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Which Security Studies, Political Science, or International Relations PhD?


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Curious to hear what PhD programs you all would recommend for security/conflict studies, whether a dedicated security program or a specialized track within a political science or international relations PhD.

More specifically, I'm wondering if any out there actually give funding for their programs.  It's not hard to find options like King's College London, IHEID, and Georgetown, great schools that meet my academic interests perfectly, but funding from these universities is extremely rare to my understanding and financially I don't think an unfunded PhD makes much sense.  The joint PhD from King's and either HKU or NUS has it's own scholarship available, but there's no information online as to whether it's given to most/all accepted students or something more competitive.  IHEID would be fantastic due to housing the Small Arms Survey team, but funding information is a bit vague.

Princeton's SPIA is fully funded, but seems as if it's a early/mid-career type program based on the work experience admissions stats (50% 5+ years, 43% 2-5 years, 7% none).  

Others like Johns Hopkins' SAIS and Harvard's HKS are funded, but unfortunately due to how my undergraduate track has progressed (UNC's Peace, War, and Defense program) I'll end up with no calculus and limited statistics/economics which I believe would make me ineligible for admission. 

I've heard decent things about MIT's program online but little mention from professors.  That's likely to blame on my focus so far being master's programs, of which the aforementioned schools are widely known for in the security/conflict field where as MIT is a non-option.  Unlike SAIS and HKS, it seems MIT has no undergraduate course requirements, so that's a positive.  Yale similarly appears great from what I've read online, again no mention from professors but also no undergraduate course requirements to my understanding (except language I guess).

General interests are in ethnic and civil conflict, post-conflict development, small arms and light weapons, and the role of violent non-state actors.  Broad umbrella, I know.  

Any clue as to where I should be looking?  

Crossposting in the government affairs forum as well.

Edited by SampleText
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Hello! I am currently a PhD student who specializes in international security, so I might be able to provide some insights.

To begin, if I understand your question correctly, the options which you are considering is that of a Masters security program or a PhD. While the Masters path is somewhat self explanatory and generally expensive, opting for a PhD would entail you attending a political science, or government, PhD program and selecting IR as your primary subfield, in which you will specialize on conflict or security studies. Further, most PhDs, regardless of field, is fully funded. Some universities have joint PhDs with programs outside of the Political Science department. Nevertheless, if you are considering a PhD, I would suggest that you begin by examining the faculty within various departments and try to locate programs with professors that share your own research interests.

As to which path you should choose, the decision is dependent upon for what purpose you are pursuing the degree. Masters programs are professional degrees--intended to assist individuals in their careers. Therefore, if you want to be employed by the government or a NGO within your field, a Masters would be better suited to such a goal. Conversely, a PhD is designed to create academics, those who will be producing research and teaching on the field. While, especially in the subfield of IR, some PhD students opt for non academic careers after their dissertation, the intention is for a PhD student to eventually become a professor.

Edited by HobbesianKant
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I've heard great things about the MA program in security studies at Georgetown: it's great for people who are considering either transitioning into government-work (also being in DC it's quite an advantage), or the PhD/academic pipeline. 

If you are interested in a PhD program with a dedicated group of scholars invested in security studies (not just tangentially, but explicitly and primarily), then UChicago is definitely somewhere to consider. Folks like Mearsheimer are still advising students, and there's a new crop of associate professors there that are ready to take up the mantle. 

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6 minutes ago, HobbesianKant said:

Hello! I am currently a PhD student who specializes in international security, so I might be able to provide some insights.

To begin, if I understand your question correctly, the options which you are considering is that of a Masters security program or a PhD. While the Masters path is somewhat self explanatory and generally expensive, opting for a PhD would entail you attending a political science, or government, PhD program and selecting IR as your primary subfield, in which you will specialize on conflict or security studies. Further, most PhDs, regardless of field, is fully funded. Some universities have joint PhDs with programs outside of the Political Science department. For example, Peace Studies-Political Science joint PhDs between the Political Science department and an outside institute are somewhat common. Nevertheless, if you are considering a PhD, I would suggest that you begin by examining the faculty within various departments and try to locate programs with professors that share your own research interests.

As to which path you should choose, the decision is dependent upon for purpose you are pursuing the degree. Masters programs are professional degrees--intended to assist individuals in their careers. Therefore, if you want to be employed by the government or a NGO within your field, a Masters would be better suited to such a goal. Conversely, a PhD is designed to create academics, those who will be producing research and teaching on the field. While, especially in the subfield of IR, some PhD students opt for non academic careers after their dissertation, the intention is for a PhD student to eventually become a professor.

Just to answer the question of program which could fit your interest, I cannot provide any advise as to Master programs. As it concerns PhDs, however, the general top tier security schools are MIT, Chicago, Columbia, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, and Ohio State. Another school I would suggest is Notre Dame, which has been growing its security faculty and houses NDISC and the Kroc Institute.

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50 minutes ago, HobbesianKant said:

Hello! I am currently a PhD student who specializes in international security, so I might be able to provide some insights.

To begin, if I understand your question correctly, the options which you are considering is that of a Masters security program or a PhD. While the Masters path is somewhat self explanatory and generally expensive, opting for a PhD would entail you attending a political science, or government, PhD program and selecting IR as your primary subfield, in which you will specialize on conflict or security studies. Further, most PhDs, regardless of field, is fully funded. Some universities have joint PhDs with programs outside of the Political Science department. Nevertheless, if you are considering a PhD, I would suggest that you begin by examining the faculty within various departments and try to locate programs with professors that share your own research interests.

As to which path you should choose, the decision is dependent upon for purpose you are pursuing the degree. Masters programs are professional degrees--intended to assist individuals in their careers. Therefore, if you want to be employed by the government or a NGO within your field, a Masters would be better suited to such a goal. Conversely, a PhD is designed to create academics, those who will be producing research and teaching on the field. While, especially in the subfield of IR, some PhD students opt for non academic careers after their dissertation, the intention is for a PhD student to eventually become a professor.

 

33 minutes ago, HobbesianKant said:

Just to answer the question of program which could fit your interest, I cannot provide any advise as to Master programs. As it concerns PhDs, however, the general top tier security schools are MIT, Chicago, Columbia, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, and Ohio State. Another school I would suggest is Notre Dame, which has been growing its security faculty and houses NDISC and the Kroc Institute.

Thanks for the replies.

For context, my academic plan changed in a sudden and I'll be looking at graduation this coming academic year (either December or May) for graduate school intake fall 2022.  Because of this, I have not had the time to fully wrap my head around what specific narrow path I want to follow and how to reach it.  A master's program seems to be the best stopgap as it will provide research experience, further academic insight into the subjects I'm interested in, and prepare myself better for the job market if that's the path I end up taking.  I have already narrowed down master's programs to a fairly small list, namely KCL, Sciences Po (optional dual degree with KCL), IHEID, and the TAM program at my undergrad institution.  These programs would allow me to combine conflict studies with some samplings of development and humanitarian aid.  The well known US programs (Georgetown, SAIS, SIPA), while interesting and with major in-country name prestige, are just too expensive for me to consider.  

That being said, I'm definitely interested in what sort of PhD programs exist and if a program or two seem to match my interests and academic background, I may just consider applying right out of undergrad.  I'm not opposed to academia as a path, in fact it's something I've always wanted more exposure to.  IHEID in particular with their Small Arms Survey seems perfect for the specific research areas I'd like to focus on (small arms/light weapons and their use by non-state actors, particularly during/post ethnic and civil conflicts) but the lack of guaranteed funding is a very hard pill to swallow.  That's what led me to make this thread and see what others had to say.

Will definitely give Chicago, Ohio State, and Notre Dame a look as I haven't considered them yet.

46 minutes ago, Muan1 said:

I've heard great things about the MA program in security studies at Georgetown: it's great for people who are considering either transitioning into government-work (also being in DC it's quite an advantage), or the PhD/academic pipeline. 

If you are interested in a PhD program with a dedicated group of scholars invested in security studies (not just tangentially, but explicitly and primarily), then UChicago is definitely somewhere to consider. Folks like Mearsheimer are still advising students, and there's a new crop of associate professors there that are ready to take up the mantle. 

As well, thank you for the reply.  Georgetown is a fantastic program which I've been recommended numerous times by professors and graduates of my program, but the tuition is hard to swallow.  My understanding is that even their PhD program (in Government iirc) has no guarantee of funding.

Regardless, will give Chicago a look.

 

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12 hours ago, SampleText said:

 

Thanks for the replies.

For context, my academic plan changed in a sudden and I'll be looking at graduation this coming academic year (either December or May) for graduate school intake fall 2022.  Because of this, I have not had the time to fully wrap my head around what specific narrow path I want to follow and how to reach it.  A master's program seems to be the best stopgap as it will provide research experience, further academic insight into the subjects I'm interested in, and prepare myself better for the job market if that's the path I end up taking.  I have already narrowed down master's programs to a fairly small list, namely KCL, Sciences Po (optional dual degree with KCL), IHEID, and the TAM program at my undergrad institution.  These programs would allow me to combine conflict studies with some samplings of development and humanitarian aid.  The well known US programs (Georgetown, SAIS, SIPA), while interesting and with major in-country name prestige, are just too expensive for me to consider.  

That being said, I'm definitely interested in what sort of PhD programs exist and if a program or two seem to match my interests and academic background, I may just consider applying right out of undergrad.  I'm not opposed to academia as a path, in fact it's something I've always wanted more exposure to.  IHEID in particular with their Small Arms Survey seems perfect for the specific research areas I'd like to focus on (small arms/light weapons and their use by non-state actors, particularly during/post ethnic and civil conflicts) but the lack of guaranteed funding is a very hard pill to swallow.  That's what led me to make this thread and see what others had to say.

Will definitely give Chicago, Ohio State, and Notre Dame a look as I haven't considered them yet.

As well, thank you for the reply.  Georgetown is a fantastic program which I've been recommended numerous times by professors and graduates of my program, but the tuition is hard to swallow.  My understanding is that even their PhD program (in Government iirc) has no guarantee of funding.

Regardless, will give Chicago a look.

 

I would also recommend looking at LSE's Conflict Studies MSc. If you apply early enough, you should be able to secure decent funding with a good enough GPA/etc.

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