We have all seen the increased physical presence of security and public safety professionals. And we have all been affected by airport delays, baggage regulations and new technologies to screen us.

However, one of the most profound areas of change has been in the field of education. Learning and degree programs that were once obscure or non-existent are today growing and in demand – and not solely geared toward military servicemembers. This rise in demand is due as much from the private sector as it is from government agencies including FEMA, DoD, DHS and the FBI.

The events of 9/11 have had the unintentional, but direct result of an employment boom, giving everyday citizens an avenue to have a fulfilling career while serving the interests of their nation.

Government and private sector employers are looking for job-specific educated professionals for positions instead of employees with generic/broad degrees.

In response, many universities have begun offering degree and certificate programs geared at giving individuals the credentials they need to do their part in this growing and crucial field.

In order to offer opportunities to working adults (roughly 40 percent of American’s college students, according to The Washington Postin March 2011) many universities are offering programs both in traditional classrooms and online, allowing public safety, military servicemembers and security professionals – who are all constantly on the move – the opportunity to advance their education and their careers.

Additionally, an online platform enables individuals not currently working in the field a means of entering it without having to leave their current occupation.

At Bellevue University we have seen a drastic increase in the number of students enrolling in our Bachelor of Science in Security Management degree program. In 2007 Securitymagazine ranked Bellevue University’s program (combined bachelor’s and master’s degrees) as the largest in the nation. We are hearing from students that they need to get into the industry on the ground floor. They need applicable knowledge and skills that will prepare them to make a difference from day one, because employers want an employee who can hit the ground running.

Government agencies have noticed these educational offerings and are reaching out to colleges and universities, offering internship opportunities to help fill the need. One such program is the PALACE Acquire Internship Program. In this program, civilians assume full-time positions during a two-four year, formal training plan designed to let them experience both personal and professional growth while dealing effectively and ethically with change, complexity, and problem solving. Those in the program receive promotions and yearly salary increases based upon their performance and supervisory approval. Upon completion of the formal training plan, the PALACE Acquire Internship Program offers students a permanent position, making it a great opportunity to begin a successful civilian career with the Air Force Civilian Service.

The students in these learning programs are getting an education in addition to invaluable on-the-job experience and training, which will help lead them to a fulfilling career.

Looking at where government agencies and private sector companies are now and what’s happened over the past few years, it is expected that the next five years will see a doubling in demand for security professionals.

Perhaps the largest area of growth will be from the private sector – and it is this area that is fueling most of the growth in degree programs. Unlike the FBI and CIA, where there are age obstacles to enter employment, private sector employers do not impose age limitations.

One field in particular where demand promises to exceed expectations is cybersecurity. Currently, very few universities are offering this type of program. Many universities offer degrees in technology where students can learn general ideas and applications of information security, but Bellevue University is one of few who have created a program directly from the insights of cybersecurity subject matter experts. Currently, Bellevue University offers a Master of Science in cybersecurity, and in the fall of 2012 the Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity will launch.

Universities that have physical and online classrooms, like Bellevue University, are able to pull into classes professionals from around the world with a variety of career experience and educational backgrounds. This presents a dynamic that allows every student the opportunity to learn about the field in a more in-depth way because they learn from the real-life lessons of others in class. In addition, career-changing connections are made with other professionals from around the country. 

National Security does not exist in a vacuum. As the landscape of national security continues to evolve the best universities will continue to evolve with it. To do this, universities must provide faculty with real-world experience in the field who have contacts with subject matter experts at the multiple agencies and departments that make up the security, public safety and intelligence communities. Additionally, universities must be active participants in these communities through partnerships with organizations like the Great Plains National Security Education Consortium, part of the Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence program. Additionally, universities must foster relationships with national security conferences, such as the ASIS International Conference and the National Homeland Security Conference. Participation in these organizations and at these conferences provides students with a broader idea of the national security landscape and the variety of outlets available to them to stay current and relevant.    

As the need for domestic and global security professionals grows, professionals interested in intelligence work need knowledge that is both current and relevant to stand out in a competitive field. Universities that offer real-life curriculum will be successful in developing students’ knowledge of current technology, security and intelligence best practices and industry preparedness.