Online Homeland Security Degrees
If one global issue has become clear in the 21st century, it is that the need for trained homeland security specialists is clearer than ever. These intelligence and law enforcement agents work in both the public and private sector to secure our borders, identify possible threats and respond to emergency situations.
In the U.S., these law enforcement careers are generally at the federal level and typically require applicants to be U.S. citizens and pass comprehensive background checks for security clearance. Those interested in these professions should be able to think critically and react calmly to stressful situations. According to O*NETOnLine, a website run by the U.S. Department of Labor, most occupations falling under the homeland security category are well-suited to realistic people, who enjoy investigative work. Those who are procedure-oriented and good at following a chain of command might also find these careers enjoyable.
Occupations falling under this umbrella are diverse. ASIS International, an organization of security professionals, identifies this as an emerging, cross-cutting discipline that includes a number of specialties, including:
- Physical security
- Personnel security
- Information security
- Information systems security
- Critical infrastructure protection
Individuals may work as cyber security specialists who protect critical computer systems. Others may be chemists or epidemiologists dedicated to analyzing harmful substances and developing response methods for chemical attacks. Border patrol agents, emergency management directors and military personnel also provide vital services in the field.
While not every occupation requires a security degree, such training can be attractive to employers. Online degrees in homeland security are most often available as two- and four-year programs. Master's degree programs are also available from many institutions.
Graduates with a degree in another field may want to consider a homeland security certificate program. Entry-level positions should be most accessible to those with associate and bachelor's degrees, while management positions may be reserved for those with advanced education or experience.
At each level, online degrees usually provide instruction in the following topics:
- Emergency and disaster management
- Risk management and prevention
- Consequence mitigation
- Intelligence studies
However, courses can vary depending on an individual's chosen specialty. For example, those interested in bio-terrorism may study public health, policy planning and facilities management in addition to more general topics.
Job prospects vary depending on the field. Cyber-security specialists should see much faster than average job growth, as rapid as 30 percent from 2008 to 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As part of the broader category of police and detectives, jobs for border patrol agents are expected to grow a more modest 10 percent during that time period. Epidemiologists specializing in bio-terrorism and infectious disease should see faster than average growth of approximately 15 percent.
Incomes can also vary significantly. Police patrol officers, include border patrol agents, earned mean annual incomes of $55,620 in 2010. Their supervisors earned mean incomes of $80,770, according to BLS data. Emergency management directors had annual earnings of $60,330, while epidemiologists made a median salary of $61,360 in 2010. In this case falling under network systems and data communication analysts, computer security specialists brought home a median wage of $71,100.
- Education options: Associate, bachelor's and master's degrees, and certificate programs are available.
- Salaries: Averages range from $55,620 for border patrol agents to $80,770 for law enforcement supervisors.
- Certification: Certified Protection Professional certification available from ASIS International.
Online Degree Programs in Homeland Security
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