Homeland Security: Diplomas, Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance
Homeland security entails all the activities aimed at protecting the country from domestic and foreign threats, such as terrorist attacks, drug trafficking, and computer hacking. Graduates from certificate and degree programs focused on homeland security typically work within law enforcement, the federal government, state and local agencies, specialized non-profits, intelligence, emergency management, and private security firms. Jobs at the federal level usually require a bachelor's degree at minimum, while associate's degrees may suffice for local and state agencies. Some employers in this field offer tuition assistance and/or training incentives for employees interested in furthering their education.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police and sheriff's patrol officers are expected to see an 8% growth in employment from 2010-2020, which is slower than the average for all occupations nationally. For that same time period, the BLS stated that first-line supervisors for correctional officers and immigration and customs inspectors were also expected to see a slower-than average growth. Also from 2010-2020, transportation security screeners and emergency management directors were expected to see an average employment growth, which can be anywhere between 10% and 19% growth, according to the BLS.
|Who is this degree for?||- Students who want to enhance or specialize their skills||- Individuals interested in entry-level jobs within homeland security enforcement and emergency management|| - Individuals interested in homeland security jobs at the federal level |
- Professionals aspiring to gain upper-level management positions
|Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary)||- Transportation security screeners ($37,000) |
- Immigration and customs inspectors ($72,000)
|- Police officer ($54,000 )*|
- First-line police supervisor ($78,000)*
|- Emergency management specialist ($53,000)*|
- Emergency management director ($57,000)*
|Time to Completion||Less than 1 year||Typically 2 years (full-time)||Typically 4 years (full-time)|
|Common Graduation Requirements||- Complete coursework||- Complete coursework|| - Complete coursework |
- Possible internship/research requirement
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 median figures)
Diploma in Homeland Security
Diploma programs in homeland security are designed to train you or expand your skills in a specific area of the field, such as customs enforcement, emergency management, or border security. Some programs will offer credit hours that will allow you to transfer to a more advanced program, such as an associate's or bachelor's degree program. While diploma programs might be available, certificate programs are more common. These programs are similar to diploma programs in length, admission requirements and areas of study.
Pros and Cons
- Specialization can lead to career advancement.
- Credits may transfer to a 2-year or 4-year degree program.
- Plenty of online options available for working professionals.
- Employers may assist with tuition of these programs as part of updated training.
- Most certificate and diploma programs are designed for professionals already in the field.
- Upper-level jobs usually require at least a bachelor's degree, so career advancement solely with certificates may be limited.
- Some programs require an undergraduate degree prior to admission.
Common Courses and Requirements
The curricula of homeland security certificate and diploma programs can vary according to the emphasis they cover. The length of the programs can range from a few weeks to a little under 2 years, depending on the time commitment and course load you decide to take. Some of the usual emphases of homeland security diploma and certificate programs include:
- Homeland security policy
- Crisis preparedness
- Crisis management
- Border protection
Online Course Options
Homeland security certificate programs are widely available in online and hybrid formats. These programs are tailored for working professionals, thus affording you time flexibility and sparing you the need to travel or commute as much as possible. The courses are similar to those of on-campus programs.
Stand Out with this Diploma
In addition to your expanded training acquired through a certificate or diploma program, you might want to consider joining a professional association related to homeland security, such as the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) or ASIS International. Such organizations can be great sources for continuing education, conferences, and seminar, all of which can help you keep updated about the latest in homeland security topics.
Associate's in Homeland Security
Associate's degree programs in homeland security explore some of the fundamentals of the field while also covering general education topics. Some of these programs are specifically designed to transfer to a 4-year program, while others are structured for working professionals looking to validate their experience or hone their skills related to homeland security. While some positions in this career field may not necessarily require education, an associate's degree program could better prepare you for positions by training you in the fundamental concepts that you'll need to understand for most jobs.
Pros and Cons
- Could allow you to transfer to a bachelor's degree program.
- Provides deeper and broader understanding of homeland security topics than certificate programs.
- Could make you a better candidate for entry-level jobs in emergency response and law enforcement.
- Jobs relate to homeland security at the federal level usually require a bachelor's degree.
- Not all programs may have transferable credits.
- You may be in competition with individuals who only hold a high school diploma or some positions.
Requirements and Courses
In addition to general education courses, such math, social science, and history, homeland security associate's degree programs include classes about cyber-security, firearms, crime prevention, and disaster response, among other topics. Some programs may give you the opportunity to get hands-on experience through internships. These courses can prepare you both for employment and for transfer into a bachelor's degree program. After completing an associate's degree program, you may be able to complete a bachelor's degree program in only two years.
Online Course Options
Just like homeland security certificate programs, associate's degree programs are also available in online and hybrid format. These programs are specially designed for working professionals looking to further their education without having to devote too much of their time to the task. While online options are available, hands-on experiences may not be as available in this format, and real-world experience could be valued in this field.
Getting Ahead with this Degree
Aside from joining a professional organization related to homeland security, you might also want to consider becoming certified. Though not necessary, voluntary certification can prove beneficial for career advancement and for proving your commitment to the field. For instance, you could seek one of the designations provided by ASIS International, which include Certified Protection Professional and Professional Certified Investigator. You could also seek the Certified Homeland Protection Professional (CHPP) or Certified Homeland Protection Associate (CHPA) offered by the National Sheriffs' Association.
Bachelor's in Homeland Security
Homeland security bachelor's degree programs may not only prepare you to work in the field but also possibly to take management or leadership positions. Such a degree would also qualify you to work for federal agencies related to homeland security, including the FBI. Like a certificate, diploma or associate's degree program, a bachelor's degree program in homeland security can prepare you both for professional work or for continuing education. Master's degree programs in this field of study are available.
Pros and Cons
- Would qualify you to work for federal agencies.
- May prepare you to pursue management positions.
- Can prepare you for graduate school.
- You may face competition with master's degree holders for management positions.
- You may compete with associate's degree holders for the same entry-level jobs.
- Completing a bachelor's degree program would not guarantee that you would secure a job with a greater salary.
Common Courses and Requirements
Coursework for homeland security bachelor's degree programs not only includes general education courses, such as natural sciences and English, but also fundamentals and upper-level electives related to homeland security. Some programs even may offer you the opportunity to focus on the specific area, while others may require an internship experience or capstone project as part of the program. Courses offered within a program may include:
- Emergency services management
- Terrorism psychology
- International and domestic terrorism
- Homeland security management
Online Course Options
There are bachelor's degree program in homeland security offered in online and hybrid formats. These programs aim to provide both the same training of an on-campus program and scheduling/studying flexibility for working students. Online programs could be particularly useful to individuals who are currently working in the field of homeland security and who would benefit professionally from earning a bachelor's degree.
Stand Out with this Degree
Similar to the cases of certificate and associate's degree holders, once you graduate from a bachelor's degree program, you might want to join a professional organization and pursue voluntary certification after meeting the experience requirements. Additionally, you might want to keep yourself up-to-date through the self-study courses offered by the Center for Homeland Defense and Security, a resource provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Naval Postgraduate School. The courses can be found online and cover topics such as terrorism financing and transportation security.