Homeland Security Majors Guide

What Does it Mean to Study Homeland Security?

Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the subsequent establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, educational and job opportunities in the field of homeland security have dramatically increased. The DHS is meant to coordinate the activities of various branches of government in order to more effectively handle the threat of terrorism in the world and primarily in the United States. Many agencies have developed and implemented new positions that deal directly with the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, under the Homeland Security Act, many federal agencies transferred their functions and responsibilities to the newly established DHS.

Types of Homeland Security Degrees

Many accredited colleges and universities have responded to the security needs of our country by offering on-campus and online degree programs in homeland security. The increase in online college courses has made it easier than ever for students, working professionals, and parents to reach their educational goals and to begin a rewarding career in the field of homeland security. By obtaining a college degree online, students in all situations can easily make education a part of their daily lives.

Students may earn a homeland security degree at the associate, bachelor’s and/or master’s levels. Certificate programs in related subjects, such as intelligence analysis, emergency preparedness and disaster management, can also be pursued. Common topics include political science, psychology, engineering, disaster and emergency preparedness, counterterrorism, and national and local security.

Under the instruction of homeland security professors, students have the opportunity to learn about ways to strengthen the safety of essential systems such as energy facilities, nuclear power plants and expansive computer information networks. They may learn how to recognize and effectively handle an attack on vital computer systems, or how to disengage and destroy a biological weapon. They may also research and analyze how government officials in the past have handled situations in which national security was threatened.

Online Degrees in Homeland Security

Online degree programs in homeland security are designed to teach students how to assess and effectively handle threatening situations. Emphasis is placed not on any political ideology, but on the development of practices that can most efficiently solve problematic situations in which safety might be compromised.

Career Training for Homeland Security Jobs

Students are generally required to complete courses in identifying and handling hazardous materials, as well as courses on international terrorism and terrorism at home. Through the completion of required coursework, students become prepared to inspect, monitor, and coordinate crime prevention and safety protection strategies for private clients in a variety of situations. Students also learn techniques developed for the protection of properties, such as private homes and businesses.

Many two-year homeland security degree programs focus on the training of first responders such as police officers, firefighters, emergency medical workers and technicians, and other emergency professionals who are essential to the local community in which they live. Some programs offer certificates that emphasize specialized training within the broader subject of homeland security. Certificates can be obtained in crisis and disaster management, national security, telecommunications security, and computer information security, to name a few.

Other programs offer a concentration in homeland security within the boundaries of an academic major such as criminal justice, computer science, or sociology. The students who choose this approach to their homeland security studies may decide to concentrate their studies even further, exploring topics such as bioterrorism and computer network security. Still other programs offer degrees in homeland security with a pre-developed area of concentration, such as law enforcement and criminal justice, disaster management and emergency preparedness, or financial security.

Homeland Security Curriculum

Each homeland security degree program has its own unique curriculum, requirements, and set of prerequisites. It is important for students to gain as much information as possible about the various degree programs available. This way, students may make a wise decision about which college degree program is right for them.

A typical associate degree program in homeland security may include the following courses:

  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • Introduction to Homeland Security
  • Bio-Terrorism and its Effects
  • The Handling of Hazardous Materials
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Domestic Terrorism
  • International Terrorism
  • Constitutional Law
  • Cyber-Terrorism
  • Emergency Planning and Disaster Preparedness

Students who choose to pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree in homeland security may also be required to complete the following courses, or courses like them:

  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Security Concepts
  • Theories of Security Management
  • Security Methods
  • Security Systems
  • Evaluating Security Programs
  • Security and Business
  • American Law Enforcement
  • Criminal Evidence
  • Security of Information
  • Security Personnel Law
  • The Workings of Organized Crime
  • Risk Analysis
  • Loss Prevention
  • White-Collar Crime

Homeland Security Degree: Is It for You?

Potential homeland security students should consider the following questions when deciding which degree programs might be most appropriate for their educational goals:

  • What kind of educational background does the degree program require prospective students to have?
  • Do I meet the degree program’s applicant eligibility requirements?
  • In what direction do I wish to take my career in Homeland Security?
  • Will the degree program help me reach my career goals?
  • What are my potential areas of focus in the field of Homeland Security?
  • What areas of focus does the degree program offer?
  • What kinds of skills and experience do I wish to gain from the degree program?
  • What is the length of the degree program?
  • What is the degree program’s philosophy?
  • What is the degree program’s application process?
  • What level of degree in Homeland Security does the program offer?
  • What level of degree in Homeland Security do I wish to obtain?
  • What level of degree in Homeland Security will I need to obtain in order to reach my career goals?
  • Does the degree program require any fieldwork?
  • Does the degree program require extensive research?
  • Will classroom observation be a necessary facet of the degree program?
  • Can I enroll part-time?

Career Outlook for Homeland Security Majors

Depending on the concentration of studies and the degree obtained, students can learn how to work in private or public businesses, private security, airports, police law enforcement or customs investigations, to name just a few possibilities. To give a few examples:

  • Transportation Security Administration
  • The United States Capitol Police
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • The United States Customs Services
  • The United States Marshals Service and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

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