands-on project. Upon completing the program, students can qualify for advanced leadership positions within homeland security agencies at the federal, state, local, and international levels.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in homeland security

  • Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. Students will study the history and evolution of terrorism and modern-day preparedness and response strategies.
  • Integrated Emergency Management. Students will learn the theories behind emergency management and practical emergency response.
  • Crisis Intervention. This class covers fundamental crisis intervention theories concerning disaster and emergency management situations. Students will study the role of law enforcement, emergency responders, and public health personnel during a crisis.
  • Homeland Security Policies, Principles, Procedures, and Plans. This course analyzes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s history, politics, and legal framework. Students learn about national security tactics and resources.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Homeland Security?

Career outlook

Your career outlook will depend on which particular role you decide to pursue within the field of homeland security. For example, the projected job growth rate over the next decade is slower than average for police and detectives but much faster than average for information security analysts. It’s worth noting that both of these occupations, as well as many other jobs related to homeland security, offer high-paying opportunities. Police and detectives who work for the federal government make an average salary of $93,970, while information security analysts make an average salary of $102,600 regardless of where they work.

Career paths

The strategic priorities of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provide a good overview of the different career paths available to those who have earned a Master’s in Homeland Security — your options include counterterrorism, cybersecurity, border security, disaster preparedness, and emergency response.

In addition to DHS, other federal agencies (such as the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation), state and local governments, and many private organizations also need homeland security experts.

To give you an even better sense of the possibilities in this industry, here are some of the most common occupations and job responsibilities for homeland security professionals:

  • Criminal investigator – investigate crimes such as terrorism, drug smuggling, illegal arms trafficking, and human trafficking
  • Intelligence operations specialist – collect and analyze data in order to assess security threats and help solve crimes
  • Import specialist – conduct inspections at border crossings, coordinating with law enforcement officers to confiscate goods and question individuals as needed
  • IT specialist – investigate cybercrime, prevent unauthorized access to classified information, and maintain network infrastructure
  • Emergency management director – plan for emergencies such as terrorist attacks and natural disasters and help lead the response during and after such emergencies

Anti-terrorism officer

Earning Potential: $83,000 to $142,000

Education Required: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in homeland security, criminal justice, or related field

Anti-terrorism officers are responsible for identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities, training personnel on how to identify and respond to threats, and conducting inspections to ensure compliance with established anti-terrorism policies and procedures. While this is typically a government job, private venues concerned about the risk of terrorism, such as prominent tourist attractions, entertainment and sports arenas, or any other place where crowds tend to gather, sometimes hire anti-terrorism officers as well.

Cyber threat analyst

Earning Potential: $93,000 to $156,000

Education Required: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in cybersecurity, homeland security, or related field

This occupation involves researching cyber threats as well as producing reports that explain these threats and how to prevent them. When hired by the federal government, cyber threat analysts may also be responsible for assessing the cyber intentions and capabilities of foreign actors. It should be noted that, unless you already have a background in computer science or information technology, you may need to complete a Master’s in Homeland Security program with a concentration in cybersecurity, digital forensics, or a related specialty in order to become qualified for an entry-level cyber threat analyst position.

Policy analyst

Earning Potential: $54,000 to $90,000

Education Required: Bachelor’s or master’s degree in public policy, political science, or related field

A Master’s in Homeland Security degree can also open the door to a career in shaping homeland security policy. Policy analyst jobs involve assessing the effectiveness of existing policies, developing solutions to problems that are not currently being addressed, and predicting the potential effects of proposed policies. This occupation is ideal for those who possess a deep understanding of statistics, which is often needed to analyze policy, and strong communication skills, as policy analysts may be expected to present their findings to government officials, legislators, and other decision-makers.

Online Master’s in Homeland Security Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master's in homeland security degree program?

Each program’s website outlines its specific expectations for application materials, but most include:

  • A completed application (with fee)
  • Copies of your official transcripts
  • A professional resume
  • A personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation

Many online master’s in homeland security set a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement. Some adhere to strict deadlines for sending application materials. Contact an admissions counselor with questions or concerns about your eligibility or application.

How much does an online master's in homeland security degree cost?

The average cost of an online master’s in homeland security degree is $25,000, with some as low as $15,000 and others topping $35,000. In most cases, you can save money by pursuing your master’s degree online instead of in person. Online programs don’t require you to commute or pay for campus housing. Many professionals choose this option for its flexibility; you can continue working while engaging in coursework.

However, some schools have a standard per credit rate, whether the program is online or in-person. Online degrees typically include many of the exact costs as traditional degrees, including books and fees for technology and library use. You’ll also need to consider your out-of-pocket expenses for a reliable at-home computer and internet.

How long does it take to earn an online master's in homeland security degree?

Most homeland security master’s degree programs require 30 to 40 credit hours. Full-time attendees can finish the program within two years, though some accelerated options could shorten that commitment to 16 to 18 months. Sometimes, your professional or military experience could count toward credit, further condensing your time commitment. A part-time student taking two classes each semester would need closer to three years.

Is an online Master’s in Homeland Security worth it?

While you only need a bachelor’s degree for most entry-level homeland security jobs, there are still a variety of benefits to earning a master’s.

A master’s degree will help you stand out from other candidates and get hired more quickly, especially when you’re just starting your homeland security career and don’t yet have much experience. Also, in general, a master’s degree leads to higher earnings — the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that workers with a master’s degree earn an average salary of $1,661 per week, while those with only a bachelor’s degree earn $1,432 per week. Over the course of a year, that’s a difference of nearly $12,000.

There are many benefits to earning your degree online rather than in-person as well. Online degree programs eliminate the need to commute to campus, allowing you to save a significant amount of time and money. Completing an online program also demonstrates to employers that you have the ability to manage your time and stay focused without direct supervision, which is especially important if you would like to work remotely.

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