Security Studies - Courses and Requirements

Course Requirements

PhD students in security studies must complete 12 graduate courses and a non-credit course in research ethics (usually POL 599). Starting in 2018-19, while in residence, students in the Cluster must actively participate in a Security Studies graduate research seminar, and they can opt to actively participate in the graduate student seminar in International Relations in the Politics Department as well. For the latter, students must register for the course in TigerHub, so it appears on their transcript. 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 WWS 550, a 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 4 other required core courses:

  1. WWS 595b, PhD Seminar in Research Design OR an approved substitute in research design (POL 506 is a pre-approved substitute). 
  2. Three courses from among the following list of five options:

POL 551  International Politics

POL 554  International Security Studies

POL 580  International Strategy

WWS 548  Weapons of Mass Destruction and International Security

WWS 549  National Security Policy

Methods Courses

Students must complete two methods classes, at least one of which must be at the PhD level, and at least one of which must be on quantitative methods.

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 by taking two seminars explicitly designed to understand specific regions of the world; taking one such seminar and writing a paper in a topical seminar on a specific region; taking one such seminar and taking a general exam on a specific region. Faculty must approve the choice of regional focus. It is expected that a student who will need foreign language competence for conducting dissertation research will have achieved proficiency before enrolling in the PhD program. If the faculty advisor deems it critical that a student pursue further language training as part of the PhD 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.


Students can choose from other WWS seminars to fulfill their 12 course requirement OR from doctoral-level courses in other cognate departments (e.g. History, Politics, Economics, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering). For classes designed primarily for the MPA program at WWS, students should gain the permission of the Cluster Coordinator and should expect additional assignments (e.g. additional readings, longer and more substantial research papers and, where appropriate, separate meetings with the professor).

General Examinations

All students are required to take two General Exams: 1) a Security Studies exam designed by members of the core and affiliated faculty of the Cluster; and 2) Either a written examination in international relations (given by the Politics department) 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. Students will also have to pass an oral examination and obtain approval for a dissertation prospectus.