What Are Security Studies?

Industry Advice Political Science & Security

Every threat a community or company faces—from cyberattacks and terrorism to climate change and pandemics—has the potential to significantly affect its members and operations. Professionals in the security sector work hard to not only lead recovery efforts after a disaster, but to identify and eliminate these threats in the first place. So, what exactly is security studies, and what does a degree in the field entail?

Read on to learn more about this field and how you can become a leader within it. 

What Are Security Studies?

Security studies incorporate data analysis, leadership, and systematic thinking to identify and protect against a wide range of threats, including both man-made and natural causes of disasters and other shocks. 

“Security is typically the attempt to protect against shocks, and our process at Northeastern is understanding how to build resilience into societies and organizations to make them be able to bounce back after those shocks,” says Daniel Aldrich, director of Northeastern’s resilience studies program

In this way, Northeastern’s master’s in resilience studies extends the traditional scope of security. It focuses as much on strengthening organizations and planning ahead to help avoid shocks in the first place as it does on ensuring that communities can survive, adapt, and grow in the wake of one as well. 

This multidisciplinary approach to security studies provides students with a broad perspective on what it means to maintain safety and security, helping them build stronger systems that can withstand a wide range of issues. 

Homeland Security and Strategic Intelligence and Analysis 

Though they are sometimes considered part of security studies, security and intelligence are taught in a separate degree program at Northeastern.

In homeland security, professionals plan and implement responses to a disaster. They develop mitigation and business recovery plans, manage cleanup, direct teams, and oversee recovery processes in the aftermath of a shock. 

Strategic intelligence, meanwhile, involves collecting and interpreting data to predict the likelihood of a shock occurring and then using that information to help prepare for or avoid adverse effects. Many strategic intelligence and analysis professionals advise policy- and decision-makers on the best course of action in the event of an emergency. 

While professionals in each of these fields consider resilience in their operations, the resilience studies program is unique in its mission to build resilience in businesses, governments, and communities of all sizes as early as possible. The field embraces both protection against threats and rapid recovery from them—including any restructuring of strategies and operations necessary to prevent similar events in the future. 

Careers in Security Studies 

Security professionals can work in a variety of public organizations, including departments within the federal government and all aspects of national, state, and local governments. They can also work in private companies to help maintain the security of intellectual property, data, and personnel. 

“If you’re a large business, and your planned product deliveries were shut down because of COVID-19, part of security and resilience is understanding how a pandemic will influence logistics,” Aldrich says. 

Other duties of security and resilience professionals can include: 

  • Protecting the secrecy of manufacturing processes, data, and intellectual property 
  • Organizing safe travel for personnel 
  • Responding to climate change 
  • Maintaining continuity of operations during a security breach 
  • Analyzing data to better understand and plan for threats 

“Our students go into holistic management positions,” Aldrich says. “We offer them a broader perspective on what it means to solve these kinds of threats.” 

With this perspective, students are prepared to anticipate, respond to, and rebuild from threats that any type of business or organization, from a large private company to a local government, may encounter. 

Earning Your Security Studies Degree at Northeastern  

Pursuing a master’s degree in resilience studies is one way to advance your career in this field. At Northeastern, whose program was ranked second in the nation, students learn what it’s like to be a security professional in the real world before ever leaving the classroom. 

“All our faculty are full-time researchers and scholars who also teach, so our work is based out of our experiences in the field,” Aldrich says. 

Professors have studied, lived through, and responded to disasters around the world, from Africa and Asia to domestic emergencies like Hurricane Katrina. By bringing these experiences to the classroom, professors connect students to real security shocks as soon as they begin their studies. 

In addition to their security courses, students are encouraged to take classes across colleges within the university. For example, a student interested in cybersecurity can take classes within the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, while a bioterrorism specialist may consider classes within the Bouvé College of Health Sciences

“We typically offer 100 to 250 classes per semester that our students can get credit for, so there’s a broader set of disciplines they can learn from,” Aldrich says. 

Northeastern students can also take advantage of the University’s extensive experiential learning opportunities, including co-ops and capstone courses. In the capstone course, students work to solve a real issue for a partner business, such as Boston’s Logan International Airport or the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, using the skills they’ve learned during their studies. 

To learn more about Northeastern’s master’s in resilience studies, explore our program page.

Editor’s note: This article was originally written in 2021 and has since been updated for relevancy and accuracy.