Thanks for your interest in the Master of National Security Policy program. Here we have collected answers to frequently asked questions about the program.

Online / Hybrid Learning

An executive master’s degree is intended for mid-career professionals who are employed either full or part-time. The degree is 30 credits total. Students will finish in 12 or 20 months.  Executive master’s degrees are designed to accommodate working professionals and offer more flexible and convenient meeting times than a traditional master’s degree. Participants can work at their own pace for some of the material. This program also aims to connect classroom work with your specific professional practice. Classroom discussions and networking are robust due to the make-up of the student population for this program.

Compared to traditional programs, where students meet “face-to-face," or “online” programs, a hybrid program uses both formats. In a hybrid program:

  1. Classes meet primarily online. Some classes are asynchronous, allowing you to work on material at your own pace, while others are synchronous, with a set weekly schedule.
  2. The program has face-to-face elements. This includes two weeks on campus in the first summer and two weekends in the fall and spring.

Students join us on campus for two (separate) weeks in the first summer. In addition to the immersion weeks students join us for two long weekends each term (fall and spring).  Students take courses online for the rest of the term. 

At the beginning of the semester, the professors provide a syllabus, online content, and a class meeting schedule. In addition to reviewing materials, lectures and doing assignments on your own schedule we will also hold some synchronous sessions so you can work with your classmates and professor in real-time.  Your courses will continue in this model throughout your program, where you do “pre-work” and assignments on your schedule and come together for live sessions so you can apply the material with your cohort and instructor.

This is a rigorous program and interested students should already possess the necessary discipline and time management skills to participate.  The program allows flexibility each week in terms of when the student can complete preparatory work for class, but a one-year program implies a significant commitment by the students—many of whom are also employed full or part time.  Individual routines on weekends and during evenings are likely to be impacted.  Students will write papers, take examinations, participate in weekly classes (evening) with faculty, work in virtual groups, and give presentations. During the semester, a commitment of at least 15-20 hours, spread out through each week, would be the minimum necessary for success.

This program is offered in two options. You can take the courses over a rigorous 12-month period or stretch the same courses over 20 months.  The difference will be taking 3-4 courses a term versus 2-3 courses a term.  Both options are accelerated for a master’s degree, and the decision between the two choices should relate to your anticipated work/life balance obligations.  The cost is the same, however the 20-month option might have a nominal higher total due to taking courses over more semesters which would incur more university-level student fees.

The curriculum is a new, customized plan made specifically for this program and working professionals.  Every course in the program has been imagined from the ground up and allows faculty to build off the collective work experience of the cohort to take material beyond traditional courses in national security. 

The streamlined curriculum centers on fundamentals and skills needed for executives in the national security sector, while the variance comes within the courses themselves which allows students to pick and choose topics for their assignments, so they can connect work with school.  Students benefit from being able to take a deep dive into topics of their choosing while also getting the perspective of other students in the program who work in other fields within national security. 

Application of material is also a foundation of this program as students will not only learn theories, methods, and frameworks, but will be tasked with creating products which can showcase their ability to successfully do many of the required skills for executive jobs in the field.

The curriculum for the program is below. Note  the progressive offerings including Threats and Opportunities which will be a different course every time it is offered based on world events and environment, a Team-Based Learning course where students will work under a faculty advisor to collaborate on a national security professional problem, and a Professional Practice in National Security course where students will replicate this process but specific to their work environment.  Students will also be able to select an elective course, from Duke’s full online, graduate, class catalog. 

  • Methods of Policy Analysis
  • Leadership in the National Security Policy Environment
  • National Security Ethics
  • National Security Budgeting
  • National Security Strategy
  • Institutions of National Security
  • Team-Based Learning for National Security Professionals
  • Threats and Opportunities
  • Elective
  • Professional Practice in National Security

This program seeks to minimize the number of tools needed to participate in the program.  All efforts are also made to use readily available, free tools, and texts when available.  The majority is Internet-based so having a strong Wi-Fi connection is required.  Students will use Canvas as the Learning Management System (where your courses and live sessions are housed), and other add-on tools, like Zoom. 

All students need to have a working computer microphone and camera.  Students should be able to access all materials on various devices, and operating systems, though the preferred platforms are set for computer settings (non-mobile) with Chrome being the suggested browser.  Students will also have to comply with all Duke University regulations and will be assigned a Duke ID through the University system. 

Some external tools might be used in certain classes, or for collaborative projects (like Google Docs), which will be outlined later, and per course.

While this program offers the flexibility of an online/hybrid program, we strive to create a true learning community where students have the time and opportunity to share during formal learning as well as informal learning (what you might do before / after class, during breaks, etc.).  Also, technology has allowed for more opportunity to do collaborative work with others, though most assignments will be related to you and your professional practice.  The campus immersion events (summer, fall, spring) will also have dedicated time for each of you to get to know others in your cohort, network, meet with faculty, and when allowed opportunities to interact with campus students and faculty who teach outside this program.

Each course will necessarily be different, much like face-to-face classes, but every class will be offered on our Canvas Learning Management System with a similar template so students will have familiarity across classes.  Students will again open a new module at the start of each week, and the requirements, readings, lectures, assignments, and live elements will be clearly defined, and you will have the week to complete the work at your pace.  Any materials for the class will either be preloaded in the course itself or would require you to purchase through an identified vendor (Amazon).

This program seeks to make meaningful assignments which can be directly applicable to your professional practice or perhaps other interests related to your professional goals.  The program’s plan of study is streamlined for busy and working professionals, balancing fundamentals and skills needed in the field with the flexibility to always connect with real-time world events.  The true variance of the program, however, comes within the classes where students will often get to choose what topic or environment, they will do their assignment on related to making connections to the foundations and frameworks taught in class.  Assignments will also work to be real-world based as well as connected to current events.  Assignments might include written papers and briefs, presentations, portfolio-style projects, collaborative projects, reflection papers, etc.  


This program is offered at a total cost of $47,740.50.*  Variance from this cost will come with any added fees applied at the University-level, as well as in choosing any elective courses outside the Sanford School which might offer classes at different tuition.  This total cost reflects the 30 credit requirements and is substantially lower than our 52-credit campus-based option.  Students will pay for any required texts in class and also will need to consider costs associated with coming to campus for our Summer Immersion Experiences, and fall/spring weekend opportunities (food, lodging, parking, etc.).  The program will seek ways to block rooms for certain events to hopefully lower costs for lodging.


Total program cost = $47.740.50* for both 12- and 20-month plan

Per class = $4,774.05

12 months$14,322.15$19,096.20$14,322.15XXX
20 months$14,322.15$9,548.10$9,548.10X$9,548.10$4,774.05


Grad Student Activity Fee*Mandatory$36.50Annual: 1X for 12 months, 2 times for 20 months
Grad & Prof Student Services Fee*Mandatory$20Annual: 1X for 12 months, 2 times for 20 months
Transcript Fee* (1st term only)Mandatory$120One-time fee

Note: Student health and rec fees will be added unless you have them removed.


The below costs are not charged by Duke. They are representative of living expense estimates for the 2024-2025 aid year based on living off campus in the Durham area. If you have any questions about the cost of attendance, please reach out to

Student Living ExpensesSummerFall SpringTotal 
Board (Food)                                    $1,410                     $1,880                           $2,350                               $5,640
Housing + Utilities                                     $4,506                     $6,008                           $7,510                             $18,024
Miscellaneous                                    $1,422                     $1,896                           $2,370                               $5,688
Transportation                                       $678                        $904                           $1,130                               $2,712
Total                                    $8,016                    $10,688                         $13,360                             $32,064


*Please note for our 20-month track students' year 2 estimates of living expenses will be updated in February of 2025. These estimates are based off of Duke student surveys and the consumer price index. 

This degree is offered at a competitive price point and allows students to complete a degree from Duke with one year tuition.  We have also worked to reinvest some tuition fees to offer assistance for a small group of students in need.  Information for internal aid is forthcoming. This program, however, culminates in a graduate degree allowing all students to apply for federal financial aid, and we also recommend researching ways your employer or perhaps military office can assist in your going back to school.  Students will also have access to Duke’s Office which assists with the GI Bill funding.

The Sanford School, or the National Security Policy program do not add any fees on top of the tuition associated with the program.  This program, however, cannot control any fees which would be added at the University level, which are fees all Duke students incur. The below estimated fees for 2024-2025 aid year can be waived for online students; however, the student is responsible for requesting the below fees to be waived by university deadlines. Please reach out to if you have any questions regarding university fees.

Student Medical Insurance                                                -                       $3,713                                       -                                 $3,713
Health Fee                                       $324                  $484                              $484                              $1,292
Graduate Recreational Facility Fee                                                -                     $187                              $187                  $374

Application Process

This program is a competitive program for those who have real world, national security, experience.  We work to keep the cohorts small (around 20 students) so you will have a lot of opportunities to interact directly with faculty and fellow students.  Students apply using the link provided and Duke’s Slate Admission portal.  Students fill out the required fields and upload required documents.  The Master of National Security Policy program  uses rolling admissions, meaning placements will be offered throughout the admissions window, allowing students to receive decisions and make plans accordingly sooner.  With rolling admissions it is encouraged to apply as soon as possible, and if accepted, you will be able to hold your spot with a deposit. Applications are open from September through January 5 each year. 

Submit this form to be notified when the application opens. 

The admission packet for the Executive – Master of National Security Policy program includes;

  • A copy of your most recent resume
  • Three letters of recommendation – from either academic or work supervisors
  • Official transcripts from previous higher education institutions attended
  • A short, 1–2-page, reflection on “Why are you interested in this program and how do you see it fitting in with your professional practice and future professional goals?”
  • Optional – GRE Scores
  • Optional – Writing Examples (work or academic)

This program is competitive related to the number of applications we receive comparative to our keeping cohorts small (around 20 students).  With that said, this is a professional degree, and we encourage students of all backgrounds and those who did not necessarily have exemplary undergraduate grades to apply.  We seek motivated students who are excelling in their work environment and are seeking to advance within their field.

Primarily, the program seeks to focus recruitment efforts within a six-hour driving radius from Duke which should cover the Eastern Seaboard from Philadelphia to Savannah and westward to Atlanta or Knoxville.  Within this area, students can feasibly drive to Sanford for immersion periods and maintain travel flexibility. 

Students beyond this geographical footprint are certainly encouraged to attend and logistics should be attainable with the proximity of the Raleigh airport and only six total campus visits.  Potential students for this program include those with seven years of work experience as military servicemembers, civil servants, contractors, and consultants.

I am Accepted / Now What?

This program features a streamlined curriculum of ten courses which are open in incorporating current events and assignments are connected to your professional practice.  Nine of the courses are required, and once you pick either the 12-month or 20-month plan of study, you will know which courses you are taking each semester throughout the entirety of your program.  The E-MNSP program, working with academic and faculty advisors, will assist you in registering for classes as well as helping you pick your elective course, which can be a course taken by most Schools throughout Duke’s graduate catalog. 

The first summer will consist of two separate, one-week experiences on campus.  The first week is a program orientation which will allow you to get to know your instructors, those in your cohort, as well as familiarize you with the technology and programs we will be using to facilitate your courses.  That first week will also include a start on reviewing current topics in the field of national security.

The second campus immersion experience includes a format focusing on taking classes on Duke’s campus.  This second week will allow you to be in person for one week of your summer courses, connecting with classmates, faculty, and campus students and resources.

Students come on campus for two weekends (Friday/Saturday) each fall and spring term you are taking classes.  These weekend experiences will focus on doing collaborative, application, work with classmates and faculty which is better suited for a face-to-face environment.  These weekends will also allow students to network with one another as well as with guest speakers.  These on-campus events will also seek to allow students to gain access to Duke campus resources.

Questions Concerning Considering Graduate Education

Statistics show more and more people are currently obtaining advanced degrees.  Having this credential can certainly make you more competitive for executive jobs, or for advancement within your own employer.  Most important, however, this degree and curriculum are crafted to help build your skills and know how to apply them within this field. 

The courses will give you experience in many skills needed to be a top executive in the field, with focus on understanding the history of national security, budgeting, ethics, leadership, and policy analysis.  These foundational skills are applicable in a variety of settings within national security and pairing this focus with courses on current threats and opportunities as well as two classes which allow you to apply lessons learned to your professional practice will improve your resume and portfolio with examples of your work.

This program does not require a “Master’s Thesis."  Your experience will culminate in two courses where you can apply our curriculum to your professional practice.  All students will work in a team-based learning experience where you and members in your cohort will work together to solve a real national security work problem with the guidance of a faculty supervisor.  This experience will be replicated, but at the individual level in our Professional Practice course where you will work with a faculty supervisor to solve a problem, or complete a project related to your own work environment.

This program is a graduate program from Duke University and your diploma/transcript will reflect you earned a Masters degree from Duke University, no different than any program based entirely on campus. 

Duke Chapel, aerial view

Duke is ranked as one of the premier academic institutions in America, and with this program you have the opportunity to obtain a master’s degree at the cost of one year’s tuition.  The Sanford School of Public Policy represents one of the most connected, and progressive, schools of public policy in America and its location in North Carolina and proximity to Washington D.C. serves as the center of the national security field. 

This program offers the opportunity to work with world class faculty and staff, and to be a part of a small cohort where you will get a lot of individual attention. 

The curriculum was specifically created for this program, all courses at an advanced pace, for working professionals and also allows for numerous opportunities for you to connect classwork with professional problems.  We encourage you, if interested in this program, to reach out to us so we can speak further on how the Master of National Security Policy fits you and your professional goals specifically. 

All graduate students, including MNSP, have access to all Sanford Career Services resources. 

Sanford Career Services offers resume and cover letter review, LinkedIn profile assistance, and access to the Sanford Master’s Student Professional Development Fund. For more information, please contact Dr. Nadia Chamberlin, Associate Dean of Career Services and Professional Development.