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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
The Wilder School HSEP faculty includes experts in international affairs, public policy planning, criminal justice, national and international governments, and public administration. They include:
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 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.
The Wilder School's online HSEP graduate degree program was created to teach students to analyze policy and make strategic decisions in five areas:
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.
Questions or feedback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org