PhD & Master's Degree in Homeland Security Programs
What is a Masters Degree in National Security?
A Masters in Homeland Security studies the tools and tactics to keep the public and nation safe. It may ready you to make high impact decisions in government or the private sector.
A broad field, homeland security deals with terrorism of all kinds. It includes cyber threats, narcotics and public health. There's also the wider issue of planning for emergencies and managing disasters. At its most basic, you’re trying to find out what problems there are and how to solve them
Some programs like the MBA in Homeland Security focus on the business side of national security. These may touch on financial and organizational themes. Others may hone technical skills as you assess intelligence, policy or border security. These may help you understand how to prevent or deal with crises or security breaches.
written by Rana Waxman
What Can I Do with A Masters in Homeland Security?
The homeland security workforce is 1 million strong and growing at a rate of 5.42%. People who work in homeland security predict, prepare for, prevent and react in times of need. This is true for everything from pandemics to hurricanes to cybercrime.
Since the events of 9/11, there are many opportunities to think about in various sectors. Homeland security professionals work in local, state and federal government. Some work to enforce laws and immigration. They may work for agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Or for the DEA, FBI, FEMA and Office of the Inspector General.
Others work in the private sector and for nonprofits. These jobs may need skills in analysis, finance, research and management. They may have titles like Business Continuity Managers, InfoSec or Intelligence Analysts. There are also areas that need specific skill sets. Like understanding laws, science, or criminal justice.
If your end game is to set national policy, you might consider moving onto a PhD or DBA in homeland security. The largest employer of policy analysts is the federal government. With strong competition for these jobs, you'll need an advanced degree. Mad writing and analytical skills may be helpful too.
Is a Master’s Degree in Homeland Security Worth it?
A master's in homeland security may help you step into leadership roles with higher pay.
To land entry level homeland security jobs, you usually need a bachelor's degree. Per BLS.gov, most of these (52%) are for local government. They may pay about $60,000 (local gov't) and $65,910 (state gov't) per year. In contrast, those who worked in management earned about $102,590.
Should I Consider Pursuing a PhD in Homeland Security?
If you have any interest in foreign and domestic policy and relations, you might consider a PhD.
These programs may center around upper level decision making, laws and forecasting. They may ready you to stand out in the competitive market for political science related jobs.
What Jobs Can You Get with a Masters in Homeland Security?
Working to keep the nation safe is a mission with careers that cut across many industries. As such, homeland security jobs span business, government, InfoSec, public policy and more. Some of the areas to consider are ones of high growth where a master's degree may be useful.
- Management Analysts (14%)
- Business Operations Research Analysts (27%)
- Emergency Management Directors (8%)
- Chief Executives - government or private sector (8%)
- Forensic Auditor – government (8%)
- Intelligence Analyst (28%)
- InfoSec Research Scientist (19%)
Homeland Security Salary
Business Operations Specialists
Information Systems Managers
Emergency Management Directors (local government)
Top States for Employment in Homeland Security – Emergency Management Directors
Annual Mean Wage
|Metro Area||Annual Mean Salary||Employment|
|San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA||$134,760||300|
|San Diego-Carlsbad, CA||$122,030||60|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||$121,110||160|
Apart from local government, 12% of emergency managers work in state government. Other employers include hospitals (8%), professional, scientific and technical services (6%). Finally, 5% work for state, local and private schools like colleges and universities.
Popular Homeland Security Degrees
Homeland Security degrees are reported by the National Center for Education Statistics under the category of Homeland security, law enforcement, firefighting and related protective services.
In fact, in the most recent update of the data (2013), across the U.S, there were 1,440 Homeland Security degrees awarded to graduate students. The majority 56% of these graduate programs were at the bachelor’s level.
Masters in Homeland Security vs PhD in Homeland Security?
Many universities today offer both masters and PhD degrees in homeland security. Homeland security is most often found as a concentration in wider contexts. Business administration, criminal justice and cyber security, to name a few. But beyond that, there are some things that set them apart.
Homeland Security Masters Programs
Masters in homeland security programs often span 12 courses or 36 credits. You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to apply, but not always experience.
Most programs include a core set of topics. These may relate to different types of terrorism, civil liberties and strategy. It is also likely you'll become familiar with concepts like risk and leadership. As such, you may learn how to problem solve and think like a manager.
Around this core, you may take electives in a chosen area. For instance, you may want to study emergency management in depth. There is also some type of final project which may entail independent research on your part.
Homeland Security PhD Programs
PhD in Homeland Security programs may span over 15 courses or 60 credits. You'll often need a master's degree and professional work experience.
Most doctoral programs include three main components. First, you'll take a broad set of courses in criminal justice. These may touch on topics like policing, juvenile justice and other critical issues.
Second, there's usually a robust set of research methods and data analytics. Get ready to use these in your own directed research. project or final dissertation. This may task you to break new ground or solve a problem. The goal is often to impact policy or make a solve a critical issue.
Finally, your program will often go both wide and deep. The third part is to build expert knowledge in one area. Hint- this usually informs your dissertation. Some schools offer areas like homeland security or teaching.
Homeland Security Graduate Degree Guide
Masters in Homeland Security
PhD in Homeland Security
Length of Program: 2 years, 36 credits
Length of Program: 3.5 years, 60 credits
This program focuses on theories and practices which ensure and enforce homeland security. There's also a strong emphasis on leadership and an opportunity to tailor studies to a niche: Terrorism and Security, Emergency Management, or Leadership.
This program focuses on the skills and knowledge that is key to leaders in criminal justice. It gets into the finer points of making strategic decisions about homeland security.
You’ll be able to choose a concentration in teaching or homeland security.
No Specific accreditations (other than regional through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education)
No Specific accreditations (other than regional
through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College)
To sum, it takes a certain mastery to manage people, projects, teams, budgets and policies. It takes yet other skills to lead and teach those managers. Or to set the policies and practices for everyone to follow. See where your interests and goals lie to help you make the decision between a masters and PhD.
Masters in Homeland Security Courses
Master's degrees offering the homeland security concentration often stem from criminal justice programs. As such, you'll likely study a few central themes.
Some courses may cover the major systems in criminal justice and how they interact. These systems include law enforcement, prosecution, courts and corrections.
Others may get into larger issues like the judicial process, ethics and public policy. At the same time, you may learn how to use data and risk assessments to craft effective decisions and plans.
Homeland Security courses goes beyond terrorism to cover all areas of public safety. They'll often get into themes like:
- Natural disaster relief
- Protecting the border and resources
- Counter intelligence
- Emergency management
- Security and policy
As such you may gain deeper insight specific aspects of national security. For instance, the legal, social, business, economic, and political factors and impacts. Here are a few sample classes.
This type of class is about spotting threats both real and perceived. It's also about the vital communication that needs to go on during times of emergency.
How to share information with key agencies, when and how to notify the public. You'll often learn to assess and analyze risks for their potential effects.
Crisis and Emergency Management Fundamentals
This type of class may cover basic concepts, issues, and problems that arise in times of crisis.
You'll often study to understand the demands of managing in a high-stress situation. How to handle the communications, liability and resources. Some topics may speak to logistics. Others may look at specific methods of response for terrorist, WMD or disasters.
Central to this type of course is to understand what drives terrorists of all kinds. Their ideologies, goals, strategies, tactics and methods.
You're also likely to study counter and anti-terrorism methods. As such, the course may help you gain insight into the intelligence agencies. How they set priorities and divide resources to issues and target groups.
What is Emergency Management?
Emergency Management is a managerial function. It deals with creating the systems to help communities on two fronts. One is to reduce vulnerability to hazards. The other is to cope with different kinds of disaster. As such, you’ll often study topics like
- Organizational Planning
- Risk Analysis
- Team Leadership
- Stress Awareness and Management
Emergency management master’s programs are part of a broader context. It an area of emphasis in criminal justice/homeland security or public administration. Some, like Walden’s PhD in Criminal Justice/Emergency Management may serve as a study guide. This may be useful if your goal is to apply for FEMA certification.
Can I Specialize in Counter Terrorism?
In short, yes, some schools offer concentrations in terrorism and security. You’ll still take core courses in homeland security. But there will also be a spectrum of courses about preparing for attacks.
- Cyber Forensics
- Assessing Internal and External Threats
- Birder Security
- Bio-Terrorism Preparedness
Prefer to fight cybercrime? A Masters in Cybersecurity, studies areas like cyber intelligence and network security. You'll likely look at real and potential attacks on national infrastructure. How to make decisions, conduct investigations and lead operations.
You can also look for Master of Public Administration programs which offer homeland security and emergency management. These often look at public policy and leadership tactics for public offices.
Homeland Security Accreditation
Earning a homeland security degree through an accredited school is something to consider. Such schools must meet standards. Also, they enable you to transfer credits and apply for financial aid.
There are various agencies that provide a second tier of quality control as well. These tie into the type of program you choose. For instance, MBA and DBA degrees are available through business schools. One accreditor of these programs is the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).
There is no one agency that accredits emergency management masters programs. But, the Emergency Management Institute (EMI) is trying to set standards. You can look for masters and doctorate degrees that offer EM programs on FEMA’s website.
What is a Center of Academic Excellence (CAE)?
Cybersecurity programs covering homeland security may be "designated" centers of academic excellence. This reflects a joint effort by two federal agencies. The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
NSA sponsors two types of Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE). One in Cyber Defense and one in Cyber Operations. NSA also supports the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence
How long does a Masters in Homeland Security take?
Full-time students may earn a master’s degree in homeland security degree in two years. The time it takes you to complete your degree also relates to your credit load. Most programs entail from 30 to 36 credit hours.
Students with eligible transfer credits may have an accelerated path to graduate. Others may double up on courses to speed up their trajectory.
# of Credits Required
Starts Per Year
Minimum Months to Complete
4 -fall, spring, early and late summer
4 -April, June, July, September
3 -fall, spring, summer
24 months or less
6 – January, March, May, July, August, October
24 months or less
How Much Does a Masters in Homeland Security Cost?
The average cost of a graduate degree from a public institution is $11,617 per year. This means you will be able to find programs both more affordable and more expensive than the average.
To give specific examples, this visualization shows graduate tuition costs of 4 institutions with Marketing Graduate Programs as reported by the NCES. We have then compared those costs to the typically most affordable and most expensive college options, also as reported by NCES.
What are the Costs per Credit for a PhD and Masters in Homeland Security?
Cost per credit of course is different at every College or University. State Universities are also likely to have in state costs vs out of state costs. Below are a few examples of the cost per credit as reported by each one of these institutions. Insert links to schools.
# of Credits Required
Cost Per Credit
Total Tuition Cost
48 quarter credits
Find 43 Top Homeland Security Degrees Here:
Northcentral UniversityDoctor of Business Administration - Homeland Security - Leadership & Policy Doctor of Criminal Justice - Homeland Security Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration - Homeland Security - Leadership & Policy Master of Business Administration - Homeland Security MPA Homeland Security
Purdue University GlobalM.S. in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Nova Southeastern UniversityNational Security Affairs, Graduate Certificate
Grand Canyon UniversityM.S.L. with an Emphasis in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
Liberty University OnlinePHD: Public Policy: National Security
Saint Leo UniversityDCJ: Homeland Security
Pennsylvania State UniversityMaster of Professional Studies in Homeland Security
Fairleigh Dickinson UniversityMaster of Science in Cyber and Homeland Security
Saint Joseph's UniversityMS in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security Specialization
Utica CollegeMS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Intelligence
Eastern Kentucky UniversityMaster of Science in Safety, Security, and Emergency Management - Concentration in Homeland Security
UMassOnlineMaster of Arts in Security Studies: Homeland Defense Concentration
Keiser UniversityHomeland Security, MA
Walden UniversityDoctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.) - Homeland Security PhD in Criminal Justice - Homeland Security Policy & Coordination
Colorado Technical UniversityMaster of Science in Management - Homeland Security Doctorate of Management - Homeland Security