Master of Arts in the Field of Security Policy Studies

The master of arts in the field of security policy studies (SPS) degree program is policy-oriented, focusing on international security issues, with a particular emphasis on the security challenges for the 21st century and how to respond to them. These challenges include, but are not limited to, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, transnational threats, terrorism, changing regional power dynamics, weak and failing states, international crime, effectively linking security and development, and ensuring U.S. national security.

The curriculum provides a strong grounding in the national security and defense policy making process. Students choose two specific concentrations, which can range from transnational security issues to conflict resolution to defense analysis. Students also have the option of emphasizing a particular region, such as East Asia, the Middle East, or Latin America, by selecting a regional field as one of their two concentrations.

Specific admission requirements are shown on the Graduate Program Finder.

Visit the program website for additional program information.

Core Requirement (6 credits)

IAFF 6161International Security
IAFF 6162Security Policy Analysis

Research Tool (0-3 credits)

Students may choose between either a language or a statistical skills option to fulfill the 3-credit tool requirement.

Language Option

If the language option is selected, the student can test out either through coursework or by taking a diagnostic exam prior to their first semester. Students who test out of a language have three extra credits to apply to their concentrations.

Statistics Option

This option may be fulfilled by demonstrating proficiency, by a grade of B or better, in a graduate-level statistics course. This requirement may be met by taking one of the following:

IAFF 6501Quantitative Analysis for International Affairs Practitioners
IAFF 6198Special Topics in International Trade and Investment Policy (Advanced Quantitative Analysis)

Concentration (15 credits)

US National Security Concentration

Required Course
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (US National Security)
Concentration Courses
IAFF 6160Defense Policy and Program Analysis
IAFF 6163Transnational Security
IAFF 6165Fundamentals of Intelligence
IAFF 6169Homeland Security
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Intelligence in a Democratic Society)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (US Grand Strategy)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Political Violence and Terrorism)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Counter-Terrorism)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Insurgency & Counter-Insurgency)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Countering Violent Extremism)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Identity and CVE)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Strategic Planning for the 21st Century)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (The Chinese Military)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Russia and International Security)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Cyber Threats and Policy)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Methods of Defense Analysis)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Nuclear Strategy)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Political Risk Analysis)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Emerging Threats)
IAFF 6118Special Topics in International Affairs (Nuclear Proliferation and Nonproliferation)
IAFF 6118Special Topics in International Affairs (International Law and the Use of Force)
IAFF 6148Space and National Security
IAFF 6145U.S. Space Policy
IAFF 6521U.S. Foreign Policy Summer Program
HIST 6040Topics in Modern Military and Naval History
HIST 6330Modern U.S. Foreign Policy

Transnational Security Concentration

Required Course
IAFF 6163Transnational Security
Concentration Courses
IAFF 6169Homeland Security
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Non-State Actors)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Political Violence and Terrorism)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Counter-Terrorism)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Foreign Fighters)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Countering Violent Extremism)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Identity and CVE)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Cyber Threats and Policy)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (International Organized Crime)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Illicit Finance and Security)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Environmental Security)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Political Risk Analysis)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Emerging Threats)
IAFF 6118Special Topics in International Affairs (Nuclear Proliferation and Non-Proliferation)
IAFF 6138Special Topics in International Development Studies (Human Trafficking)
IAFF 6138Special Topics in International Development Studies (Global Food Security)
PUBH 6003Principles and Practices of Epidemiology
PUBH 6004Environmental and Occupational Health in a Sustainable World


Science and Technology Concentration

Required Course
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Emerging Threats)
Concentration Courses
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Cyber Threats and Policy)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Environmental Security)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Nuclear Strategy)
IAFF 6158Special Topics in International Science and Technology Policy (Cybersecurity)
CSCI 6534Information Security in Government
IAFF 6148Space and National Security
IAFF 6145U.S. Space Policy
IAFF 6118Special Topics in International Affairs (Nuclear Proliferation and Non-Proliferation)
IAFF 6118Special Topics in International Affairs (Science of Nuclear Materials)
IAFF 6138Special Topics in International Development Studies (Global Food Security)
PUBH 6003Principles and Practices of Epidemiology
PUBH 6004Environmental and Occupational Health in a Sustainable World

Conflict Resolution Concentration

Required Course
IAFF 6171Introduction to Conflict Resolution
Concentration Courses
IAFF 6173Security and Development
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (International Peacekeeping)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Stabilization and Peacebuilding)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Early Warning)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Political Risk Analysis)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (International Law and the Use of Force)
IAFF 6186Special Topics in Security Policy Studies (Women, War, and Peace)
IAFF 6118Special Topics in International Affairs (Reinventing The United Nations)
IAFF 6138Special Topics in International Development Studies (Care of Children in Complex Emergencies)
IAFF 6138Special Topics in International Development Studies (Climate Change and Community Development)
IAFF 6138Special Topics in International Development Studies (Human Trafficking)
IAFF 6138Special Topics in International Development Studies (Violence, Gender & Humanitarian Assistance)
IAFF 6138Special Topics in International Development Studies (Global Food Security)
IAFF 6198Special Topics in International Trade and Investment Policy (Corruption, Development and Governance)

Electives/Tools (9-12 credits)

Up to four substantive three-credit courses; can also include three credits of Statistics or Foreign Language for Research Tool requirement.

Professional Skills (3 credits)

Students are only permitted to take three one-credit skills courses.

IAFF 6502Professional Skills I
IAFF 6503Professional Skills II

Capstone Project/Thesis (4 credits)

Capstone Project

Elliott School master's students (except MIPP students) must complete a Capstone project as a culminating experience during the student’s final year of stu. dy at the Elliott School. The projects allow students to apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired through their coursework to a current policy question. Students complete a Capstone that demonstrates the ability to take an idea from conception to final presentation, combining academic knowledge, research, and professional skills into a coherent product.

Capstone project incorporate job skills like project management, negotiation, and policy briefings as they plan, implement, and present a group-designed, research-based project. Capstone teams often collaborate with an outside client to amplify the experience. Through a Capstone, Elliott School students prepare to take the next step in their professional careers by putting their policy skills to work.

IAFF 6898Capstone Workshop
IAFF 6899Capstone Course

Master’s Thesis

Students wishing to continue to a PhD program or pursue a research-oriented job may consider writing a thesis, which is an independent, in-depth research project that takes a year or more to complete. Those students who wish to complete a thesis must do so in addition to the Capstone requirement. Thesis credits will be counted as elective or specialization credits with Program Director approval. Students pursuing a thesis need a minimum of a 3.5 GPA and approval from the faculty member they wish to serve as their thesis director. Thesis students also need to complete at least one research methods course.