Who Gets a Ph.D. in Homeland Security & What to Expect
For working professionals with experience in criminal justice, security, or a related field, a Ph.D. in homeland security can help advance career opportunities or open new employment paths. Graduates can pursue careers in the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies, in private industry and consulting, or in education and research.
Doctoral programs build on students’ work experience and previous education. Additionally, Ph.D. programs provide research and analytical skills to prepare students for positions with better pay and more challenges.
A master’s in homeland security can lead to numerous opportunities in government, the private sector, and nonprofits. However, a doctorate places greater emphasis on research methods, data analysis, strategic and critical thinking, and policymaking on domestic and international security issues. Additionally, a Ph.D. prepares graduates for upper-level leadership roles.
Reasons to Pursue an Online Ph.D. in Homeland Security
A Ph.D. in homeland security is the highest academic credential in this field, and graduates receive a broad knowledge base applicable to a variety of settings. While many who earn their Ph.D. move into faculty and research positions in higher education, the majority find work with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and other government agencies. Increasingly, a Ph.D. in homeland security can lead to well-paying positions in private industries, especially in security and emergency preparedness management.
CAREERS IN HIGHER EDUCATION
Almost all universities and colleges require faculty to have earned their Ph.D. The growing demand for homeland security professionals has also led to demand for doctoral-trained educators. These professors develop curricula and teach in undergraduate and graduate programs.
CAREERS IN GOVERNMENT
In the aftermath of 9/11 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the federal government has expanded its reliance on homeland security specialists and policy analysts. These positions require professionals to possess research and analytical skills, which can be acquired in a doctoral program.
ADVANCEMENT INTO LEADERSHIP ROLES
The expansion of personnel in security, emergency preparedness, law enforcement, immigration, and border security requires highly trained supervisors to assume leadership roles over a large number of specialized professionals.
INTEREST IN PUBLIC POLICY
In response to domestic and international terrorism, cyber security assaults, and other threats to public safety, government agencies and nonprofits must develop policy responses that prevent and protect citizens and infrastructure.
RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
As concerns about security and safety escalate, government and industries depend on the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of individuals with a Ph.D.
What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Homeland Security?
As the most advanced educational qualification in any discipline, a Ph.D. — or doctor of philosophy degree — emphasizes comprehensive study of a specialized area combined with independent research. Other doctoral degrees that do not bestow the Ph.D. designation usually have an applied or professional focus and do not require a research experience. However, the title of “doctor” applies both to individuals with a Ph.D. and individuals with other doctoral degrees.
Whether you enroll in a Ph.D. in homeland security online or in a traditional campus-based program, your training prepares you to pursue career paths in teaching and research, as well as leadership roles in fields such as security, public safety, emergency services, and disaster preparedness. While job titles may vary among government agencies and industries, all these careers depend on Ph.D.-holders for their ability to apply their broad knowledge and skills to identify problems and threats, find solutions, and formulate policy.
Common Career Paths and Salaries
Although many individuals with a Ph.D. in homeland security seek employment in agencies affiliated with the Department of Homeland Security, this degree can lead to a variety of different career paths in other government offices, corporations, higher education, and nonprofit organizations. This list describes potential careers and salary expectations that graduates with a Ph.D. in homeland security might pursue.
Director, Research and Analytical Services
These professionals work in many settings, including government agencies and higher education. They conduct research and develop methods for improving systems and operations. The Department of Homeland Security relies on these specialists to conduct data analysis for the purpose of intelligence gathering.
Average Annual Salary: $104,743
Information Security Analysts
Information security analysts use their specialized training to create and implement security protocols to protect computer networks and systems They monitor threats, research the latest information security technology applications, and conduct penetration testing to search for vulnerabilities.
Average Annual Salary: $98,350
These educators teach undergraduate and graduate courses at community colleges, four-year institutions, and professional schools. While many postsecondary teachers have a master’s degree, tenured college and university faculty typically hold doctoral degrees.
Average Annual Salary: $78,470
Emergency Management Directors
Emergency management directors develop plans for responding to disasters and emergencies in cooperation with public safety officers and government agencies. Many of these positions require graduate and specialized training in emergency management or disaster recovery.
Average Annual Salary: $74,420
These government officers administer immigration regulations and procedures, apprehend individuals suspected of violating immigration laws, and prevent national security threats. Since the field requires research, analytical, and technological competency, many immigration officers pursue graduate degrees.
Average Annual Salary: $58,838
Source: BLS; PayScale
Homeland Security Ph.D. Program Requirements and Outcomes
Applicants to a Ph.D. program in homeland security usually have a bachelor’s degree, and some programs only accept students who hold a master’s degree or have professional experience in security-related fields. Specific entrance requirements — such as standardized tests scores or minimum GPA requirements — vary by program.
Earning a Ph.D. in homeland security usually takes 4-5 years of full time study, with most programs granting students up to seven years to finish all requirements — including the dissertation. The program typically requires 60 credits. Online programs may offer more flexibility, allowing students to take courses part time while maintaining their employment or managing family responsibilities. A few online programs even offer accelerated formats to reduce the time needed for degree completion.
Online Ph.D. programs rely on different course delivery formats. Some schools use a cohort-based model that groups students into courses on fixed schedules. These cohorts progress together through the program. Cohort programs work well for students who benefit from structured scheduling. However, these programs may take longer to finish than asynchronous, self-paced options. Online students should also expect one or more residency requirements with on-campus seminars, especially in preparation for dissertation research.
Each online doctoral program features a unique curriculum, although most accredited programs require a combination of specialized coursework and a research component — usually in the form of a dissertation. Coursework typically covers homeland security operations and procedures; prevention, preparedness and response; and disaster management. Depending on the program focus, learners might study international relations, foreign policy, and intelligence gathering. The following list describes some representative courses.
INTRODUCTION TO HOMELAND SECURITY
Required for all entering students, this gateway course presents an overview to the study of homeland security. Students learn about the history and evolution of the field before and after the events of 9/11, as well as the structure and operations of various government agencies directly involved in homeland security prevention and response. The course also addresses contemporary domestic and international terrorist threats.
HOMELAND SECURITY RISK MANAGEMENT
This course provides a comprehensive examination of risk analysis processes in homeland security operations, within the framework of all-hazard emergency management. Coursework addresses risk analysis procedures and applications in situations such as mitigation and recovery.Students learn the elements of an effective risk management approach, including threat assessment, vulnerability assessment, and criticality assessment.
COUNTERTERRORISM AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE STRATEGIES
Counterintelligence and counterterrorism require analytical and multidisciplinary tools to deal with ongoing and emerging threats to homeland security. Through case studies and simulations, this course examines counterintelligence and counterterrorism principles and techniques. The class presents both offensive and defensive strategies to use against terrorism and espionage from international and internal threats.
TECHNOLOGY AND GLOBAL SECURITY
This seminar focuses on technological innovations that affect mutual survival and safety around the world. Global security professionals must understand and manage the long-term risks and benefits posed by technologies and other scientific advances to international security and conflict. The course examines the impact of these developments on domestic and international security policies, as well as the bilateral and state strategies for addressing them.
RESEARCH METHODS FOR HOMELAND SECURITY PROFESSIONALS
This overview of quantitative research focuses on practical applications in the areas of homeland security and emergency preparedness. Topics include quantitative research design, hypothesis construction, measurement, statistical analysis, survey research and experiments, threats to reliability and validity, and sampling techniques.
Graduation requirements differ from one online Ph.D. program to the next, but most accredited doctoral programs in homeland security — whether delivered online or through a traditional campus format — share a similar structure. Students usually take at least 40 credits in specialized security-related courses and approximately 20 credits in research methodology and statistical analysis. Students also take comprehensive examinations and write an independently-conducted dissertation research.
Many Ph.D. programs require students to take comprehensive examinations, also known as qualifying exams or preliminary exams. Comps provide an objective measure of mastery over content material in your field of study. The format used for comps varies from program to program; some use written exams and some require both oral and written tests. Online students may have to arrange for in-person attendance to complete this requirement.
DISSERTATION AND ORAL DEFENSE
During the candidacy phase, Ph.D. students identify a dissertation topic, present their research design for approval to their academic advisor and a faculty committee, and begin independent data collection and research. When the candidate completes the written dissertation, the committee schedules a public oral defense. At that time, the committee votes on whether to award the doctorate. Completing a dissertation may require online students to visit their home campus one or more times to meet with their faculty advisors.
Most online Ph.D. programs require several on-campus residencies. Some take the form of weekend or week-long orientation programs for students entering programs. Some degrees require students to take on-campus seminars with other students in their cohort before beginning their comprehensive exams or before or during the data collection phase of their dissertation. Most programs also require Ph.D. candidates to publicly defend their dissertation once completed.
Skills and Competencies
While online Ph.D. programs in homeland security vary significantly from one school to the next, they all emphasize the acquisition of a deep knowledge base. Students develop critical thinking and analytical skills necessary for managerial, education, and policy work.
Decision-Making, Objectivity, and Judgment in Emergency Situations
Homeland security professionals must make quick decisions and sound judgment calls in times of national threats. These choices may have profound repercussions. Professionals must exhibit emotional stability and logical reasoning while implementing immediate actions, especially in dangerous and stressful situations.
High-quality Ph.D. programs equip graduates with analytical and critical thinking skills. In the field of homeland security, professionals must have the ability to identify complex issues, discern and prioritize the seriousness of threats, synthesize multiple perspectives, and develop responses and solutions.
Graduates of Ph.D. programs know how to conduct research using appropriate methodologies and data analysis techniques. Homeland security professionals, whether employed in government or educational positions, must incorporate new techniques and research designs into their work. These professionals must also stay well-informed about new developments in their specialization.
Teaching and Training Skills
As the demand for trained homeland security, disaster preparedness, and security personnel continues to expand, teachers and trainers must know how to deliver content to students who possess a variety of skill levels. Teachers and trainers must be familiar with strategies and techniques that make complex material accessible and that fit the needs of their audience.
Whether working in education, research, or policymaking roles, these specialists must have a strong foundation in technological applications, software packages, and other programs relevant to their specializations. Homeland security professionals must keep current with innovations in the field in order to respond to evolving threats.
Communications and Management Skills
Homeland security professionals must display strong communication skills using written, verbal, and digital media. Because of the nature of their work, they must provide clear directives, maintain authority, and communicate lucidly to colleagues, employees, and the general public. They often must perform these duties in stressful situations without causing undue panic or alarm.
Homeland Security Professional Organizations
Graduates with a doctoral degree in homeland security increasingly fill positions in both the public and private sector. As a result, they must develop strong professional networks and stay abreast of new developments in the field. Whether employed in a government agency such as the Department of Defense or in a private company, Ph.D. graduates entering the field can find a professional association that provides services and resources specific to their areas of interest.
Professional associations can help you learn more about career opportunities, keep you informed about emerging issues and pending policy and legislation that affect your work, and connect you with seasoned professionals. Attending conferences, engaging in professional development activities, and volunteering on committees can also make you more visible and position you for career advancement. Additionally, professional organizations offer benefits such as networking events, continuing education, career guidance, and publications. The following list describes some of the most prominent professional organizations in security-related fields.
Established in 1955 as the American Society for Industrial Security, ASIS International changed its name in 2002. The world’s largest organization for security management professions, ASIS offers several publications, hosts educational events, and administers the certified security consultant credential.
IACSP disseminates tools to minimize the threat of terrorism. The association also promotes legal and ethical behavior within the counterterrorism and security professions. Members receive newsletters and journals, access to resources on the distance learning portal, and discounted fees to IACSP symposia.
Founded in 1984 to promote the security consulting profession, this association promotes best practices and updates industry standards for professionalism and ethical conduct. Its members provide consulting services in risk assessment, management, training, IT, and other areas.
This professional organization for state emergency management directors creates partnerships and training programs. NEMA also provides information on policy positions to enhance public safety. The association aims to improve the nation’s ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from all emergencies, disasters, and threats to the national security.
NHSA sponsors a national conference for homeland security, law enforcement, and emergency management professionals, as well as other relevant decision-makers. Participants learn about emerging trends in homeland security and become familiar with new equipment and technology.