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Executive Masters in National Security Policy

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Master of National Security Policy

Learn more to apply by Jan. 5, 2022 for priority admission to this executive program for working national security professionals. 

Welcome to the Duke Sanford Master of National Security Policy Program! This executive program is for those working in national security – government, military, defense or consulting  – to help advance career and skills in national security. Professionals can complete the program in just one year while continuing to work.

Critical thinking and advanced skills in national security are vital today. Cyber security and technology, great-power competition, intelligence, strategic deterrence, pandemics and international health security, environmental security, and economic stability—these are all national security issues of great importance.

Apply to this program today to advance your knowledge and expertise in national security policy.

Executive program

This one-year executive program is for those currently working in national security who have at least seven years of work experience. While the program has online components, it requires occasional trips to Duke for on-campus “immersion” experiences, so applicants from the Southeast region may find it logistically easier to participate. The hybrid program is designed so that students can continue to work during the program while completing their degree in as little as one year (June to May). 

Designed to build vital skills and knowledge in national security, this program is ideal for military service members, civil servants, contractors, and consultants who have at least seven years of work experience and want to advance their skills and network – without leaving their current service or employment.

As a rigorous 30-credit program in one year, the program is intense but quick to completion. The program includes several immersion experiences at Duke, weekly interaction with faculty, projects directly related to work in national security and online learning that can be done any time of the day convenient to the student. The program can be completed in 12 months, but students can take additional time if necessary to provide more flexibility. Students have maximum flexibility in their schedules so that they can manage family, work and school.

The program includes experiential learning and curriculum and robust on-campus immersion experiences (two weeks in summer and two visits per semester). We keep the class size small to foster close relationships between students and professors.

Rex Steele smilingI’m grateful for the opportunity I had at Sanford. I took advantage of opportunities like national security courses with Professor Nichols, budgeting with Professor Brook, national security electives with Professor Jentleson, and upper level electives with Tom Taylor. I worked with Congressman David Price for my internship. I participated in the Duke in Geneva program, and I did the Carlucci fellowship. They were all incredible in terms of giving me the foundational depth that I needed in the military. I’m appreciative of the network I have as a result of going to Duke. The experience that you will go through – I would have a hard time believing that any other school is going to beat that. - Rex Steele MPP ’19 – Instructor of American Politics, US Military Academy, West Point

At a glance

  • Summer (June-August) – 2 immersion periods at Duke, 2 weeks in summer, hybrid courses online synchronous and asynchronous, end of summer 9 credit hours
  • Fall (August-December) – 4 courses, Thurs-Sat 2 weekends, online otherwise
  • Spring (January-May) – 3 courses, project based, graduation


Smiling woman, brown hairNot a day goes by that I don’t use something I learned while at Sanford. Sanford is a great place and will give you hard skills, but it is a community that is incredibly welcoming and open-minded. I am eternally grateful for my time at Sanford. It definitely made me a better policy analyst, but I also think that Sanford made me a better human, a better person, which is important. - Erin Moffitt MPP ’19, former active duty officer 


About Duke University

Located within driving distance from major military bases and Washington, D.C., Duke University offers unique connections and expertise in national security policy that you won’t find elsewhere. Duke is one of the most prestigious, rigorous universities in the country, located in Durham, N.C., which is always ranked one of the best places to live and visit. In addition, Duke is located near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, connecting easily to major cities in the South and the East Coast region. Graduates join an active network of alumni of more than 180,000 Blue Devils worldwide.

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    'A Dream Come True'

    Duke has been a dream come true for me. As a practitioner, Sanford is a paradise.  The faculty are practitioners themselves, with troves of experience, anecdotes, and passion.  The program itself is oriented toward application through client-facing practicum, addressing contemporary policy issues.  Sanford’s connective tissue to public and private sector authorities, across all policy disciplines, was surprising. I’ve had the opportunity to compete in national cyber policy competitions, author scholarship and help establish the Sanford Veterans Association. - Marc Losito, MPP'22, 20-year warrant officer based at Ft. Bragg, 12 years in Special Operations 

Duke has opportunities and connections with partners to offer program financial support, including Duke’s Office of Veteran Affairs, Sanford Veterans Association and more. Proximity and Duke affiliation to the Durham VA Health Care System provides unique connections. In addition, Duke has a Duke in DC program, offices, alumni network and resources in the capitol.

About the Sanford School of Public Policy

The Sanford School of Public Policy has knowledgeable faculty, a wide network of alumni and a variety of options for those interested in national security policy. Duke and Sanford have many strengths and connections to national security, including faculty expertise, alumni, fellows, and nearby military bases.

  • Sanford’s graduate programs are ranked among the best nationwide
  • Program features include personal attention/small classes, program support/aid, GRE option
  • Sanford has deep national security expertise and connections
  • Sanford is a community – one that is welcoming. The culture of Sanford is approachable, small class, and encouragement of diversity of thought.
  • Sanford excels at graduate education that builds skills, enhances critical thinking, and develops deep expertise. These are exactly the attributes that national security employers wish to enhance in their mid-career workforce.
  • Sanford faculty possesses the expertise and breadth of understanding to support, guide and mentor national security professionals.
  • Hybrid courses and “immersion periods” (in which working professionals to come to Duke for short, intense educational experiences) are held in the Sanford School of Public Policy, located on the west campus near Duke Law School and Fuqua School of Business.
  • Centers and programs including the Duke Center for International Development, American Grand Strategy, Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, etc.
  • Sanford has programmatic experience in national security, including its residential 2-year MPP program for early professionals and the residential 2-year MIDP program for mid-career professionals. Sanford also offers a (non-degree) fellows program for leaders in counterterrorism and public policy.

Duke faculty with expertise in national security:

Related programs

Program Details

Cost of the program: ~$45,000 (additional student fees may apply for students who are in the program beyond one year)

We welcome diverse applicants from a variety of backgrounds to apply by January 2022 for priority admission for the program start in June 2022.

In selecting candidates for this program, our selection committee carefully considers:

  • statement of purpose
  • national security experience
  • at least seven years of related work experience
  • strong academic performance
  • leadership experience
  • demonstrated analytical skills


  • Military - active-duty military personnel. This program will help military personnel with promotion, contribute more on senior level staff, enhanced understanding of problems of the world, understand national security in new complex framework (diplomatic, economic, etc.)
  • Mid-career contractors and consultants working in public policy / national security with at least 7 years of work experience. This program will help with promotion and broad understanding of client needs.
  • Civil service professionals working in national security. This program will allow professionals to stay in their jobs, get a world class education and compete for promotion.

Questions about the program or your application? Contact Tim Nichols.

Man, glasses, smilingDuke has built significantly on its expertise and outreach to national security professionals. Faculty are highly regarded in national security and Duke has many resources and connections to the military community, from scholarship to practitioners. People who do national security complement those who study national security policy – that’s the best combo. Tim Nichols, faculty member and faculty representative. Tim served as an intelligence officer in the Marine Corps for over 20 years with extensive experience in the special operations and counterterrorism fields.


Find Additional Military Resources here >>