Which is Better: A Degree in Homeland Security or a Degree in Emergency Management?

Natural disasters, border transgressions, and terrorism threats: these are the stories that make national headlines in the twenty-first century. Many colleges and universities, including some online schools, offer degree programs that prepare students for careers in safety and security. However, some may wonder which is better: a degree in homeland security or a degree in emergency management?

Frankly, neither degree is better than the other. They are simply two different paths to some very challenging careers that protect the nation’s safety and security. People who have a bachelor’s degree in public safety, criminal justice or similar field can advance their careers with a master’s degree in emergency management or homeland security.

Emergency Management Specialists

U.S. News and World Report predicts a strong growth for emergency management careers in the current decade. Emergency management specialists work behind the scenes to make disaster response possible. The stress level is high, but the challenges are rewarding.

Emergency management specialists coordinate crisis management activities in environmental, natural and other disasters. They develop plans and procedures for natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and earthquakes; technological disasters like power plant explosions and hazardous material spills; wartime disasters; and hostage situations.

According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL), emergency management specialists earn a median annual income of nearly $53,000. Emergency management directors can earn twice that amount. Most emergency management workers hold jobs in local or state governments, medical and surgical hospitals, power generation facilities and emergency relief services.

Homeland Security Careers

People who work in homeland security anticipate everything from natural disasters to medical pandemics to terrorism. They prepare for these events, react to them and try to prevent them. Because of the nature of their work, homeland security professionals must meet certain criteria that are not required of other workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most homeland security jobs are in federal, state and local government agencies. Many are in the United States Department of Homeland Security. However, some people work for private industries and non-profit organizations.

Border patrol agents, criminal investigators and security specialists are just a few occupations that may require a homeland security degree. Some emergency management directors also hold this degree. Annual salaries range from around $30,000 for entry-level border patrol agents to more than $100,000 for emergency management directors, chemists and other professions.

Combined Degree Program

Some colleges and universities combine the two degrees into a Master of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management. This is a criminal justice degree that enables college graduates to pursue management-level positions. People who hold this degree usually seek employment with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or other federal, state and local agencies. Some private sector jobs may require this degree.

Closing Thoughts

The effects of September 11, 2001, as well as recent natural disasters continue to reverberate in the public and private sectors. As a result, government agencies, private industries and non-profit organizations are willing to fund emergency management at higher levels. The BLS expects jobs in this field to grow by nearly 22 percent before 2018. For anyone interested in a career in safety and security, now is the time to pursue a degree.