Doctor of Security
JERSEY CITY, N.J.—Since 9/11, the number of academic programs in security-related fields has exploded. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in security studies or homeland security are now available at more than 350 programs nationwide, according to some estimates. A doctorate, however, has remained elusive.
New Jersey City University (NJCU), based here, has launched the country's first doctorate program in security studies. On July 9, an inaugural class of 13 students arrived on campus to begin their pursuit of a Doctor of Science (DSc) in Civil Security Leadership, Management, and Policy. The term "civil security" encompasses national security, corporate security and cyber security, according to John Collins, CPP, chair of NJCU's Professional Security Studies Department.
The development of a security-related doctorate program is the logical progression of a trend that began after 9/11, some security experts told Security Director News. However, while it's a milestone in security's continued journey toward a more recognized profession, it's still far from clear what impact one security-related doctorate program will have on the profession.
NJCU's three-person security studies department began discussing the potential for a doctorate program in 2006, Collins said, after numerous trips to a conference on security education issues at the Naval Postgraduate School. (The school's Center for Homeland Defense and Security lists 354 degree or certificate programs in homeland security, emergency management, emergency preparedness, terrorism or cybersecurity, though it doesn't claim to be comprehensive.) It’s clear, he said, the security profession needs a doctorate degree because "there were lots of people with multiple masters going into academic settings or even leadership settings where their employers wanted them to have a doctorate or terminal degree," Collins told SDN.
The NJCU’s DSc in civil security is an executive-formatted program, which means students spend two weeks on campus during the summer and weekends during the regular semester. Augmented with online course work, the three-year program has a total of 48 semester hours. It received state approval and regional accreditation in April.
Collins said 95 percent of the program will focus on analytical skills and critical thinking about issues such as risk mitigation and risk management, while five percent will focus on business continuity and disaster recovery. "In other words, being proactive instead of reactive," he said.
NJCU currently awards both the Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees, so Collins said offering a DSc was the most logical progression. And while the DSc is not as well known as the PhD, it's by no means less respected. "Harvard University offered the first Doctorate of Science in the United States in 1872," he said.
While academia is the usual recipient of doctoral graduates, Collins said government agencies are looking for senior security people with the highest credentials they can get. "They've been leaning toward higher degrees," he said. "More specifically, the analytical aspect that we built into the degree. That's really what they're looking for."
While there's no evidence that private corporations are looking for CSOs with doctorate-level education, there's definitely more companies requesting candidates have masters degrees, according to Kathy Lavinder, an executive search specialist who focuses on high-calibre investigators and security directors. Lavinder is currently leading a search for a senior manager of security and intelligence, "and they explicitly said they would love advanced degrees," she told SDN. "They really had a strong preference for it."
She's noticed the trend over the past year. "They are looking for people who have demonstrated that they can handle advanced material. For this particular role, they're looking for very high-level analysis and writing skills, and I think a master’s degree does align with that. It does demonstrate that they can do things at that level."
However, she hasn't yet had any clients request job candidates who have doctorates, but she wouldn't be surprised if someday it became more common. "There is a little bit of an arms race going on for certifications, degrees and credentials," she said.
NJCU received 52 applications for the program, Collins said, but were only able to select 13 for the first class. In the future, class size will be limited to 30.
The initial 13 students are an eclectic bunch, Collins said. There's an administrative law judge from Cleveland who does adjudication for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. There's a microbiologist who wants to use the doctorate to deepen his work with DHS on bioterrorism. There's a security professional from Educational Testing Service, the world's largest private nonprofit educational testing and assessment organization. "It's all over the place," Collins said. "We have corporate people in there. We have cyber people in there. We have national security people in there. We have a branch chief from the Department of Homeland Security out of Washington. We've got local law enforcement."
However, while the trend in the security profession is heading toward more advanced degrees, whether it is ready for NJCU’s doctorate program is debatable, according to Jeffrey Grossmann, director of the Homeland & Corporate Security Program at St. John's University in Queens, and chair of ASIS International's Academic and Training Programs Council. He compares it to the field of criminal justice. "Criminal justice was in the same boat 50 or 60 years ago. There were no doctoral programs, no PhD programs in criminal justice. It was considered a vocational program at best," Grossmann said. "Then they had master’s programs creep up, then naturally as scholars chose criminal justice as a path it led to the creation of doctoral programs. I don’t think we're at that level yet in the private security industry."
NJCU faces many challenges, Grossmann said. For one, it's hard to put together a doctorate program from scratch in an industry that's never had one. "It's like a dog chasing its tail," Grossmann told SDN. "What comes first? In general, that's what the academic industry is all about. It's about demonstrating a need before actually putting something together. But there has to be something in place to develop that need."
Grossmann admitted he's currently trying to put together a graduate-level program in security studies and his biggest challenge is demonstrating the need for the program to the rest of the faculty.
Another challenge of developing a doctoral program in security is there's still debate within the field over critical aspects, such as a definition of homeland security and what such an education should entail. Grossmann believes it's only a matter of time until the government steps in to begin accrediting security-related programs, but until that time schools will have free rein to design programs as they want. "It's like the wild west out there," Grossmann said. "Schools are doing what they want to do. Nobody is policing them. Nobody is monitoring them. In fact, if security professionals can't even agree on what the definition of homeland security is, how can a university design a homeland security curriculum? It's sort of problematic."
Grossmann's doubts, however, don't mean he's not supportive of NJCU's efforts. He just knows that NJCU being the first means it will face unique challenges. "Is there a need for a doctoral-level program in civil security leadership? It's questionable," he said. "Would I like to see something like that? Absolutely, because it will help further my profession."
Ron Hurley, director of public safety for Berkeley College in Woodland Park, N.J, agrees. He believes the profession is very ready for such a doctorate program, and is a member of the inaugural class. "I think it helps me not just to do my job, but also it opens up doors for me in the future," said Hurley, who already has a master’s degree in national security studies from NJCU and is also an adjunct professor within its security studies department. "The more tools you have in your tool box the better equipped you are to survive an economy like this."
Whether NJCU’s doctorate program will be the first of many to sprout up, or a trail blazer that will struggle on its own for a while, Hurley believes it’s a positive development for the profession. "Anything that raises the bar is better for ourselves, it's better for the industry, and better for the security of our country," Hurley said.