2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
    Apr 22, 2021  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog

Security Studies PhD

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College: Sciences Degree: PhD
Department: School of Politics, Security and International Affairs Option: Dissertation
Program Websites: https://sciences.ucf.edu/politics/
Graduate Program Handbook

Program Description

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.

It is expected that the majority of graduates will work in military and other governmental organizations, international corporations, and agencies that deal with security. Others will seek employment in research and teaching in institutions of higher education.


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 coursework 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

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:

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.

Milestones and Examinations

Preliminary Advisory Committee Meeting

No earlier than April 1 and not later than June 1, of their first year in the program, students will assemble and meet with a Preliminary Advisory Committee of no fewer than three full-time Political Science faculty members, all of whom should have Graduate Faculty or Grad Faculty Scholar Status. Prior to this meeting, the student will present committee members with a written statement of their primary research interests. During this meeting faculty members provide feedback on the student’s statement of research interests and will identify key literatures that the student will be expected to be familiar with as they pursue their dissertation. During this meeting faculty members provide feedback on the student’s statement of research interests and will identify key literature that the student will be expected to be familiar with as they pursue their Dissertation Advisory Committee. Note that college approval for the committee is not required at this time and that students are able to change the composition of their committee at any time (subject to program and college approval). Students will not be permitted to take Candidacy Exam C until they have conducted their Preliminary Advisory Committee Meeting.

Written Candidacy Exams

Each student will take the following exams:

  1. An exam in qualitative methods, addressing the material taught in INR 7707. 
  2. An exam in quantitative methods, addressing the material taught in INR 7745.
  3. An exam addressing the contemporary literature in security studies.

Students must pass each part of each exam prior to enrollment in dissertation hours. If they fail any part(s) of any exam, they will have a second opportunity to take that part(s). If they fail the exam a second time, the student will be dismissed from the program.

Admission to Candidacy

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

  • Completion of all coursework, except for dissertation hours
  • Successful completion of all written candidacy exams
  • Formation of a dissertation advisory committee
  • Submittal of an approved program of study

Dissertation—18 Credit Hours Minimum

The dissertation is the culmination of the coursework 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. The dissertation must conform to standard disciplinary, institutional, and departmental practices. Consistent with Collge of Graduate Studies Policies, a dissertation can only be approved after the successful completion of a Dissertation Defense.

  • POS 7980 - Dissertation Research 18 Credit Hours

The Dissertation Advisory Committee

It is the responsibility of the student to secure the agreement of four qualified members to serve on their dissertation committee. Committee members are qualified if they are approved members of the Graduate Faculty of Graduate Faculty Scholars. At least three members must be Graduate Faculty, and the Committee Chair must be an approved Graduate Faculty member. One member of the committee must be external to the political science department (i.e., from another UCF department or external to the university). Graduate Faculty members must form the majority of any given committee. A dissertation committee must be formed prior to enrollment into dissertation hours. Students are able to alter the composition of their committee at their discretion, but revised committees must comply with all of these regulations and be approved by the program and the College of Graduate Studies.

The Dissertation Proposal

After students have passed their candidacy exams, but before the end of the first semester that they are enrolled in dissertation hours, they must successfully complete a dissertation proposal. A successful dissertation proposal explains the subject under investigation, correctly places it within the existing scholarly literature, and present the planned approach for writing the dissertation. Dissertation proposals are only approved after they are presented to the dissertation advisory committee in a Dissertation Proposal Hearing. During the Dissertation Proposal Hearing, students must demonstrate a thorough understanding of their field of inquiry and convince committee members that their dissertation proposal is feasible. If the dissertation advisory committee is unsatisfied with the proposal or the student’s preparation for undertaking it, they may, at their discretion, insist on revisions to the proposal and/or a rehearing (s) prior to approving the dissertation proposal.

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 it’s 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.  
    • NOTE: The GRE has been removed as an admission requirement for this graduate program for applicants applying Spring 2021 through the Fall 2021 term. This is a temporary measure in response to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 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 the 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 to this program, except those that have earned or will earn a Masters or Doctoral degree from an accredited U.S. institution recognized by UCF, 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.

Applicants should plan to take the appropriate test no later than December to ensure consideration of their applications by the January 15 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 15 Jan 15    
International Applicants Jan 15 Jan 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.

Contact Info

Graduate Program

Thomas Dolan PhD
Associate Professor
Telephone: 407-823-2608
HPH 302D

Graduate Admissions

Anthony Tufano
Telephone: 407-823-2766
Millican Hall 230  
Online Application
Graduate Admissions

Mailing Address

UCF College of Graduate Studies
Millican Hall 230
PO Box 160112
Orlando, FL  32816-0112

Institution Codes
GRE: 5233
TOEFL: 5233
ETS PPI: 5233

Graduate Fellowships

Grad Fellowships
Telephone: 407-823-0127

Graduate Financial Aid

UCF Student Financial Assistance
Millican Hall 120
Telephone: 407-823-2827
Appointment Line: 407-823-5285
Fax: 407-823-5241

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