Master’s Degree Program

May 1 deadline for admittance to the fall cohort
December 1 deadline for admittance to the spring and summer cohorts.

Participant Resources

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. Over the last nine years, CHDS has built a cadre of graduate education programs and resources used by universities and agencies across the country. The M.A. program is offered at no cost to eligible local, tribal, state, and federal officials. To accommodate participants’ time constraints, NPS requires students to be in residence only two weeks every quarter (for a total of twelve weeks for the whole program). Students complete the remainder of their coursework via the web. 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 strategies, plans and programs to prevent terrorist attacks within the United States, and reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism;
  • Build the organizational arrangements needed to strengthen homeland security, including local/tribal/state/federal, civil-military and interagency cooperation;
  • Help mayors, governors, and federal officials improve homeland security preparedness by conducting “real world” actionable policy and strategy development.

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 the agencies to which they are assigned. The courses are organized in quarters rather than semesters. Each quarter requires only two weeks in residence at the NPS campus, located in Monterey, California or at the National Capital Region campus located in West Virginia. The remainder of the coursework is completed via network-based learning. Participants spend an average of 15 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 agency 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 topic beneficial to the participant´s sponsoring agency and jurisdiction. It may, for example, have a strategic planning focus, a model-development perspective, or a threat-risk assessment concentration. The thesis project should be of significant benefit to the participant´s jurisdiction.

Master’s Program Curriculum and Course Descriptions

The curriculum is structured around the key policy and organizational design problems that future homeland security leaders are likely to confront, and the analytic skills they will need to meet those challenges. See the courses.


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 (for a total of twelve weeks for the whole program). Students complete the remainder of their coursework via the web.

Cohort 1605/1606

Naval Postgraduate School
Application deadline: May 1, 2016

Dates in-residence (IR)
IR 1 Sep 7 – 16, 2016
IR 2 Nov 28 – Dec 9, 2016
IR 3 Mar 13 – 24, 2017
IR 4 Jun 19 – 30, 2017
IR 5 Oct 9 – 20, 2017
IR 6 Jan 8 – 19, 2018
IR 7 Mar 26 – 29, 2018
Grad Mar 30, 2018

Cohort 1603/1604

National Capital Region
Application deadline: Dec 1, 2015 [closed] 

Dates in-residence (IR)
IR 1 Jun 8 – 17, 2016
IR 2 Sep 19 – 30, 2016
IR 3 Jan 9 – 20, 2017
IR 4 Apr 3 – 14, 2017
IR 5 Jul 10 – 21, 2017
IR 6 Oct 2 – 13, 2017
IR 7 Dec 11 – 14, 2017
Grad Dec 15, 2017

Cohort 1601/1602

Naval Postgraduate School
Application deadline: Dec 1, 2015 [closed]

Dates in-residence (IR)
IR 1 Apr 27 – May 6, 2016
IR 2 Jul 18 – 29, 2016
IR 3 Oct 17 – 28, 2016
IR 4 Jan 23 – Feb 3, 2017
IR 5 Apr 17 – 28, 2017
IR 6 Jul 10 – 21, 2017
IR 7 Sep 18 – 21, 2017
Grad Sep 22, 2017

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 narratives, transcripts and letters of recommendation/support) should be received by Dec 1 (spring and summer cohorts) or May 1 (fall cohort). Please note: All DHS components require their employees to apply through their training and education department before submitting an official application on the website. Please see the online application for a list of the points of contact for each component.

Please note that 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, 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 encouraged to apply; but are required to have financial sponsorship from their agency or command if they are accepted into the program.

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

  • Employed full-time by a local, tribal, state, or federal government agency or the U.S. military, and have homeland security experience and responsibilities;
  • 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 a grade point average below 3.0 will be considered if they have relevant work experience and qualifications to complement their academic record;
  • If accepted to the program: 1) state, local, tribal 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 or tribal government agencies. It is the intent of the program sponsor and the Naval Postgraduate School that students remain local, state, tribal 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 are concerned they that they will likely experience a change in government employment status (while enrolled in the program) should contact Glen Woodbury, Director, Center for Homeland Defense and Security at or by phone at 831-656-3038.

Most students in the program are senior or fast-rising state, local and federal officials. DHS selects the students on the basis of their proven expertise in homeland security-related fields and the academic skills essential for 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 and state leaders.

DHS’s National Preparedness Directorate, FEMA will pay all tuition, books, travel and lodging during each two week in residence session at NPS, as long as the participant is making acceptable progress in this 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.

Non-DHS federal employees and U.S. military officers are eligible to apply. If they are accepted into the program, their sponsoring agency will be responsible for paying tuition, books, travel, lodging and related program costs. Non-DHS federal employees and U.S. military officers are required to include in their application materials a statement from their sponsoring agency or command affirming financial support for the applicant´s program expenses if the applicant is accepted.

May 1 deadline for admittance to the fall cohort
December 1 deadline for admittance to the spring and summer cohorts.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Heather Issvoran
Director, Strategic Communications
Contract Support for The Center for Homeland Defense and Security
Cell: 831-402-4672