Counter Terrorism Degree: Requirements & Careers

Quick! Read this before your computer self-destructs… just kidding! We totally forgot that we are just writing about a counter terrorism degree and not actually part of some clandestine team of agents that are hunting down the terrorists of our world. A girl can dream, right? Anyhoo, since that’s not happening, let’s jump right in and learn all about counter terrorism degrees!

Counter Terrorism Degree

We should first probably figure out exactly what a counter terrorism actually is. Counter terrorism is the act of aiding in the political or military methods of pinpointing terrorists acts as well as locating the terrorists themselves to thwart their intentions. Sounds cool, right? Those that want to pursue a counter terrorism degree will get firsthand knowledge dropped on them to give them all of the tools and know-how to stop further terrorists attacks from occurring both in the United States and abroad. If you’re still on board to pursue this super cool degree, then keep reading because we are going to tell you everything you need to know about it and then some!

How to Select a School for a Counter Terrorism Degree

The first thing that you have to do once you have decided to go for the gold with a counter terrorism degree is to select a school. This is also likely one of the more important things you will do since your choice of school will eventually impact what you learn, how you learn and the jobs you get in the future.

The amount of colleges that offer various counter terrorism classes and degrees has grown a ton since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, understandably so. This degree is not all that common still, but there are definitely some schools out there that will offer everything you need for your degree as well as some of the specific areas of experience that some employers like the FBI and other government agencies look for.

When considering a school to earn your counter terrorism degree it is important to choose a school that covers history, political science, international relations, cultural studies, Middle Eastern languages as well as national security. It will also be a good idea to find a school that offers an emphasis in emergency preparedness and Homeland Security.

Now we know the first things to look for when narrowing down our list of schools to snag a counter terrorism degree at, but we need to take it a step further. We need to focus on four main areas to ensure that the school is the cream of the proverbial crop and will provide you the very best education in this area. The top four things to consider are: curriculum, partnerships, technology and background. Let’s take a closer look at each of these things to consider now.


There are some schools that only offer a select few classes in counter terrorism. However, there are those that offer homeland security degree programs that will let you go full gorilla into the counter terrorism field. It’s important that you look for schools that offer domestic and international terrorism, principles of conflict and terror, weapons of mass destruction and general national security courses as part of their curriculum.


You will want to select a college that has some sort of partnership with either a local or national agency. These types of partnerships will provide you with the perfect opportunity to apply for internships in a counter terrorism position. You will be able to gain a good amount of work experience that will leave you ready to hit the ground running when you have completed your degree. Some of the agencies that will be best suited for an internship after this degree; that includes the Center for Homeland Defense and Security and the FBI.


Today’s terrorists are using the newest technology to organize, plan and carry out their attacks. It is because of this level of sophistication that having access to the latest and greatest technology and laboratory equipment is so important. You’ll want to make sure that the school you are going to has the most state of the art tools at your disposal. This will allow you to gain hands on experience with the tools that you will be using when you are actually working to fight terrorism.


This section is more of a heads up for you guys that are reading this. Most schools aren’t too keen on taking in students for counter terrorism degrees that have any sort of criminal history. These marks on a personal background will make it nearly impossible to get an internship and subsequently will make it harder to get a job in the field at all.

Different Counter Terrorism Degrees

counter terrorism

The next thing to consider once you have decided that you want to achieve a counter terrorism degree, is going to be the level of degree you are interested in aiming for. Deciding whether or not you want to get an associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or your doctorate degree in counter terrorism is going to be super important because it will determine which schools you can or want to attend. We’re going to break down each degree level in detail for you now, giving you an idea of the school and course you can attend. Sound good? Yeah we thought so too.

Counter Terrorism Associate’s Degree

An associate’s degree is a viable option for those of you that are interested in getting a degree in counter terrorism. An associate’s degree in this field will give students a broad understanding of areas like: domestic and international terrorism, intelligence analysis, security management, weapons of mass destruction and the introduction to cyber terrorism.

The American Public University is one of the few schools that actually offers an Associate of Arts in Counter Terrorism Studies degree. Students that attend this degree program will walk away with a great amount of experience and will be able to:

  • Obtain a great amount of information about the theory and history of terrorism as well as the history of political violence
  • Determine the many domestic and international terrorist groups along with their leadership and tactile skills
  • Identify the many motivations of known terrorist leaders and their followers
  • Become knowledgeable of the ever evolving nature of both domestic and international terrorism
  • You will be very well informed of all government agencies that are involved in the fight against terror and that are ensuring homeland security
  • You will also be able to describe each of the counter measures that the United States has available to combat terrorism

During your schooling you will cover a great many general education courses, but you can also expect to take a lot of courses that are geared towards counter terrorism. You will take the Mind of a Terrorist class that will explore the psychological and behavioral traits of terrorist. The Terrorism and Counter Terrorism course will be super interesting since you will be learning all about how terrorism is used as a tool both socially and politically.

Counter Terrorism Bachelor’s Degree

The next stop on your counter terrorism degree adventure is going to naturally be a bachelor’s degree. Students who are studying for their Bachelor’s degree in Counter Terrorism and Homeland Security are essentially preparing for a job at the local, state or federal levels in the field. During schooling for your bachelor’s degree is going to be when you will want to lock in an internship like we mentioned earlier. This is also the phase of your education where you will learn a significant amount about the computer software and technology of terrorists, which will also include some time in a laboratory setting.

Southern New Hampshire University offers students a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice degree with a concentration in Homeland Security and Counter Terrorism…boy is that going to be a mouthful during interviews. The goal of Southern New Hampshire University is to arm students with a true understanding of the magnitude of the terrorism threat as well as train them in the best way to respond. Students will also learn how to approach domestic and foreign security in an analytic manner that will enable them with the best skills to combat the issue head on.

Your concentration credits will largely consist of some of the more important courses that will pertain to your counter terrorism knowledge. You will take a Counter Terrorism Techniques course that will teach you the most effective strategies, techniques and tactics that will be essential in fighting terrorism on all fronts. Another key course in your studies will be the Threat Assessment Fundamentals class. This course is designed to train students in all of the most fundamental areas of terrorist attacks. You’ll learn about attack prevention, identification and assessment of various terrorist threats, and many other counter terrorism techniques.

Counter Terrorism Master’s Degree

It’s pretty slim pickings for those of you that are considering getting a master’s degree in the counter terrorism field as unfortunately not many colleges offer a master’s program. Those schools that do offer a master’s program really allow students to hyper focus on their areas of study. This is a stage of your schooling that will almost always require you to have an internship in a local, state or national agency. On top of all of the other areas of schooling you have tackled by this stage, you will also have the following areas on lock down in your brain: mass destruction, international homeland security, intelligence methods and security of transportation.

The Henley – Putnam University specializes in intelligence, counter terrorism and protection. This is also one of the few schools that offers a Master’s of Science in Terrorism and Counter Terrorism Studies. This master’s program really drives home the core skills of what an expert in the counter terrorism field needs to know. You’ll be a “know it all” in the areas of intelligence writing, threat management, counter terrorism briefing and anti-terrorism techniques. So basically you will be the quarterback to the national and international security teams.

To round out your many years of schooling, you will get to take some super interesting courses to fill in an informational gaps that may exist. You will take a course in WMD Terrorism that will teach you all about the characteristics of terrorist groups and what motivates them to obtain and eventually use Weapons of Mass Destruction. You will also finally cover more specific terrorist groups in the Advanced Islamism and Terrorism as well as Domestic Terrorism courses. By the end of each of those courses you’ll have a much deeper understanding and knowledge of these terrorist groups, what their motivations are and patterns of behavior are.

Ph.D. Option in Counter Terrorism

 As is a master’s degree in the counter terrorism field wasn’t rare enough, there is the rarer still Ph.D. in Counter Terrorism as well. Finding a university that offers this last leg of the schooling journey will be about as easy as finding a unicorn in the forest. There are a very few schools that offer a degree of this level, so if you find one and they meet all of the requirements that we discussed above, enroll! We mean it too. Do not pass go, do not collect $200…instead go directly to the admissions office!

The School of Criminology & Justice Studies at UMass Lowell is actually one of the very first in the United States to offer a Ph.D. program in Terrorism Studies. This final stage of your schooling for counter terrorism, you will be able to solely focus on your dissertation research while being fully supported by a great team of experts in this field of study. UMass will also aid students with research assistance through grants within the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies.

During the Ph.D. program there are three tiers that will need to be completed before you have that official doctorate title locked in. The Tiers are as follows:

During Tier I is filled with your core courses and some electives. You will take classes like: Criminological Theory, Domestic Terrorism and Violent Extremism, Descriptive and Inferential Statistics and Criminal Justice Systems along with several other courses.

Tier II is comprised of the advanced methodology and concentration courses. During this phase you will cover Advanced Research in Terrorism, Terrorist Networks, Counter Terrorism Polices and Strategies as well as several other classes to choose from.

Tier III is all about your dissertation research. This section will be a lot of work, but it’s the home stretch of your schooling and we know you’re like the “Little Engine that Could” and will be able to climb that hill like a champ.

Counter Terrorism Jobs

We suppose that you will likely want to do something with all of that schooling that you busted your hump to get behind you. Well I guess we can do you a solid and tell you where your skills will be best applied with a counter terrorism degree. Let’s go ahead and find out now:

Intelligence Production and Analysis

Experts in intelligence production and analysis may work at the National Counter Terrorism Center to conduct many series of in-depth analyses for a variety of policymakers, member of the intelligence community as well as law enforcement agencies. Their main role is to collect as much political and cultural intelligence along with historical information as possible to aid in the identification of possible threats to the United States.  The job as an intelligence production and analysis specialist requires you to see patterns and relationships among many various sources of information. There is also a need for a pretty thorough knowledge of terrorists, their methods, weapons and inclinations. Essentially this job is one giant critical thinking and problem solving session…only national security is on the line. No pressure!


Watchlisters are incredibly important as they are the guys and girls that identify the potential terrorists that we are so on the lookout for. A watchlister received information from the Department of Homeland Security, FBI and various other intelligence agencies. The information will then be compared to what the federal terrorist records, databases and other findings state about the person in questions identity. Their whereabouts and any other connections will be scrutinized to as well. Watchlisters take all of the information that has been collected and report it to the necessary agencies.


If you’re anything like us and have secretly harbored a strong obsession with working for the FBI, then a counter terrorism degree is the way to go. The FBI has it’s very own Counter Terrorism Division and has many career options, from tracking international and domestic terror cells to identifying where terrorist financing and weapons are coming from. There will also be times when you are going to track encrypted and foreign languages to gather information. There are also what are called “fly teams” that work for the FBI. These “fly teams” are experts in the counter terrorism fields that are the first responder when this excrement hits the proverbial fan.

Corporate Security

There is quite a wide net to be cast for counter terrorism jobs that are beyond the government. There are private firms and corporations that will gladly employ experts as security agents or other comparable protection staff. Those that work in corporate counter terrorism jobs will often take jobs as visitor scanners, designing preventions and crash barriers at entrances to buildings and business permanency planning which will allow many companies to continue operating should a terror attack occur. This last task is especially helpful in the event of biological attacks or bombings of some sort.

Video Time! Take a Minute to Watch This

Of course we had to go all Goldie Locks on you and find a video that was “just right” and that would perfectly explain the awesomeness of a counter terrorism degree. In the video is Dr. Richard Bloom of Embry-Riddle University and he totally knows his stuff. He is an expert in psychological warfare political and clinical psychology, intelligence, profiling policy and science, propaganda, personnel security, transnational crime and of course counter terrorism. If all of his experience isn’t enough to convince you that Dr. Bloom knows his stuff then we are sure that the epic mullet that he is so proudly rocking will seal the deal. Thanks Dr. Bloom and Embry-Riddle University for sharing this video on YouTube!

Meet The Ghost – Counter Terrorism Expert Fred Burton

By now we have covered nearly everything that you need to know about getting a counter terrorism degree, but we haven’t really had the chance to give you a frame of reference. Let’s change that now, shall we?

Counter Terrorism expert Fred Burton is considered to be one of the world’s top experts in the field. He is the head of the Stratfor analysis that focuses on the global security and developments in the world. Burton used to be  a counter terrorism agent for the U.S. Department of State from 1985 to 1999.

During Burton’s 14 year career he was involved in a great many high profile cases. A few of these cases that you most likely are already familiar with, but may not have known that he was part of are:

  • The search and arrest of the first World Trade Center bombing orchestrator, Ramzi Yousef
  • Investigated the Libyan backed terrorist attacks that were perpetrated agains the diplomats in Sanaa and Khartoum
  • Investigated the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

When his days with the State Department were over, he then moved to the position of deputy chief of counter terrorism at the Diplomatic Security Service. Here he would head many investigations and made preventative steps to keep diplomats safe.  These  days Fred Burton is a known for writing many books about the hot topics in the fight against terror.

Sources and Recommended Reading

We did oodles of research so that we could bring you all of the information that you could possibly need in your pursuit of a counter terrorism degree. We kind of feel like we deserve a virtual high five because we managed to find some pretty awesome information in the process. Definitely peruse some of the links we have here for you for even more information if you need it. Happy reading!

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