What is a Homeland Security Associate Degree?
Homeland security degrees equip students for careers in many different public safety fields. The discipline focuses on national safety and protection. Professionally, the training can lead to careers in many different law, policing, and security fields. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), despite decreasing crime rates, the increased desire for public and private protective measures should keep careers in policing and security growing on par with the average occupation.
While comprehensive, the far-reaching nature of homeland security means that training often touches on law enforcement foundations, cybersecurity, and disaster management and response. This makes the degree ideal for students who may not have their career path fully mapped out. Some programs offer specializations, focused training, or career pathways that might attract students with specific careers in mind.
Through online delivery, working professionals can make changes to or develop their careers while maintaining employment. While the online delivery of these degrees enables students to explore distant programs, degree-seekers should note that some programs may require on-campus attendance for orientations or residencies. In many cases, learners can complete in-person components, like internships, at nearby locations.
Why Earn an Online Homeland Security Degree?
While students can choose educational and career paths for any number of personal reasons, homeland security degrees offer several benefits that many students can enjoy.
- Career Options
Due to the breadth of training in these programs, graduates can benefit from many different career options, including law enforcement and cybersecurity.
- Personal Satisfaction
By providing protection and safety to their communities, public safety and security professionals can often receive a sense of worth and achievement in their work.
- Career Importance
Since they tend to protect and serve, homeland security careers often carry great importance and value with the public.
- Job Opportunities
As the need for public and private protection continues to rise, so too should the job opportunities available to trained professionals. The diverse training gained in homeland security programs can enable graduates to acquire many different positions.
- Career Growth
An associate degree in homeland security can provide students with a solid educational foundation and offer entry into professions that allow for significant professional advancement.
Career and Salary Potential with an Associate Degree in Homeland Security
The careers available to homeland security graduates depend on their educational choices and location, but most enjoy many diverse options. Students can receive the foundational training needed for several professions to direct their future with career goals in mind. For example, those with interests in public safety and law may pursue careers in policing or corrections, whereas candidates with computer skills and technology interests may lead to careers in information security. While not guaranteed, the following list outlines some possible career options and their salaries.
|Police and Detectives||
Median Annual Salary: $63,380
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 5%
|Police and detectives oversee the protection of their communities, including people and property. They may work on patrol or answer calls, enforcing the law and intervening in criminal activity. While most officers must complete training academy programs, many of these programs now require candidates to possess college-level training before entry.|
Median Annual Salary: $28,530
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 4%
|Security guards protect property and people against criminal activity. They may work for government agencies or organizations. Though some positions do not require any postsecondary schooling, professionals with advanced training may gain access to better positions and salaries.|
|Emergency Management Directors||
Median Annual Salary: $74,420
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 5%
|Emergency management directors prepare for and respond to emergencies and disaster situations. They may take part in the planning and coordination efforts or the actual responses. While many employers request candidates with a bachelor's degree, smaller municipalities and employers may hire professionals with less training.|
|Information Security Analyst||
Median Annual Salary: $98,350
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): 32%
|An information security analyst assesses and evaluates an organization's information security measures to fix vulnerabilities and implement more secure setups. In addition to homeland security training, employers may seek candidates with bachelor's degrees and experience in computer training.|
Median Annual Salary: $44,400
Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028): -7%
|Correctional officers oversee correctional facilities, ensuring the safety of the inmates, personnel, and all visitors. Some employers may hire professionals with no postsecondary training, but larger facilities, like federal prisons, require applicants to possess college training, often in a law enforcement-related discipline.|
Earning an Associate in Homeland Security Online
The homeland security program breakdown largely depends on the school, but there are some similarities. Many degrees feature similar application processes, curricula, formats, and outcomes. The following information covers some of the program elements students can expect to encounter in an online homeland security associate degree.
Admission requirements and application processes can vary significantly. Typically, however, associate programs in homeland security accept students with a high school diploma or GED. Some schools may require candidates to possess certain grades or submit standardized test scores to demonstrate their aptitude.
To secure a transcript, an applicant may need to contact their high school guidance office and request them. Some schools offer this service for free, but there may be a cost associated with doing so. Transfer students from other colleges usually pay a service fee when sending transcripts. Similarly, students can send their SAT and ACT scores to a limited number of schools as part of the cost of taking the tests, and adding additional schools may cost more money.
A program may request additional application materials, such as a personal statement or essay that describes the applicant's career interests or addresses a specific topic. Letters of recommendation are one of the most common requirements, as they allow former employers or teachers to speak to the candidate's abilities. Most colleges require a processing fee for applications, which can vary from $15-$100 or more, depending on the school.
American Homeland Security
This course explores the development of homeland security and evaluates the processes and procedures involved in dealing with threats. Students can gain an understanding of how terrorism forms and impacts society, along with how the various emergency response agencies plan for and address these incidents. This can serve graduates well in their pursuit of law enforcement and emergency response careers.
This course delves into the plans and preparations involved in the terrorism response measures across the nation and the world. Students examine different terrorism response initiatives and discuss what the future might hold. This training can assist students in law enforcement and disaster response careers.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
In this course, students learn about military weapons and evaluate their threats. Enrollees explore past and present terrorist groups and consider the impact of weapons of mass destruction. In addition to disaster planning and preparation, learners can apply this training to careers in law enforcement.
Students in this course can examine criminal law in the United States, learning about the criminal justice system, the various crime designations, and the enforcement of these laws. In addition to careers in law enforcement, students can apply this training to careers in cybersecurity, security, and corrections.
Border control courses teach students about the various laws and regulations surrounding the nation's borders. They can explore immigration law and policy to learn about how these laws are protected by the professionals safeguarding the borders. Learners can apply this training to careers in border control, law enforcement, security, and emergency response.
Average Online Degree Length
The length of an online homeland security associate degree can depend on many different factors. With online learning, the number of influencing factors increases even more. Students interested in online homeland security degrees can access distant programs and even reduce standard program costs, like travel and rent fees. Some online programs even charge out-of-state students a reduced or in-state tuition rate.
While associate degrees typically require 60-75 credits, the rate at which students complete them can vary considerably. By enrolling in online degrees, learners can often benefit from accelerated programs, which allow them to take heavier course loads and complete their degrees faster than normal. Online study also enables a working professional to complete their studies at a more gradual pace, maintaining employment while they study.
Skills, Traits, and Knowledge Gained
Homeland security training provides students with a diverse and widely applicable skill set and knowledge base. While each program varies and offers something unique, students can expect to develop analytical, leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills. Their training can provide foundational knowledge in areas like security, border management, emergency management, counter-terrorism, and intelligence. Learners can gain the ability to lead teams and initiatives to defend against threats at different levels of importance.
Equipped with this knowledge and these skills, students can pursue many different careers. They may use the foundational security training to enter into the private or public security profession, corrections, or law enforcement. Job-seekers may look to apply their border security training to work with immigration or travel agencies. Some students even use their more specialized emergency management training to explore careers in counter-terrorism and intelligence.
While homeland security training can provide many career options, students can expand their opportunities by pursuing additional training in school or through work. In school, learners may look to internships for more focused training. These on-the-job opportunities can provide students with practical settings to apply their training and offer new skills, areas of expertise, and career opportunities. Enrollees may take internships in the government, law enforcement agencies, or emergency management agencies to expand their careers outside the standard options.
Another possible option for students to expand their career opportunities is to pursue degree specializations. While few associate programs offer true concentrations, learners can create their own by taking a set of electives in one discipline. In addition to the core training, focused electives can give learners the chance to direct their future careers into specific areas of interest. Like internships, this additional training can strengthen a graduate's application when pursuing atypical or more advanced homeland security careers.
Accreditation for Homeland Security Associate Programs
While there is no standard programmatic accreditation for homeland security associate programs, each student should ensure that their desired school holds proper regional accreditation. These accrediting bodies oversee all of the schools in a designated area, validating that the institutions meet or exceed the educational standards of the region. Many employers request that each candidate possesses a degree from an accredited institution. Students can verify their school's accreditation status on the accredited postsecondary database.
Furthermore, homeland security programs may receive special recognition from the DHS. For example, the National Security Agency and DHS jointly sponsor a variety of programs across the country in cyber defense and cyber operations. Similarly, some programs were created in accordance with homeland security policies and designed to meet the organization's standards. While recognition or sponsorship may not be necessary for employment, it can certainly help.
Professional Organizations and Resources
For professionals at any stage of their career, joining an organization can serve as a helpful resource. While in school, students can benefit from scholarship and mentoring opportunities, while graduates and experienced professionals enjoy access to job boards, industry events, and career support. Many associations run networking events and provide access to continuing education opportunities. The following list outlines some of the best organizations available to homeland security students and professionals.
SAFECOM strives to improve communication among the different emergency response agencies, developing collaborative standards and policies that improve the plans and reactions of each group. Members can gain access to industry publications, training programs, and information about cutting-edge technology.
NAPO unites police organizations, agencies, and professionals from across the country. The association acts as the unified voice of its members, seeks to improve professional standards, and aims to increase protections and benefits for its members. Association members benefit from access to education opportunities and industry events.
NEMA supports the nation's emergency management directors by providing access to information, expertise, products, and services. The association offers its members a place in a large professional network, along with educational opportunities and a voice in the organization.
Next Steps: Continuing Your Education
An associate degree in homeland security can lead graduates down several career paths, but it can also serve as a foundation for further training. The core training often provides graduates with pathways to more advanced degrees or postsecondary training. The following information covers some of the best available options for students looking to develop their education beyond an associate degree.
Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program
A learner can often use their associate degree training to springboard into a four-year degree. When transferring into a bachelor's program, applicants should verify all requirements. While many schools require each candidate to possess a minimum GPA of 2.0 for all transfer credits, others may require specific prerequisite courses. Some schools feature transfer agreements with other colleges to provide an easier transition between degrees. Each interested student should work with an academic advisor to ensure a seamless process.
Additional Degree Paths to Consider
While graduates of homeland security degrees can move into four-year homeland security programs, they might also consider pursuing alternative educational paths. Graduates can benefit from many bachelor's degrees that complement and build off of homeland security training. Read on for some possible study options for students after graduation.
- Criminal Justice: Criminal justice degrees build on the foundations provided by homeland security programs and allow students to go into law and policy in more depth. This degree still keeps the broad career path open for students, giving them the chance to decide on their future while studying.
- Law Enforcement: Law enforcement degrees provide homeland security graduates with more focused training in policing and public safety. This option is ideal for students hoping to bolster their resumes before applying for careers in law enforcement or corrections.
- Computer Science: Students looking for careers in cybersecurity can progress from an online homeland security associate degree into a computer science bachelor's degree. Degree-seekers can build on their security foundations with more advanced computer training, qualifying them for many positions.