Homeland security programs at both the associate and bachelor's degree levels require applicants to be high school graduates or hold GED certificates. Some programs may require entrance exams for placement or will waive certain program requirements for applicants already certified as police officers, firemen or emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Additionally, some baccalaureate programs are designed for students who've already completed some level of undergraduate education.
Students in associate degree programs learn fundamental principles in homeland security as well as cyberterrorism and the importance of protecting a community's infrastructure. Bachelor's degree programs also cover basic information on homeland security as well as advanced topics, such as international law, the history of terrorism and constitutional rights. Students in a bachelor's degree program often must complete a research project to graduate.
Associate Degree in Homeland Security Technology
Associate degree programs in this field typically instruct students in the common law enforcement strategies used to respond to emergencies, as well as the legal, political and ethical aspects of general homeland security operations. More commonly found as just homeland security programs, they may result in an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree. Students learn about risk assessment, counterterrorist policies and organizations, privacy issues in law enforcement, weapons of mass destruction, operational continuity and emergency communications. Courses in associate degree programs cover a wide range of theoretical and practical topics related to disaster prevention and management. In addition to general education requirements, specific homeland security topics may include:
- Contingency planning
- Information security
- Infrastructure protection
- Intelligence operations
- Managing an incident command post
- Terrorism and counterterrorism
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Homeland Security
Bachelor's degree programs in this field are designed to train homeland security professionals to assess and respond to a comprehensive range of natural and man-made incidents. Although similar to associate degree programs in the types of practical emergency response techniques that they cover, bachelor's degree programs generally feature a broader scope of coursework. Students may also receive training in social sciences research methods to prepare them for potential graduate studies. Most programs have core requirements focusing on terrorism, political science and legal issues. Additional topics may include:
- Disaster psychology
- Emergency preparedness
- Interagency communications
- Managing hazardous materials
- Natural disaster management
- Security and liberty
Popular Career Options
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, career opportunities in homeland security are most readily available through law enforcement agencies and the U.S. federal government, which includes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (www.bls.gov). Possible career titles include:
- Border patrol agent
- Customs agent
- Director of airport security
- Intelligence specialist
- Security consultant
Continuing Education Info
Students with a bachelor's degree in homeland security may choose to pursue graduate study in a variety of related fields, such as government, public policy or law. Master of Science (M.S.) programs in homeland security are also available for students interested in conducting applied research and working directly with security agencies.
Students interested in disaster relief or counterterrorism may enroll in associate degree programs to receive basic training in homeland security strategies or bachelor's degree programs for a broader overview of domestic and international security.