Online Associate Degree in Homeland Security

An online homeland security associate degree prepares you for many entry-level jobs in a growing field. Unlike other security-focused programs such as information security and cybersecurity (which focus more on cyber terrorism or computer crimes), earning a homeland security degree online gives you an understanding of American homeland security, tactical response operations, and emergency management.

Graduates with an online homeland security associate degree can work in private companies or in local, state, and federal agencies. Employees with homeland security knowledge and experience are in high demand, making an online homeland security associate degree valuable.

With new immigration policies and the federal government's push to strengthen border security, U.S. agencies plan to increase hiring. A 2017 presidential executive order calls for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire 5,000 more border patrol agents. The BLS also projects security guard employment to grow as fast as other occupations at a rate of 6% from 2016 to 2026.

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When researching the best online homeland security degree, consider how programs differ. Most online homeland security programs include general education and homeland security courses, which usually focus on communication, homeland security topics, and cybercrime. Students may also need to complete graduation requirements, such as a literature review, to receive an associate degree.

Students should also consider cost when evaluating online homeland security degree programs. In-state schools usually cost less, while some educational institutions offer the same rate for online courses regardless of residency. Transportation, housing, and other expenses will also factor into the degree cost.

Whether you complete courses in person or online can also influence your decision. An online homeland security associate degree allows students to complete classes while working. Distance learners complete classes from any location, which reduces transportation costs.

With a hybrid program, learners complete some classes in person and some assignments online. A hybrid program requires less classroom time, while still allowing students to socialize with classmates. An on-campus program allows learners to regularly meet face-to-face with students and professors.

Sample Courses for an Associate Degree in Homeland Security

Pursuing an online homeland security associate degree may include courses involving criminal justice, homeland security, and terrorism. Some homeland security degrees also require an English composition course. However, courses vary by school. You can explore what students learn in online homeland security degree programs by viewing the sample courses below.

Example Courses

Introduction to Criminal Justice Providing an overview of justice agencies, including police organizations, correctional systems, and juvenile justice, this introductory course prepares students for a career in criminal justice. It also introduces learners to the criminal justice system.
Introduction to Homeland Security and Emergency Management By drawing on several disciplines, this course provides an overview of homeland security issues. The class usually involves studying the history of homeland security and modern aspects of emergency preparedness, civil defense, and traditional intelligence agencies.
English Composition This class helps degree candidates strengthen their communication skills and further develop research, academic writing, and critical-thinking skills.
Cyber Crimes and the Law This course focuses on the strategies used for investigation and prosecution in computer-related crimes. Students learn computer fundamentals, the Internet, and crime prevention techniques.
Terrorism and International Crime By examining modern problems and political terrorism roots, degree seekers study the operating structure of terrorist organizations to learn how to protect against such groups. Students also examine the history of domestic and international terrorism.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Associate in Homeland Security?

Earning a homeland security degree online typically takes two years to graduate with full-time enrollment. Degree candidates completing an accelerated program may earn a degree sooner. Learners may also transfer college credits from accredited educational institutions to reduce the required number of credits. Most online homeland security degree programs require 60 credits to complete.

Students should verify if the online homeland security program offers an individual pace or cohort learning model. An individual pace allows learners to complete courses on a student's schedule. With cohort learning, degree candidates learn together and finish courses as a small team. Cohort learning offers networking and socializing opportunities but affects a program's length if a student does not successfully complete a course with the team.

Homeland security offers job opportunities for learners at any experience and education level. However, in a highly competitive job market, an associate degree in homeland security offers an advantage for job seekers over applicants without a college degree. An associate degree also shows employers experience and education in the field.

Created after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to promote homeland security and coordinate security efforts, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security remains a top employer of graduates with an online homeland security associate degree. Graduates also work in private companies, state and local government, and other federal agencies.

Educational requirements for technical security jobs vary based on title and responsibilities. Some technical roles do not require a specialized computer degree, according to the BLS. Many associate in homeland security programs provide an overview of cybersecurity and ways to protect against cyber attacks, preparing graduates for technical jobs.

What Kind of Job Can You Get with a Homeland Security Degree?

Graduates with a homeland security degree can explore various career paths. Professionals may seek employment in emergency response, technology, or homeland security. Other job seekers may work in human resources or administration. These careers usually attract individuals interested in keeping people and places safe.

Security Guards

Providing low-level protection for companies and organizations, security guards usually patrol locations for suspicious or dangerous activity. They may also provide reception services, permit guests to enter locations, and call police. A high school diploma is required, and some employers prefer candidates with an associate degree.

Security Supervisors

These professionals manage a company's security staff and oversee the security practices. They may also examine work sites and organize plans to reduce security risk. Most employers prefer candidates with some college experience as the position requires leadership, delegation, and communication skills.

Border Patrol Agents

With extensive knowledge of law and protection, these professionals guard the country's land and waters. They limit illegal trade, prevent illegal immigration, and protect citizens from trafficking and terrorism. Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree, enroll in a bachelor's program, or show a specific amount of college education and security experience.

Transportation Security Officers

Generally hired by the Transportation Security Administration, these professionals work exclusively at airports. They screen airport passengers, perform pat-downs, and check bags. Job applicants need a high school diploma, although a college degree leads to a higher salary.

How Much Money Do You Make in Homeland Security?

Occupations and Salary for Online Master’s in Criminal Justice Graduates
Job Title Overall Median Salary Entry-Level Employees Mid-Career Employees Late-Career Employees
Security Guard $33,877 $23,000 $25,000 $29,000
Security Supervisor $45,473 $$31,000 $32,000 $40,000
Border Patrol Agent $56,403 $41,000 $71,000 $93,000
Police or Patrol Officer $49,537 $38,000 $41,000 $63,000
Source: PayScale

Licensure and Certification

Professionals may need licensure or certification for some homeland security occupations. A state may require licensure to practice an occupation in the state legally, whereas professionals seek certification voluntarily to increase credibility. Students interested in cyber or information security should pursue certification, which gives employers evidence of field skills. Certification also demonstrates up-to-date knowledge.

Most states require registration to work as a security guard, with criteria varying by state. Most candidates over the age of 18 must complete training and pass a background check. Job applicants who carry a weapon must also register with a government agency. Such registration can open doors to certain jobs with stricter background checks, such as armed guard positions.

When earning a homeland security degree online, students should consider the educational institution's accreditation. A college or university receives accreditation when providing an acceptable level of quality education. An educational institution holds either regional or national accreditation. Agencies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation award national accreditation to schools specializing in vocational or technical programs.

Regional accreditation, provided by the country's specific regional accreditation agencies, typically offers more benefits, such as transfering credits from one regionally accredited school to another. Employers also recognize degrees more from regionally accredited schools.

When choosing an online school, also consider the school's geographical location, which determines the institution's regional accrediting agency. For example, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges oversees schools in six New England states. While no specific agency exists for a homeland security major, you can search the U.S. Department of Education database to verify a homeland security program's accreditation.

Many financial aid options exist for homeland security students, including grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs. You should first complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which gives degree candidates access to the largest source of financial aid. Private organizations, the federal government, states, and individual schools award different forms of financial aid.

Many schools determine financial aid eligibility based on FAFSA. Students may also apply for private student loans through banks and educational institutions. You can learn more about financial aid options by speaking with financial aid workers at your selected school.

Degree candidates must repay student loans with interest, but other types of financial aid, such as grants, do not require repayment. The federal government also offers work-study programs, where learners earn money to pay for school. The Department of Homeland Security offers a variety of internships, fellowships, and scholarships for homeland security students. Professional organizations for security professionals, such as the Security Industry Association, also offer awards and scholarships. Learn more about specific homeland security scholarships below.

Homeland Security Scholarships

Often known as gift aid, scholarships help students pay for college. Unlike loans, scholarships do not need to be repaid. Degree candidates typically receive scholarships based on skill or ability. However, need-based scholarships also exist. Learn more about homeland security and criminal justice scholarships by viewing the five awards listed below.

Online Associate in Homeland Security Scholarships

Zinda Law Group Scholarship $1,000

Applicants must pursue an associate or bachelor's degree in a criminal justice field, including homeland security. With selection based on academic history and extracurricular activities, this scholarship awards funds to U.S. citizens or permanent residents enrolled or planning to enroll at an accredited school. View Scholarship

Proven Data Recovery Technology Scholarships $1,000

This award remains open to associate degree candidates with an interest in using technology to protect the global community. Applicants must write a 500 to 800-word essay on a technology topic. View Scholarship

Future Security Professionals of America Scholarship $500

Sponsored by American Best Locksmith, this scholarship awards high school students who plan to pursue a career as a security professional. Eligible high school students must hold a 2.5 GPA, write a 300-word essay, and receive admission to a post-secondary program with a security-related concentration or major. View Scholarship

Jim and Anna Hyonjoo Lint Scholarship $1,500;

Offered to help further the education and career of students studying national security, students may pursue this scholarship via application. View Scholarship

Richard L. Resurreccion Public Safety Scholarship $1,000

Open to undergraduates majoring in homeland security, this scholarship provides funding to Phi Theta Kappa members with a minimum 3.5 GPA. Eligible applicants must also complete 50% of coursework in an associate program by June. View Scholarship

Graduates with an online homeland security associate degree can advance their education with an online homeland security bachelor's degree. With a bachelor's degree, you can enhance your homeland security knowledge and acquire skills required for leadership and management roles. A bachelor's degree also prepares you for an online master's degree in homeland security.

An online homeland security associate degree prepares distance learners for a bachelor's degree by providing a field overview. Usually taking four years to complete, an online homeland security bachelor's degree gives graduates a competitive edge when applying for security-related jobs.

For security guards, employers award higher-paying positions to candidates with more experience and training, according to the BLS. For example, security managers usually hold a bachelor's degree and earn a median salary of $64,375, nearly double the salary of security officers, who may not have a college education. Some homeland security careers also require a bachelor's degree, such as positions in information technology or network security.