Security professionals aiming to advance their careers now have many more educational opportunities available to them than ever before.

The most common degree program feeding the profession in previous years was criminal justice (CJ). Now, practitioners can choose from a wide variety of courses that support learning in all aspects of contemporary security practice.

Cultural and geopolitical events have raised public awareness of the need for strong security programs both in the public and private sectors. Learning institutions have reacted to this need and have increased the diversity of their risk- and security-oriented programs.

Besides industry-relevant degree programs, many have created centers of excellence surrounding the profession. One example would be the Michael V. Hayden Center for Intelligence, Policy and International Study at George Mason University. Institutions like Harvard Kennedy School also partner with security associations and organizations to offer relevant courses.

The decision about which educational path to take depends on many factors. Cost and time commitments should be weighed against career aspirations and personal lifestyle. For instance, someone who is planning to leave the military and wants to transition the skills gained in service might look for a school that has flexible programs designed specifically for a military lifestyle.

Conventional criminal justice degree programs continue to offer current law enforcement professionals an avenue to expand upon life experience. A CJ bachelor’s degree would typically be a broad liberal arts education addressing topics needed daily as a law enforcement practitioner. However, schools have enhanced their CJ programs and have advanced degree programs that better equip today’s law enforcement professionals with the management and specialized skillsets they need.

A degree in security management offers an education on a wide variety of topics. Strategic and operational management, risk management, business continuity, cybersecurity, fraud specialization and investigations could all fall into the category. Institutions also have master’s programs specializing in topics such as homeland security. These curricula delve even further into aspects of protection like terrorism, intelligence and international threats.

Not everyone has an interest in consuming information in an academic setting, though. There are many online offerings from well-regarded institutions that offer alternative ways to learn. Certificate programs focused on specific practical skills related to the security professions are also an option.

U.S. government agencies are another source of continuing educational opportunities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security partners with a host of academic organizations to offer resources for security professionals. For those interested in pursuing a more technical security career, the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies connects government employees and industry with nationwide cybersecurity resources and training providers.

Associations that support the security professional have long provided continuing education. Standards for security roles developed by these groups are well-regarded, and their certificate programs have become more recognized by corporations. The networking opportunities offered by these groups also have educational value.

No matter where you are in your security career, adding to your knowledge base is an excellent choice. Choose a local program, an online course from a prestigious international institution or simply sign up for an association with a mission that appeals to you.

Education, regardless of how you choose to acquire it, is a well-established pathway to success.