What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Homeland Security?

Launched in 2002, the Department of Homeland Security has grown into one of the largest federal agencies with thousands of employees working in airport security, border security, cybersecurity, counterterrorism and emergency response and management. This opens numerous job opportunities for graduate level students wanting to focus their master’s degree program in homeland security. Online master’s in homeland security programs train you on the systems and resources necessary to respond to terrorist attacks both foreign and domestic, as well as natural disasters and other large-scale emergency situations. When choosing an online homeland security graduate program, compare the curriculum, concentrations and overall program requirements of accredited colleges and universities to find the ideal program to meet your career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Homeland Security

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POTENTIAL CAREERS FOR THIS CONCENTRATION
Cybersecurity Provide in-depth knowledge and advanced skills needed for defending computer systems from cyberattacks and developing secure software systems. Information security analyst, chief information security officer, cybersecurity specialist
Emergency Management Students learn how to develop and execute contingency plans for large scale emergencies, including terrorist attacks and natural disasters, and budget for disaster relief and aid human welfare. Emergency management specialist, Peace Corps member, FEMA employee
Cyber Intelligence Focuses on current U.S. safety and policy based on the history of cyber intelligence and cover computer crimes, privacy issues and ethics in cybersecurity. Information security analyst, CIA agent, cyber threat analyst

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Homeland Security

Master’s in homeland security programs often culminate in a capstone course and internships may also be required. Online master’s programs in homeland security follow the same rigorous curriculum as traditional on-campus programs with the flexibility of completing your courses at your own pace at home. While this curriculum varies by school, listed below are some common courses you might confront in your online master’s degree in homeland security.

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Research and Evaluation in National Security Affairs Explores the principles of research design, critical thinking and analysis, plus key methods of data collection and analysis of the social sciences.
U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security Examine the history of U.S. foreign policy with emphasis on national security emerging as the dominant feature of policymaking.
Emergency Management and Crisis Communication Covers the overall management of emergency operation and the role of communications during a crisis.
Critical Infrastructure Students gain an understanding on creating a plan to detect any vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure and develop risk-reduction and protection measures for use during a crisis.
Terrorism Learn to detect and monitor foreign and domestic threats, including identification of major terrorist groups and the role homeland security plays to diminish these threats of terrorism.
Ethical Issues in National Security Introduce moral reasoning and philosophical examination of the ethical issues that arise in national security.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s in Homeland Security?

Many online master’s in homeland security programs are offered completely online in an asynchronous format, letting you study at your pace. Accelerated programs and a desire to finish quickly could cut your finishing time significantly. However, the time it takes to complete your degree program also varies based on whether you enroll full-time or part-time and the number of credits required, which varies by program. Typical programs include 30 to 40 credit hours, which a full-time student can usually complete in two years, but some programs can be completed in as little as 16 months.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Homeland Security Prepares For

Because there are numerous programming languages and software, database and computer systems vendors, there are literally hundreds of certifications suitable for software engineers. Your online master’s in software engineer can prepare you for any of the following, which is only a small sampling of the certifications available.

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
Certified Information Systems Security Professional Earning your online master’s in homeland security helps prepare you to become a Certified Information Systems Security Professional. The International Information System Security Certification Consortium offers this certification, which is ideal for homeland security majors with a concentration in cybersecurity.
Certified Homeland Protection Professional Earning your online master’s in homeland security and experience in public safety or security helps you meet minimum requirements to become a Certified Homeland Protection Professional available through the Global Society of Homeland and National Security Professionals.
Certified Homeland Protection Associate Levels 1–4 The GSHNSP offers four levels of certification as a Certified Homeland Protection Associate with Level 1 exams for college students enrolled in courses specifically relating to homeland security or anti-terrorism. Through professional experience and further examination, you earn higher levels of certification.
Certified Emergency Manager While you only need a bachelor’s degree to fulfill your educational requirement to sit for the exam to become a Certified Emergency Manager, a master’s may better prepare you for the exam. This nationally and internationally recognized certification is offered through the International Association of Emergency Managers.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Homeland Security

Accreditation indicates a college or university meets set standards and ensures you qualify for financial aid through many private entities and the federal and state government. Schools typically have either national or regional accreditation. Institutions offering distance-learning programs may be accredited nationally, but regional accreditation is often more respected and comes from an agency recognized by the Department of Education or Council for Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to institutional accreditation, some programs also receive accreditation through professional organizations. While there isn’t an organization that currently accredits online master’s programs in homeland security, FEMA keeps a list of programs available.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Homeland Security Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

You can pursue many homeland security careers with a bachelor’s degree, but an online master’s in homeland security helps pave the way to assume a leadership role. Your master’s may also help you earn a higher salary from the outset and help you earn prestigious jobs with highly respected federal agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency.

Expected Salary

Due to an increased demand for qualified homeland security professionals, master’s degree recipients have a strong job outlook with healthy employment growth expected. However, employment trends vary based on your specialization, as does job eligibility and your expected salary. Listed below are some popular career choices you may qualify for with your online master’s in homeland security degree.

Source: PayScale.com

The sector you work in also has a great bearing on your expected salary. If your online master’s in homeland security leads you to a career in emergency management, expect the highest salaries working for the federal government. In comparison, working for a local or state government pays less than half as much, but the number of jobs available is much higher. There are many sectors that offer better-than-average earnings for graduate-level emergency managers as the following table demonstrates.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Opportunities

A master’s degree in homeland security prepares you for the challenges of a demanding yet rewarding career path with above-average employment growth rates and high earning potential. Your advanced degree prepares you to work in numerous sectors, including government agencies, medical facilities, large corporations and private institutions. Some common career choices for master’s in homeland security graduates are outlined below.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Emergency Management Directors Emergency management directors prepare and execute plans and procedures appropriate for responding to natural disasters and other large-scale emergencies. They coordinate with other officials, nonprofits and government agencies and lead disaster response and relief programs during and after emergencies. $72,760 per year 8%
Information Security Analyst Information security analysts plan and implement security measures to protect computer networks and systems from unauthorized access and cyberattacks. The role and number of information security analysts continues to grow due to the ever-increasing number of cybersecurity issues. They also may also deal with equipment malfunctions and develop new programs to replace inadequate ones. $95,510 per year 28%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations can be crucial to your success, whether you’re new to the field of homeland security or an old pro. These organizations offer excellent entry points for students and new professionals to make valuable connections with experts in the field, earn highly respected certifications and continue their education as future demands in homeland security evolve and grow. Below are some prominent organizations for homeland security professionals with members-only resources and services for career-ready graduate students that help better prepare you to enter the job market.

National Homeland Security Association: The NHSA sponsors the National Homeland Security Conference, the premier annual meeting of local homeland security and emergency management professionals. It also offers new practitioners and veterans in homeland security with numerous networking and education opportunities, including prep courses and exams for the Associate Emergency Manager and Certified Emergency Manager Program offered at the annual conference.

International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals: Membership in the IACSP offers numerous benefits as part of the association’s mission to develop and distribute the tools and resources used to minimize the threat of terrorism and promote legal and ethical behavior in counterterrorism. Some of these benefits include professional publications filled with the latest security news, networking and educational opportunities, an annual symposium, seminars and full access to members-only sections of its website.

Global Society of Homeland and National Security Professionals: An international organization comprised of homeland and national security professionals, GSHNSP provides members with the knowledge, support and recognition needed for professional success. Membership earns you discounts on certification programs, plus a full-service career center and collection of perks that include thousands of discounts on various products and services.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Homeland Security

Most graduate students in online homeland security degree programs still need financial assistance to pay for their education despite online programs often being less costly than traditional programs. Always start your search for financial aid by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is required to learn whether you’re eligible for federal aid through grants, loans, scholarships and other financial assistance. Many schools also utilize this form to determine your eligibility for financial aid offered through the institution. Private sources of financial aid may also be found through companies, professional associations, non-profit organizations and other agencies. Use the resources below to explore some of the many ways you can finance your online master’s degree in homeland security.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Horizons Foundation Scholarship – Security Studies

Award: Varies

Deadline: November

Eligibility: Full-time or part-time graduate students enrolled at an accredited college or university with an interest in pursuing a career related to national security.

Ralph W. Shrader Graduate Diversity Scholarship

Award: $3,000

Deadline: April

Eligibility: Female and minority graduate students enrolled at any accredited school in a STEM/hard-sciences-focused program, including cybersecurity and homeland security.

The Life’s Choices Foundation Graduate Scholarship

Award: $3,500

Deadline: June

Eligibility: Graduate students focusing on national security or intelligence studies with the intent of serving in the U.S. government.

Al Ponte Graduate Scholarship

Award: $1,000

Deadline: June

Eligibility: Graduate students enrolled in a program focused on international relations and/or intelligence.