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Online Master’s in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness | VCU Online

Prepare your community for the unpredictable and unexpected.

Get more information about the program including coursework, tuition and financial aid.

Bachelor’s degree is required to attend; Applicants are not required to submit standardized test scores.

By submitting this form, I agree to be contacted via email, phone or text to learn more about the programs at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The Nation’s First Master’s in Homeland Security Degree and Emergency Preparedness

From the California wildfires to the coronavirus pandemic, global emergencies continually remind us that a swift, coordinated response can save lives. Born of this understanding, the online Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (HSEP) prepares students to lead crucial security and emergency response teams. Our in-depth curriculum goes beyond traditional security education to equip students with practical decision-making, leadership, and policy-making skills.

US News Badges

Nationally recognized

No. 6

Homeland Security and Emergency Management Programs, Best Public Affairs Schools  Nationally

No. 39

Best Public Affairs Graduate Schools Nationally

No. 2

Best Public Affairs Program in Virginia

No. 33

Schools of Public Affairs and Public Management and Leadership Programs Nationally

Source: U.S. News & World Report, 2023, 2024

Why earn your homeland security master’s degree online from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU?

A leading emergency preparedness program unlike any other.

Gain hands-on experience in a part-time program that blends multiple disciplines and cultivates practical skills.

homeland security degree icon

Built for working professionals.

Complete a flexible online program that features learning modules to create engaging learning experiences.

Exceptional faculty with diverse field experience.

Learn from nationally recognized experts in military, law enforcement, fire and EMT, counterterrorism, emergency management, and intelligence.

Access the expertise of Washington, D.C.

Benefit from the program’s proximity to our nation’s capital, where policy and action intersect.

The dome of the US Capitol building

Is this homeland security degree right for you?

The homeland security degree program prepares you to lead first responders and protect against domestic and global threats. With backgrounds ranging from criminal justice and cybersecurity to immigration and disaster relief, students learn from each other’s unique perspectives. Graduates move on to become planners, resource managers, and partners in educating the communities they serve.

A shield

Shield your community from the unpredictable and unknown.

Become a well-rounded expert to protect against natural disasters, cyberattacks, and terrorist threats through policy and action.

A staircase with three steps

Take your career — and your service — to the next level.

Hone your skill set while deepening your understanding of the larger organizational, social, political, ethical and economic aspects of disaster studies.

A graph with a rising arrow

Excel in your academic or professional life.

Enroll in a program designed to help students secure career paths in intelligence, cybersecurity, homeland security, emergency management and more.

What to expect

Four coins, stacked

36 credits

A clock at 10:02

1.5 to 2 years total with 6 to 8 hours per week/course

A recording device

60 to 90-minute weekly live sessions

A laptop with a graduation cap on the left and a notebook with a pen on the right side

Flexible online format

A sheet of paper with a magnifying glass over it

Case studies and simulations for real-world experience

A group of three people and a check sign on the right side

A legacy of public policy and social equity

What you’ll learn

Intersection of policy and action.

Prepare for career growth with the tools you need to impact your community on micro and macro levels.

Hands-on experience.

Gain experience in crafting successful public policies through simulations, case studies and class discussion.

Holistic understanding.

Broaden your skills with an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to address modern threats to our infrastructure, public safety, cybersecurity, and public health.

Partnership and service.

Learn the principles of public policy leadership and ethics to collaborate with key officials and agencies.

– Kabrina Tippett, student
– David Webber, assistant professor and assistant chair of homeland security and emergency  preparedness
Explore Student and Faculty Profiles


A survey of emerging strategic, legal and policy issues associated with computer network attack, exploitation and defense. Students will study research and developments related to national security, homeland security and economic policy, and local governance. They will also learn about different policy issues to better understand cyber conflict between both state and non-state actors.

Faculty: Chris Whyte

An advanced analytical examination of emergency management factors. These include mitigation (designing programs to reduce the risk to vulnerable targets/infrastructure), preparedness (response planning and training, particularly interagency and intergovernmental agreements on joint operations and burden sharing), response (actual operations during and after a terrorist attack or natural disaster) and recovery (maintaining services in the immediate aftermath and long term). Through various case studies, students will investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the current practice of emergency management in the U.S.

A survey of the private sector’s dilemmas and responsibilities, centered around the basic question of “how much security is enough.” The course examines the critical emergency management functions (resumption, recovery, restoration, continuity), information sharing, communications and regulatory issues. Students will also address a central preparedness dilemma: Though private companies own the vast majority of critical security infrastructure, the government is responsible for preparing, protecting and reconstituting it.

An introduction to the theoretical and practical aspects of terrorism and counter-terrorism. This course explains how people use terrorism as a political tool, and discusses the methods used by specific terrorist groups. Students will focus on the relationships between terrorism and religion, technology, globalization and organizational design (network organizations). They will also examine the counter-terrorism policies of various nations with regard to strategic purpose, implementation and success.

Faculty: David Webber

A detailed study of the post-9/11 American institutional transformation. Students examine the theory and practice of homeland security and emergency preparedness within local, state and federal government, as well as the private and nonprofit sectors. The course addresses the dilemmas of coordination, collaboration, competition and decision-making across multiple organizational levels — governmental or otherwise.

Faculty: Will Pelfrey

An examination of strategic planning’s guiding principles and how responders can leverage it to identify resource requirements and a prioritized acquisition process. The course analyzes the strategic planning goal of designing a unified effort inclusive of the multiple agencies (governmental and nonprofit), distinct communities and private industries affected by natural disasters or terrorist incidents.

Faculty: Brie Haupt

An introduction to the assessment and management of risk, especially the analytical techniques used to assess threats to critical infrastructure. Students will learn to conduct a risk and vulnerability analysis of a specific target, city or region, and to manage that risk by evaluating the efficacy of both preventative and responsive measures. The course will cover both quantitative and qualitative assessment techniques.

Faculty: Hans Louis-Charles

An examination of the role of the public health sector in preparing for and responding to natural disasters, emerging infectious diseases, catastrophic terrorism and bioterrorism. The class focuses on coordination and cooperation of federal, state and local government and the public-, private- and nonprofit-sector components of the public health infrastructure. Students will explore epidemiological and mental health issues related to disasters, command/communication concerns, national stockpile management, surge planning, all-hazard planning and exercise design.

Faculty: Sarah Raskin

An examination of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies’ evolving policies on crisis and consequence management. The course also addresses the statutes and court decisions that guide these policies and govern their implementation. Students will analyze the issues and procedures associated with the development and implementation of judicial policies that attempt to balance civil rights and homeland security.

A capstone and assessment course. Students will leverage the sum of their coursework to complete readings, writing assignments and a large research project that comprehensively examines homeland security and emergency preparedness. They will also engage in research linked to a role-playing simulation held when the class meets in the last week of the semester.

Faculty: Chris Whyte

An introduction to the scope and methods of applied research for the public sector. Students will focus on problem-structuring through logical methods, exploring problems through observation and other methods of data collection, and analyzing findings using both qualitative and quantitative methods.

Faculty: Will Pelfrey

This is a Special Topics in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness course. The Fall 2019 course title is Intelligence. It begins with a brief examination of the history and evolution of the U.S. Intelligence Community, focusing on individual agencies, their missions and jurisdictions, and their relations with the entire U.S. national security community.

Then, students will explore the “intelligence process” to understand its requirements, collection, processing, exploitation, analysis and dissemination. After examining how intelligence is used in national policy and decision-making, students will address contemporary issues associated with the intelligence community, such as counterintelligence, counterespionage and covert action. Lastly, the course questions the politicization of intelligence, leaks and whistleblowing.

* Please note HSEP 640 may be repeated with different topics.

Faculty: Maureen Moslow-Benway

Meet some of our faculty

Professional headshot of VCU HSEP faculty member Maureen Moslow-Benway

Maureen Moslow-Benway

Assistant professor, homeland security and emergency preparedness program chair

While serving as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Maureen Moslow-Benway was selected twice as the Officer Agent of the Year for Southeast Asia and the Southeastern U.S. She was also honored as the Counterintelligence Agent of the Year for the Department of Defense.

Professional headshot of VCU HSEP faculty member William Pelfrey Jr.

William Pelfrey Jr.


William Pelfrey’s work addresses issues of programmatic effectiveness within the context of public safety, particularly revolving around law enforcement agencies.

Professional headshot of VCU HSEP faculty member David Webber

David Webber

Associate professor, homeland security and emergency preparedness assistant chair

David Webber utilizes a mixture of social psychological experimental methods, field surveys in at-risk locations and qualitative analyses to examine the factors involved in the radicalization and deradicalization processes of violent extremists.

View All Faculty

Take the next step in your leadership journey

Built for working professionals, Virginia Commonwealth University’s online master’s degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness equips students with the skills to support their communities when the unexpected happens. Taught by nationally recognized experts with diverse field experience, our renowned curriculum blends multidisciplinary coursework with hands-on training, preparing students to lead crucial security and emergency response teams. Ready to cultivate practical leadership skills and take your career in service to the next level?

About the Wilder School
Admissions Process
Career Outcomes
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Key dates and deadlines

Early Decision Application Deadline
Priority Application Deadline
Final Submit Application Deadline
Fall 2024
May 24, 2024
June 28, 2024
July 19, 2024

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Please complete the form below to receive information about the online Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Bachelor’s degree is required to attend; Applicants are not required to submit standardized test scores.

By submitting this form, I agree to be contacted via email, phone or text to learn more about the programs at Virginia Commonwealth University.