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Master of Professional Studies in
Homeland Security - Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense Option

Program summary

Gain the skills to help defend against natural and manmade threats to our agriculture and food supply chain. This option builds a fundamental understanding of homeland security issues with an emphasis on food science, plant protection, and animal security.

Application deadline

Apply by July 1 to start August 21

Credits and costs

33 Credits $1,007 per credit

Learn to Safeguard America's Food Supply Chain

There are many different threats to our agriculture and food supply chain that occur naturally or are man-made. Such attacks may cause illnesses or loss of life, generate fear, cause economic loss, and create social instability. The intercollege Master of Professional Studies (iMPS) in Homeland Security - Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense option, offered in partnership with Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, can provide students with foundational knowledge about plant, animal, and food security issues; surveillance systems for infectious diseases; diagnostic and sensor technologies; disease-predictive models; protection and mitigation approaches; and microbial forensic capabilities.

Why Penn State for Your Homeland Security Education?

Penn State offers a series of homeland security core courses that provide a fundamental understanding of homeland security issues. In addition, a series of optional and elective courses focus on topic areas such as food science and defense, plant protection, and animal security.

Who Should Apply?

The online iMPS in Homeland Security - Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense option is open to candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree. The degree is ideal for public health professionals, food safety analysts, quality control specialists, plant managers, food safety engineers, food defense coordinators, food inspectors, food microbiologists, and individuals working or studying food safety and biosecurity in industry, government, or academia.

Information for Military and Veterans

Are you a member of the military, a veteran, or a military spouse? Please visit our military website for additional information regarding financial aid, transfer credits, or application instructions. 


Penn State's 33-credit online Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security - Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense option prepares students to understand diverse agricultural and food supply systems, vulnerabilities, public health, and surveillance systems while gaining the skills to protect, detect, mitigate, and treat widespread agricultural infectious disease.

All students are required to complete the HLS Orientation (non-credit) as part of the HLS core curriculum before the end of their first semester. This orientation provides an overview of the HLS program and the field of homeland security.

Required Courses (9 credits)

  • 3

    Foundation for understanding homeland security history, the development of homeland security policies and organizations, and current management approaches.

  • 3

    This course will examine the social, political, legal, and ethical issues that arise in the context of homeland security.

  • 3

    Provides an overview of the domestic and global issues related to homeland security.

Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense Option Prescribed Courses (12 credits)

  • 3

    This course will explore intentional and unintentional threats to the agriculture food system, history, and current approaches for safeguarding this key infrastructure.

  • 3

    This course will focus on hazards associated with the food supply, explore risk analysis/assessment systems and exercises, examine prevention strategies for intentional contamination of the food supply, develop a food defense plan, and examine crises management systems.

  • 3

    This course will examine a wide range of animal health topics as it relates to infectious diseases, diagnostic systems, surveillance systems, epidemiology of those diseases, and effective responses in the case of an outbreak either naturally or intentionally caused.

  • 3

    This course provides knowledge of plant biosecurity, plant disease, regulations, and technologies using case study examples.

Electives (select 9 credits)

  • 3

    This seminar provides students with a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted nature of disaster communication across phases of a disaster.

  • 3

    Using imagery and terrain data in typical application scenarios faced by the geospatial professional.

  • 3

    The application of cultural geography in the intelligence analysis and synthesis process by identifying prominent threats to civil security.

  • 3

    This course provides foundational knowledge about homeland security, including policy, organization, and legal issues in the American context.

  • 3

    Addresses international cooperation in Homeland Security and compare select national approaches as well as teach related practical methods of analysis.

    • Prerequisite

      HLS 801, HLS 803, HLS 805, and PADM 802 (In certain cases, students may be eligible for a prerequisite waiver based on prior academic or professional experience.)

  • 3

    Explores psychological impact of disasters and terrorist attacks on victims, families, rescuers, and society and methods of reducing negative effects.

    • Prerequisite

      permission of the program

  • 3

    Analysis of Constitutional provisions, legislative enactments, executive directives, and judicial decisions relating to homeland security.

  • 3

    Provides real-world experience in the homeland security enterprise. Supervision/support is provided by site personnel and Penn State graduate faculty.

    • Prerequisites

      HLS 801, HLS 803, and HLS 805

  • 3

    Provides an overview of the homeland defense mission and defense support of civil authorities during disasters, and the distinctions between the two.

    • Prerequisite

      HLS 801

  • 3

    This course examines the fundamental elements of crisis, disaster, risk, and emergency management.

  • 3

    Introduces visual analytic techniques for security informatics and intelligence. Survey technical approaches for data analysis and threats and vulnerability, communicating risk.

    • Prerequisite

      IST 816 or IST 552 or IST 554 or IST 562

  • 3

    Understanding the concepts, techniques, and issues surrounding the fusion of information from multiple sensors and sources of data.

  • 3

    A problem-based, interdisciplinary course in project management skills and techniques needed to manage projects in a modern business environment.

  • 3

    Analysis of political terrorism as a violent alternative for peaceful change and traditional warfare in the nuclear age.

    • Prerequisite

      CRIMJ 100, PL SC 014 , or permission of the instructor

Capstone Experience (3 credits)

  • 3

    Culminating course; application of your homeland security studies in the form of a graduate-level project relating to agricultural biosecurity.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.

2022–23 Academic Year Rates

How many credits do you plan to take per semester? Cost
11 or fewer $1,007 per credit
12 or more $12,082 per semester

Financial Aid and Military Benefits

Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.

How to Apply

Deadlines and Important Dates

Your degree application, including receipt of all application materials, must be received by the following deadlines to be considered complete.

  • Fall DeadlineApply by July 1 to start August 21
  • Spring DeadlineApply by October 15 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by March 1, 2024, to start May 13, 2024

Admissions Help

Thank you for your interest in continuing your homeland security education through Penn State World Campus. New and prospective students must submit an application for admission when applying to either the master's or a certificate program, along with a nonrefundable application fee. If you have any questions throughout the admissions process, please contact an admissions counselor.

Admission Requirements 

For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.

What You Need

Applications are submitted electronically and include a nonrefundable application fee. You will need to upload the following items as part of your application:

Official transcripts from each institution attended, regardless of the number of credits or semesters completed. Transcripts not in English must be accompanied by a certified translation. Penn State alumni do not need to request transcripts for credits earned at Penn State, but must list Penn State as part of your academic history. If you are admitted, you will be asked to send an additional official transcript. You will receive instructions at that time.

GPA and Test Scores — Official Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores are not required.

English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.

References (3) — you will need to initiate the process through the online application by entering names, email addresses, and mailing addresses of three references. Upon submission of your application, an email will be sent to each reference requesting they complete a brief online recommendation regarding your commitment for success in an online program. Please inform all recommenders they must submit the form in order for your application to be complete.  

Program-Specific Questions/Materials

Résumé — Upload your résumé to the online application. 

Statement of Purpose — A statement of no more than 500 words explaining to the admissions committee how your professional experience and goals relate to the program to which you are applying. Your statement could include aspects such as the following: Your reasons for pursuing the degree; why you feel you are a good candidate for the program; and any information you would like the admissions committee to know about you personally and/or professionally.

Start Your Application

You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

Begin the graduate school application

  • Choose Enrollment Type: "Degree Admission"
  • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
  • Choose "HOMELAND SECURITY" as the major
  • Choose “MASTER OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES” as the degree

Checking Your Status

You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form.

Technical Requirements 

Review the technical requirements for this degree program.

Ready to Learn More?

Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by July 1 to start August 21. How to Apply

Start or Advance Your Career

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You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

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From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Earn a Valuable Credential along the Way

A figure walking on a path that includes a certificate part of the way through their progress

Show mastery of specific subjects before your degree is complete. Thanks to shared courses across programs, students can often earn a certificate along with their degree in less time than if they earned them separately.

Certificate Program Related to This Degree

The 12 credits required for this certificate can be earned while completing this degree program:

Learn to develop and implement safety measures to prevent or manage biological threats. This unique 12-credit program is offered by Penn State's renowned College of Agricultural Science as part of the Homeland Security Program, one of the most respected programs of its kind in the U.S.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense  

Contact Us

For questions related to the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security — Agricultural Biosecurity and Food Defense Option, offered in partnership with the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, please contact:

Kim Hall, Graduate Coordinator
College of Agricultural Sciences
Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology
The Pennsylvania State University
210 Buckhout Lab
Phone: 814-865-7069
Email: [email protected]



  • Catherine Cutter

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Food Technology; Microbiology, Clemson University
    • Degree
      M.S., Pathobiology; Bacteriology, University of Connecticut
    • Degree
      B.S., Pathobiology, University of Connecticut

    Dr. Catherine Cutter's research determines the prevalence of pathogens in foods, develops methods to sample and detect foodborne pathogens, and validates control measures for microbial contaminants in foods. She also researches food safety practices of food handlers and laboratory personnel. Dr. Cutter teaches in food safety–related Extension workshops/short courses for food industry professionals. She is a professor in the Department of Food Science and assistant director of food safety and quality programs, Penn State Extension, in the College of Agricultural Sciences.

  • Ernest Hovingh

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Epidemiology, University of Prince Edward Island
    • Degree
      DVM, Veterinary Medicine, University of Guelph

    Dr. Ernest Hovingh is an associate research professor and Extension veterinarian at Penn State. His primary teaching/extension and discovery interests include population health and preventive medicine, as well as biosecurity and epidemiology. He conducts applied research projects on topics important to cattle health and welfare, as well as pre-harvest food safety, food quality, and anti-microbial resistance.

  • Seogchan Kang

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Physiological Chemistry, University of Wisconsin
    • Degree
      M.S., Chemistry, Seoul National University
    • Degree
      B.S., Chemistry, Seoul National University

    Dr. Seogchan Kang’s three main goals of research focus on improving biocontrol via enhanced understanding of chemical ecology underpinning plant-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions; advancing understanding of the molecular, cellular, and evolutionary mechanisms underpinning plant-fungal pathogen interactions; and supporting community research, education, and extension on plant diseases by archiving and disseminating phylogenetic and genomic data from major pathogen groups through web-based informatics platforms.

  • Gretchen Kuldau

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Molecular and Physiological Plant Biology, University of California, Berkeley
    • Degree
      B.S., Biology, Wellesley College

    Dr. Gretchen Kuldau's work focuses on understanding mycotoxin development in grain and forage crops, with an emphasis on Fusarium toxins. Her approaches include fungal molecular genetics, greenhouse, growth chamber and field studies, use of chromatography for mycotoxin analysis, and general microbiology. She teaches courses in agricultural biosecurity and co-teaches a General Education course on fungi, titled "The Fungal Jungle."

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State master's degree?

Apply by July 1 to start August 21. How to Apply