Security Studies PhD

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College : Sciences Degree :PHD
Department : Political Science Option : Dissertation
Program Websites :


The Security Studies doctoral program is designed to produce specialists capable of analyzing and communicating security issues to policy makers, the general public, the government, and academia.


The PhD degree consists of 62 credit hours beyond the master‘s degree. A master‘s degree is required for admission to the program with at least 30 credit hours of master‘s level work (including both course work and thesis hours). The 62 credit hours consist of 17 credit hours of required courses, 15 credit hours of restricted electives, 12 hours of unrestricted electives (including courses offered in other departments, research, independent study, and internship), and a minimum of 18 credit hours of dissertation work

Total Credit Hours Required:
62 Credit Hours Minimum beyond the Master's Degree

Required Courses—17 Credit Hours

Core Courses—15 Credit Hours

  • INR 7687 Theoretical Approaches to Security Studies (3 credit hours)
  • INR 7139 Issues in Domestic Security (3 credit hours)
  • INR 7337 Issues in International Security (3 credit hours)
  • POS 7745 Advanced Quantitative Methods in Political Research (3 credit hours)
  • POS 7707 Advanced Qualitative Methods in Political Research (3 credit hours)

Professional Development Courses—2 Credit Hours

  • POS 7930 Professional Development in Security Studies I (1 credit hour)
  • POS 7267 Professional Development in Security Studies II (1 credit hour)

Elective Courses—27 Credit Hours

Restricted Electives—15 Credit Hours

All students in the doctoral program must complete a minimum of 15 hours of course work in approved restricted elective graduate   seminars. The choice of specific courses will be based on the research interests of students and made in conjunction with their faculty advisor. In this way, students achieve two distinct but related goals: a broad competence in the variety of methodological, theoretical, and substantive approaches to security studies and advanced proficiency in the areas that are most germane to their research interests. Approved restricted electives include:

  • CPO 6038 Political Development (3 credit hours)
  • CPO 6058 Revolution and Political Violence (3 credit hours)
  • CPO 6307 Issues in Latin American Politics (3 credit hours)
  • CPO 6729 Global Security in the Age of Migration (3 credit hours)
  • CPO 6776 Comparative Rising Powers (3 credit hours)
  • CPO 6785 Political and Economic Inequality in Comparative Perspective (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6062 Peace Studies (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6065 Seminar on War (3 credits)
  • INR 6067 Human Rights and Security (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6068 Politics of Civil Wars (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6096 International Drug Policy (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6136 Seminar in American Security Policy (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6137 Terrorism and Politics (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6108 Seminar in American Foreign Policy (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6228 International Politics of the Caspian Sea Region (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6275 International Politics of the Middle East (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6339 Strategic Warning Analysis (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6346 Politics of International Terrorism (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6356 Environmental Security (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6365 Seminar on Intelligence (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6366 The Intelligence Community (3 credit hours)
  • POS 6686 National Security Law (3 credit hours)
  • INR 6726 Political Behavior in International Conflict (3 credit hours) 
  • POS 6743 Geographic Tools for Political Science Research ( 3 credit hours)
  • POS 6747 Advanced Topics in Quantitative Political Analysis (3 credit hours)
  • POS 6938 Special Topics/Political Analysis (3 credit hours)

Unrestricted Electives—12 Credit Hours

The unrestricted electives provide students with an opportunity to further expand their doctoral training beyond the program's core courses and the restricted electives. Unrestricted electives may include regularly scheduled graduate courses in political science, graduate-level courses in programs outside the department, independent study courses, doctoral research courses with a highly focused student/faculty research component, and internships that enable students to gain valuable experience in a non-academic setting. Unrestricted electives may be taken at any point in the student's program of study; however, no more than a total of twelve hours of graduate course work can be from outside of the department, dissertation research, independent study, or internship combined; in addition, no more than a total of six hours can be from either independent study or internship. Students with suitable academic backgrounds may work in areas such as cyber security or science and technology taking courses in relevant departments. A student's faculty advisor and the department's Graduate Program Director must approve all graduate courses taken outside of the department as well as any internships.  

    Modern Language or Methods Requirement

    Prior to enrollment in dissertation hours, students are required to demonstrate proficiency in one modern language (other than English) or an additional methodological course dependent on the student's intended research area. The language requirement is two years (four semesters) of a single college-level modern language, which should normally be in an area relevant to the student's research. Students may meet the requirement by providing evidence of four semesters of enrollment or by passing a university-administered equivalent proficiency examination. The methods requirement is met by taking a methods course as part of the elective course requirements, with the approval of the Graduate Program Director. 

    Dissertation—Minimum of 18 Credit Hours

    The dissertation is the culmination of the course work that comprises this research-based degree. It must make a significant theoretical, historical, intellectual, practical, creative, or research contribution to the student‘s area within the discipline. The dissertation will be completed through a minimum of 18 hours of dissertation credit, which students will use to accomplish original research. Students must maintain enrollment in dissertation hours until the degree is awarded.

    • POS 7980 Dissertation Research (18 credit hours) 

    Oral Qualifying Examination 

    The oral qualifying examination is given at the end of the semester in which core course work is completed. It will examine students on theoretical, epistemological, and methodological literature and issues from the five required core courses, although the scope of the examination is not limited to topics covered in the seminars. The exam is administered by the student's Pre-dissertation Advisory Committee, which will advise the student until it is replaced by the Dissertation Advisory Committee. It is up to the student to arrange the make-up of their Pre-dissertation Advisory Committee and schedule the oral qualifying exam before the end of May of their first year in the program. The oral qualifying examination evaluates students' preparation in subjects that are considered to be an essential foundation for their continued doctoral study and research in the program. Any student failing the examination must repeat the examination prior to the start of the next fall semester. A second failed attempt will result in dismissal from the program. The oral qualifying exam will also serve as part of the student‘s annual academic review for the first year of study. 

    Written Candidacy Exams 

    Each student will take two exams on separate days. The first exam will be in research methods. The content of this exam will be uniform for each matriculating class of students. The second exam will be a special field in Security Studies, devised by the student in consultation with his or her Dissertation Advisory Committee. The special field may be geographic or thematic in focus, reflecting the research interests of the student. Both examinations will be used to determine the student's knowledge of theory, methods, and past and present research in their chosen areas. Students failing the comprehensive examination may retake the exam one time. If the exam is failed a second time, the student will be dismissed from the program.

    A student must notify the Graduate Program Director in writing of their intent to take candidacy exams at least one month before the date fixed for examination. The exam must be successfully completed prior to enrollment in dissertation hours.

    Admission to Candidacy 

    The following are required to be admitted to candidacy and enroll in dissertation hours: 

    • Completion of all course work, except for dissertation hours
    • Successful completion of the oral candidacy exam
    • Successful completion of the written candidacy exams
    • Formation of a dissertation advisory committee
    • Submittal of an approved program of study 

    Equipment Fee

    Full-time students in the Security Studies PhD pay $39 per semester for equipment each semester that they are enrolled. Part-time students pay $19.50 per semester.

    Independent Learning

    As with all graduate programs, independent learning is an important component in the Security Studies doctoral program. Students will demonstrate independent learning through research seminars, directed research and the dissertation.

    Application Requirements

    For information on general UCF graduate admissions requirements that apply to all prospective students, please visit the Admissions section of the Graduate Catalog. Applicants must apply online. All requested materials must be submitted by the established deadline.

    In addition to the general UCF graduate application requirements, applicants to this program must provide:

    • One official transcript (in a sealed envelope) from each college/university attended.
    • An earned master's degree or its equivalent in Political Science, International Politics or International Relations, or related discipline. The Graduate Program Director will evaluate the suitability and applicability of MA degrees in other disciplines for admission purposes.
    • A competitive score on each of the quantitative and verbal sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) taken within three years prior to admission to the program.  
    • Three letters of reference that evaluate the applicant's academic performance and their suitability and potential for undertaking doctoral study, at least one of which must be written by a faculty member at the institution where the master's degree was earned, preferably the thesis adviser for those applicants who wrote a master's thesis.
    • A personal statement of 500 words identifying areas of research interest in political science, faculty with whom they would like to work, and describing the applicant’s academic and professional experiences and future career goals.
    • A writing sample of the applicant's work that is at least 2500 words long and demonstrates ability to complete graduate-level research.
    • Résumé.
    • For international applicants whose first language is not English, a score of 90 or better on the TOEFL internet-based test (iBT); or a score of 232 or better on the TOEFL computer-based test; or a score of 575 or better on the TOEFL paper-based test; or a score of 7.0 or better on the IELTS. 

    Applicants should plan to take the appropriate test no later than December to ensure consideration of their applications by the January 1 deadline.

    Applicants' records will be reviewed on an individual basis for academic deficiencies and evaluated to assess their potential for success in the program.  Supplemental course work may be recommended.  Consult the graduate program director whenever questions arise.

    A department admissions committee that reviews the applicants' credentials will conduct interviews with the top candidates (either in-person on campus or by phone or Skype). Final selection is based on both submitted credentials and interview.

    Meeting minimum UCF admissions criteria does not guarantee program admission.  Final admission is also based on evaluation of the applicant's abilities, past performance, recommendations, match of this program to the applicant's career/academic goals, applicant's potential for completing the degree, and the interview.

    Application Deadlines

    Security Studies PhD *Fall Priority Fall Spring Summer
    Domestic Applicants Jan 1Jan 15



    International Applicants Jan 1Jan 15



    International Transfer Applicants Jan 1Jan 15



    *Applicants who plan to enroll full time in a degree program and who wish to be considered for university fellowships or assistantships should apply by the Fall Priority date.


    Graduate students may receive financial assistance through fellowships, assistantships, tuition support, or loans. For more information, see the College of Graduate Studies Funding website, which describes the types of financial assistance available at UCF and provides general guidance in planning your graduate finances. The Financial Information section of the Graduate Catalog is another key resource.


    Fellowships are awarded based on academic merit to highly qualified students. They are paid to students through the Office of Student Financial Assistance, based on instructions provided by the College of Graduate Studies. Fellowships are given to support a student’s graduate study and do not have a work obligation. For more information, see UCF Graduate Fellowships, which includes descriptions of university fellowships and what you should do to be considered for a fellowship.