A few years ago, anything with “community policing” branded on it was a money magnet. Now, community policing programs take a back seat in favor of those opposing terrorism and enhancing homeland security. No one knew what homeland security was until after 9/11, but public safety executives are having to learn fast in order to be competitive for federal funding and other local enhancement programs.
In the wake of this movement, many institutions of higher learning have created homeland security degrees or certificate programs to meet the needs of public safety and other local government officials. The programs listed in this article are all regionally accredited, accepted by just about any college in the land. This is an important consideration, because there seem to be just as many fly-by-night “certification” programs out there.
A brief search of the web shows that a number of entrepreneurs are offering courses and certification programs in anti-terrorism investigation and terrorism suppression techniques that are just about guaranteed to get you laughed out of the room. One vendor is selling complete training courses, including the certificate of completion, on eBay. He assumes that the purchaser will complete the “coursework” in a reasonable amount of time, and accommodatingly saves the student the bother of submitting their work for approval.
Another channel to be aware of is in the rapidly growing number of for-profit institutions of higher education. Many, if not most, of these colleges are fully accredited and are academically sound schools. The downside is that they are very expensive, and they pour a lot more money into marketing and recruitment than they do into instruction and job placement. They are quick to assist their students with educational loan and grant applications, given that the money from these loans and grants are going to the school.
Often, it is possible to complete a degree program in less time than would be the case with a more traditional college, and the flexibility of the programs may make these schools a worthwhile choice for some scholars. Just know that the for-profit schools tend to be very expensive.
It’s not uncommon for tuition and fees to complete a two-year associate’s degree to run $30,000 or more. A degree from a traditional community or junior college, carrying just as much academic weight and credibility, typically costs around $5,000. It’s wise to check out all of your options first and not fall for a slick sales pitch.
If you have bona fide expertise in an area directly related to homeland security, you might want to make yourself known to the schools that are offering courses. This is a new area of concentration, and instructors with real-world experience and documented credentials are hard to come by.
Academic institutions favor reviewing your curriculum vitæ or CV, which is something like a résumé, but with considerably more detail. Résumés are usually one or two pages, where CVs can resemble small books. There are ample resources available to coach you in preparation of a proper CV.
There are also a few books that you can look over to get an idea of both what is contained in a homeland security curriculum and what type of career opportunities there are for people with the appropriate preparation. One is Elsevier’s Introduction to Homeland Security, a 2005 hardback publication that does an overview of the subject area and would be an appropriate text for a homeland security survey course.
Another book that was submitted for review is Gould’s Career Guide—Homeland Security and Law Enforcement.
This is mainly an index of homeland security-related careers and how to qualify for them, with advice on application procedures and an extensive and detailed list of jobs, most of them in the federal sector.
All of the programs listed here are fully accredited and are run under the auspices of a government agency or a traditional academic institution, so you can count on them being legitimate. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it ought to give you a good starting point.
Naval Postgraduate School
The Naval Postgraduate School has traditionally been a place where very bright Navy and Marine Corps officers have been stationed to pursue advanced degrees in everything from business management to engineering. It is more recently the site of a master’s degree program in homeland security in partnership with the US Deptartment of Homeland Security’s Office for Domestic Preparedness. Unlike most of the other programs at “the PG school,” this program is open to local, state and federal government (read: non-Navy) officials who are in or wish to assume a leadership role in homeland security management.
Admission to the program is highly selective and competitive. It takes 18 months to complete, but only two weeks of each academic quarter need to be spent in residence at Monterey (and if you’re going to have to go away to school, there are worse places to do it). The two weeks of residency are supplemented by eight to nine weeks of distance learning each quarter. The entire program takes six academic quarters, and requires a thesis in addition to the 44 hours of coursework.
Courses include an introductory class in homeland defense and security, one in civil-military relations, another in asymmetric conflict, and a course in critical infrastructure vulnerability analysis and protection. Attendance at the Naval Postgraduate School is pretty prestigious as it is, but there is another reason to favor this program: it’s mostly paid for by the feds. If you can get admission, most of your costs of attendance will be free.
San Diego State University
SDSU also has a master’s program in homeland security, but you’ll probably have to pony up the money to attend it yourself. The SDSU program is interdisciplinary, which is a fairly common theme for these new academic programs. Academic areas involved in this program include Arts and Letters, Health and Human Services, Professional Studies and Fine Arts, and Sciences.
This is a residential program, so if you’re located outside the San Diego area, or you don’t have a lot of vacation coming, you will have some difficulty completing it. The admission process is as for other university graduate programs, requiring a bachelor’s degree with at least a 3.0 GPA (if your GPA isn’t that high, you can request a waiver from the Graduate Advisory Committee) and a decent score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). They also require a personal interview and three letters of recommendation.
The SDSU program also requires a thesis, but isn’t quite as strenuous as the Naval Postgraduate School course, requiring only 30 course hours including the thesis. The courses are also more varied, this being an interdisciplinary degree. They range from epidemiology and bioterrorism preparedness, a graduate course in “persuasion,” or a seminar in administration of justice or health communications, various geology courses, and a selection of political science courses in politics, political systems, and homeland security.
Students have to take at least one course from each of the academic areas, and can choose the remaining 15 hours from any of the courses offered, with approval of their advisory committee. The university operates on an admissions schedule where applications have to be in by May 1 for the following fall term.
Michigan State University
If you are unable or unwilling to go away to school, there are a few programs that conduct all the coursework through distance learning. One of these is the online certificate program in homeland security offered by School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.
Certificate programs do not lead to college degrees, although some schools may allow you to apply coursework taken in a certificate program toward their own degree program. You do get a nice sheepskin for your wall, and bragging rights that you have completed formal training in homeland security management.
The Michigan State program consists of three online courses: Foundations of Homeland Security, Issues in Terrorism, and Public-Private Partnerships in Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security. The college is developing other courses specializing in information and food security.
Each course takes about 15 weeks to complete, and the entire program can be done in about a year. Because this is a certificate program, it is open to just about anyone that is interested, regardless of prior academic preparation. Those with a high school diploma or its equivalent will be admitted as undergraduate students, while those with bachelor’s degrees will come in as graduate students.
Center for Homeland Security Training University of Tennessee
The homeland security program at the University of Tennessee’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center is more of a traditional law enforcement training program than an academic program. Short courses on topics like Defining Terrorism, Anti-Terrorism, Combating Terrorism and the Street Officer’s Response During a WMD Incident are offered in short course/workshop format. Rather than offer these courses for academic credit toward a degree or a certificate, these courses are offered for Tenneesee POST training credit. Certification by other states’ criminal justice training agencies may be available on a case-by-case basis.
Besides being POST-certified, these courses are also mostly free. The university has obtained funds to put on the courses, so participants are on the hook only for their travel and subsistence costs.
Homeland Security Scholarships
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers undergraduate and graduate scholarships to students in the physical, biological, social and behavioral sciences in exchange for the agreement to accept employment with DHS or a related government agency after graduation. This is not a small program—in FY 2004, $70 million was budgeted for these scholarships.
The program offers full tuition and a cash stipend for the last two years of an undergraduate program and up to three years of a graduate program. Undergraduates get a $1,000 per month stipend, where grad students get $2,300 per month. The awards vary in size because of the difference in tuition costs between universities, but once an award is granted, the beneficiary is free to pursue his or her education at any accredited school that will accept them for an approved course of study.
In theory, a scholar could complete their first two years at a low-cost junior college and then transfer to Stanford, where tuition runs just short of $30,000 per year, and have their last two years of education fully funded.
Obviously, this program is not aimed at mid-career students who intend to continue working at a local law enforcement agency, but it still may have value to someone considering a career change, or who has children struggling to pay for their college education. Awards are competitive, and a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher is required for consideration.
Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins (located in the Metro Baltimore, MD area) has a part-time engineering school that offers a number of homeland security-related courses for students looking to start or continue their educations in this area. There is a Homeland Security Systems Graduate Certificate Program consisting of four to six courses for persons having an undergraduate engineering degree or background and who meet the admissions requirements.
Available courses include Terrorism Threats, Weapons and Infrastructure Protection, Cryptography and Information Security, Data Mining, Biochemical Sensors, Public Key Infrastructure and Managing E-Security, Radioactive Waste Management, Environmental Biotech-nology, and others. These are all graduate level courses and can be applied for credit towards a graduate degree. As with many other graduate programs, students taking courses are on a sort of timetable, so that all courses leading to a degree must be taken within a window of five to seven years. Johns Hopkins is an extremely prestigious school and entry is competitive.
Drexel University in Philadelphia offers 51 different six-hour seminars in various homeland security topics that can be taken at one of Drexel’s facilities or delivered on-site. The courses are targeted at public safety professionals in law enforcement, fire service, and emergency medical service occupations as well and those in emergency management and related careers. Unlike many “training” type workshops, many of these can be used for academic credit toward Drexel’s general studies degree.
Drexel offers a unique bachelor of science degree program in general studies, with a concentration in emergency management and planning. They have an articulation agreement with a number of Philadelphia-area two-year colleges where students can work toward their BS degree while taking the lower division courses at the junior or community college, and maintain dual enrollment at Drexel by taking only one Drexel course per year. They offer a flexible scheduling format to meet the needs of professionals with unusual work schedules.
National Graduate School
The National Graduate School’s curriculum is targeted mainly at military and other federal-level professionals seeking education in quality systems management. They offer a certificate program in homeland security that is conducted in regional teaching centers on a weekend schedule. Students meet on Friday evenings and all day on Saturday and Sunday, with each course in the curriculum requiring two weekends of this schedule.
There are four courses in the certificate program: Homeland Security Principles and Practice, Contemporary Issues in Homeland Security, Integrated Studies in Homeland Security and Quality Systems Management, and Homeland Security Field Project Management.
The courses cost $1,800 each or $7,200 for the entire certificate program, plus the costs of travel and lodging to the regional teaching centers. Many military (including US Coast Guard) training budgets have approved the National Graduate School for funding for this and other programs.
University of Denver
The University of Denver offers a seven-course certificate program in homeland security for students already possessing a bachelor’s degree. The program is offered through the university’s Institute on Globalization and Security. Seven courses, plus an internship, are required for completion of the certificate program.
Courses include International Terrorism, American Government and Policy-Making, Homeland Security: Introduction, Homeland Security: Civil Society and Human Rights, and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Threats, among others. These courses can be applied to the university’s degree programs in International Security and Global Studies.
Tim Dees is a former police officer who writes and consults about applications of technology in law enforcement. He can be reached at (509) 585-6704 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.