Anne Arundel Community College hopes to become the first institution in Maryland to offer an academic degree in homeland security, tapping into a multibillion-dollar industry that has grown exponentially since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

If the college gains approval from the necessary agencies, it will begin offering an associate's degree in homeland security built upon a foundation of classes already available at the Arnold campus and satellite locations elsewhere in the county. The college anticipates that students could enroll for the degree program in January.

"Obviously, we think it is necessary not only from an academic perspective but also for the national defense to prepare young people to go into the field of homeland security," said Tyrone Powers, director of the Institute for Criminal Justice, Legal Studies and Public Service at the college. "I mean, it's a permanent part of our existence and will remain so for many years."

Homeland security courses have been multiplying on area college campuses since Sept. 11; Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and George Washington universities all offer programs that allow students earning master's degrees to concentrate in homeland security. Virginia Commonwealth University is assembling a bachelor's degree program in homeland security for the fall term.

About 80 percent of community colleges nationwide offer courses related to homeland security, according to the American Association of Community Colleges They are part of a mission to prepare students to enter growth industries. The federal government has spent more than $12 billion for homeland-security research and development in the past four budget years.

Anne Arundel is home to one of the nation's premier intelligence installations, the National Security Agency, whose expanding mission will bring thousands of new jobs to both the public and private sectors. County Executive Janet S. Owens (D) envisions homeland security as the driving force of the Anne Arundel economy in the next decade. The county's Chesapeake Innovation Center, launched two years ago, is a unique "business incubator" for small companies in the homeland security field.

Anne Arundel Community College began to offer courses in terrorism and counterterrorism and the history of unconventional warfare five years ago. Those courses are "always full," Powers said, and they will form the backbone of the planned degree program.

The program awaits consideration by several groups, including the community college's curriculum and policy committee, the college's Board of Trustees and the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Courses would cover the history of terrorism and the mind-set of terrorists, the nature and science of weapons of mass destruction, disaster response, investigation of terrorism incidents, and the process of gathering intelligence and developing sources, said Powers, whose own background includes work as a state trooper and FBI agent. The college already offers courses on computer forensics and international law. One proposed course -- to be called "Marylanders and Terrorism" -- would deal with the specifics of homeland security in the state.

The college has been "preparing this generation of young people to do more than just provide security, to be able to detect and prevent terrorism," he said.

Powers said his institute is communicating with four-year colleges that could offer continuing studies to students who graduate from the community college program. He has spoken with the Anne Arundel County Board of Education about a potential introductory course for high school seniors.

The community college plans to offer public seminars on homeland security topics, such as what to do about a child in school if a parent cannot get home because of a terrorist incident.

"It's a necessary degree, a necessary education process, for the defense of the nation," Powers said.

Come January, Anne Arundel Community College hopes to become the first institution in Maryland to offer an academic degree in homeland security.