Online Associate Degree in Homeland Security

What You'll Learn & What's Next

An accredited online associate degree in homeland security not only offers graduates a meaningful career that helps keep people safe, but it also provides them with a comfortable living. In preparing for, preventing, and responding to natural and human-caused emergencies, homeland security professionals earn an average annual salary of $75,000.

The knowledge and skills students gain while earning a homeland security associate degree prepares them to pursue various career opportunities or further their education at the bachelor's level. Graduates of homeland security associate programs qualify for entry-level positions in security, law enforcement, and emergency response.

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

Online associate homeland security degree programs explore the foundations of homeland security in the context of the criminal justice system. In addition to exploring tactical response operations, terrorism, and counterterrorism, homeland security majors learn to prevent, plan for, and respond to acts of terror, natural disasters, and other security threats. Further, they protect people, property, transportation systems, and other infrastructures to help the country run efficiently and effectively.

The curriculum for homeland security associate programs varies by school, but all homeland security programs focus on protecting people from threats.

Common Courses

American Homeland Security

Students receive an introduction to the historic and contemporary issues in American homeland security, including best practices, organizational development, and the legal basis of the Department of Homeland Security. The class explores the country's ability to respond to terrorist threats, the strengths and weaknesses of America's counterterrorism strategies, and the motivations of terrorist groups who attack Americans.

Introduction to Terrorism

This course introduces students to types of terrorism, groups of terrorists, and resources and techniques for stopping terrorist threats in the United States. Students explore topics like weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism strategies, international and domestic terrorism, and lone-wolf terrorism.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

This class includes a developmental history of WMD technology, the laws regulating them, and the impact of WMD technology on terrorism. Students explore the four main types of WMDs, consider the moral implications of using them, and discuss the way that using WMDs would impact society.

Terrorism Response

Learners explore tactical response operations. The course focuses on mitigation actions and pre-incident preparedness in the context of the National Incident Management System framework. Students also learn to create post-terrorism recovery plans and thoroughly research lessons learned from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Disaster Recovery and Response

This course introduces the most important elements of disaster recovery and response in the United States. Students examine real disaster events and learn to apply the theories of response and recovery. They also learn how to address the needs of special populations in disaster response and recovery.

Core Skills

Online homeland security associate programs introduce students to emergency management, the role of the Department of Homeland security, and strategies for combatting terrorism. Most associate degrees consist of both general education and homeland security credits, giving students a broad education. Some programs offer learners the chance to acquire practical experience by completing a homeland security internship.

Students gain relevant skills applicable to criminal justice and homeland security. They also gain the knowledge and competencies to continue their education at a four-year institution, should they decide to pursue a bachelor's degree in homeland security or a related field. Students acquire technical knowledge and expertise in areas like counterterrorism strategy, emergency planning, cybersecurity, infrastructure protection, and risk management and analysis.

Homeland security associate programs help learners develop teamwork skills by requiring group assignments and discussions. Learners also gain communication, analytical, critical-thinking, decision-making, management, leadership, and problem-solving skills that can translate to nearly any industry. Students learn the importance of strategic thinking when it comes to protecting the public and fighting against terrorism.

What Can You Do With an Associate Degree in Homeland Security?

The best online colleges for associate degree in homeland security programs prepare graduates for entry-level positions protecting the public. Career paths open to homeland security graduates include law enforcement, corrections, and the legal system. Many students also continue their education by transferring to a four-year program in homeland security or a related field. Earning a bachelor's degree can further increase career opportunities and salary potential.

Potential Careers and Salaries

An associate degree in homeland security prepares students for entry-level jobs with local, state, and federal government agencies; nonprofit organizations; and private companies. Homeland security professionals work in areas like physical security, law enforcement, infrastructure protection, information security, and emergency management. Potential careers include police and detectives, correctional officers and bailiffs, EMTs and paramedics, transportation security officers, and border patrol agents.

Many positions in this field require applicants to hold U.S. citizenship and pass a background check or security clearance. Homeland security professionals with an associate degree can expect salaries from approximately $35,000-$60,000 a year, depending on the position.

Police and Detectives

Annual Average Salary: $63,380

Police officers protect people and property. Detectives investigate evidence of potential crimes. They often work long hours in physically demanding positions. Many police departments and federal agencies require some college coursework. Additionally, they must complete academy training.

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Annual Average Salary: $44,400

Correctional officers supervise inmates and people awaiting trials. Bailiffs enforce order and safety in courtrooms. Workers in correctional institutions may face dangerous and stressful conditions. They must complete academy training, and some positions require college coursework.

EMTs and Paramedics

Annual Average Salary: $34,320

EMTs and paramedics provide medical assistance to people in emergency situations. They answer emergency calls, perform medical skills, and take patients to hospitals. The work environment often proves mentally and physically stressful. All states require EMTs and paramedics to hold a license. Most employers require some postsecondary education.

Transportation Security Officers

Annual Average Salary: $38,364

Transportation security officers typically work for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA workers need at least a high school diploma, but further education helps. They work at airports and screen passengers, check bags, and perform pat downs.

Border Patrol Agents

Annual Average Salary: $59,622

Border patrol agents protect the country's borders. The patrol borders on land, water, and air. They try to stop illegal trade and immigation from coming into the country. They must be physically fit. They need mandatory training.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics and PayScale, 2019

What's Next After an Online Associate Degree in Homeland Security?

Graduates of accredited online homeland security associate degree programs can either move into entry-level jobs or pursue further education by transferring to a four-year degree program, majoring in homeland security or a related field.

Earning a bachelor's degree can lead to more diverse and better-paying career opportunities than those available for individuals who hold only an associate degree. Below, we discuss the process of transferring to a four-year program and describe majors you can pursue after earning an associate in homeland security.

Transferring to a Four-Year Degree Program

Many graduates of homeland security associate programs decide to continue their education by earning a four-year degree. Students who want to transfer to a bachelor's program should work with their academic advisor to develop a plan and explore transfer agreements with four-year colleges. Many four-year schools accept an accredited associate degree as two years towards a bachelor's degree. It is important to explore transfer options early to ensure students fulfill all necessary requirements.

What Degrees Can You Pursue After Earning an Associate in Homeland Security?

After earning an associate in homeland security, students can pursue further education in this field or consider related options, such as criminology or criminal justice. An associate in homeland security provides a good foundation for any of these bachelor's programs, and can improve career opportunities.

Bachelor's in Homeland Security

An associate in homeland security lays the groundwork for further study at the bachelor's level. Students should already hold foundational knowledge and can explore the discipline at a higher level by earning a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor's in Criminology

Bachelor's in criminology programs study crime as a social phenomenon and the way crime affects society. Graduates with this degree work as police officers, probation officers, corrections officers, and forensic science technicians.

Bachelor's in Criminal Justice

Criminal justice students explore the system in which criminals commit crimes. Graduates work in law enforcement, corrections, and the court system. A homeland security associate degree gives students an understanding of issues important in criminal justice.