Online Master of Science in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security

Online Master of Science in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security

What are the program
start dates?

Spring 2024

January 8

Summer 2024

May 6

Fall 2024

Late August

At a Glance

Shape Policy to Fight Global

Prepare to excel as a homeland security specialist in top roles in government and private agencies.

In our online MS in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security program, you’ll be educated by the same professionals our entire nation looks to when examining topics such as national security law and policy, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity, and the causes of political violence — the same issues you’ll study throughout your program. Their insider perspective expands your learning experience.

Coursework builds strong interdisciplinary skills and expertise in terrorism as a social and psychological phenomenon and delivers a unique focus on national and international law enforcement. Topics are updated regularly to reflect emerging trends, so you will always learn the most current information.

You will graduate as an effective researcher and intelligent consumer of research, knowing how to develop strategic, policy-based security solutions at all levels of government with the analytic writing skills needed to present them in front of members of the intelligence community.

Program Objectives

Keep Your Fellow Citizens Safe

Instructors, who are experts in their fields, help you step into the ever-changing, challenging world of homeland security and counter-terrorism. Graduates of the program will be able to:


Spot and Analyze Security Issues

Analyze and discuss national and homeland security problems through the application of acquired knowledge of criminology, social science, legal systems, policy, terrorism studies, and intelligence analysis.


Develop Public Policies and Programs

Formulate, evaluate, and communicate public policies and programs related to counter-terrorism while using acquired analytic frameworks and methodological skills, including statistics, economics, criminology, and law.


Provide Solutions to Threats

Apply empirical and data-driven solutions to analyze domestic and international threats to U.S. homeland security.


Solve Policy Challenges

Apply acquired skillsets, expertise, and values to real-world policy problems in a collaborative manner.

Program Rankings

See How We Set the Standard


Learn From Experts

Coursework is developed and taught by intelligence professionals with decades of experience and industry connections.


Get Personalized Attention

Faculty lead small classes and remain dedicated to your success. As industry experts, the are ever ready to answer questions and mentor you throughout the program.


Build Valuable Experience

You will build real-world experience throughout your courses that will make you stand out in the interview process.

A Top-Ranked Online MS

AU was recognized by Princeton Review, Best Colleges 2023,
with the title of College Gets High Marks. It also ranked:

Admission to American University’s online Master of Science in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security requires an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university.


Applicants will need to submit the following:

*The application fee is typically waived if the application file is complete within a three-week period.

Online Merit Scholarships

$12,000 — No Separate Application Required

Prospective students who have a cumulative 3.0 GPA or above (on a 4.0 scale) in their undergraduate program, or those with five or more years of active-duty experience in the military (regardless of their GPA score), can qualify for the Online Merit Scholarship in award amounts up to $12,000.

As part of your application process, your academic history and military experience will be reviewed to see if the scholarship can be applied; there is no separate application to fill out.

You will be notified of the scholarship status when you’re admitted to the program, or shortly thereafter.

To receive the scholarship, which is applied equally across the fifth through eighth courses of the program, you must remain in good academic standing.

Gain Experience from Nationwide Leaders

In our online MS in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security program, you will learn directly from the same voices our nation looks to in times of a homeland security crisis. Your instructor’s expertise ensures you receive a quality online learning experience that offers practical, real-world knowledge that reflects the latest thinking on essential counter-terrorism and homeland security issues. You will connect with real-world leaders in the optional residency, build experience in your internship, and be ready to step into the fast-paced world of intelligence once you graduate.

Learn more about how you may fit into the world of intelligence from the experts who are living it day-to-day.

We invite all students in our MS in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security program to come campus once a year. This unique opportunity gives you an insider’s perspective of the national security policy world and builds on concepts and ideas discussed in your online courses.

These few days are packed with personalized visits and private tours with our friends and contacts in places like capitol hill and the pentagon.*

You can talk one-on-one with professionals:

  • In the organizations
  • On a career panel
  • At networking dinners

This intensely packed experience also gives you the opportunity to further friendships with peers in the program and connect personally with your instructors.

*The sponsoring U.S. Government agency will have certain policies and procedures that visitors must follow in order to access and visit these sites. These procedures may include the sponsoring agency conducting a brief background check using Personal Identifying Information (PII). The program director will coordinate that process; however, AU cannot guarantee access to students for one or all agencies. Students who are not cleared as visitors will be provided an alternate experience.

As an intelligence research analyst, it’s vitally important that you know how to complete research and analyze data. Aside from individual assignments throughout the coursework in the program, we dedicate two full courses to research and analysis. You start with the foundations of effective research as you learn the “why” and the “how” of theory and then move on to how to complete research and develop its outcomes using STATA, a statistical software for data science.

To graduate from the online MS in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security, you will complete a non-credit internship that can, if you wish, be carried out in your local area. This is a chance for you to connect classroom learning to real-world situations as you further your qualifications for high-level rigorous jobs in counter-terrorism and homeland security.

Past internship sites include research centers, police departments, cybersecurity departments in organizations, and Federal Government agencies such as DHS, the CIA, and the FBI.

Course Descriptions

The curriculum features a mix of homeland security courses and counter-terrorism courses that build interdisciplinary knowledge in counter-terrorism and its details, including national security law and policy, cybersecurity, and the theories of political violence.

The two-year, 36-credit program consists of 12 courses and an internship in your local area or in D.C.

Core Courses — 5 Courses

This course provides an introduction to the key concepts that you will cover in this program including a high level discussion of defining and understanding terrorism, types of national, international, and transnational threats, and frameworks for legal, intelligence, and community-based responses to these threats.

An introduction to the study of terrorism and political violence through multiple lenses, including psychology and rational choice theories. Examine why people join violent organizations to further political aims and how tactics are influenced by choices and motivation.

Investigate the causes and consequences of domestic terrorism and political violence using insights from psychology, political science, economics, history, and other disciplines.

The first class of two focused on aspects of intelligence analysis. This course will focus on the role of intelligence in an operational and tactical manner in both the law enforcement and intelligence communities. Students will learn and be able to practice hands-on skills with access to recognized analytic software.

Counterterrorism Law and Policy will provide an overview, discussion and assessment of the legal and policy construct used by the United States to combat terrorism. The course will begin with a discussion of the legal and policy principles that inform decisions made by the executive and legislative branches of the United States government to respond to terrorists and terrorism. Students will then apply those laws and policies to various debates on the use of force, detention, and treatment of detainees. Topics are subject to change to reflect current topics.

Research Methods — 2 Courses

The logic of scientific inquiry and the nature and process of social science research as applied to counterterrorism and homeland security. Theory, concepts, practices, and the demonstration of their reliability and validity. Attention is also given to methods of sampling design and techniques of data collection.

Methods of data analysis applicable to research in the counterterrorism and homeland security fields. The course examines the link between research design and empirical analysis, the role of probability in hypothesis testing, and the concept and techniques of descriptive and inferential statistics.

Residency — 1 Course

Gain a foundation for understanding how policies related to contemporary security issues are made and executed, with a primary focus on terrorism and insurgency. Anyone taking his course within the academic year will be invited to attend an annual residency in D.C. hosted by American.

Selected Topics — 4 Courses

An overview, discussion, and assessment of the legal, sociological, and policy constructs used by federal U.S. law enforcement to detect and investigate terrorism through a study of parameters of identifying, assessing, and surveilling threats.

This course looks at the relationship between criminals and terrorists by examining the nexus of terrorists and criminal networks, their commonalities, affinities, and disparities, along with implications for policy responses.

This course provides students with the tools necessary to understand the nature of the cyber threat to government and private sectors and to understand and evaluate proposed cybersecurity policies for addressing the threat.

This course provides an in-depth look at foreign fighters and policy responses to them. It focuses on jihadi militants but examines transnational volunteers for other religious, ethnic, and ideological causes as well. The course examines competing perspectives on radicalization, the internet, and the likelihood of blowback attacks by returnees.

Internship (Non-Credit)

The internship helps you to further connect coursework to real-life opportunities and get back valuable feedback to your performance. It helps to build your resume and can increase the GS status you receive if you work for the government. The internship can be completed in your local area if you wish. Internship sites include research centers, police departments, cybersecurity, and Federal Government agencies such as DHS, the CIA, and FBI.

Step Into Law Enforcement and Intelligence Roles

American University’s online MS in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security prepares law enforcement and intelligence professionals with broad, interdisciplinary skills that are applicable to a wide variety of homeland security careers and counter-terrorism jobs.


Federal agencies and intelligence agencies in Washington, D.C., and in field offices around the nation and the world, look to hire our graduates for roles in law enforcement and intelligence operations.

The job growth related to these industries depends to some extent on the threat level and funding provided to these agencies. In 2022, the Intelligence budget was $89.8 billion.¹

Graduates of the program step into career titles such as:

  • Law Enforcement Federal Agent, state or local sworn officer, analyst, and support personnel
  • Intelligence Officer, analyst, and support personnel
  • Homeland Security analyst and support personnel
  • Criminal Intelligence Analyst, State-Level Department of Law Enforcement
  • Data Analyst protecting critical infrastructure
  • Intelligence Analyst, US Department of Justice
  • Federal Agent, DoD Criminal Investigative Entity
  • Section Chief, US Department of Homeland Security Component

Federal Pay Rates

In the federal government, salary levels are based on your education, experience level, and what step within the salary level your skills meet. Salaries are publicized annually in General Schedule (GS) pay tables.


Entry-level for employees with only a bachelor’s degree and some internship experience. The GS-5 level has a salary range of $32,357-$42,068.


For employees holding a degree in public administration or public policy and internship experience, entering at GS-7 is common. The salary range for GS-7 is $40,082-$52,106.

GS-9 and GS-11

Occasionally, an employee with more extensive internship experience will start at a GS-9 level. For benchmarking purposes, note that the Presidential Management Fellows program allows public servants with limited internship experience to enter at GS-9. They are automatically elevated to GS-11 in the second year of their fellowship tenure. The pay rate for GS-9 and GS-11 levels are up to $63,734 and $77,112 respectively.


Employees with more significant work experience who enter at GS-11 can be promoted to GS-13 within a short period of time with a salary range of $85,456-$109.908.

Beyond the CIA: Federal Intelligence Agencies to Work For

The intelligence community is comprised of 18 agencies and offices that all need professionals with training and experience in homeland security.

  • Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • National Security Agency (NSA)
  • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Department of State – Bureau of Intelligence and Research
  • Department of Homeland Security – Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  • Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) – Office of National Security Intelligence
  • Department of the Treasury – Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  • Department of Energy (DOE) – Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
  • National Reconnaissance Office
  • Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
  • Army Military Intelligence
  • Office of Naval Intelligence
  • Marine Corps Intelligence
  • Coast Guard Intelligence
  • Space Guard Intelligence

Career Services

American University’s Career Center offers its services to online and on-campus students as well as to all alumni, so you’ll continue to receive support for as long as you need it.

This means you’ll have access to resources for your job search, career advising, internships, and scholarships. You can also network, look for jobs, and apply for positions by making an account at AU Career Web, our online career search tool.

Alumni Employers

As passionate change-makers, our alumni are responsible for using their policy skills to make an impact. You can find some of them working at these outstanding organizations:

  • U.S. Senate
  • U.S. Navy
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs
  • Enforcement
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • FBI
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • Defense Advanced Research Project Agency

Learning Online

American University welcomes its online students as a part of its community. As an online student, you’ll learn from the same outstanding faculty and be held to the same learning standards as students who attend courses on campus. On-campus and online programs deliver the same outcomes, and important support systems, like career resources, are set up for online learners as well. The only difference is you’re allowed to learn when and where it’s best for you so you can earn your degree and advance your career without putting the rest of your career and life on hold.

We Bring AU to You

Our digital campus was intentionally designed based on extensive research behind what makes online learning successful. We combine advanced technology, hands-on experiences, and full access to the American University community. Here, you’re not an online student, you’re an AU student.

Rigorous Courses

Online courses are as challenging as their on-campus counterparts and taught by the same connected faculty members, influential guest speakers, and prominent lecturers.

100% Support

New-student orientation, 24×7 help desk for technical issues, a student services coordinator, financial aid advisers, and more are all available to ensure your success.

Expert Faculty

Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world, you’ll learn from award-winning scholars and policymakers, diplomats, authors, artists, attorneys, scientists, journalists, and more.

Collaborative Learning

Use virtual tools to talk about your coursework, work in teams with classmates, build strong connections, network with others and ask your instructor questions and turn in assignments. 

Military Education Benefits

American University is dedicated to supporting military service members, veterans, and their families.

As an online Master of Science in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security student, you can transform your military experience and leadership skills into new career possibilities as you earn your degree, regardless of where you live or are stationed.

We support a full range of military education benefits such as:

Additionally, if you’ve served in any branch of the U.S. military on active duty within the past three years, you’re eligible to waive the application fee. We accept transfer credits from military coursework, have a dedicated Office of Veterans Services to help connect you to benefits, and maintain an active Veterans Services Support Network.

We welcome you to learn more about our military benefits and how to apply for them.

Take Your First Step Today

Become an American University student. A passion for public service, an emphasis on active leadership, and a global outlook are the hallmarks of the American University learning experience. We create graduates who stand out from their peers as active, socially aware, and compassionate leaders who work toward creating meaningful change in our world.

Join Us.

To learn more about American University’s Master of Science in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security program, request more information, request an appointment, or call us toll-free at 855-725-7614.

Program FAQs

Counter-terrorism includes the practices, tactics, techniques and strategies that government, military, law enforcement, business, and intelligence agencies use to combat or prevent terrorism.

Sample job titles graduates may pursue include law enforcement and intelligence officers, analysts, and support personnel positions. Target employers often include U.S. federal government agencies and intelligence communities, though federal agency jobs are highly competitive and sometimes take years to gain entry.

Admission requirements for the MS in Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security program include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university.

Applicants will need to submit the following:

All applicants are considered for the Online Merit Scholarship in award amounts up to $12,000 during the application review — no separate application is required.

*The application fee is typically waived if the application file is complete within a three-week period.

A TOEFL score of 600 (or 100 on the internet-based test), a minimum score of 68 on the Pearson Test of English, or a minimum IELTS score of seven (7) is required. Additionally, applicants with international transcripts must have them evaluated course by course. For a list of acceptable evaluators, go to

Applicants will complete a phone interview with the Program Director a and will need to submit:

Yes. It is not a requirement to have an undergraduate degree in homeland security or counter-terrorism.

The program can be completed in 24 months at a full-time pace of two courses each semester. Taking more than two courses per semester is not recommended due to the rigor of the program.

The internship can be completed in your local area if you wish. The internship helps you to further connect coursework to real-life opportunities and get back valuable feedback to your performance. It helps to build your resume and can increase the GS status you receive if you work for the government. Internship sites include research centers, police departments, cybersecurity, and Federal Government agencies such as DHS, the CIA, and FBI.

The GRE requirement is currently being waived. Although the MSCTHS program does not require the GRE, students with a GPA below 3.0 are encouraged to take the GRE for further evaluation. LSAT scores can also be evaluated in place of the GRE.

Our application deadline varies based on the term you are applying for. Please note that the earlier you submit your application, the sooner you will know whether you’ve been awarded the Online Merit Scholarship. Please contact our online admissions advisors for a specific timeline as to when your application file needs to be fully submitted.

Our fall semester starts in August. The spring semester starts in January. The summer session begins in May.

Yes, online students can easily request a Student ID online to take advantage of all the same resources as our on-campus students.

Program Resources | Industry Updates


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.


Home to some of the most acclaimed scholars and thought leaders in the world.