Earning an Online Doctorate in Homeland Security

Individuals who choose to complete online Ph.D. programs in homeland security can explore exciting career possibilities in the highest echelons of the field. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notes exciting growth in this sector, with more than 9,000 federal facilities across the country and other governmental and private employers.

Undertaking this terminal degree allows graduates to work in exciting research, teaching, and security positions that offer high salaries and fascinating opportunities for growth. Read on to learn about common courses, career opportunities, funding options, and certifications.

Featured Online Schools

Why Get a Doctorate in Homeland Security?

Pursuing Specialization

Enrollees in online Ph.D. programs in homeland security enjoy the opportunity to specialize their knowledge in subfields like counterterrorism and cybersecurity. Many of these specializations do not exist at the bachelor's or master's level, creating a unique opportunity to gain nuanced skills and stand out from job competitors.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Earning an online doctorate in homeland security signals to employers that candidates are serious about the field and looking for ways to contribute to its evolution. Individuals who possess the terminal degree stand to take on high-level, high-responsibility positions that offer some of the best salaries in the industry.

Online Learning Technology

In addition to providing flexibility for busy professionals, online homeland security programs also offer the opportunity for students to explore cutting-edge communication technology in the field. While helpful from an educational perspective, understanding these technologies can also prove beneficial when seeking a job.

Prerequisites for Online Doctorate in Homeland Security Programs

Given the competitive nature of online Ph.D. programs in homeland security, learners must meet several prerequisites to be eligible for admission. When reviewing the list of sample prerequisites below, remember that they're examples. Prospective degree seekers should check with individual schools to get a finalized list of requirements.

  • Work Experience: Individuals who enroll in online Ph.D. programs in homeland security come from many professional backgrounds, and most homeland security degrees do not require previous work experience. However, individuals with related professional experience often feel more confident in their programs.
  • Exams and Test Scores: The majority of online Ph.D. programs in homeland security do not mandate test scores, but some require scores from the GRE. Certain programs may waive this requirement if the student possesses a high enough undergraduate GPA. If students do need to take the test, these scores stay valid for five years.
  • Coursework: Because students come from so many different academic backgrounds when applying to online homeland security doctoral programs, most departments do not require any specific coursework. However, some may want to see that a student maintained a certain GPA on upper-level coursework.
  • Recommendations: Most schools require 2-3 letters of recommendation from former supervisors, mentors, and professors who can speak to a student's accomplishments and their preparedness for the rigors of a doctoral program. Ask for these at least one month before the deadline to allow ample time for reflection and writing.
  • Essays: Most programs require prospective students to submit an essay or personal statement. These help admissions panels get a better sense of the unique qualities of each candidate, why they want to study homeland security at this level, and why a particular school best meets their current and future goals.
  • Interviews: Interview requirements typically depend on the level of competition at a particular school. Highly selective homeland security programs may frequently require in-person or virtual interviews to help clarify any lingering questions and provide a way of differentiating among finalist candidates.
  • International Students: In addition to all the prerequisites listed above, students hailing from outside the United States must also providing passing IELTS or TESOL scores that demonstrate English proficiency. They may also need to show evidence of funding for the program and their living expenses.

How Much Can I Make With a Doctorate in Homeland Security?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that detectives and criminal investigators earn between $43,800 and $138,860 annually. While job experience gained through years of work can often contribute to higher salaries, higher education instills the hard skills and competencies that may lead to commanding better wages more quickly. When reading the next two sections, think about how your interests and passions may fit into traditional and out-of-the-box roles within the field of homeland security.

Careers Stats Description

Postsecondary Teacher

Median Salary: $78,470

Job Growth: 15%

This popular professional path allows individuals to educate the next generation of national security experts through lectures, readings, assignments, and projects.

Information Security Analyst

Median Salary: $98,350

Job Growth: 28%

These professionals work either with a single company or as consultants for multiple clients to ensure organizational networks maintain security and prevent cyberattacks by foreign countries. They continually test and update technologies to avoid breaches.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Median Salary: $118,370

Job Growth: 19%

Individuals in these roles can use their skills in research to identify ways of using technology and information to inform methods of homeland security. They may create new hardware or software that aids in this goal.

Cybersecurity Engineer

Median Salary: $93,428

Job Growth: N/A

After identifying issues that need correction, cybersecurity engineers liaise with other team members to create solutions and develop new systems that are less likely to be compromised by cyberthreats.

Research Scientist

Median Salary: $77,869

Job Growth: N/A

While computer research scientists focus on the technical aspects of cybercrimes, general research scientists may consider many topics related to homeland security, including policy development, weapon design, or responses to IEDs during times of war.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics / PayScale

Paying for a Doctorate in Homeland Security Online

Prospective learners must consider their budgets when thinking about how to pay for their online homeland security degrees. Some factors include varied tuition rates (especially in public versus private institutions) and opportunities for accelerated learning paths that may shorten overall program length. Learners must also remember to seek out subject-specific financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, and fellowships before applying for loans.

Scholarships for Online Homeland Security Students

Scholarships for learners enrolled in online Ph.D. programs in homeland security exist in many forms. Students should speak to prospective schools and academic departments to learn about opportunities, but they should also reach out to the state and federal government, professional associations, local businesses, nonprofits, and corporations to learn about funding options.

What to Expect From an Online Homeland Security Program

While homeland security Ph.D. programs vary, they do share some commonalities. Most take 3-5 years to complete, depending on whether the student enrolls on a full- or part-time basis. As they progress through the plan of study, learners hit milestones such as completing coursework and preparing dissertations. The majority of learning takes place in virtual classrooms, allowing degree seekers to watch lectures, turn in assignments, and interact with their colleagues and professors online.

Major Milestones

  1. Complete Coursework

    Coursework takes up the first half of the degree and requires students to progress through a series of classes that instill advanced knowledge and prepare them for the thesis portion of the program.

  2. Take Comprehensive Examinations

    Comprehensive examinations test a student's ability to retain knowledge and concepts gained through the coursework. Exam results can signal to the department whether the learner is prepared to advance into the research and writing requirements.

  3. Submit Dissertation Proposal

    Students must provide a detailed explanation of their proposed research interests, the question they hope to answer, the research they plan to use, and the thesis they hope to craft. They must also outline any proposed methodologies or data collection methods.

  4. Defend Dissertation Proposal

    After submitting a proposal, members of the student's dissertation committee can ask the candidate questions about their research plans, identify any potentially troublesome gaps, and suggest changes before the dissertation research phase begins.

  5. Defend Dissertation

    After submitting a dissertation, each student must appear before the panel and answer questions about their research.

  6. Apply for Graduation

    After receiving approval from the committee, students are cleared for graduation and must apply through the registrar's office. They must also rent or purchase a cap and gown and pay any remaining fees.


The list of courses highlighted below provides a glimpse of what to expect when beginning an online doctorate in homeland security. Always review individual school websites to get a better sense of their actual program details.

Nationalism and Identity

This course examines the challenges surrounding nation states, diaspora groups, gender relations, social hierarchies, and concepts of national identity. Students engage in case studies and develop modern approaches to solving complex issues.

Technology and Global Security

Students in this course examine how innovation, tech, and emerging sciences can be used to create more effective global security measures. They also study weak points in these methods to look for potential issues.

Emergency Managing for the Security Professional

This fascinating course takes a look at past and present recovery strategies for both human-made and natural disasters. Students identify strengths and weaknesses in these plans along the way.

Homeland Security Policy

With a focus on understanding how to craft effective and practical policies, this course calls on each learner to create a research scope and develop a project based on bringing policy to fruition.

Using Intelligence

Students in this class look at the role of foreign and domestic intelligence in response to potential threats and emergencies. Enrollees can discover how to interrogate intelligence sources to get a clearer sense of whether or not information can be used.

Degree Timelines

Depending on your personal and professional responsibilities, it may not be possible to follow a traditional, full-time schedule during your online doctorate in homeland security. Fortunately, there are other options.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


5-6 years

Part-time options allow learners to take approximately 3-6 credits per semester, making it easy to balance their studies with other responsibilities. This appeals to individuals who hope to continue working full time or have families to consider.


3-4 years

Full-time programs require students to complete 6-9 credits per semester. This path appeals to learners who may work part time but decide to focus the majority of their energy on school.


3 years

Accelerated programs often provide truncated schedules that allow degree seekers to complete more content in a shorter amount of time. These programs best support learners who want to get in and out of school as quickly as possible.

Licenses and Certifications

Most jobs for graduates of online Ph.D. programs in homeland security do not mandate licensure. However, certifications can help professionals build their skills in nuanced areas, demonstrate advanced competencies to prospective employers, and widen the choice of positions in the job market. The certification below represents an optional path, so be sure to conduct additional research to find one that best suits your interests.

  • Certified Homeland Protection Professional: The Global Society of Homeland and National Security Professionals offers this certification to individuals with at least four years of related experience. Applicants must successfully pass an exam and pay $595.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Though recent graduates may feel reluctant to spend the money required to join a professional organization, membership in these associations can provide many benefits. Some members participate mostly for the networking opportunities made available at national conferences, regional chapters, or online forums. Others enjoy reviewing the active job postings or reading up on industry news through in-house publications. Regardless of your specific interests, membership in a professional association can help you in your professional life. As a bonus, some of these groups may also provide scholarships.