The terrorist attacks of 2001 and the subsequent War on Terror started a job market boom in areas related to homeland security that show no sign of slowing down in the near future. From counterterrorism to cybersecurity, global instability and technological developments in digital warfare have only expanded the role of agencies like the NSA, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the CIA, as well as private-sector corporate security firms and government contractors. A government job has always been a pretty safe career path, but in the 21st century, any profession related to security has a high rate of return.
Why Should You Earn a Homeland Security PhD?
What makes it worthwhile to earn a PhD in security or some other kind of Homeland Security doctorate? For working professionals who are already in some criminal justice, cybersecurity, or civil service career, a doctoral degree can make a tremendous difference in opportunities for advancement, career change, and, of course, pay grade. A good Homeland Security PhD program will provide students with strong research and analytical skills, develop leadership skills, and offer a network of important job-market connections for success.
Since most of the prospective students for a PhD in Security are already working professionals, online Homeland Security PhD programs make a lot of sense from a university’s perspective. There are many possible paths to a Homeland Security doctorate, including degrees in Criminal Justice, Business Administration, Computer Science, Public Policy, and Professional Studies, combined with a concentration or specialization in security. In some cases, students may add a specialized graduate certificate or minor to their program for further credentialing.
Ranking the Best Online PhD in Homeland Security Programs
To rank the 15 Best Online Doctorates in Homeland Security, Online PhD researched all of the most reputable online, hybrid, or low-residency programs related to the field. From this initial list, programs were ranked according to three sets of data:
- Cost: Current IPEDS data
- Reputation: Current Niche grade
- ROI: Current College Scorecard alumni salary data
All of the programs featured in the top 15 come from regionally-accredited universities. Several of the programs featured in the ranking have also been named National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by the National Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security. This distinction gives graduates one of the strongest job-market positions in the field.
1. University of Illinois at Chicago – Chicago, IL
The University of Illinois at Chicago is one of the youngest major public research universities, beginning as an extension campus for the University of Illinois in 1946. UIC was originally intended to simply act as a temporary two-year school to help meet the demand for higher education from WWII veterans using their GI Bill to reenter civilian life, but demand was high. By 1965, the state had opened a new, independent Chicago university, and UIC has become one of the nation’s top public research universities in just five decades. UIC has become Illinois’ leader in professional education, ranging from medicine and nursing to business, law, and criminal justice.
While the UIC PhD in Criminology, Law, and Justice is not fully online, many of the university’s graduate-level courses required for the degree are available online. For students who want to go into Homeland Security or related government agencies, UIC’s Emergency Management and Continuity Planning Graduate Certificate – which can supplement a master’s or PhD in homeland security – is available entirely online. These 5 courses can be completed in just 3 semesters, and added along with the Criminology, Law, and Justice PhD can effectively make a top PhD in Emergency Management for future agents and administrators.
Program: PhD in Criminology, Law, and Justice; Emergency Management and Continuity Planning Graduate Certificate
2. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis – Indianapolis, IN
One of the most unique public research universities in the US, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis came about in 1969, when Indiana and Purdue consolidated their two extension campuses in the Indiana capital. This unusual approach created an independent institution that is able to draw on the strengths of Indiana’s two most prominent public universities. Because of its location and status, IUPUI has quickly become the state’s leader in professional studies, particularly those related to urban life, modern technology, and medicine (including the largest nursing school and second-largest medical school in the US). With its emphasis on education for working adults, IUPUI has also become one of the leading online educators in America, providing opportunity for working professionals throughout Indiana and across the US.
IUPUI’s online PhD Minor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management is a unique supplemental program that allows students working on their doctorate to add on a fully online minor. To apply, students must already have a current, approved PhD plan; the minor adds 4 courses, including required courses in emergency management, risk analysis, and security in America. With the PhD minor, any doctoral program becomes a PhD in homeland security, giving graduates the qualifications to advance in their government career, or to move into a new area of professional service.
Program: PhD Minor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management
3. University of Southern Mississippi – Hattiesburg, MS
Founded in 1910, the University of Southern Mississippi began as Mississippi’s first teacher’s college, taking the place of an antiquated system of traveling educators who went from community to community training schoolteachers. From that foundation, though, Southern Miss grew into one of the most important public doctoral research universities in the Deep South, especially for its professional and STEM programs, including business, nursing, and the human sciences. USM’s profile has been rising in recent years as the university has developed a strong selection of fully online degree programs reaching out to students in Mississippi and across the nation.
The Southern Miss online PhD in International Development degree program provides a convenient and effective means for working adults to earn their terminal degree in a critical field. The International Development PhD allows students to focus in a number of different areas, including security studies, bringing together the most current research and theory about how communities and nations develop, advance, and interact. Students must attend 7 on-campus meetings throughout the academic year, but all coursework is fully online, making for a highly flexible online PhD in security studies.
Program: PhD in International Development
4. Liberty University – Lynchburg, VA
Founded in 1971, Liberty University was the ambition of Christian evangelist Jerry Falwell, who envisioned Liberty as the world’s center for Christian education. While it began as a small Baptist college, Liberty began a major transition when it initiated distance education in 1985 – originally through VHS correspondence courses. Where Liberty really found its stride was with online education, getting ahead of other Christian colleges to fully embrace the new format. Today, nearly 100,000 online students make Liberty the largest Christian college in the US, and one of its leading educators.
Liberty is also one of the most politically-connected Christian universities, with strong ties to the Republican party and the federal government, lobbying groups, and NGOs. That makes Liberty’s online PhD in Criminal Justice-Homeland Security degree program a clear choice for Christian students who want to enhance their careers in security, or to move into a Homeland Security career. This fully online PhD in Homeland Security can be completed in just 3 years, with no need to ever attend or spend a residency on-campus. It’s a clear choice from one of the foremost names in online education today.
Program: PhD in Criminal Justice – Homeland Security
5. St. John’s University – Queens, NY
Founded in 1870 by the Vincentian Fathers – a Roman Catholic order dedicated to education and service to the poor – St. John’s University was originally located in Brooklyn at the request of Bishop John Loughlin. While St. John’s eventually moved to the burrough of Queens, the university never abandoned its mission of providing education to underprivileged and underrepresented students. That mission has made St. John’s one of the most diverse Catholic universities in the nation, as well as one of the most successful for social mobility; the university even makes a point of supporting homeless students.
St. John’s online DPS in Homeland Security degree program provides an opportunity for working professionals in the security sector to earn their terminal degree without leaving their current positions. The Doctor of Professional Studies is a practical degree format, focused on applicable skills that have an immediate use in students’ careers, and St. John’s builds the curriculum around the specialized problems of modern security: technology, globalism, and natural disasters, to name a few. While all coursework is fully online, students are required to meet on-campus for one week each academic year, where they get to know their cohort and instructors, and make connections that may benefit them in their careers later.
Program: DPS in Homeland Security
6. University of Colorado Colorado Springs – Colorado Springs, CO
The University of Colorado Colorado Springs was officially founded in 1965 as an independent campus of the CU System. However, the university had been offering extension courses in Colorado Springs since 1945, when returning WWII vets on the GI Bill increased demand much farther than the Boulder campus could sustain. Originally housed on the campus of a former sanitarium known as the “Sun Palace,” UCCS enjoyed an early association with Hewlett-Packard, developing a strong reputation for business and engineering right from the start. UCCS has also long been ranked one of the top regional universities in the West.
In the 21st century, UCCS has build on that foundation with strong connections to the military, NSA, and Homeland Security, tying its business and engineering expertise to the complexities of contemporary global security. UCCS’s online PhD in Engineering degree program includes a Concentration in Security that helps working professionals develop their expertise in areas like cybersecurity and Homeland Security. UCCS is an NSA and DHS designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, giving students the assurance not only of a top-ranked online program, but one with exceptional connections.
Program: PhD in Engineering, Security concentration
7. Nova Southeastern University – Fort Lauderdale, FL
From its founding in 1964, Nova Southeastern University has had technology at its center. Originally a small graduate school, Nova Southeastern began in Fort Lauderdale to provide working adults with convenient graduate degrees in technology-related fields, Nova made its name in the 1970s by providing distance education opportunities for military personnel stationed all over the world. This early foundation in distance education made online education a natural choice for Nova Southeastern in the 1990s, building on many years of providing working adults and other professionals with convenient means to earn their degrees. With a growing national reputation, Nova Southeastern has become one of the foremost names in online education.
Nova Southeastern’s online PhD in Information Assurance degree program is rooted in NSU’s oldest areas of expertise, and in the most current technology. Recognized by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, Nova Southeastern’s online PhD in security program provides students with the highest level of theory, research, and practice in cybersecurity, focusing on both technical innovation and leadership skills. A hybrid format gives students the flexibility of online courses, with the real-world connection and guidance of on-campus experience.
Program: PhD in Information Assurance
8. Colorado Technical University – Colorado Springs, CO
One of the most recognizable names in online education, Colorado Technical University began in 1965 as a small vocational school dedicated to helping veterans train to reenter civilian society in technical careers. The school reached university status in 1995, and around the same time leapt into online education, developing a slew of fully online programs in a variety of fields. Today, more than 90% of CTU’s student body is made up of online students, and has long been ranked one of the best colleges for veterans. Besides regional accreditation, CTU has business accreditation from the ACBSP and engineering accreditation from the ABET.
CTU is also recognized as an NSA-DHS Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education, making the Colorado Tech Doctor of Management in Homeland Security degree program one of the nation’s best. An official relationship with the government agencies most responsible for national security give CTU graduates a valuable in when it comes to advancement and career change. Fully online courses with a low residency component makes the Doctor of Management a convenient choice for working professionals in the security field, or career-changing adults. It’s one of the top online PhD in security programs out there.
Program: Doctor of Management – Homeland Security
9. New Jersey City University – Jersey City, NJ
Part of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, New Jersey City University began as a public normal school (a teacher-training method that put new teachers in real classrooms for experiential learning). As with many such schools, NJCU grew into a teacher’s college, then into a fully public university as the region around Jersey City grew into New Jersey’s second-largest metropolitan area. Today, NJCU is still an important institution for training New Jersey teachers, but the university has also become a major force in the state’s professional workforce, from fire science to a pipeline for FBI, CIA, and other government agencies.
That reputation has made NJCU’s online Doctor of Science in Civil Security Leadership, Management, and Policy one of the best choices for New Jersey’s prospective security professionals. As a generalist program, the DSci focuses around three areas: National Security, Corporate Security, and Cybersecurity. Unlike a PhD, a DSci is a practitioner doctorate, more directed toward usefulness in a professional career than on academic or research expertise. All coursework is online, with students attending a 2-week summer residency and four weekend residencies on campus. With NJCU’s connections, graduates have a fast track to advancement to administrative and executive positions.
Program: Doctor of Science in Civil Security
10. Penn State Harrisburg – Harrisburg, PA
Penn State Harrisburg was founded in 1966 as a branch of Pennsylvania State University in Pennsylvania’s capital city. With its location in the capital, Penn State Harrisburg is built on its connections to the government of Pennsylvania, along with deep networking throughout the state’s business and nonprofit sectors centered around Harrisburg. Due to the opportunities Penn State Harrisburg provides, the university has become a significant player in professional education, especially in areas related to government. Its dedication to adult education has also made Penn State Harrisburg a growing leader in online and distance education.
Penn State Harrisburg’s online PhD in Public Administration degree program is rooted in one of the university’s strengths, thanks to its deep foundations in the state government. Since 1989, Penn State Harrisburg has offered public administration programs, helping working civil servants and other professionals develop the skills and knowledge they need to move into higher positions of authority. Students can also choose a specialization in Homeland Security. With Penn State Harrisburg’s history and alumni network, graduates have opportunities throughout Pennsylvania and nationally.
Program: PhD in Public Administration
11. American Public University – Charles Town, WV
American Public University had its origin in American Military University, an pioneering distance-education school dedicated to providing opportunities for active-duty personnel. Founded in 1991 by a retired USMC major, AMU specialized in programs of use to career military personnel, such as counterterrorism and security, a position that continued when AMU started American Public University in 2002. APU focuses on programs for students in public and civil service careers, and has been fully online since its start (AMU went fully online in 1998). With regional accreditation, and NSA recognition, APU is one of the best sources for an online PhD in security degree.
The APU online Doctor of Global Security degree program is a unique opportunity for working professionals in various areas of public policy and civil service. This multidisciplinary program focuses on the complexities of physical and technological security in a global world, with an emphasis on crafting policy based on strong, real-world data. Based on a scholar-practitioner format, students learn research skills, evaluation and analysis, and application of knowledge for decision-making. APU’s faculty is made up of working experts from government, military, and NGOs, and the university’s connections throughout the security sector make the online homeland security PhD a strong investment.
Program: Doctor of Global Security
12. Saint Leo University – Saint Leo, FL
Saint Leo University was founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks and nuns who had originally come to the area to serve a growing community of German immigrants, since the formerly Spanish and French region had no German-speaking priests. From that unusual origin, Saint Leo became an important institution in Florida’s higher education system, especially after it began an influential distance-learning program for active-duty military personnel in 1973. Building on that foundation, Saint Leo has grown into one of the nation’s largest Catholic universities, and one of the most recognizable names in online education.
The Saint Leo online Doctor of Criminal Justice-Homeland Security degree program is designed for working adults in the criminal justice field, whether in government or private security organizations. With a long historic association with the military and security sectors, Saint Leo provides students not only with the most current research and knowledge in the field, but with exceptional connections and opportunities for growth and networking. All coursework is conveniently online, while students will meet for three weekend-long residencies during their program. At 60 credits, the online Homeland Security doctorate can be completed in just three and a half years.
Program: Doctor of Criminal Justice – Homeland Security
13. Walden University – Minneapolis, MN
Walden University began in 1970, in the era’s spirit of experiment and openness, beginning with a program to help schoolteachers complete their doctoral degrees and move into administration. The demand for low-residency graduate degrees grew steadily over time, and then exploded in the mid-1990s, when Walden established the first online education doctoral program. Since that time, Walden has become one of the most prominent names in online education in a variety of fields, including business, management, and public policy. In addition, Walden is recognized as an NSA/DHS National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education, giving their online PhD in Homeland Security high marks for success.
The Walden online PhD in Public Policy and Administration degree program provides working professionals with an optional concentration in Homeland Security Policy and Coordination. This speciality focuses on designing and implementing policies that keep citizens safe, while still maintaining rights and freedoms. National security is an interdisciplinary, cooperative field, and Walden’s Public Policy PhD emphasizes working together to develop policies and actions based on thorough and reliable information. All coursework is online, though students will meet for brief on-campus residencies to receive guidance from their advisors.
Program: PhD in Public Policy and Administration – Homeland Security Policy and Coordination concentration
14. California University of Pennsylvania – California, PA
A regional, public university in California, PA, California University of Pennsylvania dates back to 1952, when the people of the new town (named in a wave of Gold-Rush enthusiasm) opened their first public school. Originally, CUP began at kindergarten and went all the way to junior college courses, before becoming the region’s teacher-training college. Part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education since 1983, Cal U plays an important role in educating the state’s professional workforce, from education and business, to public policy and criminal justice. Cal U has also become a well-known online educator, expanding its borders with technology.
The California University online Doctor of Criminal Justice degree program is an excellent place to start a career in security, but paired with the online Homeland Security Graduate Certificate, students have all the qualifications they could need for high-level positions in government, private security, and other security organizations. Cal U’s online DCJ was the first regionally-accredited program of its kind in the US, and has earned national attention for its excellence. Fully online coursework (with one 5-day summer residency) makes it possible to complete the doctorate in as little as 2 years, while the Homeland Security certificate takes just one year. Cal U makes for a perfect online PhD in security.
Program: Doctor of Criminal Justice with Homeland Security Graduate Certificate
15. Northcentral University – San Diego, CA
One of the earliest fully-online virtual universities, Northcentral University was founded in 1996 with a mission to provide the most convenient, flexible graduate programs possible for working adults. From its beginning, Northcentral has been focused on programs designed to be applied directly and immediately to its students’ careers, making it one of the most practical online educators out there. Northcentral is rare among for-profit universities in earning regional accreditation, while many of its programs have received discipline-specific accreditations; the business program is accredited by the ACBSP. With its reputation, Northcentral has become one of the primary names in online higher education.
Northcentral’s online PhD in Business Administration degree program offers a Homeland Security Leadership & Policy specialization intended for working professionals in the security field who want to move into executive leadership. The Northcentral PhD is focused on combining high-order research and theory with application to real-world problem-solving. While all coursework is fully online, students can develop a strong mentoring relationship with faculty members, all of whom are experienced practitioners with a wealth of real-world expertise to draw on. Graduates are qualified to go into academic positions, executive roles in the private sector, or high-ranking leadership government agencies.
Program: PhD in Business Administration, Homeland Security Leadership & Policy specialization