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Best Master's Degrees in Homeland Security

Nov 05, 2021

What Is a Master's in Homeland Security Degree?

The field of homeland security focuses on keeping the United States safe by providing various applications of security and emergency management. There are several different areas of homeland security, including cybersecurity, counterterrorism, and emergency management. Master's degree programs in homeland security are designed to prepare students for leadership roles in the field. Students in these programs study theories and practices of the field, as well as homeland security policies. Graduates of these programs typically earn a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS), or Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in areas such as homeland security, homeland security studies, or homeland security and emergency management. There are even closely related degree programs, such as master's programs in criminal justice with a concentration in homeland security, available. Many of these master's programs are available in online formats for flexibility. Read on to learn more about these graduate degrees.

The Best Masters Degree Programs in Homeland Security

School Tuition* Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
1 Sam Houston State University $8016 83% 54% 86% Yes Yes AP Credits
2 University of Kansas $11045 93% 67% 85% Yes Yes AP Credits
3 Northwestern State University of Louisiana $9686 82% 44% 97% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits
4 George Washington University $31824 41% 82% 77% Yes Yes AP Credits
5 Auburn University at Montgomery $8128 90% 34% 98% Yes Yes AP Credits
6 Arkansas Tech University $6737 95% 38% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
7 Tulane University of Louisiana $56958 13% 86% 79% Yes Yes AP Credits
8 Fairleigh Dickinson University-Metropolitan Campus $23110 92% 49% 100% No Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
9 Adelphi University $43420 74% 73% 94% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
10 American University $31113 36% 79% 75% No Yes AP Credits
11 Endicott College $12555 69% 74% 95% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
12 Monmouth University $27838 77% 73% 100% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits
13 Rider University $21398 71% 67% 100% No Yes AP / ACE Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit our ranking methodology page.

*Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Common Undergraduate Degrees for Homeland Security

Although a bachelor's degree is usually required for admission to master's programs in homeland security, this degree does not typically have to come from a particular field. However, students who have a background in a homeland security-related area may transition to the advanced coursework more easily as they already have some foundational knowledge in the field. There are Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) in Homeland Security programs widely available, including in online formats. There are also related degrees, such as bachelor's programs in criminal justice with concentrations in areas such as homeland security or counterterrorism.

Admissions Requirements for Homeland Security Master's Programs

Admissions requirements for homeland security master's programs may be similar, but students should be sure to check for specific standards at their institution(s) of choice. Most master's programs require applicants to hold at least a bachelor's degree and some programs may require students to meet a minimum GPA, such as a 3.0 or higher. Students who have not met this GPA requirement might be able to replace it with relevant work experience. These programs commonly require a statement of purpose, which is used to outline students' academic backgrounds and goals. Some programs may also use the statement of purpose to have students demonstrate an understanding of the field. Other common application materials for these master's programs include transcripts, a resume, and letters of recommendation. Some programs offer conditional admittance and can be fully admitted once they earn a 'B' or better on their first course.

Why Should I Get a Homeland Security Master's Degree?

Students who are interested in learning about advanced techniques, theories, and practices of homeland security and emergency preparedness may decide to earn a master's degree in homeland security. Earning a master's degree usually prepares and qualifies students for positions with more leadership responsibilities, which may lead to a higher salary. According to PayScale.com, graduates with a MS in Homeland Security made a median annual salary of $64,399, as of May 2021. These degree programs are also usually available in flexible formats, such as online or part-time, to fit students' schedules. Students can typically earn these degrees fairly quickly, with some programs allowing full-time students to finish in 12 to 18 months.

How to Choose a Master's in Homeland Security Program

In addition to logistical considerations, such as program location and cost, students can compare several different program characteristics when choosing a master's in homeland security. For example, some master's programs in homeland security offer additional areas of concentration. Students who are interested in a particular area of homeland security might consider a program that offers a concentration that closely aligns with their career goals. The format of a program can be another important consideration for students, such as attending a program full- or part-time, as well as comparing online, hybrid, and on-campus programs. Students who plan to attend on-campus may want to look into student activities and other resources available for students when making their decision.

Homeland Security Master's Degree Courses

Master's degree programs in homeland security usually require between 31 and 36 credits of coursework. Students can commonly take these programs full-time and finish in 12 to 18 months or take the program part-time and finish in 2 years or longer. Typically, coursework consists of some core courses and electives. Some programs offer additional concentrations, which students also take some courses in. Many master's programs in the field conclude with a capstone course. Explore some of the courses for these master's programs below.

Homeland Security Foundational Courses

Students may take between 18 and 21 credits of core, required courses in the field of homeland security. Often, the final capstone course is included in these required courses. Some programs may offer core courses in multiple levels and allow students to choose from a few different required courses at each level. Other programs have set required courses, but students may be able to take the courses in any order. These core courses are designed to further develop students' leadership abilities, as well as their knowledge and skills in foundational areas of homeland security. Although it varies by school, students may take courses in topics such as:

  • Overview/foundations of homeland security
  • Intelligence for homeland security
  • Technology for homeland security
  • Biological applications in homeland security
  • International legal/ethical issues
  • Emergency management
  • Approaches to counterterrorism

Homeland Security Specialist & Elective Courses

Many master's programs in homeland security include elective courses in the curriculum. These courses allow students to explore different, specialized areas of homeland security. Ultimately, some of these courses could help students narrow down their interests and career options in the field. They also provide additional skill sets and advanced knowledge in the given subject area. Students may take between 3 and 12 credits of elective courses, depending on the program. While elective courses vary greatly by school, students might be able to choose between courses such as:

  • Domestic and international terrorism
  • Maritime and border security
  • Law and national security
  • Homeland security policy analysis
  • Infrastructure protection

Licensure & Certification in Homeland Security

Licensure and certification requirements in homeland security vary greatly by position and employer. There are different organizations available that provide various kinds of professional certifications in the field. For example, the Global Society of Homeland Security Professionals offers multiple levels (1 through 4) of the Certified Homeland Protection Professional (CHPP) designation. Students need to meet education and experience requirements to qualify for the different levels and each level is designed to help students advance their careers. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also provides a list of available training resources in various specialty areas of homeland security, such as disaster information courses and emergency preparedness from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Other positions, such as those in law enforcement or information security, may need specialized licensure or certification.

Concentrations Offered for a Master's in Homeland Security Degree

There are several master's degree programs in homeland security that allow students to focus their studies in a particular area of the field by choosing a concentration. Usually, students who choose a concentration must complete between 9 and 12 credits of coursework in the concentration, in addition to core courses and/or electives. Concentrations could help students gain specialized knowledge and skills to prepare for a specific job within the field of homeland security. While some concentration areas will overlap, programs usually offer their own unique concentrations. A few examples of available concentration areas for master's programs in homeland security include:

  • Cybersecurity
  • Intelligence
  • Emergency management
  • Counterterrorism

Post-Graduate Options After Master's in Homeland Security

Students who wish to continue their studies in the field of homeland security beyond a master's degree can choose from several different doctoral degrees. Most commonly, students can pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Homeland Security, but there are also Doctor of Professional Studies degrees in the field and related degrees, like Ph.D. in Criminal Justice programs with a focus in homeland security. Doctoral degree programs in the field are available in online formats but may be more commonly available on-campus, due to the research focus of these doctoral degrees.

What Can I Do with a Homeland Security Master's Degree?

Graduates with a master's degree in homeland security can pursue careers in many different areas of the field. Some may go on to work for the Department of Homeland Security as a homeland security specialist or other federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as emergency managers. Others may work for private organizations as security operations managers or information security specialists working to keep organization's information and information of their clients safe. Still, other graduates may enter careers in law enforcement and pursue careers as federal agents, border and immigration officers, or homeland security officers. In general, graduates can take on higher leadership or management positions with their advanced knowledge and skills in the field. Learn more about some career options for graduates below.

Job Outlook for a Master's in Homeland Security

In general, the job outlook for graduates with a master's degree in homeland security is positive. This is partly because graduates with a master's in the field can take on a wide range of positions within the field and typically qualify for more advanced positions. The job outlook varies for specific positions, but many related to homeland security have positive growth. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for detectives and criminal investigators is 1% from 2019 to 2029. This still equates to about 1,300 new jobs over the decade.

Other areas of homeland security have even more growth. For instance, the job outlook of information security analysts over the same period is 31%, per the BLS. This is much faster than average and equates to 40,900 new positions.

How to Become an Information Security Analyst

Graduates interested in cybersecurity may go on to become information security analysts. Information security analysts typically need at least a bachelor's degree, but some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master's degree. These analysts usually have a degree in a computer-related area and need to have prior work experience in a related area. Although not commonly required, there are professional certifications available in the field, such as the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) credential. As of 2020, the BLS reported that information security analysts made a median annual salary of $103,590.

Information security analysts are primarily responsible for keeping the computer networks and systems of their organization safe from cyberattacks. They do this by creating security standards, researching current tools in the field, installing software and other protective measures, and testing these measures. If a security breach occurs, they need to analyze what happened and correct the issue. They must also teach other employees how to follow security procedures.

How to Become a Federal Agent

Those interested in law enforcement can become federal agents involved with homeland security, which the BLS groups under the umbrella of detectives and criminal investigators. These professionals commonly need at least a bachelor's degree and it may be helpful to have additional skills, such as fluency in a foreign language. Extensive training and experience may also be required. For instance, federal agents usually need to have at least a couple of years of experience or an advanced degree, such as a master's, in place of some of this experience and complete training. Detectives typically begin their careers as police officers and must undergo training academy and meet all of the requirements for officers, such as being at least 21 years of age and a citizen of the U.S. As of 2020, the BLS stated that detectives and criminal investigators made a median annual salary of $86,940.

Federal agents, such as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and special agents, examine crimes involving federal law. They get involved in state cases that cross state lines or are more extreme. They may need to observe suspects and arrest them as necessary.

Master's in Homeland Security Program Financial Aid & Scholarship Resources

The cost of earning a master's degree in homeland security can get quite expensive when students factor in tuition, fees, books, materials, and living expenses. To help lower the cost that students pay out-of-pocket, most students pursue various forms of financial aid. There is aid that has to be paid back, such as federal or state loans that students may qualify for by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Then there is other aid that does not have to be repaid, such as discounts and scholarships. Some schools may offer tuition discounts for different qualifying students, such as military service members. Some programs may have a limited number of graduate assistantships available to help pay for school.

Scholarships are a great financial aid option, as these awards are often available from a student's school and outside organizations. Each scholarship generally has its own application requirements, but awards are available for a wide range of reasons. Some scholarships are available in specific fields of study, including homeland security. In the case of homeland security, several organizations offer scholarships, such as the Women in Defense (WID). The WID provides the WID Scholar Program designed for undergraduate or graduate females pursuing a career related to national security or defense.

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