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The Security Studies PhD program at UCF is a fast-paced, focused program for people who have already completed an MA in a related field. Students complete coursework and write their dissertation in as little as three years, which makes it well-suited for advanced students, people with professional experience, and military officers who want to improve their skills in their field or make a career shift.  Our students have found academic and professional success.  In the past couple of years, despite the small size of our program, our PhD students have published in quality, peer-reviewed publications, both on their own (Civil Wars, Intelligence and National Security, and others) and with faculty (Conflict Management and Peace Science, African Affairs, Journal of Conflict Resolution, etc.)  Our students have been placed in research positions with respected organizations and government bureaucracies, and won a nationally competitive fellowship.


Program Timeline

Catalog Handbook Comprehensive Degree Plan

First year students develop basic research skills and receive a grounding in the literature. By the end of the year, when they hold their first meeting with the Dissertation Committee, they should be making progress towards developing their dissertation topic.

Second year students complete their coursework and qualifying exams and start work on their dissertation proposal.  Ideally, students will complete the proposal by the end of the second year.

Third year students work on their dissertation.  Those who chose to do so also have opportunities to teach undergraduate courses in the department.  Depending on the student and their topic, some students will complete their dissertation by the end of the third year.  Others may need continue working on it beyond the third year.


Applying to the Security Studies PhD program

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Fall 2023 applications must be completed by December 1, 2022 for International Applicants and  January 15, 2023 for Domestic Applicants

Applicants to our PhD program must complete an earned Master’s Degree in Political Science, International Politics/Affairs/Relations, or a clearly related discipline before enrolling.

  • Students who expect to complete their degree before beginning the program may also apply.
  • Masters degrees from accredited Professional Military Education institutions (War Colleges, the Naval Post Graduate School, etc.) are usually sufficient to meet this requirement.

Students must apply on line using UCF’s online graduate applications system, and should expect to submit:

  • One official transcript (in a sealed envelope) from each college/university attended.*
  • A 500 word personal statement that describes their preparation for PhD-level study, research interests, and post-degree career goals
  • A 2500-word writing sample that demonstrates their ability to conduct graduate-level research
  • An updated resume
  • Three letters of references, at least one of which must be from a faculty member associated with their MA degree.
  • If a student is not a native English speaker, a TOEFL score of 90 or better on the 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
  • Program statistics and admissions data can be found by visiting the College of Graduate Studies’ website.

*Applicants applying to this program who have attended a college/university outside the United States must provide a course-by-course credential evaluation with GPA calculation. Credential evaluations are accepted from World Education Services (WES) or Josef Silny and Associates, Inc. only.



The political science department makes funding offers to most students admitted to the program. Usually these are GTA positions that are guaranteed for three years, conditional on academic progress.  Depending on budgetary constraints, students who are making good progress may be funded in their fourth year.  We nominate our best applicants for UCF’s university fellowships.  The Presidential and Trustees Fellowships fund students for four years of study; other fellowships may be shorter but will be combined with department GTA positions to support students for at least 3 years of study.    We encourage applicants to apply for outside fellowships that they may also be eligible for.



Our faculty includes world-class researchers and teachers who have published in topic journals including the American Political Science ReviewInternational OrganizationInternational SecurityInternational Studies QuarterlyThe Journal of Conflict Resolution, African Affairs, and other top journals.  We have a strong record of collaborating with students and guiding them as they develop their research.

Faculty Directory


Student Highlights

Our PhD students have published in high quality journals, both on their own and in collaboration with faculty members.

View More Student Highlights


Frequently Asked Questions

Does the department fund PhD students in the summer?

Yes, PhD students who are enrolled during the summer are funded through GTA positions. During the summer, students may enroll in our online graduate courses or do independent work with individual faculty.

Do students typically secure funding in their fourth year, if they take more than a year to finish their dissertation?

The department makes every effort to support students in their fourth year. However, the department cannot guarantee 4th year funding, and depending on budgetary constraints that vary year by year, may not be able to fund some or all students in their fourth year.

Do I need to be in Orlando during the summers?

No. The department offers online graduate courses in the summer to allow students to continue their studies while travelling. We encourage students to use the summer time to pursue additional training through summer graduate workshops (ICPSR, IQRM, SWAMOS, SIPP, EITM, etc.), do field research work, or engage in professional opportunities with government agencies, research institutes, or the private sector.

How important is quantitative (i.e., statistical) training for your program?

All students in our program receive basic quantitative training and basic qualitative training. Students can pursue further training in our department, through other UCF departments, and other training programs like ICPSR. While some experience with statistical methods is useful, we do not require students to have well developed methodological skills on entry.