Homeland security professionals protect and serve the public in various roles within governmental agencies and the private sector. They work in fields as diverse as law enforcement, first responding, and information assurance.
Job opportunities for individuals with a homeland security degree continue to grow, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS projects a 5% job growth for police and detectives between 2019-2029. Police officers earn a median annual salary of $65,170, significantly higher than the $39,810 median annual salary for all workers. Many homeland security specialists, such as information assurance analysts, earn much higher salaries and enjoy an optimistic job growth projection of 31%.
A bachelor’s degree in homeland security provides education and training for entry-level careers. The curriculum covers subjects such as criminal justice, cybersecurity, emergency management, and critical infrastructure protection. This guide provides information about homeland security careers and programs.
What kind of jobs can you get with a homeland security degree?
Homeland security professionals work in various settings. A bachelor’s degree prepares students for entry-level careers including emergency management specialist, cybersecurity specialist, and special agent. Some careers require additional training.
Is there an age limit for homeland security jobs?
State and federal agencies establish age guidelines for some homeland security positions. Border patrol agents range from 18-40, and those aged 23-37 qualify for special agent positions with the FBI. The age limit for police officers varies by state.
What degree is needed for homeland security?
A bachelor’s degree in homeland security prepares students for entry-level and early management positions. The degree also provides students with the foundation necessary for graduate education.
How much do homeland agents make?
Pay varies for homeland agents. According to January 2021 PayScale data, federal special agents make an average $115,300, while intelligence analysts make an average $75,810.
What Are the Goals of a Homeland Security Degree?
Homeland security degree curriculum typically includes general education courses, core classes, and a concentration for specialized training. Some schools focus on a criminal justice curriculum that explores subjects such as criminology, criminal procedure, and incident investigation and analysis. Others offer an interdisciplinary curriculum blending public safety, homeland security, criminal justice, and behavioral science coursework. Many programs offer concentrations or electives in areas such as emergency management, cybersecurity, and law enforcement.
Students apply lessons and demonstrate their proficiency when they complete capstone projects. Internships give students supervised experience with local law enforcement, the FBI, the CIA, and other organizations. Students typically complete 120-126 credits in homeland security programs. Some schools offer generous credit transfer policies, allowing learners to complete the degree faster and more affordably.
Why Get a Homeland Security Degree?
A homeland security degree opens doors to many well-paying and fulfilling careers. The degree also provides those already working in the field with the education and training necessary for career advancement. Below we list some benefits of pursuing a homeland security degree.
- Career Preparation
- Students pursuing a homeland security degree acquire the skills and training necessary for entry-level positions or graduate studies.
- Career Advancement
- Some schools design homeland security programs especially for those already working in law enforcement or homeland security. The degree provides these professionals with the education necessary to advance their career and update their skills. Some schools award credits for their experience, police or military training, and associate degrees.
- Hands-on Experience
- Employers value graduates with real experience. Some homeland security programs partner with local agencies for internship opportunities that build students’ experience. Capstone projects allow students to apply lessons to solve real challenges and demonstrate their knowledge.
- Specialized Training
- Homeland security programs offer various concentrations. Students acquire training in areas including cybersecurity, disaster management, or public safety. This experience helps students focus their career or graduate studies on a specialization in a field with many career possibilities.
- Employability Skills
- Students develop strong critical thinking, analytical, communication, and technical skills necessary for successful homeland security careers. These skills transfer to other occupations in many fields.
What Are the Requirements for a Homeland Security Degree?
Entrance requirements for homeland security degrees vary by school. Recent high school graduates need test scores and transcripts for admission. Programs designed for nontraditional learners typically require college transcripts and a minimum 2.0-2.5 GPA. Some schools award credit for police and military training.
Many colleges develop a curriculum with law enforcement careers in mind. Others focus on the specialties discussed above. Careful planning ensures that students choose a homeland security degree suiting their career objectives. Students complete internships in their junior or senior year. The school may offer experiential opportunities at partnering organizations, or allow students to identify their own internship in the local community.
What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?
Professional Organizations for Homeland Security Students
Professional organizations serve as a voice for the industry and its workers. They provide advocacy, professional development, and networking opportunities to members. They keep workers up to date about best practices, legislative developments, and other issues of interest to stakeholders. See below for three professional organizations for students in homeland security programs.
National Emergency Management Association
NEMA serves professionals in emergency management. The organization offers a discounted student membership fee that gives them access to publications, national conferences, and peer networking opportunities. Members receive discounts on products and services and use the career center for career preparation.
AFCEA Homeland Security
AFCEA's members work in defense, security, and related technology disciplines. The organization tailors membership to meet individual needs, including programming for women, early career professionals, and students. AFCEA offers a reduced membership fee for students. Academic membership benefits include access to Signal magazine, local chapters, continuing education, and certification discounts.
National Criminal Justice Association
NCJA comprises workers in all areas of criminal justice, including law enforcement. The organization offers student membership at a reduced cost. Membership gives students pursuing degrees in homeland security access to Justice Bulletin, a weekly online publication. They also enjoy grant funding opportunities, an online member community, and opportunities to interact with justice leaders.
Scholarships for Homeland Security Students
Scholarships provide students with funding they do not need to repay. The funders establish guidelines for each scholarship and award them based on academic performance, financial need, or minority identity. Below, find three scholarship opportunities for homeland security degree students.
Who Can Apply: The Central Intelligence Agency awards needs-based scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students at accredited institutions. Students receive tuition assistance in exchange for 1.5 years of work with the agency for each year of paid scholarship received. Students need a minimum 3.0 GPA and competitive test scores. Minors do not qualify.
Amount: Up to $25,000 per year in tuition assistance and annual salary thereafter
Who Can Apply: The organization awards this scholarship to students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in emergency management, disaster management, or a related field. Applicants must submit an application and two essays on a designated topic.
Who Can Apply: WIFLE’s scholarship program awards funding to students based on academic achievement and commitment to serve in law enforcement. Applicants must major in criminal justice or a related discipline, possess full-time enrollment status at an accredited college, and hold a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students complete a 500-word essay and provide a reference from a community or police official.
Best Homeland Security Degrees 2021
See our rankings methodology page.
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
Slippery Rock, PA
A public university based in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, SRU offers a bachelor of science in homeland security degree for students wanting to forge professional careers in intelligence, emergency management, and disaster prevention.
Students of this homeland security degree program learn in-depth courses in the areas of risk analysis and strategic planning, fundamentals of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, principles of emergency management, and intelligence for homeland security. To earn their degree, homeland security students must complete 120 credit hours of coursework, which usually concludes within four academic years.
All interested applicants must complete the application for admission available through the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and via the school's official website. Prospective students must also submit their official high school transcripts, and pay a $30 application fee. Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).
Recognized as one of America's oldest higher learning institutions, Mercer offers a bachelor of science in homeland security and emergency management degree that provides students with the expertise in handling public safety issues and high-risk situations.
Mercer requires homeland security students to finish 120 hours of coursework that includes subjects in forensic behavior, intelligence gathering and dissemination, ethics and public safety, organizational communication, and foundations of leadership. Mercer confers this degree program completely online, with courses integrated into eight-week sessions. Graduates of this program now work as border patrol agents, CIA analysts, disaster engagement specialists, emergency preparedness analysts, and immigration and customs enforcement agents.
Prospective students must fill out the application for admission, and pay a $25 non-refundable fee. All applicants must also submit their official academic transcripts from regionally accredited institutions they attended prior. Mercer University holds regional accreditation under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach
Daytona Beach, FL
A private university located in Daytona Beach, Florida, ERAU offers a bachelor of science in homeland security degree program for students whose interests lie in making the world a safer place to live in.
ERAU's homeland security degree offers students specialized tracks in emergency management, terrorism studies, and cybersecurity. This 124-credit hour degree program provides students with intensive knowledge in the areas of homeland security law and policy, geographic information systems, strategic planning and decision making, origin and ideologies of terrorism, and fundamentals of emergency management. Students must also complete a senior capstone course and a three-credit internship experience.
Prospective students must submit all official academic transcripts of records, an updated resume, an admission essay, and payment of the $50 application fee. ERAU requires transfer students with fewer than 30 college credits to also submit their high school transcripts. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Daytona Beach is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
University of New Hampshire-Main Campus
A public research institution based in Durham, New Hampshire, UNH offers a bachelor of science in homeland security degree designed for students interested in defending and protecting the country from threats and natural disasters.
This four-year bachelor's degree program allows students to take 40 credits of breadth as either two minors, a double major, or a dual degree. Students learn from a wide array of courses, including professional skills in homeland security, fundamentals of emergency management, political violence and terrorism, introduction to cybersecurity, and research for political and policy action. Students must complete 128 credits, and maintain an overall GPA of 2.0 or above in major courses.
UNH requires all applicants to complete the application for admission, and pay an application fee of $50. Applicants should also submit official high school transcripts or GED, along with a letter of recommendation from a school counselor or a core academic teacher. The University of New Hampshire-Main Campus is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide
Daytona Beach, FL
Also based in Daytona Beach, Florida, ERAU-Worldwide offers a bachelor of science in homeland security degree program delivered through a flexible and convenient online format.
Students of this program can specialize their homeland security education by taking two minors or by taking one minor and another 15-hour block of approved and related courses. ERAU-Worldwide integrates first-rate education technology resources such as Canvas and EagleVision, and provides students with a virtual community platform.
To qualify for admission, transfer applicants need a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.0 from an accredited degree-granting institution. All applicants must complete the online application and send over their official academic transcripts. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).