On the Job With a Homeland Security and Emergency Management Degree

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Degree

If you are interested in disaster management, security, or business continuity, National University’s Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management degree prepares you for a career in the public sector at city, state or federal levels, as well as jobs in private industry and nonprofit organizations. 

For one U.S. Army veteran and National alumni, the program allowed her to build upon her military experience and broaden her career horizons. 

Karolyn Smith (BS ’17), has always had an interest in protecting critical infrastructure and people. After a dozen years in the U.S. Army, Smith found that National University’s Bachelor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management program exactly fit the educational requirements she was looking for — a program that would build on her military knowledge and experience and help her become more well-rounded in critical infrastructure matters related to homeland security. “As a soldier, I completed tasks,” she says. “Now it was time to understand the whys [behind the orders] and the linkage between command and control.” 

National University, San Diego’s largest nonprofit university, strongly supports veterans and active-duty military personnel and their dependents with accessible and achievable higher education options. A Yellow Ribbon school, National has long recognized that servicemembers hardly every have a straightforward schedule and that balancing work, school, and family can take some expert juggling.

For instance, after active service, Smith went into the reserves and to a job that didn’t exactly fit into the 9-to-5 mold. “I spent the next decade in private contracting,” she says. “I did a lot of high-threat clandestine work around the globe which didn’t enable me to be a typical student. National had the ability to work with my schedule, which at that time was pretty crazy.” 

Many National professors have military backgrounds themselves and they understand the nuances of balancing a military career with education, family, and other responsibilities. That was key for Smith.“The reason I gravitated to National to begin with, is NU’s unyielding flexibility for military and veterans,” says Smith. “I was able to turn work in early, and if my work was ever late it was due, literally, to me being in a country with no internet connection.” 

Smith worked with the experienced staff of the Veteran Center at National who helped her find ways to manage both her global career commitments and her desire to pursue the bachelor’s in homeland security on-site in San Diego.  Once she started the emergency management degree, Smith didn’t take any time off; she took advantage of the four-week terms and took one class each month until she finished the program. “All classes were onsite, except one, which was designed to be online,” she says.

A Diverse Student Population

The on-site classes in the homeland security degree program varied in size and mix of students, but Smith found a pool of different backgrounds in each class. “A lot of classes,” she says, “were a heavy concentration of military folks, which enabled the vernacular to remain the same when we were having conversations.” With a mix that included civilians, it enabled a nice balance. She says, “It made the civilian students better in homeland security because they didn’t have an actual working knowledge of all the elements of homeland security as the military folks do. Military personnel do 90% of what homeland security entails while we’re in service. Civilians come from their perspective and we come from our perspective and it creates good dialogue.”

Smith found all instructors knowledgeable and helpful. When asked if there was any particular professor that leapt to mind from her homeland security degree program, she mentioned Professor Nicholas Tzakis and his Interviewing and Interrogation (HSE475) course. What made him different? Students could present material for projects in ways that were relevant to them, from their experience, which didn’t always follow book objectives to the letter. She says, “I think it made a better bonding experience because many of us have a lot of combat time and we’re using a practical application for something that differs from the book. Tzakis was out-of-the-box and I think what made the course so impactful was being able to go outside the curriculum box while still achieving the objective of the course curriculum.”

Future Prospects With a Homeland Security Degree

Among the learning outcomes of the National homeland security degree program, students are trained to:

  • Conduct research on various government and private sector entities and report on suggested improvements in preparing for an emergency.
  • Prepare for work in a variety of homeland security and emergency preparedness settings and capacities, such as land borders, seaports and airports, threat assessment, disaster management, crisis response planning, and management

This homeland security-focus worked well for Smith. It gave her the strong foundation and working knowledge of homeland security policy she wanted and enabled her to pursue and achieve a master’s in homeland security cyberpolicy with ease. All in all, it’s a program she stands behind.

“I would absolutely recommend this program to others,” Smith says. “I’d suggest adding some cyber courses, too, as cyber and homeland security are married to each other in industries.” 

Career opportunities are plentiful if you have knowledge, experience, and education in homeland security and emergency management. Smith says, “Our biggest threat currently is terrorism, cyberterrorism, breaching of networks, and all things that are relatable to homeland security. Someone who has a background, or wants to improve their background, in dealing with the protection of people and assets, should go through the bachelor’s in homeland security and emergency management program to become a well-rounded practitioner of all things homeland security-related.” 

The homeland security degree from National University can prepare you for a career in any of the 16 sectors within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Smith says, “With a degree in homeland security and emergency management, you can go into the financial services sector, the health care and public health sectors, or the information technology sector. You can go into literally any of the 16 DHS sectors. And then you can start your own consultancy in risk assessment, threat assessment, or breach analysis, as examples. You could be a federal employee, a state employee, a city employee. You can go anywhere with this degree.”

Paying for an Education

Smith used benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill for her homeland security education. Other military tuition discounts are available for active-duty and reserve military servicemembers and their dependents and veterans. You can learn more through the military admissions page.Financial aid and scholarships are available for prospective students, also.
 

Smith’s Future Plans

As for what Smith plans to do with her bachelor of science in emergency management, her new goal is to become an adjunct professor. “I had a couple of instructors compliment me on being good at communicating and relating my papers to the particular courses. So now I’m navigating toward teaching. We’ll see where that leads.” Smith is familiar with the role of instructor and thinks she’ll enjoy it. “I’ve been an instructor in other capacities, such as antiterrorism, where I’m a Level 2 instructor. I like to think the way I present material would be within the scope of the curriculum but outside the scope of the expectations.”

Even though her homeland security education at National was in physical classrooms, she wouldn’t mind teaching courses for online degree programs, too. “I’d like to inspire other NU students to consider teaching as a career path, in addition to all the other paths open with a Bachelor in Homeland Security and Emergency Management degree.” 

Smith continues on her path to achievement. She has since completed a master’s in cyberpolicy and plans to pursue a doctorate. She also created a nonprofit as a legacy to colleagues lost during deployment. “I’m driven by my ‘fallen,’” she says. “My nonprofit aims to put inspirational children’s books written by veterans in the hands of kids in critical care. We’re small, but I’d like to think we’re making an impact.”

Recommending National

Recommending NationalFor Smith, National is the perfect educational option for active-duty or veteran servicemembers.

“National University is my number one pick for veterans in particular,” Smith says, “because of their flexibility in assistance and the ability to reduce the costs. It definitely expands the scope of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and helps the resources last a little longer because of what National provides. I also think that National’s ability to be sensitive to, particularly, disabled veterans, is completely different than any other university in San Diego. You’re just one among many at other schools, but at National, it’s more about helping you be successful by identifying mitigating roadblocks and removing them and staying invested in your progress. National feels like a small town even though it’s in a big city and has a global reach.”

Get Started on Your Homeland Security Career Path Today

To learn more about the National University Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management degree, please visit our program page.