Develop policies, strategies, plans and programs to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States and reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism and catastrophic events

Master’s Degree PDF

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Preparedness Directorate, FEMA and the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS) have pioneered graduate education programs for homeland security. Since 2003, CHDS has built a cadre of graduate education programs and resources used by universities and agencies across the country. The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree program is offered at no cost to eligible local, state, tribal, territorial, and federal officials. To accommodate participants’ time constraints, students are in residence just two weeks every quarter during the 18-month program. Students complete the remainder of their coursework via web-enabled instruction. The degree is fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and is awarded by the Naval Postgraduate School. The degree provides leaders with the knowledge and skills to:

  • Develop policies, strategies, plans and programs to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, and reduce America’s vulnerability to the full range of other homeland security threats and potential catastrophic events.
  • Build the organizational and interagency arrangements needed to strengthen homeland security.
  • Help mayors, governors, other elected officials and federal leaders improve homeland security preparedness by developing actionable policies and strategies.

The degree program requires 18 months of continuous enrollment and coursework and a thesis. It involves a significant commitment on the part of the participants and their agencies. The courses are organized in quarters rather than semesters. Each quarter requires two weeks in residence at the NPS campus, located in Monterey, California or in the National Capital Region (at the Bolger Center outside of Washington, DC). The remainder of the coursework is completed via network-based learning. Participants spend an average of 15-20 hours per week during the network-based learning periods of study – reading assigned materials, participating in online discussions with faculty and other participants, and preparing papers and projects. Participants and their agencies must be cognizant of this commitment and should view it as an investment in enhancing the individual´s and the jurisdiction’s homeland security capabilities.

The internationally respected faculty guide discussions and focus the attention of the participants, establishing the predicate for continued study through network-based learning methodologies for the non-residential period. The thesis is a qualitative or quantitative research project on a significant homeland security topic. The thesis may, for example, have a strategic planning focus, a model-development perspective, or a threat-risk assessment concentration. The thesis should be of significant benefit to the participant’s agency or jurisdiction.

HS Leaders are saying …

  • Aristotle Wolf, Captain, California Highway Patrol
    There are very few outlets that foster in-depth study of the philosophy, sociology and psychology behind our roles as public safety and homeland security professionals.  Among them, the CHDS Master’s...

more testimonials >


Students admitted to the 18-month program already hold positions with significant Homeland Security-related responsibilities. The demands of their jobs prevent most of these professionals from enrolling in a traditional in-residence MA program. To accommodate their time constraints, NPS requires students to be in residence only two weeks every quarter.  Students complete the remainder of their coursework via the web.

Next Dates In-residence (IR)

Note: the program will begin online upon notification of acceptance, approximately 8 weeks in advance of the first in-residence.

Application deadline:
Dec. 1, 2020 [closed]

Cohort 2101/2102
Monterey, CA

In-residence (IR) 1 Apr 28-May 7, 2021
IR 2 Jul 26-Aug 6, 2021
IR 3 Oct 18-29, 2021
IR 4 Jan 17-28, 2022
IR 5 Apr 11-22, 2022
IR 6 Jul 11-22, 2022
IR 7 Sep 19-22, 2022
Grad Sep 23, 2022

Application deadline:
Dec. 1, 2020 [closed]

Cohort 2103/2104
Potomac, MD

In-residence (IR) 1 Jun 9-18, 2021
IR 2 Sep 20-Oct 1, 2021
IR 3 Jan 3-14, 2022
IR 4 Mar 28-Apr 8, 2022
IR 5 Jul 11-22, 2022
IR 6 Sep 26-Oct 7, 2022
IR 7 Dec 12-15, 2022
Grad Dec 16, 2022

Application deadline:
May 1, 2021 [open]

Cohort 2105/2106
Monterey, CA

In-residence (IR) 1 Sep 8-17, 2021
IR 2 Dec 6-17, 2021
IR Feb 28-Mar 11, 2022
IR 4 Jun 20-Jul 1, 2022
IR 5 Oct 3-14, 2022
IR 6 Jan 9-20, 2023
IR 7 Mar 20-23, 2023
Grad Mar 24, 2023


Quarter 1

This course provides an overview of the essential ideas that constitute the emerging discipline of homeland security. It has two central objectives: to expand the way participants think, analyze and communicate; and to assess knowledge in critical knowledge domains.

Quarter 1

The purpose of this course is to provide an introduction to the operational and organizational dynamics of terrorism. It considers those who act as individuals, in small groups or in large organizations.

Quarter 2

This course provides Homeland Security professionals with the requisite knowledge and critical thinking skills to better understand, analyze, select, implement, and use technology within and among Homeland Security organizations.

Quarter 2

This course examines key questions and issues facing the U.S. intelligence community and its role in homeland security and homeland defense. It addresses policy, organizational and substantive issues regarding homeland intelligence support.

Quarters 2 and 3

This course sequence identifies and practices the main steps and modalities of good research: the construction of research questions; literature review; hypothesis testing; proper handling of arguments, claims, and evidence; problem statements; research design and planning; research methods.

Quarter 3

Employing a social entrepreneurship approach to the strategic process, this course will provide students with the necessary methodological tools and content to think differently about strategy and facilitate a planning process that fosters innovation and positive change.

Quarter 3

At the completion of the course, students will be able to apply a risk-based approach to model and assess critical infrastructures, will learn how specific infrastructure sectors function and will conduct a full assessment of an infrastructure that includes modeling, analysis, and policy recommendations.

Quarter 4

Constitutional concerns, civil rights issues, ethical questions, and the roles of various disciplines are driven and impacted by local, state, and federal systems of law, and also by public, media, and political narratives. This course allows students to explore the homeland security project in this context.

Quarter 4

This course will provide students with a knowledge-base and methodology with which to learn from the practices of other countries and translate those practices into policies applicable in the United States.

Quarter 5

This course examines the internet in its broader social and policy context with a particular focus on threats in, of, and to the internet. The course considers the relevant questions of identity, agency, legitimacy, regulation, and innovation in the cyber realm from all angles, including public policy, national security, U.S. law, and international norms.

Quarter 5

Looking at a wide range of topics and problems, the course seeks to stimulate a comprehensive discussion of how homeland security professionals and the general public think about homeland security; whether/why there may be significant differences in professional and public perceptions of homeland security.

Quarter 6

This course will reinforce the motivation and skills needed to perform their professional roles in ways that will initiate and sustain change within the homeland security enterprise.

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Criteria & Eligibility for Applying to the Master’s Program

Applications are now being accepted. Applicants may submit applications at any time, but to be considered for the next cohort(s), complete application packets (including all required essays, transcripts and letters of recommendation) should be received by the application deadline (see above). Successful applicants who applied in the winter deadline cycle will be assigned either to the spring cohort in Monterey or to the summer cohort in the National Capital Region. Successful applicants who applied in the summer cycle will be assigned to a Monterey cohort.

Please note: All DHS components require their employees to apply through their training and education department before submitting an official application on the CHDS website. Please see the online application for a list of the points of contact for each component.

Submitting an application does not indicate acceptance into the program. Each complete application will be reviewed and evaluated using an objective, weighted system assessing the background, credentials, and experiences against the knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with the graduate coursework. Applicants will be notified of their status once the admissions committee makes its recommendation.

The Master’s Degree Program is provided at no cost to state (including members of the National Guard under Title 32), local municipality, tribal, territorial and U.S. Department of Homeland Security government employees (including the U.S. Coast Guard) accepted into the program.

Non-DHS federal government employees and U.S. military officers are also strongly encouraged to apply, however,

  • Non-DHS federal government employees and non-Naval/Marine military officers are required to have financial sponsorship from their agency or command if they are accepted into the program. Agency-to-agency financial agreements and funding must be in place prior to beginning the program.
  • Active Duty Naval and Marine Officers do not require funding assistance nor financial agreements in order to attend the program due to the Naval Postgraduate School’s legislative basis and primary mission.  Active duty military officers should see this additional information.
  • Any questions regarding either of the above bullets can be directed to or by phone at 831-656-3829.

The following are minimum qualifications applicants should have in order to be considered for admission:

  • Employed full-time by a local, tribal, territorial, state, or federal government agency or the U.S. military, and have homeland security experience and responsibilities; National Guard members who are not in a full time assignment may also be considered.
  • Be a United States citizen
  • Possess an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Accreditation is accepted from the following regional associations:
  • Graduated with a minimum 3.0 grade point average for all undergraduate coursework or awarded a graduate degree.
  • Applicants with an undergraduate grade point average below 3.0 will be considered if they have work experience and qualifications that complement their academic record, and if their written materials demonstrate an ability to do graduate-level work;
  • If accepted to the program: 1) state, local, tribal, territorial and non-DHS federal participants agree to continue to serve in a public service, homeland security capacity for at least two years following graduation. (This may be the applicant’s current position or one accepted after participating in the program, so long as you are serving in the public sector in a position related to homeland security.) 2) DHS participants agree to continue to serve DHS for at least two years following graduation [DHS Continued Service Agreement – PDF]. The criteria for acceptance to the CHDS Masters Degree program includes the requirement that students be employees of local, state, federal, territorial or tribal government agencies. It is the requirement of the program sponsor and the Naval Postgraduate School that students remain local, state, tribal, territorial or federal employees during the 18-months they participate in the program. However, we understand that from time to time, unique circumstances may occur that result in a change in employment status, (e.g. agency reorganizations, change in administrations, etc.). These changes in status may affect continued enrollment and/or matriculation. Applicants and students who are currently facing or who are concerned that they will likely experience a change in government employment status (while enrolled in the program) should contact or by phone at 831-656-3829.

Most students in the program are experienced or fast-rising state, local, tribal, territorial or federal officials. DHS selects the students on the basis of their demonstrated expertise and/or leadership potential in homeland security-related fields, and evidence of their academic ability to complete the rigorous coursework at NPS. To encourage intergovernmental and interagency cooperation and network-building, the program enrolls military officers and federal officials in concert with local, tribal, territorial and state leaders.

DHS’ National Preparedness Directorate, FEMA sponsors authorized tuition, books, travel and lodging during each two week in residence session at NPS, as long as the participant is making acceptable progress in the Master of Arts Degree program. The participant’s agency or organization will continue to be responsible for his or her salary, benefits, and related support during the completion of the degree. Computer equipment to facilitate study and research will be provided by CHDS to each participant for their use while in the program.


Frequently Asked Questions

Heather Issvoran
Director, Strategic Communications
Contract Support for CHDS

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This overview of the Center for Homeland Defense and Security video demonstrates why CHDS is the Nation's Homeland Security Educator and a national resource.
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CHDS Strategic Communications Director Heather Issvoran talks with Marc Pritchard answering some frequently asked questions about the CHDS Masters Program.
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CHDS Strategic Communications Director Heather Issvoran and CHDS Senior Consultant David O'Keefe talk to alumni about the various CHDS Programs.