Security Policy Studies Master of Arts


You’ve seen conflict in the U.S. or abroad, and more than most people, you understand the threats and risks we face. Terrorism, cybersecurity, strategic competition, climate change, hostile states, armed conflicts — all of our most pressing global security issues need leaders who can face these complex challenges with the confidence, training, and skills to make a difference.

Maybe you’ve recently graduated and you want to learn more about what’s possible in the security field, or perhaps you already know you want to advance your current career with a master’s degree and security clearance. Wherever you’re at today, the Security Policy Studies Master of Arts (SPS) degree from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University unlocks career options that other master’s degrees cannot. 

Read more about the SPS program and take a program preview with you today — it has even more information about the lifelong value of this degree.

The SPS Program is Celebrating its 45th Anniversary!

Learn more about the history of the Security Policy Studies Program at the university since it was first launched in 1979.

A Brief History of SPS

A Master’s in Security Studies Built for Real-World Issues and Graduate Success

Learn to Analyze, Design, and Execute Policy-Based Initiatives

The unique policy focus of the SPS program will equip you for security work with the broadest and deepest influence.

Concentrations Available

Choose from one of four policy concentrations in the SPS program, and complete 15 credits in your chosen area of focus. You’ll gain an understanding of the most important security threats and risks shaping the 21st century — and how to respond through policy that has a significant impact. 

SPS Concentration Fields


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U.S. National Security

What Does This Mean? 

Deepen your knowledge of key threats and risks facing U.S. security policy, and explore topics such as grand strategy and planning. Analyze U.S. regional strategies, from Asia to the Arctic, and global issues such as nuclear policy, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, climate change, arms control, and space policy. Also, study strategic competition with China and Russia and the challenges posed by Iran and North Korea.



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Transnational Security

What Does This Mean? 

Study powerful non-state actors and processes shaping the 21st century. Explore security issues that cross political borders, such as insurgency, terrorism, organized crime, cyber conflict, maritime security, and migration. Or focus on the transnational processes generating a range of security implications, such as environmental change, energy trends, and  infectious diseases and pandemics.



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Conflict Resolution

What Does This Mean? 

Explore the causes of organized violence, the major trends in armed conflicts, and how to manage and resolve them. Key topics include understanding civil wars, interstate disputes, early warning and prevention, stabilization and peace-building, humanitarian governance, countering violent extremism, and international law. You can also hone in on particular international organizations or regions of the world.



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Science and Technology

What Does This Mean? 

Discover how emerging technologies and scientific innovation are generating security risks and threats as well as opportunities. Also, learn how current security policies must evolve in response. Study conflict dynamics in cyberspace and how artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and robotics are shaping the 21st century. Or deepen your knowledge of security issues in outer space and the challenges posed by weapons of mass destruction.



Leverage Our Network as You Extend Your Own

The Elliott School reputation and our respected security faculty will connect you with the best opportunities as a student and beyond graduation. Our faculty are real-world security policy practitioners and leading researchers. They have the insights and inroads to where the real work is done in our thriving global security policy hub: Washington D.C.

Let Us Show You What's Possible

Many new students don’t understand just how large the international security landscape really is. The US intelligence community alone is composed of 18 organizations, and they all have specialized security needs. Our faculty and career coaches will help you take it all in and find the perfect path for your goals and interests.

Not long ago, these students were right where you are now. Listen to what they’ve already gained in the program and how they’ve been able to apply it.

"If you’re interested in security, if you’re interested in policy development, this is the place to be because you are right next to the Capitol. You’re a block-and-a-half away from the White House. When foreign dignitaries come, many times, the Elliott School is able to get them to come and give talks, so you will have access to information and people that you would never interact with if you were to go to other universities."

Jason Nunes
Army Officer, SPS student specializing in U.S. National Security

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A Master's Degree with the Flexibility for Your Priorities and Obligations

You’re busy and driven and need a degree that works with everything else in your life. 

From application to graduation, you’ll find that the SPS program experience has been crafted and refined to maximize flexibility for our students.

Choose Your Pace

Complete the SPS degree in two years as a full-time student or take up to five years as a part-time student.

Start Date Options

We accept rolling admissions for the SPS program and even have a robust summer course offering (around 12 different courses). Start your degree in the spring, summer, or fall. View the latest application deadlines.

A Variety of Course Formats

From traditional, 14-week courses to independent studies you design to a Capstone course where you’ll work collaboratively to develop a complete policy proposal for a real-world client facing a real-world security challenge, you’ll have options with the SPS program. We also offer nearly 40 specialized skills courses that put the theory you’ll learn into action. Many of these one-credit courses can be completed over a long weekend.

Keep Your Career Moving

Our evening classes open up more opportunities for you to pursue internships, or attend exclusive networking sessions and other Elliott School events. You won’t need to put the rest of your life on hold to complete this degree.

Study On Campus or Online

If you're looking for a flexible remote option, we offer the U.S. National Security concentration in a fully online format. Complete all program credits virtually, and benefit from the same curriculum as our on-campus classes.

An Investment that Pays Off from Enrollment to Retirement

During our regular information sessions, we have the space to answer many questions about tuition, scholarships, and financial aid. Along with the costs of the program, we also help prospective students like you understand the true value of the SPS degree, which begins immediately and lasts your entire career.

As a student …

Your program director will coordinate with a career coach and an academic advisor as a team to provide you with a clear sense of career options and ways to optimize your program of study to prepare you for success. 

You’ll be invited to the 370+ events the Elliott School sponsors each year, including exclusive networking events, lectures and Q & A sessions with global security leaders, and other unique opportunities.

As a graduate …

You will continue to have lifetime invitations to Elliott School events, including special opportunities especially for alumni, as well as access to our Graduate Career Development office. If you ever decide to change careers, our staff will be here to help you and connect you with resources like Handshake, GW’s career database with job, internship, and co-op opportunities from more than 9,000 employers.

We also invite our alumni to give back to current students by sharing their career expertise and donating funds to enhance academic and professional opportunities for students. Read the new SPS case statement celebrating the program's 45th anniversary, and contact Max Kaplan at [email protected] for more information.

Donate to the SPS Program

Read the SPS Case Statement


Keep Exploring the
SPS Program


Our most urgent security issues, threats, and risks will impact billions of lives and the health of our entire planet. You already know you need a master’s degree and the skills to lead us through these challenges, so take another step toward that goal now. Download a program preview today and sign up for a future information session. Inside your program preview, you’ll find:

  • A snapshot of graduate success statistics, employer information, and earning potential in the security field
  • Details about the policy focus of this degree, the two foundational courses you’ll take, and the Capstone class benefits
  • Information about our connections and the D.C. experience for our students

Download Your Program Preview to Learn More

Discover online and on-campus program details, view a snapshot of employers of our most recent graduates, applicant requirements, and more in your free program preview.

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Contact Us

Our graduate admissions counselors are some of the exceptional resources available to you through the Elliott School of International Affairs. Contact us directly with your requests or questions about the SPS program. We’ll help you explore the benefits, align this opportunity with your career goals, or compare the SPS degree with our other master’s programs in international affairs. 

Call: (202) 994-7050