Online master's degrees in national security, usually called homeland security, are fairly common. Most programs are designed for local, state and federal law enforcement officers as well as individuals in other professions who need knowledge of security procedures.
Students learn how to protect the country from criminal attacks by recognizing risk factors and employing preventative measures. Some programs allow students to specialize in fields such as public health security and protecting the food supply.
These degree programs are usually available completely online, although some exams may have to be administered in person. Students may be allowed to apply credits from certificate programs towards their master's degree. Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees.
Graduates are required to meet the licensing requirements of the law enforcement agencies where they are employed. Federal law enforcement jobs require extensive training, and job candidates may need to qualify for security clearances.
Some include classes that can be accessed at the student's convenience, and some include classes that require the student to log on and access the class at a given time. Classes might be presented in a variety of formats, such as video, CD or online materials. Most do not require an in-person visit although exams may sometimes be administered in-person.
For a master's degree program, required coursework depends on the student's background as well as the specific nature of the chosen program. Classes may fall into the categories of cybercrime, criminal justice or specific management areas.
Homeland Security and Defense
Most programs include at least one overall general class in homeland security. Students learn about the history of the homeland security concept and the development of policies.
Public Health Preparedness
The study of national security must also include the study of overall public health and preparedness. Students in this class learn how to prepare for specific terrorist threats or national disasters.
National security also requires learning about computer crime and the tracking of criminals via computer records. This might include studying a money trail or figuring out how someone has moved around the country.
Strategic Planning for National Security
Students need to learn how to effectively prepare for emergencies concerning national security. In this class, they learn about public policies and the creation of an infrastructure to protect the public.
Infectious Disease and Biowarfare
National security can also be compromised by the dissemination of disease. Students learn about the methods of biological warfare, outbreak prevention and protection of the public.
Career Information for Graduates
People with this degree might work in law enforcement or other government agencies charged with protecting the public welfare. Generally, people seeking a career in this kind of work are required to have a security clearance and be able to pass a criminal background check
Work can be done in the field - on land or sea - as well as in an office with a computer. A person in this field might work for customs, immigration, law enforcement or any of a number of federal agencies charged with protecting the public. People seeking a master's degree in this field might also be seeking a management job.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, policeman and sheriff's patrol officers earned a median annual wage of $58,320 (2015 figures), while the median annual wage for first-line supervisors of police and detectives was $82,090. The median annual wage for detectives and criminal investigators was $77,220.
As part of online master's degree programs in homeland security, students learn about specific threats, such as cybercrime and bioterrorism, and they develop the organizational and management skills necessary to implement strategies to prevent disasters and confront them when they happen. Graduates have the educational background necessary for upper-level positions within law enforcement and government agencies.