Curriculum & Requirements

Students must complete 12 graduate courses and a noncredit course in research ethics (usually POL 599: Responsible Conduct of Research in Political Science).

While in residence, students must participate in a security studies graduate research seminar, and can opt to participate in the graduate student seminar in international relations in the Department of Politics as well.

Students are expected to formally present a dissertation prospectus in one or both seminars no later than the end of the fifth semester of study.

Core Courses

All students are required to take SPI 550: Gateway Course in Security Studies. It provides an integrated doctoral-level introduction to the core problems that define the field and the key concepts and theories that have been used to analyze them. It also provides an introduction to the advances in science and technology that continue to transform the security environment.

In addition, there are four other required courses:

  • SPI 595b: Ph.D. Seminar in Research Design or an approved substitute in research design (POL 506: Qualitative Methods is a preapproved substitute)
  • Three courses from among the following list of five options:
    • POL 551: International Politics
    • POL 554: International Security Studies
    • POL 580: International Strategy
    • SPI 548: Weapons of Mass Destruction and International Security
    • SPI 549: National Security Policy

Methods Courses

Students must complete two methods courses, at least one of which must be at the Ph.D. level, and at least one on quantitative methods at the master’s level or above.

Regional Expertise

Students will need to demonstrate mastery in the politics and security environment of at least one major region of the world. Students can fulfill the regional requirement with one of the following options:

  • Two seminars explicitly designed to understand specific regions of the world.
  • One regionally focused seminar and a paper in a topical seminar on a specific region.
  • One regionally focused seminar and a general exam on a specific region.

Faculty must approve the choice of regional focus. If students need foreign language competence to conduct dissertation research, it is presumed they will have achieved proficiency before enrolling in the Ph.D. program. If the faculty advisor deems it critical that a student pursue further language training as part of the Ph.D. program, then one advanced foreign language course can be counted as an elective, with the approval of the cluster coordinator.

Technical Expertise

Students must take at least two classes that give them significant technical knowledge about some aspects of international or national security. Classes focusing on scientific and technical aspects of weapons systems and proliferation or military planning and defense policy will fulfill this requirement.

With faculty permission, the student can fulfill half of this requirement by writing a research paper focusing on the strategic implications of a technical issue for a seminar outside this category of classes, but should do so in consultation with a scientist or technical expert on the faculty.

Approved Electives

Students can choose from other seminars offered by the School to fulfill their 12-course requirement or from doctoral-level courses in other cognate departments (History, Politics, Economics, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering). For classes designed primarily for the MPA program, students must gain the permission of the cluster coordinator and should expect additional assignments.

General Examinations

All students are required to take two general exams:

  • A security studies exam designed by members of the core and affiliated faculty of the cluster.
  • A written examination in international relations (given by the Department of Politics) or a second security general exam, designed by faculty working on political and regional and/or scientific/technical issues that are relevant to the students’ courses of study.
  • An oral examination is required only if the student does not score at least a B+ on one of the two written general exams.

Dissertation Prospectus

Students must obtain approval for a dissertation prospectus.

Cluster Coordinator
Christopher F. Chyba