Online Bachelor's Degree in Homeland Security

As a relatively young and growing field, homeland security offers exciting career opportunities in positions like emergency management, national intelligence, law enforcement, and corporate security, among many others. A homeland security bachelor’s degree is the first step toward a career in this field.

According to a 2016 study by the Homeland Security Emergency Management Center of Excellence, the field’s career outlook is strong. Many of the occupations available to graduates of homeland security bachelor's degree programs are expanding rapidly. Safety and security manager positions are expected to grow more than 15% over the next decade, which is better than the national average. Risk management and security management specialists boast similar growth rates, while investigator positions should grow by almost 20%.

An exciting field with significant growth opportunities makes now a perfect time to pursue a bachelor’s degree in homeland security and emergency management.

Because homeland security is such a broad and diverse field, colleges with homeland security bachelor’s programs tend to also vary. Some emphasize counterterrorism, standard law enforcement, or computer security, while others focus on emergency management or transportation security. The best programs combine all of these areas, and prospective students should ensure a school meets their personal and professional goals. Some colleges offer homeland security as a concentration within their criminal justice programs; others incorporate liberal arts classes into their curricula; and some emphasize critical thinking skills, effective communication, strategic planning, and leadership skills. Students should also browse course listings, and the minors and concentrations offered, to make an informed decision about their homeland security education.

Other factors may also influence your decision about degree programs. Do you want to attend school nearby, or are you willing to travel? Are you interested in an online program, one that’s offered on-campus, or some combination of the two? Online and hybrid programs can save you money and time, and they also allow you to continue working while you study. Tuition is usually less expensive online, and you do not incur added campus expenses like travel, parking, and/or meals. If you prefer to study on campus, public universities in your own state can provide a more cost-effective education than a private school in another state. Law enforcement degrees like homeland security occasionally feature classes that require you to be on site.

Curriculum for a Bachelor's Degree in Homeland Security

Homeland security bachelor’s degree programs come in all shapes and sizes. They may focus on different areas or emphasize different specialties within the discipline, and coursework will vary accordingly. Most programs cover similar subject matter. A sampling of common courses in homeland security curricula follows.

Example Courses

Homeland Security and Defense This three-credit course explores the history of the field in the United States. Topics include the tragic events of 9/11 (which prompted the founding of Department of Homeland Security), U.S. policy, and key operational areas. This class provides the basis for all careers in the discipline.
Border and Coastal Security Students learn about various ways national security threats enter the country; how various federal, state, and local organizations protect the nation’s borders and coastlines; and the various policies and strategies those officials use. They also examine how other countries secure their borders. The class is ideal for students interested in careers with the Border Patrol or the U.S. Coast Guard.
Homeland Security and Intelligence This course covers the intersection of homeland security and intelligence gathering, with an emphasis on how data and intel influence national security strategy. Coursework prepares graduates for careers in intelligence.
Critical Infrastructure Protection This class introduces students to the threats facing the nation’s vital infrastructure systems, including IT, telecommunications, postal and shipping, energy, medical, water, transportation, and emergency services. Students evaluate how to best secure each system, while studying the impacts that attacks would have on the population and the economy. The class provides a thorough overview for anyone hoping to enter a homeland security career.
Legal and Ethical Issues in Homeland Security When do security needs outweigh privacy and civil rights? Should they ever? These kinds of questions form the basis of this three-credit course. Participants explore constitutional and security-related law and legal decisions, codes of personal conduct, moral courage, and ethical leadership. This is an essential course for anyone planning a career in homeland security.

How Long Does It Take to Earn an Online Bachelor's in Homeland Security?

Like other baccalaureate programs, students can earn their homeland security bachelor’s degree in about four years, with most requiring 120 credits to complete. However, other factors may influence the amount of time required to bring home your diploma, including the availability of courses and whether the program requires internships or residencies. Other factors affecting the length of your degree include whether you enroll full time or part time, and the format in which your program is offered. Some colleges use a cohort model, in which you join a community of learners and proceed together through the curriculum one class at a time. While this can make for a supportive experience and often results in lifelong friendships, it can also take longer than individually paced programs, which are designed for students to work independently and complete coursework when it best suits their schedules.

Many graduates of homeland security bachelor’s degrees step right into jobs with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, taking positions within Border Patrol, the Coast Guard, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. According to PayScale, major employers for homeland security grads also include the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Securitas Security Services, and BAE Systems. Given the sheer size and diversity of occupations in the field, salaries vary widely and depend upon your location, experience, and chosen career path. A sheriff’s deputy in a rural Texas community will likely make far less than an executive at the Department of Homeland Security in the District of Columbia.

A bachelor’s degree in homeland security prepares you for most jobs in the field, even some at the managerial level. An associate degree can prepare you for entry-level careers in some occupations, such as working for the TSA. A bachelor’s degree allows you to move in many more directions and typically translates to a higher level of pay. According to PayScale, earners in the field with a bachelor’s can make as much as $130,000 at the highest levels, compared to the upper limit of $117,000 for those with an associate degree.

Online Bachelor’s in Homeland Security Careers

Homeland security degrees prepare you to enter a wide array of exciting law enforcement, emergency management, and security fields. You could find yourself in a computer lab doing cyber security, patrolling the coast in boats, enforcing immigration laws, or gathering intelligence in the field. You might work in an office as a security manager or wear a lab coat and conduct forensic research. You could even work in the president’s security detail, as the Secret Service now falls under the Department of Homeland Security.

Border Patrol Agent

These law enforcement officers secure the nation’s borders from threats. They control immigration, prevent terrorism, fight illegal trafficking, and inspect vehicles and boats. Advanced degrees typically lead to management jobs.

Police Officer

These individuals enforce the nation’s laws by patrolling, investigating, and making arrests. They also work with communities to educate citizens and prevent crime. Officers with advanced degrees often become detectives or administrators.

Security Supervisor

Private companies employ security supervisors to run their security operations, ensuring that their data, personnel, and corporate secrets remain safe. Depending upon the company, these professionals might secure hazardous materials, buildings, equipment, people, or IT. The more advanced degree, the higher the salary.

Transportation Security Officer

Transportation security officers commonly work for the TSA, ensuring that airports, flights, trains, and other means of travel and shipping stay safe from threats. They inspect bags, screen travelers, and investigate suspicious activity. TSA personnel with advanced degrees can be promoted up the chain of command.

FBI Agent

FBI agents investigate federal crimes. They interview suspects, collect evidence, analyze data, and often coordinate with other agencies to fight crime. The job often entails long hours and travel. Some agents work in the field, while others analyze data and interpret leads and evidence. Investigators with advanced degrees enter supervisory roles within the agency.
Occupations and Salary for Online Bachelor’s in Homeland Security Graduates
Job Title Overall Median Salary Entry-Level Employees Mid-Career Employees Late-Career Employees
Border Patrol Agent $56,021 $41,000 $71,000 $93,000
Police Officer $50,201 $44,000 $50,000 $64,000
Security Supervisor $34,202 $31,000 $39,541 $40,000
Transportation Security Officer $38,080 $35,519 $39,541 $41,291
FBI Agent $64,313 $61,000 $65,000 $97,000
Source: PayScale

Whichever online bachelor’s in homeland security program you choose, make sure it carries regional or national accreditation from a reputable agency. The former is administered by one of six regional agencies that accredit most of the nation’s best colleges and universities. These organizations serve as quality control agencies, auditing schools to ensure they maintain high academic standards. Some programs may also carry accreditation from national agencies, although this is usually reserved for vocational or technical schools, or those that teach one particular discipline.

The U.S. Department of Education makes it easy to confirm a school’s accreditation. While it doesn’t issue accreditation itself, the federal agency oversees the entire process and maintains a database of accredited programs. Unlike some majors, which boast their own program-specific accreditation bodies, homeland security has no industry-specific accreditation.

Due to rising costs of tuition, it’s not uncommon for many people to struggle to pay for their homeland security bachelor’s degree. Fortunately, students can turn to several sources for help. The first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which determines your eligibility for federal loans, grants, and scholarships. The Department of Homeland Security sponsors a variety of programs to get promising students started in careers with the agency. Scholarships and grants provide another great source of funding; many organizations and agencies award scholarships based on need, potential, and community service. Several foundations and agencies also sponsor scholarships specifically for students interested in homeland security, national defense, criminal justice, law enforcement, and related fields.

Homeland Security Scholarships

It is important to explore all the scholarships available to you. Foundations, community service agencies, and corporations often distribute scholarships to help students pay for school, rewarding them for community service, leadership ability, among other factors.

Online Bachelors in Homeland Security Scholarships

Lint Center for National Security Studies Scholarships $500-$1,500

The Lint Center administers six grants designed to help undergraduates pay for their education in national security-related fields. Requirements vary. View Scholarship

Women in Federal Law Enforcement Scholarships $2,500

Established to encourage women to enter law enforcement, WIFLE awards grants to undergraduate and graduate students in criminal justice and law enforcement related programs. Applicants must have a 3.0 GPA, a background in community service, and enroll full-time in an accredited program. View Scholarship

Thurgood Marshall Scholarship $2,000

Awarded by the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, these scholarships are distributed to students enrolled in criminal justice or related programs. They must demonstrate both academic excellence and financial need. View Scholarship

American Best Future Security Professionals of America Scholarship $500

The American Best company awards these grants to students entering an undergraduate program in a security-related field. The recipient must boast a minimum 2.5 GPA. View Scholarship

Women in Defense Horizons Scholarship Varies

Women in Defense awards annual scholarships to undergraduate women enrolled in fields related to national defense. Applicants must hold a minimum 3.25 GPA, demonstrate financial need, and show an interest in a career defending the nation. View Scholarship
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