The following essay lays out an argument for program level accreditation in academic homeland security (HS) programs. Admittedly, neither the practice nor the educational components of the HS discipline are standardized.  Indeed, a recent analysis by the Congressional Research Service indicates that there remain several operational definitions of HS in practice. Regardless, this paper provides rationale which argues that after roughly eight years, academic HS has developed enough to be able to identify and support a distinct set of student learning outcomes— knowledge, skills and attitudes—that can both characterize and define the discipline.

Generally, program level academic accreditation requires a discipline to have identified and vetted a set of student learning outcomes. Academic programs, in turn, integrate this set of outcomes into their core curriculum and students of a given discipline acquire a common set of knowledge, skills and attitudes deemed central to their discipline regardless of where they are educated. Hence program level accreditation works proactively and continuously to address questions about degree integrity, professional competence, truth in advertising, professional boundaries, certification, licensure, quality improvement and control. Without accreditation it remains extremely difficult for a discipline to demonstrate true legitimacy since anyone would be able to teach anything they want. Indeed by extension, one might easily argue that so long as such questions are unanswered, there can be no discipline. Further, for true professional legitimacy to accrue, even when a discipline is able to identify, vet and develop a defining set of student learning outcomes, it still needs to integrate them into a recognized accreditation process and then develop incentives for academic programs to adopt accreditation into a wide spread practice in higher education. Indeed, these last two challenges characterize several related disciplines (such as occupational safety and health, emergency management, intelligence studies, criminal justice, cybersecurity, etc.).  Ultimately, critical to the ongoing maturation and legitimization of the HS profession is the need to develop and pursue program level accreditation.


Jim Ramsay

Jim Ramsay has almost 20 years of experience in public health education, emergency management and occupational safety and environmental health. Dr Ramsay is currently a certified safety professional, professor and coordinator of the Homeland Security program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where he began the program in 2006. Dr. Ramsay teaches environmental security, emergency management, exercise design and evaluation, strategic planning and decision making, terrorism origins and ideologies, and directs the internship program and the senior capstone consulting project. Dr. Ramsay was recently appointed by the US Secretary of Health and Human Services to serve on the Board of Scientific Counselors to the Director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in the CDC. Dr. Ramsay also serves on the Board of Directors for ABET, Inc. In addition, Dr. Ramsay serves on the Education Standards Committees for both the International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), where he also chairs the committee. Dr. Ramsay has also been a frequent scientific reviewer for the National Occupational Research Agenda, and currently serves as reviewer for Homeland Security Affairs Journal, the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and International Journal of Security, Preparedness, and Resilience Education. Dr. Ramsay has served as a subject matter expert and consulted on a wide range of emergency management planning and evaluation issues as well as occupational safety and health challenges for many organizations. Dr. Ramsay has recently published “Introduction to Homeland Security” and “Critical Issues Within the Homeland Security Enterprise: A Casebook” both through Westfield Publications (Boulder, CO). In addition, he will complete his third text entitled, “Foundations of Environmental Security: Relating Resilience to Security” by spring, 2014.

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The Case to Accredit Homeland Security Programs: Why Outcomes-based Accreditation Makes Sense

Suggested Citation

Ramsay, J. The case to accredit homeland security programs: Why outcomes-based accreditation makes sense. Journal of Homeland Security Education, 2, 19-31, https://jsire.org/the-case-to-accredit-homeland-security-programs-why-outcomes-based-accreditation-makes-sense