Graduate Certificate Programs in Homeland Security
College graduates and mid-career professionals who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree can cultivate advanced knowledge and skills for work in the field of homeland security by enrolling in a graduate certificate program in homeland security. Homeland security graduate certificate programs are designed for students who have already completed a bachelor’s degree, as well as for master’s and doctoral degree students and graduates who are interested in learning about the US homeland security system, studying the legal dimensions of homeland security, and developing proficiencies that have applications in federal, state, and local agencies that are tasked with identifying, tracking, and preventing potential national security threats. These programs are offered by accredited, non-profit colleges and universities.
Homeland security graduate certificate programs typically consist of four, five, or six graduate courses, or roughly half of the number of courses required to earn a master’s degree in homeland security. As a result, they represent an accessible, less time-intensive, and more economical alternative to pursuing a master’s degree. In addition, these programs can serve as a steppingstone to an eventual master’s degree in homeland security, as credits earned while completing a graduate certificate may transfer towards a master’s program in the field.
Homeland Security Explained
The concept of homeland security has existed for as long as there have been homelands to secure, nations at war, and non-governmental actors who threaten the safety and security of a country’s population and infrastructures. However, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established in 2003 in the wake of the 2002 Homeland Security Act, which was passed in response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.
The DHS was designed to coordinate the actions and activities of numerous agencies that have national security roles, including the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the United States Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Secret Service, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The primary purpose of the DHS has been to protect the country from terrorist attacks while planning for and responding to a broad range of homeland security threats, including cyberattacks and natural and man-made disasters. Indeed, the DHS has among its mission objectives counterterrorism, cybersecurity, border security, economic security, and disaster preparedness.
Identifying and Classifying Homeland Security Graduate Certificate Programs
As an area of academic study, homeland security is a multidisciplinary field that brings together expertise in government and public policy, law enforcement and criminal justice, international affairs and diplomacy, and cyber and information security. Homeland security graduate certificate programs are thus offered by various academic divisions within larger colleges and universities, including but not limited to schools and departments of government, public policy, criminal justice, law, international affairs, and professional studies. These programs have several important identifying characteristics: 1) They are post-baccalaureate programs that require students to have already completed a bachelor’s degree program; 2) They offer a streamlined curriculum consisting of a cluster of master’s-level graduate courses that cover topics central to the field of homeland security; and 3) They are career-oriented and provide training designed to prepare students for work in the field of homeland security.
Programs classified as homeland security graduate certificate programs are generally designated as such, although some programs are designated as post-baccalaureate certificate programs. There are also post-graduate certificate programs that require students to have a master’s or doctoral degree, many of which are formally designated as post-master’s certificate programs. However, master’s and doctoral degree holders are generally qualified for most homeland security graduate certificate programs, including programs designated as post-bachelors certificate programs.
Homeland Security Graduate Certificate Coursework
Graduate certificate programs typically consist of a compact curriculum that may require students to complete four, five, or six core and/or elective courses. These courses commonly overlap with courses offered as part of a master’s program in homeland security, emergency management, public affairs, public policy, and/or criminal justice, but certificate coursework is generally confined to only those topics relevant to working in the field of homeland security. These topics include homeland security policy, strategy, and organization; domestic and international law pertaining to homeland security; and the identification and critical analysis of common threats to homeland security. While the specific courses required to complete a graduate certificate in homeland security vary by school and by program, the list below provides a representative overview of the types of courses typically offered and/or required as part of a graduate certificate in homeland security program:
- Fundamentals of Homeland Security Policy and Strategy
- Resilience Planning and Preparedness for Disaster Response and Recovery
- Terrorism: Threat and Vulnerability Analysis and Protection
- Comparative Homeland Security Research and Applications
- Domestic Extremism in the United States
- Intelligence Practice in Homeland Security
- Information Technology in Emergency Management
In addition to core requirements, some homeland security graduate certificate programs allow students to tailor their training by choosing one or two electives. Common areas of elective study in the field of homeland security include cybersecurity and cyberterrorism, emergency management and risk communication, chemical and biological threats, and weapons of mass destruction.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Homeland Security Administration
Graduate certificate programs are generally designed to accommodate a range of students, including those who are just entering the workforce and mid-career professionals who are aiming to advance in their careers. In order to accomplish this, schools may offer classes in the evenings and/or on weekends in order not to create scheduling conflicts for students who are working full time. In addition, many schools now offer online graduate certificate programs in homeland security, thereby maximizing convenience and flexibility while also extending the reach of a program to students who do not live or work within commuting range of the school offering the program.
Online homeland security graduate certificate programs offer the same type of coursework and training as their campus-based counterparts but do so using learning management systems (LMSs) that facilitate the streaming of live and pre-recorded lectures and virtual class sessions. Students in an online program log on to a school’s LMS from anywhere with a secure internet connection in order to receive instruction, complete assignments, and communicate with instructors remotely. Some programs offer all of their coursework using asynchronous instruction, a mode of online learning that allows students to view pre-recorded lectures, access coursework, and submit assignments at their convenience, 24-7 (assuming they meet deadlines set forth in a course’s syllabus).
Other programs utilize synchronous instruction for some of their coursework, which means that lectures and virtual class sessions take place in real-time using video conferencing, requiring students to be logged on to the school’s LMS at pre-scheduled times in a manner that is similar to traditional, in-person classroom instruction. While asynchronous instruction provides more scheduling flexibility than synchronous instruction, it requires greater motivation and self-discipline to keep up with course materials. Synchronous instruction is more rigid than asynchronous instruction, but it also provides more structure.
Homeland security graduate certificate programs that offer all of their required coursework online, and programs that require students to attend a limited number of campus-based sessions (three or less per year) are classified as online programs by GraduateCertificates.com. An online program that requires one or two campus visits may be preferable for students who would like the opportunity to meet face-to-face with instructors and classmates, provided that traveling to a school’s campus for a weekend to a week does not cause any scheduling conflicts with students’ professional and/or personal obligations. Programs that require more than three campus visits are classified as blended/hybrid programs. While they offer more flexibility and convenience than fully campus-based programs, blended/hybrid programs may not be practical for students who cannot commute to a school’s campus more than two or three times per year.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Homeland Security
As noted above, not all online graduate certificate programs are the same. However, the programs listed below offer a representative overview of the types of homeland security graduate certificate programs that are currently offered in an online format.
The University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC), which is the online division of the University of Maryland state system, offers an online Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security Management program. The 15-credit program is fully online and does not require any campus visits. Students start the program with an uncredited introduction to graduate studies seminar and then complete five graduate courses that cover topics in disaster response and recovery, data-driven decision-making, security risk assessment methods, and the principles and practices of homeland security. The UMGC program is designed for students who are new to the field of homeland security as well as for mid-career professionals who are interested in adding homeland security management to their skill set. Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. For additional details on the program, visit UMGC at www.umgc.edu.
California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) offers an online Homeland Security Graduate Certificate program with a curriculum that focuses on domestic extremism, international terrorism, and biological, chemical, and nuclear threats to homeland security. The 15-credit program consists of five courses that can be completed in less than a year. Cal U’s Homeland Security Graduate Certificate program, which is designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field or discipline, draws on courses that are also offered as part of an online Master of Science (MS) in Legal Studies program offered by the university. Students can complete the certificate program as a stand-alone credential or apply for admission to the MS in Legal Studies program if and when they decide to pursue a full master’s degree. For more information on the program, visit Cal U at www.calu.edu.
The University of Central Missouri (UCM) offers an online Terrorism and Homeland Security Graduate Certificate program. The 12-credit program is a post-baccalaureate certificate program that requires applicants to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The program consists of four graduate courses that cover topics in criminal justice policy, international law, terrorism, and the US homeland security enterprise. These courses are also offered as electives in UCM’s online Master of Science (MS) in Criminal Justice & Criminology program and students who opt to pursue the MS degree are eligible to transfer into the master’s program with credits earned in the certificate program. The UCM Terrorism and Homeland Security Graduate Certificate program is 100% online and does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit UCM at www.ucmo.edu.
More Graduate Certificates in Homeland Security
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