Online Homeland Security Associate Degree Programs

The Most Affordable Paths & Career Potential in Homeland Security

Shortly after 9/11, national leaders started looking for ways to prevent such attacks from ever happening again. Colleges and universities responded to the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by establishing homeland security degree programs. The new major combined principles of law enforcement, emergency management, and public health with counterterrorism and intelligence. As online education grew, homeland security programs grew with it.

Earning an associate degree in homeland security online makes sense for several reasons. The credits earned in these programs provide a great base for further education for students who decide to pursue a four-year degree. Students gain competencies, such as communication and decision-making, sought by employers in many different industries. Specialties such as cybersecurity and public health can help graduates land lucrative jobs in rapidly growing fields. Whichever way you decide to go, an associate degree in homeland security makes an excellent start.

Quiz: Is An Online Homeland Security Associate Program Right for Me?

The following quiz questions can help prospective students understand the basics of an online associate degree in homeland security. Use these questions to determine whether the skills learned, study timeline, and continuing education opportunities make this program the right match for your college and career goals.

Q: Are you interested in learning about safety measures to prepare for threats, emergencies, and acts of potential terrorism, or would you prefer training for a more actionable role dealing with crime after it happens?

A: Online associate degree programs in homeland security prepare students to study the patterns of past crimes in a way that will help with planning and preparedness for future incidents. If you are interested in a more actionable role within law enforcement, earning a broader degree in criminal justice may offer the opportunity to learn a more field-based skillset.

Q: Even as an online student, would you have the ability to test some physical and skill performance requirements in-person?

A: Some online homeland security associate programs may require in-person training or a capstone project. However, online programs are designed to accommodate students enrolled all over the United States. If these in-person training requirements exist at your school of choice, look into the approved local training facilities nearest you. Talk with an admissions counselor or department advisor to see if the locations and requirements seem reasonable.

Q: Does a two-year degree program feel like the right study timeline?

A: Full-time students can typically earn an associate degree in homeland security in two years. Online programs may save you time by allowing you to take accelerated courses or work at your own pace. Accelerated programs, which often include summer semesters, may allow students to finish their degrees in as little as 18 months.

For students with work or family obligations, online associate programs in homeland security may also offer the option of taking only a few credits at a time, allowing students to earn their degree on a part-time basis. However, this may lengthen time to completion. Check with your school's department advisors to understand the study timelines offered.

Q: Do you have prior credits to transfer?

A: You do not need to be a transfer student to pursue an online associate degree in homeland security. However, if you have past work experience in military or law enforcement, or general education credits from another college, you may be able to apply those toward your homeland security degree.

Make sure to check with your current college admissions office to determine which work and life experiences or course credits might transfer to this degree.

Q: Are you interested in eventually earning a bachelor's degree?

Earning an online associate degree in homeland security can prepare students for entry-level work in security and prevention, as detailed further in our careers section on this page.

However, certain positions in the industry require a bachelor's degree in homeland security or higher. Requirements vary by employer, but it’s important to understand what these advanced degrees in homeland security teach compared to online associate degrees.

Keep in mind that most bachelor’s programs in homeland security allow you to transfer up to 90 course credits from an associate degree program.

What Will You Learn in an Online Associate Homeland Security Program?

Born in the wake of 9/11, homeland security degrees combine criminal justice, counterterrorism, intelligence, and emergency management into one program. Homeland security encompasses everything you need to know to protect the country from internal and external threats.

Homeland security students can expect to learn about international relations, the U.S. legal system and privacy concerns, incident command, terrorism, public health, intelligence gathering, and infrastructure protection. Most programs also address computer security, risk assessment, border security, and crime and criminality. Because the associate degree provides the first steps into the field, many classes serve as introductory lessons.

Common Classes and Coursework

Every program offers a unique perspective on homeland security. The programs at some schools, for example, grew out of criminal justice, while others spun off from emergency management. Course offerings vary between programs, but most include classes like those listed below:

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    Introduction to Homeland Security: Offered at almost every university, this class covers the basics of the discipline. It sets up the themes and ideas forming the bedrock of national security. Typically delivered in an overview format, the course explores terrorism, criminal justice, and emergency management.
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    Terrorism Around the Globe: Many of the threats to homeland security come from terrorists with a radicalized ideology. Where do they come from? Why do they perform the acts they do? Learners study the roots of terrorism, both at home and abroad.
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    Emergency Management and Homeland Security: This course looks at national disaster response. Students delve into subjects like incident command, public safety, risk assessment, health and contagion, and infrastructure protection. Students learn skills in public relations, critical thinking, organizational structure, and problem-solving, setting them up for further education and entry-level careers.
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    Weapons of Mass Destruction: The devices terrorists use to frighten, kill, and maim form the backdrop of this class. Students explore various weapon types, their manufacture, how they deploy, and the best ways to stop them. A grim course of study, the subject still remains necessary and can ultimately save lives.
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    Introduction to Cybersecurity: Demonstrated by recent attacks on critical election systems, the future of terrorism exists online. This class explores the tools used to defeat digital threats to the nation. These include recognizing threats, constructing secure networks, building effective firewalls, shutting down hacks, and tracking down hackers.

Skills You Will Gain

Earning an associate degree in homeland security online can help learners gain skills and competencies that they can use to pursue their career aspirations. This holds true even for learners who change fields down the line, since many of these skills translate to other disciplines, as well.

Virtually all accredited associate programs, for example, include more general education requirements than major credits. Learners graduate with English, math, and science credits, which they can apply to a bachelor's in any field.

Homeland security courses provide learners with a plethora of core competencies. Many programs put a premium on communications, as clear, concise communication is vital for emergency response. Students can use these skills in nearly any workplace. Critical thinking and problem-solving also factor heavily into a homeland security curriculum, both of which are key attributes sought by employers.

Homeland security requires keeping a calm head in a high-stress environment. Like communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving, this skill puts you in good stead no matter where your education takes you.

Average Degree Length

An online associate degree in homeland security typically takes about half as long to complete as a four-year bachelor's degree. Most associate programs require 60 credits and take full-time students two years to finish.

Online classes often offer more flexible timelines. Most web-based courses follow an asynchronous format, meaning learners do not need to log on at any particular time; however, they must still meet certain deadlines. Some programs allow students to work at their own pace, which can help learners move through coursework more quickly.

Learners may also enroll in fast-track or accelerated degree programs, which compress the same classwork employed by traditional courses into quick, intense sessions. Alternately, accelerated programs may require more classes per semester or additional summer sessions. This allows many distance learners to earn their associate degree in 18 months or less.

Cost savings represent one of the biggest benefits of expediting a degree. The more quickly you complete your degree, the sooner you can stop accruing educational costs and begin looking for a job.

Career Opportunities with an Associate Degree in Homeland Security

An associate degree in homeland security prepares you for an array of homeland security jobs. These might include working for a government agency, entering the military, or overseeing security for a private corporation. The skills earned in a homeland security program translate to many fields. Below you can find five potential occupations for graduates of online associate degree in homeland security programs. This section also provides an idea of how much graduates can earn and where they might work.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Homeland security degrees can take graduates in many different directions. The degree is rooted in criminal justice, emergency management, and security, so graduates can work in any of these areas. They may also specialize in an area such as terrorism, public health, or cybersecurity.

Many graduates with a degree in homeland security find work with government organizations related to intelligence, national security, or the military. Others wind up in law enforcement at the local or federal level. Some take positions in emergency management or disaster preparedness or move into the private sector in areas such as security or cybercrime.

Police Officer

Police officers protect the public by responding to emergencies, investigating crimes, and arresting wrongdoers. They often require specialized training beyond an associate degree, usually in the form of a police academy.

Median Annual Salary: $63,380

Coast Guard Personnel

Official members of the Department of Homeland Security, Coast Guard personnel patrol the nation's waterfront. They perform drug interdiction, rescue boaters in distress, and enforce environmental laws. In wartime, they often deploy overseas.

Median Annual Salary: $64,000

Emergency Management Director

Emergency management directors plan and lead the response to natural and man-made disasters. They often work for communities or government agencies. For this position, many employers require several years of experience or education beyond the associate level.

Median Annual Salary: $74,420

Information Security Analyst

Information security analysts work in cybersecurity for private and public agencies. They build secure networks, assess threats, and shut down hackers. Many hold only an associate degree, though some require additional education or certification.

Median Annual Salary: $98,350

Transportation Security Officer

Transportation security officers work at airports, ports, and other transportation hubs. They inspect bags, search passengers, and look for suspicious activity.

Median Annual Salary: $38,335

Five Homeland Security Scholarships to Apply For

Just like many other fields, homeland security boasts its own scholarships, which can significantly help students with college expenses. These come from foundations, professional associations, and charitable organizations. Make sure to look into several opportunities with different organizations, and do not hesitate to apply. Sponsors often set parameters that take into account more than just academic achievement.

Staff Sergeant Richard Eaton, Jr. Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Awarded to applicants pursuing degrees in intelligence, national security, homeland security, military studies, and similar fields, this scholarship honors a fallen soldier. Administered by the Lint Center for National Security Studies, the annual scholarship goes to full-time students enrolled in accredited programs.

Amount: $1,000

Apply for Scholarship

Future Security Professionals of America Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Sponsored by American Best Locksmith, these grants go to recent high school graduates entering undergraduate study in security-related fields, including homeland security. Applicants must hold a 2.5 GPA at a U.S. high school and submit a 300-word essay.

Amount: $500

Apply for Scholarship

International Association of Emergency Managers Scholarship Program

Who Can Apply: IAEM offers these scholarships to help undergraduate and graduate students finance their education in emergency management, homeland security, and related fields. Students must attend an accredited college or university full time.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Scholarships

Who Can Apply: NOBLE sponsors these scholarships to give students opportunities to study law enforcement, homeland security, criminal justice, and related fields. Students must graduate from an American high school with a minimum 3.8 GPA and have admission to an accredited school.

Amount: $1,500-$2,500

Apply for Scholarship

LivSecure Student Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Students enrolled in criminal justice, homeland security, or related majors may apply for these annual scholarships, awarded by the LivSecure corporation. Graduating high school seniors, college freshmen, and sophomores all qualify. Applicants must submit an essay.

Amount: Varies

Apply for Scholarship

Educational Advancement in Homeland Security

For many students, an associate degree in homeland security serves as just the start of an exciting educational journey. Because of the multiple disciplines the major brings together, earning a homeland security associate degree online allows students to move in a variety of directions. Graduates can pursue fields such as law, social justice, healthcare, and emergency management. Read on to learn more about transferring and further study.

Should You Transfer to a Four-Year Degree Program?

As college becomes more expensive, undergraduate students are taking more advantage of lower-cost associate programs, using them as the first two years of a four-year degree. Rather than enrolling in expensive universities as freshmen, learners earn credits at more affordable institutions -- usually community colleges -- before transferring to four-year schools.

If you plan to transfer into a bachelor's program, do your homework first. Make sure your program holds the proper accreditation. Look up the transfer requirements at your intended four-year school ahead of time and plan accordingly. Work with your academic advisor to create a pathway to your next destination.

What Degree Paths Should You Consider?

An associate degree in homeland security prepares graduates to begin their career or move up the educational ladder. Once they receive a diploma, learners can enroll in a bachelor's program to study homeland security or a related field. From there, students could pursue a master's or Ph.D.

Bachelor's in Criminal Justice Many schools combine criminal justice and homeland security, making one a concentration or specialization within the other. A two-year degree in homeland security provides a solid foundation in the basics of criminal justice. From there, you could pivot in any number of directions.
Bachelor's in Emergency Management Another closely related discipline, emergency management programs teach students to respond to natural and man-made crises. Associate programs in homeland security provide an ideal base to build on.
Bachelor's in Public Health Public health programs focus on the overall wellness of populations and communities. Topics include epidemiology, environmental health, and nutrition. Most credits easily transfer easily into the field, especially if students plan ahead.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Students and graduates of homeland security associate degree online programs can choose from a host of professional associations and resources. These organizations provide networking, mentoring, educational assistance, and camaraderie to professionals in the field. Professional resources and employer websites provide news in the field and information on job openings.

  • Global Society of Homeland Security Professionals: An international professional organization, GSHSP offers training and distributes news with the goal of combating terrorism. The society also sponsors several levels of homeland security certification.
  • Customs and Border Patrol: CBP hosts an array of services for students, with the aim of attracting applicants. Professionals can find paid internships, career information, summer programs, and news on this webpage.
  • Department of Homeland Security: DHS offers a wealth of resources on its website, including internship opportunities, training programs, and scholarships. Students can learn about career possibilities with the department, read the latest news in the field, and delve into an extensive publications library.
  • Go Coast Guard: Designed to recruit new Coast Guard members, this site boasts an array of useful information for anyone interested in homeland security. Features include volunteer information and details about the service's college student pre-commissioning initiative.
  • National Cyber Security Alliance: NCSA's Stay Safe Online site provides a wide variety of resources related to digital awareness and web security. There, you can find tips to stay safe while you surf, catch up on the latest news, and sign up for seminars and other events.
  • National Defense Industrial Association: NDIA represents individuals and corporations involved with national defense. A professional organization, the nonpartisan nonprofit promotes dialogue and education among interested parties. The association hosts chapters across the country.
  • National Homeland Security Association: The NHSA sponsors the National Homeland Security Conference, one of the country's largest gatherings of homeland security professionals. The conference brings together like-minded individuals from across the country for networking and education.
  • National Security Agency: The NSA sponsors internships for cybersecurity students, offers codebreaker challenges, and funds research partnerships. It makes a great resource for undergraduates interested in the digital end of homeland security.
  • SAFECOM: Working under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security, SAFECOM brings together national security professionals, first responders, and emergency managers from the federal, state, and local levels. The organization aims to improve interagency public safety communications and hosts meetings and trainings to that end.
  • Women in Defense: A professional organization for women involved in national security, WID sponsors scholarships, hosts conferences, and provides support and camaraderie. The organization maintains chapters across the country.