Master's Degree Program

Critical inquiry into current and emerging threats facing the United States and collaborative pursuit of innovative policies, strategies, plans and programs to reduce America’s vulnerabilities and build resilience.

Prospective Students

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Deadlines: May 1 and December 1

Current Students

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Inquiries, 831-402-4672 (PST)


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 either 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.

Watch the National Recruitment Webinar (September 2022)

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.

NS3180: Introduction to Homeland Security
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 about homeland security; and to assess knowledge in critical homeland security knowledge domains.
NS3210: Unconventional Threats to Homeland Security
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. By the end of the course, students should be able to design effective measures for countering and responding to terrorism based on an understanding of its organizational and operational dynamics.
NS4156: Intelligence Challenges for Homeland Security
This course examines key questions and issues facing the U.S. intelligence community and its role in homeland security and homeland defense. Students will have the opportunity to fully address policy, organizational and substantive issues regarding homeland intelligence support.
IS4010: Technology for Homeland Security
In today’s Information Age, Homeland Security professionals and the agencies they lead are more dependent than ever on technology to strengthen national preparedness. The need to detect particular threats, communicate, create and transfer information and knowledge through the use of interoperable technologies in real-time has become even more critical to our national security. 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.
NS3104 | NS4081: Research and Writing Sequence
The purpose of the research sequence is to advance critical thinking, research and inquiry skills; students will use these skills to produce a strong thesis proposal (in this course sequence), and then later for the final thesis. 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.
NS4755: Strategic Planning
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, manage complex challenges, and facilitate a planning process that fosters innovation and positive change in the homeland security enterprise.
CS3660: Critical Infrastructure Protection
Critical Infrastructure is one of the cornerstones of homeland security. At the completion of the course, students will be able to apply a risk-based approach to model and assess critical infrastructures. Students will learn how specific infrastructure sectors function and will conduct a full assessment of an infrastructure that includes modeling, analysis, and policy recommendations.
NS3028: Comparative Government
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. The course will also enable students to better understand the threats that other countries face (many of which are likely to affect the United States in the near term) and how they cope with those threats. Finally, the course will enable students to be better prepared to engage with their international partners at the local, state, or federal levels as Homeland Security becomes an increasingly global undertaking and all levels of government in the United States move towards conducting greater international outreach.
NS4881: Multi-discipline Approaches to Homeland Security
Homeland security efforts in the United States constitute a project framed by the rule of law and boundaries of discourse. Constitutional concerns, civil rights issues, ethical questions, and the roles of the various disciplines engaged in the effort are driven and impacted by the various 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 relation to the laws, narratives, and ideas that support and constrain it.
NS4910: Internet, Society, and Cyberconflict
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. It also will study the views, practices, and ethos of such other stakeholders as developers, hacktivists, tech entrepreneurs, and the public. This course introduces students to exponential thinking and advances their practice of strategic foresight as regards the ways that internet technologies currently under development may affect homeland security in the future.
NS4239: Special Topics in Homeland Security
The purpose of this course is to provide participants with an insight into the structural, conceptual and intellectual underpinnings and implications of the homeland security project. 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; and how those differences constrain/leverage various elements of the homeland security effort.
NS4232: Knowledge into Practice: Homeland Security Capstone
This course is intended to provide participants the opportunity to review and integrate the knowledge and technical learning acquired in the courses leading up to the capstone. 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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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.

Cohort 2401/2402
Monterey, CA

Application deadline:
December 1, 2023

Online OrientationMar-May (8 wks)
In-residence (IR) 1May 1-10, 2024
IR 2Jul 29-Aug 9, 2024
IR 3Oct 21-Nov 1, 2024
IR 4Jan 20-31, 2025
IR 5Apr 14-25, 2025
IR 6Jul 7-18, 2025
IR 7Sep 22-25, 2025
GraduationSep 26, 2025

Cohort 2403/2404
Monterey, CA Potomac, MD

Application deadline:
May 1, 2024

Online OrientationJul-Sep (8 wks)
In-residence (IR) 1Sep 4-14, 2024
IR 2Dec 2-13, 2024
IR 3Mar 3-14, 2025
IR 4June 2025
IR 5October 2025
IR 6January 2026
IR 7March 2026
GraduationMarch 2026

Criteria and Eligibility

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 (DHS) government employees (including the U.S. Coast Guard) accepted into the program. DHS employees should see these instructions before applying.

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.

The following are minimum qualifications prospective students 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. Caveat: In July 2020, the Department of Education (DoE) recategorized how accreditation bodies are classified. “National” and “Regional” accreditation are no longer used and were replaced by “Institutional” and “Programmatic” accreditation. Any degree under Institutional or Programmatic accreditation awarded after July 2020 meets the minimum accreditation standard and is recognized by the Naval Postgraduate School.  Any degree awarded before July 2020 should be accredited by one of the six regional accreditation bodies. Recognizing a non-regionally accredited degree is decided on a case-to-case basis. Contact CHDS if this case applies to you.
  • 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.

DHS Employees: Read this before starting an application.
All DHS components require their employees to apply through their training and education department before submitting an official application on the CHDS website. If you are a DHS employee, see the list of the points of contact for each component.

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment |, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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