Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program (SSP) is the academic pillar of the Center for Security Studies (CSS) and one of eight master’s degree programs offered in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS). SSP is a multidisciplinary course of study designed to prepare graduates for positions within the defense and security fields.
The program's overarching mission is to produce a new generation of analysts, policymakers, and scholars fully knowledgeable about the range of international and national security problems and foreign policy issues of the 21st Century. The SSP has over 30 years of experience preparing students with a wide range of backgrounds to become leaders in their fields.
In contrast to programs in security studies at other universities, the SSP curriculum is designed to give students a broad array of course options which provide a solid foundation in core security issues. Whether it is traditional intelligence and defense analysis, international security problems in general, emerging issues such as the perils of peace operations or the intricacies of information warfare, the SSP offers over 80 courses addressing numerous areas of study. The depth and breadth of its course offerings stimulate students to pursue their intellectual and professional interests and develop their own areas of specialization.
The SSP offers a unique and flexible schedule that accommodates a wide range of students. Younger SSP students are able to apply their recent theoretical undergraduate education to practical policy applications. More seasoned students, professionals in the military, intelligence and defense contracting sectors enhance their practical experience with critical thinking, analytical writing, and theory-based solutions. Most of the SSP's classes are offered in the evening, giving students the option for either full time or part-time study.
The program’s more than 1,500 graduates have filled key positions in the U.S. and foreign governments, the defense industry and the private sector, research institutions and non-governmental and international organizations. Other graduates pursue doctoral programs and academic careers.
The SSP faculty comprises leading scholars and practitioners in security affairs who offer courses that are academically and analytically rigorous. Many members of the SSP faculty have years of distinguished service in the United States government. Classroom instruction is consequently enriched with an understanding and appreciation of the real world issues with which policymakers have to contend. The result is a program that combines the best of both worlds—academic rigor and policy relevance.
Our Mission Statement
The M.A. curriculum of the Security Studies Program (SSP) is designed to give students a solid grounding in the concepts, history, and substance of national and international security problems; as well as the skills to conduct original research and analysis on contemporary security issues.
The goals of the Security Studies Program are to enable students to:
Identify, understand, and analyze critical national and international security issues.
Learn about theoretical approaches and real-life challenges, working with both leading scholars and outstanding practitioners.
Apply that knowledge as they analyze, evaluate, and formulate security policy. While in the Program, students develop strong analytical, critical thinking, and writing skills through a coherent yet flexible curriculum tailored to students’ intellectual and professional interests.
Acquire the skills to conduct original research and analysis on contemporary security issues.
To receive an M.A. in Security Studies students must complete 36 credits meeting the following requirements:
Theory and Practice of Security (SEST-500) in the first semester of the program;
Grand Strategy and Military Operations (SEST-501) in the first semester of the program;
The core course in the chosen area of concentration in the first or second semester of the program;
Three additional courses in the chosen concentration;
Research Seminar (SEST-710) in the final semester of the program. The Research Seminar is a course devoted to the production of a major capstone research paper, usually 30-40 double-spaced pages in length. Students are expected to make useful contributions to the understanding of the issue they are researching. The Research Seminar must be taken in the final semester (students graduating in the summer must take the seminar in the spring of their last year). Students may not substitute seminars offered by other programs for the SSP research seminar requirement;
A minimum of eight courses (24 credits) sponsored by the SSP (usually designated "SEST") as a part of their course of study. Occasionally, an SSP course will be designated “INAF" (for example, INAF-546). Students with questions regarding the program designation of a course should ask the SSP Director of Academic Affairs before registering;
One course in each of following three substantive areas:
Area Security Studies
Economics and Security
Technology and Security
Two SSP-approved free electives. Students are authorized to double count one course between their concentration and distribution requirements; this allows students to take an additional free elective. Students with questions regarding the distributional allocation of a course should ask the SSP Director of Academic Affairs before registering.
Pass the comprehensive exam. Students must pass a comprehensive examination to graduate from the program. The comprehensive exam tests broad substantive knowledge of national and international security problems, along with the student’s analytic abilities. The exam poses questions that address each of the primary concentrations. Students take the comprehensive examination during the final semester in the program (Fall or Spring; Summer graduates will take the comprehensive exam in the Spring concurrent with their enrollment in SEST-710: Research Seminar). This is a four-hour typed exam which is taken on campus.
Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
There is no language proficiency requirement for the SSP. Please note that the SSP does not accept transfer credits.
The Master’s in Security Studies is a 36 credit, 12-course degree. SSP offers about 65 courses each semester and over 12 courses during the summer sessions, allowing its course offerings to cover a diverse range of topics and making it the most comprehensive Master’s degree in Security Studies available. The majority of SSP courses meet in the late afternoon or evening at 5:00 or 6:30 pm for 2 hours and 30 minutes once a week. While SSP has over 300 students enrolled each semester, the class sizes are capped at approximately 18 students.
The Security Studies Program (SSP) curriculum offers seven concentrations: Intelligence, International Security, Military Operations, Technology and Security, Terrorism and Substate Violence, Unconventional Weapons and Non-Proliferation and U.S. National Security Policy.
Intelligence: In this concentration, students acquire an understanding of the practical dimensions of intelligence, including the intelligence cycle, the intelligence disciplines, problems of intelligence collection and analysis, covert action, and the intelligence-policy nexus. Attention is also focused on domestic intelligence, military intelligence, and the intelligence operations and cultures of other countries. Students also consider major conceptual issues such as the appropriate role of intelligence in a democracy, issues of oversight and accountability, the intelligence budget as part of the overall defense budget, and the complexities of secrecy. In addition to helping students prepare for careers in the intelligence community, this concentration also addresses intelligence issues in the military, government agencies, or in government-related industries.
International Security: Students in this concentration will examine the broad range of issues affecting security in the world today. The conduct of statecraft and diplomacy and the operations of individual governments and international and non-governmental organizations are at the heart of this concentration. International security structures, global and regional conflict, state and non-state actors, resource management, non-proliferation, terrorism, human security and infectious disease evidence the wide range of issues addressed in this concentration from a distinctly international perspective. This concentration will prepare students for a broad range of careers, including serving in the ministries of national governments, in international organizations, in private companies that focus on security, and in policy research institutions.
Military Operations: Students enrolled in this concentration acquire in-depth knowledge of the U.S. military and those of other nations with particular emphasis on application of the military instrument of power in support of national security strategy. Courses include the study of conventional military operations, the use of air and sea power, military analysis, net assessment techniques, and the interaction between civilian and military officials, among other subjects. Students develop the expertise necessary to pursue careers related to the evaluation and use of military force for either the U.S. or other governments.
Technology and Security: This concentration permits students to approach security issues from a technological perspective and provides the future analyst, policymaker or scholar with an appreciation of the wide range of technology issues affecting security. Students can take classes in subjects ranging from energy and resource scarcity to health, biotechnology, and environmental issues, as well as cyber and information warfare, unconventional weapons and net assessment, and emerging technologies.
Terrorism and Substate Violence: Students in this concentration study the motivations and operations of terrorist and insurgent groups, the dynamics of civil wars, and the policies required to effectively counter these threats. Courses examine sources of terrorism, terrorist tactics, key terrorist groups like al-Qa'ida and the Lebanese Hizballah; counterinsurgency, ethnic conflict, and post-conflict stabilization missions, among other issues. Students learn to analyze the spectrum of conflicts short of war, their internal dynamics and the measures and practical responses required to resolve them. Most students pursue careers in U.S. intelligence and defense communities, those of other governments, and in international relief organizations, and consulting firms.
Unconventional Weapons and Non-Proliferation: Students in this concentration focus on chemical, biological, nuclear, and other unconventional weapons, including cyber warfare, in order to understand the dynamics of their acquisition and use and the effects on national and international security. Courses include in-depth explorations of both the political and military uses and technical characteristics of these weapons systems, including relevant countermeasures and non-proliferation policies and deterrence theory and history, relevant treaties, sanction regimes, and emerging concepts such as “Nuclear Zero.” The U.S. and other governments, as well as international organizations and a variety of think-tanks and non-governmental organizations all, seek professionals with skills in this area.
U.S. National Security Policy: This concentration provides students with the necessary background to identify and analyze U.S national security issues and to formulate the policy options required to effectively address these challenges. The full range of national instruments of power is examined: diplomatic, information, military, and economic in order to enable students to integrate them and formulate national security strategies and policies. Issues such as Congress and national security and the intersection of budget, policy, and strategy provide the foundation for understanding the entire national security structure and process. The full spectrum of conflict potentially facing the U.S. is studied both from the political and military perspectives, to include diplomacy and counter-terrorism as well as counterinsurgency, major combat operations, and nuclear warfare. This concentration is particularly relevant to students seeking careers in the U.S. State Department, the Defense Department, on Capitol Hill, and with institutions such as the Congressional Research Service and the Government Accountability Office.
All graduate programs in the School of Foreign Service use The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ApplyYourself Application. The application can be completed entirely online, but hard copies of application materials (official transcripts, letters of recommendation not submitted online, GRE results) should be mailed directly to the Office of Graduate Admissions: Office of Graduate Admissions Attn: Credentials - (Security Studies Program) Box 571004 3520 Prospect Street, NW, CB-207 Washington, DC 20057-1004 Please use the SSP Application Checklist to ensure that you have all the required information:
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Application Form
$90.00 Application Fee - paid to the Office of Graduate Admissions
Résumé or C.V.
Statement of purpose (not to exceed 500 words) addressing intellectual interests and professional and academic goals. The statement of purpose is a critical component of the SSP application. Please carefully explain how the SSP specifically fits into your future academic and professional plans. Applicants should not submit a writing sample.
Official transcripts. Applicants for admission must provide transcripts of all work beyond secondary school, including coursework transferred from community colleges and study abroad institutions. Transcripts must be sent directly from the issuing university's registrar office to the Office of Graduate Admissions.
For students currently enrolled in another graduate or undergraduate degree program, transcripts must include the current semester.
Students who have attended or graduated from a foreign college or university must provide an official transcript and translation in English. The translation should not be interpretive (i.e. grades should not be translated into the U.S. system) and should be signed by the translator.
PPIA and IIPP candidates must include the summer institute evaluation.
Letters of recommendation from three individuals who can assess the applicant's qualifications and preparation for graduate work in security studies. Letters of recommendation are to be submitted electronically using the ApplyYourself online application system. Personal letters of recommendation - from colleagues, coaches, and family friends, for example - are not accepted.
Official Standardized Test Scores sent directly from the testing organization. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) code for Georgetown University is 5244. There is no separate code for the SSP or the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Active duty military applicants must complete this supplemental data form.
Standardized Testing Applicants holding an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution where English was the primary language of instruction are required to take the GRE. Applicants holding an undergraduate degree from an institution where English was not the primary language of instruction are required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Applicants to the joint M.A./J.D. program can submit LSAT scores in lieu of GRE scores. GMAT scores will not be accepted under any circumstances. Please allow a minimum of four to six weeks for scores to be processed by both the sending party and Georgetown University. Files missing scores will be considered incomplete if official scores are not received by the application deadline. GRE scores are valid for five years. Scores with a test date beyond the five-year mark are not accepted.
There is no minimum GRE score required to gain admission to SSP.
There is a minimum score requirement for both the TOEFL and IELTS. The minimum scores are:
TOEFL: 100 on the Internet Based Test (iBT); 250 on the Computer-Based Test; 600 on the paper-based exam.
Waiving Standardized Testing Requirements
All applicants are required to submit the appropriate standardized test scores. SSP does not grant requests to waive standardized testing requirements.
SSP expects admitted students to begin the program in the semester for which they applied. Students should only request to defer admission if they are unable to enroll as the result of a significant, unforeseen change in the student's personal or professional life, which is beyond the student's ability to control. Deferral requests are reviewed by the admissions committee to determine their validity. Failure to adequately prepare for the cost of graduate school, the desire to pursue other educational opportunities prior to attending SSP, and failure to adequately anticipate the amount of time necessary to separate from the armed forces are examples of deferral request reasons which would normally be viewed unfavorably by the admissions committee.
Students may request a maximum of one deferral, for either one semester or one academic year. If granted, a deferral cannot be extended beyond the original period of deferment. Students admitted to the fall semester must request a deferral no later than June 1st; students admitted to the spring semester must request a deferral by December 15th. Students requesting deferrals prior to their SSP decision deadlines should refrain from paying the $500 tuition deposit until their deferral request has been processed. Students requesting deferrals after the decision deadline must pay the $500 deposit and should understand that, in the event of a denial of their request, the deposit is non-refundable.
This is also true for students who pay the deposit in advance of the decision deadline before waiting for their deferral request to be processed. Students whose deferral requests are denied must either matriculate in the semester for which they were offered admission or forfeit their offer of admission and reapply at a later date. Students who have been offered an SSP Merit Award should understand that Merit Award offers are valid only for the semester in which the applicant originally applied. Active duty and reserve military personnel may request a deferral only if an official request for orders (RFO) for a permanent change of station (PCS), overseas deployment, or schooling is received after the student has received an offer of admission.
Applicants denied admission to SSP should not reapply until additional steps have been taken to strengthen their application. Please contact the SSP admissions staff to discuss the appropriate course of action. Those wishing to reapply must submit a new application and new application materials. Materials from a prior application such as letters of recommendation, transcripts, and statements of purpose cannot be rolled over to a new application. However, official test scores that were previously sent to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and have not expired can be re-used. (GRE scores are valid for 5 years from the date of the test. TOEFL and IELTS scores are valid for 2 years from the date of the test.) If you have retaken any of these tests, be sure to request the testing agency to send official scores to Georgetown.