Homeland security is a broad term that pertains to mobilizing people and implementing strategies to protect the U.S. and its interests, both stateside and abroad, according to Vincennes University. The spotlight was fixed on homeland security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks made counterterrorism a national priority, and its scope was expanded to include man-made accidents and natural disasters. At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security leads the charge in this area, overseeing 22 agencies. As a result, many homeland security careers are in government, although some are in the private sector. Homeland security includes, but is not limited to the following fields:
Emergency and disaster management.
Emergency management involves management strategies to help communities become less vulnerable to hazards and to have a plan in place in case of disasters, according to the Maine Emergency Management Agency. Emergency management includes preparing for and responding to crises, as well as continued recovery efforts after an emergency or disaster has taken place.
The goal of counterterrorism is to put strategies in place to prevent terrorist attacks, as well as respond to such attacks should they occur. Such tactics are often carried out by the government, the military, and law enforcement officers, although corporations may adopt counterterrorism strategies as well.
What Can I Do With an Online Degree in Homeland Security?
Online degrees in homeland security can prepare you for a wide variety of careers in the private and public sector, particularly with local, state, and federal governments. Federal employers include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, while state employers include emergency management agencies dedicated to coordinating crisis services in a state, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report on careers in homeland security. At the local level, paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement officers often carry out homeland security work, particularly when it comes to emergency management. Finally, careers are plentiful in both the corporate and nonprofit realms.
Police and detectives — a career category that includes state and local law enforcement as well as federal law enforcement, such as FBI agents, U.S. marshals, and U.S. Border Patrol agents — are perhaps some of the most fitting careers in homeland security. Salaries vary a great deal based on experience, rank, and location, with patrol officers earning $51,410 on average each year, police and detective supervisors earning $75,490, and detectives and criminal investigators earning $60,910, as of May 2008, according to the BLS. Many police and detectives earned more than these averages due to the amount of overtime they worked. Median salaries also varied greatly depending on whether law enforcement officers worked in local, state, or federal government. The highest-paying states and areas for patrol officers included New Jersey, California, Washington D.C., Illinois, and Nevada, the BLS noted. The highest-paying metro areas included: the San Jose, Calif., metro area; the Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, Calif., metro area; and the Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif., metro area.
While finding gainful employment after earning a bachelor’s or masters degree in homeland security online is certainly possible, graduating does not guarantee you a job. Your ability to get a homeland security job will depend on a number of factors, including the current job climate, your willingness to relocate, and your commitment to the job hunt. Similarly, you are not guaranteed a generous salary right off the starting block. It’s not uncommon for homeland security professionals to start out earning a modest income and work their way up to a more substantial income.
What Is It Like To Get An Online Degree in Homeland Security?
Programs for homeland security deliver their courses through an online course management system, such as Moodle or Blackboard. Students log in to this course management system using a username and password. Once logged in to a particular course, students have immediate access to the course syllabus, lecture notes, videos, homework and reading assignments, and other important course materials. The learning experience isn’t entirely isolated, either. Students communicate with their professor and classmates by email, instant message, online message boards associated with the course, and sometimes even through video conferencing.
Courses in a homeland security degree program might include civil and criminal justice, emergency planning and security, tactical communications, domestic and international terrorism, critical incident management, and cyber-security. At the undergraduate level, these courses would be complemented by general education requirements such as mathematics, college writing, and humanities, as well as electives. Students must hold a bachelor’s degree before they can enroll in an online homeland security masters degree program. At the graduate level, students take courses such as homeland security administration, social and ethical issues in homeland security, strategic planning and organizational leadership in homeland security, and the politics of terrorism. Master’s courses focus on research-based best practices in counterterrorism and emergency management, and the examination of case studies. At most schools, students must complete a successful thesis or capstone project before they can be awarded a master’s degree.