Homeland Security Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Although homeland security may be focused on terrorism and border security, it also includes disasters - man-caused and natural - and emergency management. Most degree programs in homeland security are in the bachelor's and master's degree levels, and graduate certificate programs are common, too. Read on to learn about prerequisites, common courses and career options for graduates.

Essential Information

Degree and certificate programs in homeland security offer specializations in a number of areas such as terrorism, disaster preparedness and risk analysis. Common areas of study at all levels include government policies, legal issues and ethics. Students in master's degree programs often engage in research in homeland security. Most undergraduate program require on-campus classes, but graduate programs are often offered online.

Bachelor's Degree in Homeland Security

Bachelor's degree programs in homeland security offer basic knowledge of the field. Because there are so many aspects of the field, many of the bachelor's degree programs require students to choose one area to focus on. These areas include laws and policies, analyzing and sharing intelligence, risk analysis and strategic planning, preparing and responding to disasters, terrorism analysis, transportation security and cybersecurity. Most bachelor's degree programs in homeland security are on-campus programs.

Education Prerequisites

Most homeland security programs do not have specialized admissions requirements or education prerequisites. Colleges generally have the basic requirements of a high school diploma or an acceptable equivalent. Some schools mention that they give preference to students who have an Advanced Studies Diploma or an equal substitute.

Program Coursework

A homeland security curriculum is very dependent on the track that a student chooses. However, basic courses required in most programs might include:

  • Issues and facets of homeland security
  • Protecting critical infrastructure
  • National and foreign policies
  • Legal issues in homeland security
  • Terrorism
  • Emergency planning and management
  • Technologies for security systems
  • Public transportation security
  • Assessing risk and vulnerability

Popular Careers

There are a wide variety of careers in many settings associated with homeland security. Possible settings include government offices, private businesses, airports, military installations, law enforcement offices or research laboratories. Potential jobs that could be overlooked include:

  • Commercial security system installer
  • Computer security specialist
  • Remote sensing scientist
  • Security management specialist
  • Transportation security officers

Continuing Education

There is no institution that offers continuing education credits specific to homeland security. Graduates who wish to learn more about homeland security may choose to earn a graduate certificate or a master's degree in the field or a related field. Or they may simply take extra homeland security courses, perhaps in areas outside of their degree focus.

Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security

Graduate certificate programs may sometimes be applied towards earning a master's degree at the same institution. Other certificate programs are more 'stand alone.' Programs usually have 12-15 credit hours of coursework. All courses are required; there are no electives.

Education Prerequisites

Because these certificates are graduate certificates, applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited college. Those certificate programs that may be applied towards a master's degree in homeland security generally expect an undergraduate GPA of 3.0. For other certificates, there are no stated baccalaureate GPA expectations.

Program Coursework

Because certificate programs only require 4-5 courses, there is often a great deal of difference in coursework. However, courses may include:

  • Practical and theoretical aspects of terrorism and counter-terrorism in the U.S.
  • Military, private and public sector roles in homeland security
  • Balancing freedom and security in homeland protection
  • Assessing risks and managing emergencies
  • Analysis, evaluation and critiques of current homeland security practices

Master's Degree in Homeland Security

Master's degree programs in homeland security seem, at first glance, to be much the same as the bachelor's degree programs. There is a great deal of overlap, but the master's degree programs may also include research possibilities. Students may tailor most programs at this level to suit their special needs. Areas of specialization may include agricultural biosecurity, emergency preparedness, forensics and information security, infrastructure security, geospatial intelligence or public health preparedness. Since 2010, some programs have been curbed in state schools because of state budget problems. Many master's degrees in homeland security may be earned online.

Education Prerequisites

Most homeland security master's degree programs require the applicant to have a bachelor's degree, sometimes in a discipline related to homeland security. Required GPAs range from 2.85 to 3.00. Requirements may vary between specialties within one school.

Program Coursework

There is a lot of overlap between bachelor's and master's degree program course requirements. Required core homeland security topics often include:

  • Programs and policies of the Homeland Security Administration
  • Ethical and social issues of homeland security
  • Insurgence, terrorists, violence and threats
  • Security preparedness for institutions
  • Strategic planning for public and private industry and government entities
  • Research methods for public and government affairs

Employment Outlook

Because there are so many areas of potential occupations in homeland security, there is no single overall employment outlook for the field. For example, positions as information security analysts were projected to grow faster than average from 2010-2020, while jobs as security managers were predicted to experience slower-than-average growth, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Emergency management director positions should see average growth during this same time.

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