Homeland Security

Why Earn an Online Homeland Security Degree from VCU?

Why Earn an Online Homeland Security Degree from VCU?
Virginia Commonwealth University's MA in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is the first program in the nation devoted to these interrelated disciplines. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry October 6, 2020

Ever since 9/11, homeland security and emergency preparedness have constituted a significant and essential employment sector in the United States. An online master's in homeland security and emergency preparedness from VCU can help you get ahead in this crucial industry.

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Natural disasters and political violence have bedeviled humanity throughout history. Yet, despite the persistence of these tragic events, master’s degree programs related to homeland security and emergency management are relatively new. In fact, only one program—at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA—offers a combined degree in both.

Before the terrorist assaults of September 11, 2001, few academic programs focused on preventing and responding to terrorist threats or natural and manmade disasters. It was only after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that the federal government established the Center for Homeland Defense and Security and created one of the first homeland security master’s degree programs.

Many colleges and universities followed suit in the years following 9/11, including Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. The school developed its comprehensive 36-credit hour Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (HSEP) program to give students “the decision-making, leadership and policymaking skills they need to protect their communities from the unpredictable and unexpected” and “lead and support first responders and rescuers to protect against domestic and global threats.”

The curriculum in the school’s online homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s program covers not only terrorism but also cyber security, public health, law, intelligence, disaster management, and critical infrastructure protection. It’s unique in that it isn’t only for experienced law enforcement officials, government workers, and members of the Armed Forces. Graduates of VCU’s homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s degree program come from varied backgrounds and become researchers, professional policy analysts, and governmental decision-makers.

In this article about the ins and outs of earning VCU’s homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s online, we cover:

  • What you need to know about homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s degrees
  • Features of the VCU homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s degree
  • How to get into the VCU homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s program
  • The VCU homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s online curriculum
  • Who’s who on the online homeland security and emergency preparedness faculty
  • Tuition
  • The VCU HSEP online student experience
  • What you’ll do after earning VCU’s homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s online

What you need to know about the homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s degree

Unsurprisingly, higher education programs focused on homeland security and emergency preparedness tend to attract applicants who have served in the military or have backgrounds in intelligence, immigration, law enforcement, emergency response, or cybersecurity. Many have related bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice, computer science, public health, or homeland security. Some homeland security master’s degree programs require applicants to have significant professional experience in roles directly or indirectly related to national security.

Even so, there are plenty of students enrolled in homeland security graduate programs who don’t have prior experience in any of these areas. They’re often career changers who want to transition into risk management, counterterrorism, biosecurity, threat management, disaster prevention and response, national security, or related fields.

Across the board, homeland security master’s programs prepare students to address current and future threats to the United States and its citizens. However, colleges and universities treat these programs differently. There are programs with a clear cyber security focus that devote more time to the study of technology as it relates to national security. Others teach students to develop and assess actionable security strategies at the local and state levels. There are also programs with a counterterrorism focus designed to teach students to forecast future risk—especially risks posed by emerging terrorist organizations.

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Features of the VCU homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s degree

  • Virginia Commonwealth University’s MA in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness is the first program in the nation devoted to these interrelated disciplines. It is also one of only 54 programs in the entire nation focused on homeland security.
  • The HSEP program prepares students for a variety of careers. Graduates go on to hold titles as varied as crisis intervention planner, emergency management coordinator, hazard mitigation planner, recovery consultant, and security specialist.
  • VCU’s online degree program attracts a wide range of applicants, so students in the program are exposed to various perspectives. Each cohort includes law enforcement officers, intelligence professionals, intel analysts, cyber security professionals, service members, engineers, fire science techs, health care professionals, and disaster relief professionals.
  • VCU’s decision to let HSEP students earn a homeland security master’s entirely online means more people can launch careers in national security and emergency management without having to relocate for school or take time off work.
  • The faculty includes scholars and specialists with backgrounds in law enforcement, medicine, fire science, the military, counterterrorism, emergency management, and intelligence.
  • Even though students pursuing a VCU homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s online can study from anywhere, they benefit from the school’s proximity to Washington, DC. Students in the distance-learning program can take advantage of internship opportunities and connect with security experts in the nation’s capital.

How to get into the VCU homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s program

VCU’s online homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s program accepts both recent graduates and mid-career professionals who want to excel in intelligence, cybersecurity, national security, and emergency management careers. HSEP applicants must meet the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, which include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and a minimum GPA of 2.7.

Applicants must also submit a letter of intent explaining why they want to pursue a master’s in HSEP from the VCU Wilder School, a work and volunteer history demonstrating a commitment to service, and three letters of recommendation. GRE scores are not required. What VCU wants to see in applicants is proof of their ability to handle graduate-level work, along with either experience in security or emergency response roles or a passion for helping and protecting others.

The VCU homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s online curriculum

VCU’s Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program approaches national security and preparedness in an interdisciplinary way, touching on everything from the social, political, ethical, and economic aspects of disasters to the policies that protect the United States from terrorists. Core classes include:

  • Cyber Security Law and Policy
  • Emergency Management
  • Government, Industry, and Strategic Planning
  • Institutional Challenges of Security Preparedness
  • Law Enforcement Policy and Judicial Precedent
  • Private Sector Preparedness
  • Public Health
  • Research Methods
  • Risk Assessment
  • Special Topics in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness
  • Technology, Security and Preparedness
  • Terrorism

As students approach graduation, they take a capstone and assessment course culminating in a major research project designed to showcase their knowledge and analytical skills. Research topics are usually related to the simulation exercises students take part in during the week-long end-of-program residency.

Who’s who on the online homeland security and emergency preparedness faculty

The Wilder School HSEP faculty includes experts in international affairs, public policy planning, criminal justice, national and international governments, and public administration. They include:

  • Associate Professor James Keck teaches courses in emergency management, emergency operations planning, incident command systems, private sector preparedness, strategic planning in homeland security, critical infrastructure protection, and resiliency. Keck served as deputy state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management before joining the Wilder School and as the executive director of the Virginia Emergency Management Association.
  • Assistant Professor Maureen Moslow-Benway teaches courses in terrorism, the US intelligence community and intelligence process, and counterterrorism. She has served as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. During her tenure with the Air Force, she was honored as the Counterintelligence Agent of the Year for the Department of Defense. Moslow-Benway is currently a homeland security and emergency preparedness assistant chair.
  • Assistant Professor and HSEP Program Chair William Pelfrey, Jr. teaches courses in forensic psychology, terrorism, police administration, and problems in homeland security. His research has been published in leading journals, including Justice Quarterly, Criminal Justice Studies, Homeland Security Review, and the Journal of Criminal Justice. Pelfrey’s research interests include policing, terrorism prevention, the spatial analysis of crime, police use of force, crime patterns, and the psychology of offenders.
  • Assistant Professor David Webber teaches courses in terrorism and radicalization. His research interests include the psychological, cultural, and social factors of the radicalization process, the effectiveness of deradicalization programs, and social psychology. Webber is currently working with the US State Department and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism on a project looking at the use and implementation of risk assessment tools for imprisoned violent extremist offenders in the Philippine prison system.

Tuition

Virginia Commonwealth University is one of the more affordable universities offering a homeland security master’s program. The Wilder School’s online homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s costs about $30,000 for students who qualify for in-state tuition rates and approximately $58,000 for full-time students paying non-resident tuition. Part-time students pay slightly less.

The VCU HSEP student experience

The online homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s at VCU is delivered through the school’s learning management system, Canvas. Students access all course content and activities, including syllabi, class lectures, faculty office hours, assignments, discussions, professor input, exams, and grades through this centralized hub. While the HSEP program has an on-campus component, most content is delivered online, synchronously and asynchronously. Classes are delivered via 60 to 90-minute weekly live sessions over one-and-a-half years (full-time) or two years (part-time). Most students complete six to eight hours of asynchronous coursework each week per class.

Students in the online program use Canvas to attend live lectures, give presentations, and participate in breakout group sessions and classroom discussions. Participation in these online discussions is required and counts toward a student’s final grade. Group work is a big part of this program; the Wilder School has developed a curriculum that encourages students in each cohort to develop collaborative relationships.

What you’ll do after earning VCU’s homeland security and emergency preparedness master’s online

The Wilder School’s online HSEP graduate degree program was created to teach students to analyze policy and make strategic decisions in five areas:

  • Cyber security
  • Disasters and disaster preparedness
  • Institutional coordination
  • Intelligence operations
  • Risk and vulnerability

Graduates leave VCU with a deep understanding of the theoretical and practical principles of emergency preparedness for both natural disasters and terrorist incidents. As a result, they are prepared to step into one of the thousands of open homeland security jobs in the federal government and private sector.

Master’s in homeland security and emergency preparedness graduates work for the military, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, Department of Transportation, Department of Labor, Department of State, FBI, and CIA. They can also be found in the private and nonprofit sectors, and in state and local agencies. Graduates might become intelligence collectors, counterintelligence specialists, emergency operations coordinators, network and systems engineers specializing in cyber security, or disaster specialists.

As the nation’s only Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, this VCU degree is versatile enough to open doors in various fields. And thanks to online delivery, this program can benefit students across the country, not just those in and around the Richmond area.

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Categorized as: Homeland SecurityInformation Technology & Engineering