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Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Terrorism Studies

Majors Overview October 1, 2015

The causes, effects, and dynamics of the violent political acts called terrorism are the focus of terrorism studies programs. Master of Science (M.S.) and Master of Arts (M.A.) programs award graduate degrees in this field.

Information on Master’s Degree Programs in Terrorism Studies

Professionals in many different fields including law enforcement, government foreign service, and technology would benefit from enrolling in master’s degree programs in terrorism studies. Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a bachelor’s degree, and in some schools the degree is required to be in certain majors such as political science or molecular biology. Incoming students are also usually required to be fluent in a language other than English.

Program graduates have to complete 26-32 credit hours of study, and can complete some programs within 18 months. There is often a specific emphasis on topics areas such as homeland security, nonproliferation of weapons, criminal justice, and cyber security.

Most schools offer some courses with basic information about topic areas such as motivations and the history of terrorism. Other required courses can vary by career goals and program. Law enforcement professionals may benefit from taking courses in strategic response to terrorism and information security. Programs with a focus on nonproliferation could include courses in weapons of mass destruction and terrorism policy.

Master’s Programs in Terrorism Studies

A broad group of students could benefit from enrolling in master’s degree programs in terrorism studies. These include first responders (such as firefighters and police, intelligence officers, and government officials). Program coursework covers the strategies related to analysis and response to international and domestic terrorism. The emphasis of programs in terrorism studies is often on specific topic areas such as U.S. homeland security, cyber security, criminal justice, and nuclear nonproliferation.

Students gain a theoretical background in the history, motivations, and different types of terrorism. They also gain practical skills pertinent to the assessment of threats, collection of intelligence and crafting of team-based responses to potential leads. Completion of theses or written research projects may be required by program graduates from master’s degree programs in the field before they earn their degrees.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold bachelor’s degrees in addition to submitting transcripts of courses completed previously. In some programs, applicants may be expected to have undergraduate backgrounds in fields such as economics, political science, and the physical sciences. Students are also expected to be proficient in a language other than English especially because terrorism is an international phenomenon.


Program coursework may combine strategic analysis of various terrorist organizations and tactical training in terrorism response. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Organizational responses to terrorism
•Motivations for terrorism
•Judicial processes regarding terrorism
•Espionage and counterespionage
•Disaster preparedness
•Counterterrorism Policy
•Weapons of mass destruction
•History of Terrorism
•Terrorist organizations

Career Choices

Program graduates may seek careers as, or may already be currently employed as, homeland security professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines homeland security workers as individuals who boast expertise in the anticipation and response to phenomena such as epidemics, natural disasters, and especially terrorism. Program graduates may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Infrastructure protection specialist
•Law enforcement employee trainer
•Information security specialist
•Emergency response coordinator
•Intelligence Analyst

Continuing Education Choices

Fields such as international relations, political science, and criminal justice are pertinent to terrorism studies. Program graduates who seek continuing education may choose to earn a terminal Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in these fields that could lead to careers in academia.

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