The Program

Master of Science, Defense and Strategic Studies

This program operates in Fairfax, Virginia, and is certified by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

Program description

The primary objective of the Department of Defense and Strategic Studies program is to provide professional, graduate level academic education and training for students planning careers in the fields of national security policy, international security affairs, defense analysis, arms control, and education.  In essence, this is a graduate international studies program with emphasis on security problems, strategic interests, and U.S. policy and policy-making.  It is a program in public affairs.

Retention requirements

To remain in the program, the student must maintain, by the completion of the second semester, a minimum GPA of 3.00 in DSS courses and in all graduate work, and make satisfactory progress toward the MS degree.

Option areas

The Defense and Strategic Studies program offers two options:  (1) Defense and Strategic Studies/General (DSS/General);  and (2) Defense and Strategic Studies/Weapons of Mass Destruction Studies (DSS/WMD).

Entrance requirements

Admission to the program requires a 2.75 GPA on the last 60 hours, a satisfactory Graduate Record Examination score (e.g., 290 or higher combined score on the verbal and quantitative), and letters of recommendation from undergraduate faculty or professionals acquainted with the students academic work or research and analytical skills.  A relatively low GRE score may be compensated by an impressive undergraduate GPA and strong letters of recommendation.

Demonstrated graduate-level performance through a minimum of nine hours may compensate for GRE or undergraduate GPA weaknesses.

Department of Defense (DOD) civilian and uniformed applicants for the National Defense University Fellowship (NDU) pursue a different and separate application process that is completed in conjunction with DOD and the NDU.

Degree requirements (36 hours)

Core Requirements.  All students will take two core courses:  DSS 601 (3), Seminar on Nuclear Strategy and Arms Control; and DSS 632 (3), Seminar on International Security Affairs.  A minimum of 30 additional seminar hours would be selected by the student from the other DSS courses offered.

For the DSS option, the full array of elective courses is available.

For the DSS/WMD option, electives from the DSS course offerings that focus on WMD topics are required.  See Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Graduate Certificate.

Research.  A student will be required to complete either the Thesis option or the Non-thesis option.

Thesis Option.  Completion of a satisfactory thesis in the candidate's discipline.  Thesis credit shall be no more than 3 semester hours of the minimum 36 hours required for a master's degree.  If the student fails to complete the thesis during the semester in which they are first enrolled in DSS 799, they must enroll in DSS 794, Active in Research, each semester until the thesis is finished. 

For the DSS/WMD option, the thesis topic must focus on an approved WMD subject.

Non-Thesis Option A comprehensive examination covering the DSS core field of study must be passed, and a research paper is required as part of the non-thesis exam. Students must be registered for a course in order to complete the non-thesis oral exam. DSS 794 or DSS 796 is recommended.

For the DSS/WMD option, the non-thesis research paper and oral exam must focus on an approved WMD subject.

Graduate Certificate in Defense and Strategic Studies

This program operates in Fairfax, Virginia, and is certified by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) 

Review the following Program Costs and Potential Occupations (Gainful Employment Disclosure).

Program description

The Department of Defense and Strategic Studies offers a Graduate Certificate in Defense and Strategic Studies designed for mid-career professionals.  The Certificate in Defense and Strategic Studies is intended for those already employed in the national security field, yet desire advanced study of major defense and strategic issues to further their career.  Prospective students may enroll in the fall, spring, or summer semester.  Once admitted, they must complete 9 credit hours selected from the course list in order to receive the Certificate.  Students may attend full-time (3 seminars per semester) or part-time (1 or 2 seminars per semester).  

Entrance requirements

The candidate must have a bachelors degree and be admitted to the certificate program.

Coursework to total 9 hours

  • DSS 601 Seminar on Nuclear Strategy and Arms Control
  • DSS 630 International Law and Global Security
  • DSS 631 International Negotiations
  • DSS 632 Seminar on International Security Affairs
  • DSS 633 Analysis of International Security Politics
  • DSS 634 The Geopolitics of Conflict and Accommodation
  • DSS 700 Strategy and U.S. Defense Policy
  • DSS 702 Seminar on Regional Security Problems
  • DSS 703 Science, Technology, and Defense Policy
  • DSS 704 Arms Control: Theory and Practice
  • DSS 705 NATO Security Issues
  • DSS 706 Soviet and Russian Military Strategy
  • DSS 707 Congress, National Security, and WMD
  • DSS 708 Seminar on Contemporary Security Issues in the Former USSR
  • DSS 709 Seminar on Space Policy and Security
  • DSS 710 Seminar on International Terrorism and Security
  • DSS 711 The rise of the United States to Preeminence
  • DSS 712 American National Security Policy
  • DSS 713 Intelligence, Counterintelligence, and Covert Action
  • DSS 714 Seminar on Strategic Thought
  • DSS 715 Grand Strategy
  • DSS 716 Understanding Military Operations
  • DSS 717 Small Wars, Imperial Conflicts, & Guerrilla Warfare
  • DSS 718 Causes of War
  • DSS 719 Strategic Culture
  • DSS 720 Internship Training in DSS Policy
  • DSS 721 Missile Defense, Proliferation and Contemporary Warfare
  • DSS 722 Emerging Strategic Challenges
  • DSS 723 Counterproliferation
  • DSS 724 Leadership in National Security Policy
  • DSS 725 Seminar on Instruments of State Power
  • DSS 726 Chinese Military Power
  • DSS 727 Chemical and Biological Warfare: Global and Community Perspectives
  • DSS 728 Terrorism: Advanced Research Topics
  • DSS 737 Advanced Studies in Chemical and Biological Warfare
  • DSS 740 Ethics of Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • DSS 796 Directed Reading and Research in Defense and Strategic Studies
  • DSS 797 Special Topics

GPA requirements

Students must have a B or better grade in each course.