Homeland Security Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Degree, certificate and master's programs in homeland security offer education on a broad range of security topics, including government policies, legal issues, technology, emergency preparedness and ethics.

Essential Information

Degree and certificate programs in homeland security offer specializations in a number of areas such as terrorism, disaster preparedness and risk analysis. Students in master's degree programs often engage in research in homeland security.

  • Program Levels in Homeland Security: Bachelor's degree, graduate certificate and master's degree.
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree programs require high school diploma or equivalent. Graduate certificate programs require a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. Master's degree programs also require a bachelor's degree as well as a minimum GPA, usually between 2.85 and 3.00.
  • Program Specializations: Laws and policies, analyzing and sharing intelligence, risk analysis and strategic planning, preparing and responding to disasters, terrorism analysis, transportation security, cybersecurity, agricultural biosecurity, emergency preparedness, forensics and information security, infrastructure security, geospatial intelligence, public health preparedness, etc.
  • Program Length: 4 years for a bachelor's degree, 12-14 credit hours to receive a graduate certificate and 2 years for a master's degree.
  • Online Availability: 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, 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.

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.

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

  • Protecting critical infrastructure
  • National and foreign policies
  • Legal issues in homeland security
  • Terrorism
  • Emergency planning and management
  • Technologies for security systems

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.

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 3.00. For other certificates, there are no stated baccalaureate GPA expectations.

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

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.

There is significant 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

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.

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 much faster than average from 2012-2022, 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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