Updated: August 1, 2017
When you think about your dream job does it involve protecting people and systems? Are you excited by the thought of crisis mitigation, analysis and investigation, and a job that literally looks different every single day? Getting a degree in homeland security not only means you’ll make a tangible difference in the lives of citizens and neighbors, it also means you’ll be in charge of planning prevention methods that create sustainable safety and security. It’s an important job with a lot of responsibility, but also a lot of respect, stability, and opportunity.
Careers for those with homeland security degrees vary greatly. While some work in corporate finance, interpreting key data and building strong systems, others work in nonprofits, on the front lines of emergency management. You can fit this degree to your passions, skillsets, and vocational interests. Plus, the need for people with this degree is projected to rise 18 percent in the next few years. And while the career options vary, as do their respective average salaries, you can estimate making at least 40k annually (if, for example, you go into transportation screening), if not way more in other fields.
If you’ve thought about starting or completing your undergraduate degree but have hesitated because of the financial and time commitments, then perhaps you should consider an online degree. It is a flexible, convenient way to advance your professional career without breaking the bank, as most online degrees are more affordable than those earned on campus. And many online programs don’t have residency requirements (and the higher price tag associated with those requirements). Having shed its stigma, online education is now considered a great way to earn a degree and advance your career.
What are the Best Online Bachelor’s in Homeland Security Degrees
Though some of the programs below are full undergraduate programs that do not require you have any past college credit to apply, and others are degree completion programs, while some emphasize domestic security and counterterrorism and others emergency management, the following fifteen online degrees share one thing in common: they are the best at preparing and educating students in homeland security.
To get such a definitive ranking, we at College Choice investigated specific, significant data points for each online BS/BA in Homeland Security program in the nation: academic reputation, student retention (a signifier of student satisfaction), affordability, and the early salaries of graduates. What we found after extensive and exhaustive research were those programs that are not only the best in the nation at training and educating homeland security officials, but those that are also affordable and offer a great return on investment. Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, and nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
College Choice Score: 100
Credit Hour Cost: $1,392
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) is the largest university in the country that specializes in aviation and aerospace education. Additionally, ERAU is known for its degree programs in business, engineering, security, and technology. Among its many locations, Embry-Riddle Worldwide is one of the nation’s best distance education providers.
The top online bachelor’s program in the nation (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report), Embry-Riddle is a fantastic option for earning an online undergraduate degree in homeland security. Specifically designed to provide students with a foundation in security, emergency management, terrorism studies, and cybersecurity, this is one of the first online homeland security degrees ever established. Students can start with little to no college credit and earn their full degree from a distance. They are required to either take two minors, in addition to the homeland security degree, or to take on a second major. The core course load is comprised of classes on:
- Critical Infrastructure Security, Resilience, and Risk Analysis
- Homeland Security Law and Policy
- National Security Issues and Terrorism
- Environmental Security
- Intelligence Collection and Analysis
- And much, much more
Embry-Riddle is decorated in rankings from U.S. News & World Report; it is counted among the top universities for its region, one of the top ten best schools for veterans, and it is ranked first for having the best online bachelor’s programs. Forbes also includes ERAU among its ranking for best private colleges and best value colleges.
Pennsylvania State University World Campus
College Choice Score: 100
Credit Hour Cost: $584
A “Public Ivy” with a nearly endless list of accolades and rankings, Penn State and its World Campus are among the most elite research universities on our list. It is also one of the largest, with over two dozen campuses and over 100k combined undergraduate and graduate students. A member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, Penn State has earned a renowned reputation for its contributions to a wide array of research endeavors.
This is a full bachelor’s degree, meaning you are not expected to have any previously earned credit hours. Once you complete all your general education cores, you will then take classes that primarily introduce you to the fundamentals of cyber security, including data breaches, phishing, cyber attacks, and malware. You will also take courses on homeland security and management, legal issues regarding information, and programming languages. Finally, all Penn World Campus students, including their distance learners, are expected to complete an internship. Penn State is recognized as a Center of Academic Excellence by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. Thus, many graduates have gone on to find work as
- Computer forensics specialists
- Intelligence analysts
- Counterterrorism threat analysts
- Economic crime specialist
- International crime officers
- Among others
As a whole, Penn State is ranked fiftieth in the nation and fifty-sixth globally by U.S. News & World Report. Many of its departments and programs share in the distinctions: its engineering and tech, life sciences, arts and humanities, social sciences, and computer sciences departments are all ranked among the top 100 best in the world.
California University of Pennsylvania
College Choice Score: 96.5
Credit Hour Cost: $308
A greater member of the Pennsylvania State System, California University (Cal U) is a mid-sized school that offers degrees across all academic levels, from bachelor’s to doctoral degrees. Cal U is a public university with over 150 academic programs, including those housed under the nationally recognized Global Online College.
This online BS in Criminal Justice degree from Cal U (one of the most affordable on our ranking) can be paired with a specialization in Homeland and International Security. This multidisciplinary program combines courses on law, forensic science, cyber crimes, domestic and international security, and criminology to give students a solid foundation in the theory, applications, and research methodologies pertaining to homeland security. It is expected that students either have an associate’s degree already, or at least fifty credit hours that can be transferred. With the general education courses completed, students dive right into a curriculum with courses on:
- Leadership and Ethics in Criminal Justice
- Criminology Theory
- Law Enforcement and Culture
- Executive Protection
- International Criminal Justice
- And more
Ranked among the top three best online colleges in the country, Cal U’s Global program has solidified a reputation in providing affordable, high-quality distance education. For over a decade the university has been included among Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report rankings.
University of Alaska–Fairbanks
College Choice Score: 94.5
Credit Hour Cost: $202
The flagship school in the University of Alaska System, the Fairbanks (UAF) branch is a public research university that is also designated as a prestigious land-, sea-, space-, and even sun-grant institution. UAF was originally founded as an agricultural college but today offers a range of degree programs to its thousands of students.
This online Bachelor of Emergency Management degree is housed in UAF’s business school and is accredited by the renowned Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. This is a full undergraduate program that allows you to complete all 120 credit hours from a distance, including general cores. This degree prepares you to manage the man-made, natural, and technological disasters wrought by the world we live in. You’ll take classes on emergency planning, disaster response, risk analysis, leadership in dangerous contexts, and organizational theory, among others, so you can graduate ready to find a career in:
- Law enforcement
- The military
- Public safety and/or health
- Immigration and border security
- Cyber security and information assurance
- And much more
The University of Alaska in Fairbanks is widely known for its research activity; though, unlike most other universities, UAF has made huge research contributions in the area of arctic and northern studies, due to its proximity to the Arctic Circle. Campus is home to the Institute of Northern Engineering, the Institute of Arctic Biology, the International Arctic Research Center, and more.
College Choice Score: 93.25
Credit Hour Cost: $485
Keiser University, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with multiple campuses and an online platform, is an expert in distance education. Their online associate and bachelor’s programs are consistently well-ranked among distance learning programs. Keiser is affiliated with Everglades University of Boca Raton, Florida.
Keiser University offers a full, and fully online, BA in Homeland Security that helps students apply management principles to emergency planning. Students are also trained to prepare for, recognize, investigate, and respond to terrorism. They learn how current domestic and international issues affect our society and how to plan for these issues to promote a safe and secure homeland. Lower level homeland security major courses will cover introductions to criminal justice and security, constitutional law, domestic and international terrorism, and emergency management, while upper division classes cover:
- Issues in Disaster Response
- Preparation and Response for Terrorism
- Tactical Communications
- Homeland Security Policy and Law
- Catastrophic Event Response Planning
- Among others
Among regional universities, Keiser is ranked first in the state of Florida by U.S. News & World Report. And for the entire Southern region, it is ranked 23rd. In addition to these academic accolades, Keiser is known for its great service to student veterans.
Eastern Kentucky University
College Choice Score: 90
Credit Hour Cost: $409
Located in Richmond, Kentucky (with other locations in and around the city and state), Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) is a large school with over 16k undergraduate and graduate students. EKU has over fifty academic areas of study in everything from business and technology to health sciences, the arts, education, and justice and safety.
This full BS in Homeland Security degree from Eastern Kentucky University emphasizes management, leadership, and intelligence regarding security and emergency prevention. After completing general education cores, EKU students take thirty-nine credits in emergency management and homeland security fundamentals (below). EKU also gives its students a lot of leeway in terms of electives and specialization; students can explore border control, counterintelligence, government security, and crime in disasters, among other topics.
- Physical Security
- Risk Analysis
- Homeland Security Technology
- Disaster Preparedness and Response
- Mitigation and Recovery
- Emergency Management
- And much more
Eastern Kentucky is well-ranked in many areas and by many prestigious ranking programs. U.S. News & World Report, for example, includes EKU among the best universities regionally, for its online programs, and for being among the top public schools in the nation.
College Choice Score: 88.75
Credit Hour Cost: $530
Regent University is a Christian university located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It was founded by Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network in the late 1970s and maintains its evangelical affiliations. Nearly 10k students attend Regent, either on-campus or through the distance education program, and are enrolled in one of the university’s seventy areas of study.
This online BS in Criminal Justice degree from Regent comes with specialization in homeland security and allows students to explore security at local, state, and national levels. Students also learn how to prevent, prepare for, and navigate disasters, both man-made and natural, while also gaining insight into the specific kinds of crime, terror tactics, and the limits of the justice system. One thing to note about this program is that it is steeped in Christian theology; students will take pre-requisites that cover biblical studies, theology, and Christian approaches to homeland security. Graduates from Regent’s program have found work in:
- Homeland security agencies
- Police forces
- Detective work
- Probation work
- Border patrol
- Customs and immigration
The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report rank Regent well, the latter including it among its listing of best online undergraduate programs in the nation (ranked eleventh). Similarly, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni gave Regent high accolades, giving it top grades for its core curriculum.
Florida Institute of Technology
College Choice Score: 84.5
Credit Hour Cost: $510
The Florida Institute of Technology, known as Florida Tech, is a private research university based in Melbourne. It is organized into seven colleges and schools that proffer degrees in science, technology, mathematics, engineering, and aviation. Its proximity to both the Melbourne International Airport and the Kennedy Space Center influences its academic and research programming as well as student experience and opportunity.
When you get your BA in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Homeland Security degree from Florida Tech, you will have the opportunity to take all your general education classes fully online, and then advance into classes covering all aspects of security. Florida Tech also emphasizes the importance of leadership development, requiring students take classes such as the Psychology of Leadership, in addition to classes on the fundamentals of homeland security. Florida Tech online students also have access to the number of unique electives, including:
- Introduction to Crime Analysis
- Introduction to Cybersecurity
- Violent Crime
- Risk Assessment
- Domestic Terrorism
- Intelligence Analysis
- And more
Times Higher Education, PayScale, U.S. News & World Report, The Brookings Institute, Forbes, and Barron’s are just some of the high-profile ranking organizations and publications that include Florida Tech among one of the best, most valuable, and most innovative schools in the nation.
St. Leo University
College Choice Score: 83.5
Credit Hour Cost: $360
Saint Leo University—located just north of Tampa, Florida—is a Catholic liberal arts school that specifically and uniquely emphasizes professional development. They offer over forty academic programs across all degree levels to their 16k undergraduate and graduate students.
Similar to the other universities on our ranking, this program at Saint Leo is a BA in Criminal Justice that comes with a specialization in homeland security. However, this degree is specifically for individuals who are most concerned with contemporary terrorism, both domestic and international, as the courses explore legal issues in counter-terrorism, local responses to terrorism, the modern Middle East, and how to exploit weaknesses in terrorist organizations. The Saint Leo program is a full undergraduate program, so no previous credit hours are required. And the general education core at Saint Leo is unlike any other undergraduate program in the nation, with classes organized into the following clusters:
- Foundation courses
- The Human Adventure courses
- The Human Mosaic courses
- Science in a Changing World courses
- The Creative Life courses
- The Reflective and Spiritual Life courses
St. Leo is considered one of the top universities for its region as well as a leader in online learning. It has been offering distance education options for over two decades and its Center for Online Learning is one of the most respected and established online colleges in the country.
College Choice Score: 83
Credit Hour Cost: $333
The State University of New York at Canton (SUNY Canton) is a public university comprised of three schools: the School of Business and Liberal Arts, the Canino School of Engineering Technology, and the School of Science, Health, and Criminal Justice.
With graduates working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Central Intelligence Agency, and throughout the private sector, earning an online homeland security degree from SUNY Canton is a great option. This program readies students for preparing for, responding to, and defending against all kinds of natural and man-made threats to domestic security. Students examine both the historical and emerging theories related to homeland security, including the larger political and cultural influences. They also learn the strategic, operational, and tactical threats that come with chemical, nuclear, or biological weaponry. At SUNY Canton, some of the classes you’ll take include:
- Correctional Philosophy
- Criminal Law
- Critical Issues in Criminal Justice
- Police Services
- Law Enforcement Communications
- And more
In addition to its well-known technology and criminal justice programs, SUNY Canton is equally known for its “ladder curriculum,” which allows students to proceed through degree and certification programs with flexibility and at their own pace. SUNY Canton also partners with other universities (Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and more) to broaden registration opportunities.
College Choice Score: 80.75
Credit Hour Cost: $445
Located in Anderson, South Carolina, Anderson University is a member of the South Carolina Baptist Convention and a private university offering over sixty academic programs. Originally founded as a female college, it is now home to around 3k students and nine colleges, including its notable School of Public Service and Administration.
Anderson University offers an online Bachelor of Criminal Justice degree that is remarkably similar to an on-campus degree, as online students collaborate with professors and peers through virtual classrooms. Students in this program learn the history of the correctional system and its practices, the causes and behaviors of crime, legal aspects of criminal procedure, drug abuse patterns, religious issues pertaining to justice, and more. But education isn’t just theoretical at Anderson; students gain tangible, hands-on skillsets. They learn how to arrest, search, and seizure, how to communicate effectively, and how to manage and lead teams. Classes in the major include:
- Incident Management and Planning for Emergencies
- Vulnerability and Risk Assessment
- Strategic Planning: Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
- Ethics in Criminal Justice
- And more
Being that Anderson is affiliated with the Baptist Convention, the university strives to provide its students with Bible-based curriculum and leadership training.
Colorado Technical University
College Choice Score: 77.25
Credit Hour Cost: $325
Colorado Technical University (CTU) specializes in business, health sciences, management, and technology degrees at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Based in Colorado Springs, CTU is a for-profit university that has been providing distance education for adult and returning students for many years.
The online BS in Criminal Justice degree at CTU can be supplemented with an emphasis in Homeland Security and Emergency Management to give you a solid foundation in technology, communications, critical infrastructure, terrorism, and prevention. This is a full undergraduate program with sixty-six required credit hours of general education classes, all of which can be taken online, and most of which still spotlight homeland security and crisis management in their curriculum. CTU’s program has placed graduates in many industries and in both private and public sectors, as:
- Compliance Managers
- Senior Programmers
- Project Administrator
- Team Leader
- Laboratory Manager
- And more
CTU’s online programs are well ranked by U.S. News & World Report, specifically in the areas of information technology, criminal justice, and business. Similarly, the university is recognized for its affordability as well as its care of and commitment to student vets.
Southern New Hampshire University
College Choice Score: 76
Credit Hour Cost: $320
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a private university based in Manchester and Hooksett, New Hampshire. It is divided into six schools and colleges that specialize in engineering, technology, business, education, arts and sciences, and online and continuing education.
Also offering an online BS in Criminal Justice degree with specialization in Security and Counterterrorism, Southern New Hampshire University’s program emphasizes contemporary terrorism, seeking to provide students with a broad understanding of terrorism, how best to prevent it, and how best to respond to it. Students learn the nature and history of terrorism, how terrorist groups succeed and fail, and how to respond to domestic extremism as well as international extremism, while also gaining a strong analytic base that will be crucial to success in the industry. Other courses in the SNHU program include:
- Judicial Administration
- International Criminal Justice
- Juvenile Justice System
- Legal Traditions
- Terrorist Techniques
- Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance
- And more
Having some of the best online bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the nation, Southern New Hampshire University has earned a strong reputation in distance education programming.
College Choice Score: 74.25
Credit Hour Cost: $390
The world’s largest evangelical Christian university, Liberty University was founded in 1971 by Jerry Falwell and still maintains its conservative, evangelical affiliations. Campus enrollment is just around 14k students, while the global campus has over 100k students. Regardless of program or department, the curriculum at Liberty is taught from a conservative angle, and is one of the reasons why the university is ranked among the most conservative colleges in the United States.
Liberty University’s online BS in Criminal Justice degree with concentration in Homeland Security program explores criminology and the justice system in addition to administration, corrections, the judicial process, and criminal law. This balance between understanding criminal acts as well as the legal implications, systems, and influences gives students the opportunity to find careers in an array of fields, from cybersecurity and counterterrorism to citizenship and immigration services, transportation security, and more. Other reasons to consider Liberty include:
- It is a full degree program, so all 120 credits can be earned online
- Law enforcement officials can earn credit for their working experience
- Military experience is also eligible for college credit
- Online students have access to a lot of resources, services, and guides
Liberty is ranked 37th among the “Best Colleges for Veterans” by U.S. News & World Report, and is included among many online college rankings, as its distance education faculty is known for its one-on-one, individualized attention and small classes.
College Choice Score: 74.25
Credit Hour Cost: $399
A member of the Council of Independent Colleges, Park University is a private institution founded in the late nineteenth century. Around 12k combined undergraduate and graduate students attend Park, either online or on one of the campuses located in Parkville or Kansas City, Missouri.
At Park University you can earn either a BA or BS in Criminal Justice Administration that can be paired with a specialization in security. This fully online program allows graduates to move into positions related to criminal justice, the correctional system, security, and similar professions, or to advance onward to earn a master’s in homeland security. Whatever your vocational plans, Park provides a balanced curriculum steeped in the theoretical, philosophical, and practical perspectives pertaining to security and criminal justice. Whether you want to work in the public or private sector, at the local, state, or national level, Park can help you get there. Courses include:
- Criminal Law
- Agency Administration
- Security Administration
- Internship in Criminal Justice
- And more
Park University has been praised for being one of the best schools in the nation for student vets, ranked second by Military Times. Its online and adult/returning learners programs have also been lauded, by Washington Monthly, U.S. News & World Report, and more.