Frequently Asked Questions for MSSS Students

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What is the purpose of the MSSS degree?

The major goals of the program are to develop student critical thinking about security issues within a changing environment and to instill graduates with the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to gain professional employment in a security-related field.

How do I apply for the MSSS program?

In addition to the Graduate School’s online application form itself, applicants need to submit GRE scores, three letters of reference, a statement of purpose, and official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions you have attended. The MSSS program cannot consider your application until all of the required materials have been received and an application fee has been paid. The application for admission to the ECU Graduate School can be found here.

I am currently enrolled in another Masters program at ECU, how do I transfer to the MSSS?

You will need to fill out the Graduate School’s Change of Graduate Program form, which can be submitted electronically. The form will be forwarded to the director of the Security Studies program, who will review your application, consider any courses that might transfer, and approve or deny the change. (Only courses with a grade of B or A may be transferred.) Both program directors must sign the form. It then goes to the Graduate School for their approval.

What does admission by exception mean?

If you have been admitted by exception you have to maintain a GPA of 3.0 in the first nine credit hours (three courses) attempted. If you fall short of the required GPA the Graduate School will dismiss you from the program.

I have completed my Certificate in Security Studies. How would that effect my admissions into the MSSS program and the courses I would be required to take?

You will need to go through the full application process to be admitted into the MSSS program. All of the courses you have completed (only courses with a grade of B or A may be transferred) to earn the Certificate will then count toward your completion of the MSSS requirements.

I completed my Bachelor’s degree more than 10 years ago. Do I still have to take the GRE to apply for admissions?

As of Fall Term 2020 the GRE is no longer required for admission to the MSSS program.

How many courses taken at another institution can I transfer to the ECU MSSS program?

No courses that are part of a completed postgraduate degree may be transferred and a maximum of 30% of the required hours for completion of the MSSS taken at another institution can be counted towards the MSSS degree, provided they are equivalent to ECU courses in the Security Studies program.

When are admissions decisions made?

Decisions about one’s acceptance into the program are made by the MSSS faculty on a rolling basis, as soon as a complete application is received by the Graduate School. Official notification of admissions decisions is made by the Graduate School. Notification about assistantships and out-of-state tuition remissions are made by the MSSS Program Director.

How many hours are required for the MSSS degree?

The MSSS program requires 36-semester hours, with 15 hours of core course work, a 12 hour area of emphasis, 3 hours of internship, and 6 hours of thesis or additional electives for the non-thesis option.

How many hours should I devote to my studies per week?

You should calculate to spend one to three hours of studying per each credit hour that you take. This means that if you take two courses or six credit hours you should plan on studying between six and 18 hours per week, depending on how much prior knowledge you have on the topics covered and on your efficiency. Online programs require students to be self-motivated and to devote the necessary time on reading and on completing assignments.

What topics can I focus on for my area of emphasis?

Students must complete at least 12 hours in one of four areas of emphasis:

  • International Security
  • Homeland Security Policy
  • Environmental Health and Occupational Safety
  • Science and Technology Security: Computer Science Specialization or Technology Specialization

When are classes offered and are they all available via Distance Education (DE)?

The MSSS program is designed so that students may complete it entirely via DE. However, there are some exceptions. All of the core courses can be completed via DE. The areas of emphasis vary in the extent to which they can be done via DE. The International Security and Homeland Security Policy areas of emphasis can be completed entirely via DE. It may be that one of the courses you want to take is being offered Face-to-Face. In that case, you have 3 choices: take it Face-to-Face, take another course or wait to see if it is offered in a future semester via DE. The Science and Technology Security and Environmental and Occupational Safety and Health areas of emphasis cannot be completed entirely via DE.

How long will it take to complete the MSSS degree?

The MSSS can be completed in two academic years of full-time study. Since most courses are offered online, the MSSS program is suited both for the part-time employed student and the full-time student.

Does the MSSS Program offer any financial assistance to students?

The department offers several graduate assistantships and can offer an out-of-state tuition remission to exceptional non-North Carolina residents. The preferred application deadline for fall is June 1st, although if one is seeking a graduate assistantship then the application should be in by April 1st.

What is the internship requirement and how do I find an internship?

All students in the MSSS program have to do an internship related to security or apply for an internship waiver. It is the responsibility of every student to apply for and secure a relevant internship, which should be at least four weeks of full-time work. Many of our students were able to do an internship with the Hudson Institute, which usually allows interns to work remotely. You might consider an internship with relevant federal, state, or local government agencies, or with other think tanks or relevant private sector organizations. Keep in mind that it can take half a year or longer to get accepted for an internship and that some internships are only available at specific times and have specific deadlines for applications.

How do I get an internship waiver?

If you are currently employed in a security-related field such as the military, law enforcement, or emergency management you can request an internship waiver from the program director. In order to process the internship waiver you have to forward an updated resume and the contact details of your work supervisor for the confirmation of your employment to the program director.

I want to suspend my studies for a term or more: can I come back into the MSSS program?

Yes, you can temporarily withdraw from ECU and/ or the MSSS program and come back at a later point. You need to contact the Graduate School a few months before your intended return to the program, which requires the completion of a short online application. There are no additional fees required. Returning into the program after ten years from the original start date may not be possible as courses taken five or more years ago expire, unless currency in the related topics can be demonstrated.

I want to graduate next term but the course that I need is not offered: is it possible to substitute a required course?

In order to enable students to graduate in a timely manner and if a missing required course is not offered in the particular term of their intended graduation the program director may substitute one course for another offered during that term. In the MSSS program a maximum of two course substitutions are allowed.

What is the comprehensive exam?

All students have to take the comprehensive exam prior to graduation. The comprehensive exam is usually scheduled in October to mid-November for Fall Term and March to mid-April for Spring Term. The comprehensive exam is not offered over the summer terms. It consists of two essay questions relating to skills and knowledge acquired in Security Studies core courses that have to be answered in two 3,000 to 4,000-word essays within 72 hours. You can take the comprehensive exam at home over a weekend. Satisfactory completion of the comprehensive exam will allow you to graduate.

What happens if I fail the comprehensive exam?

You are allowed to retake the comprehensive exam after completion of additional work. University regulations require that students must take at least one credit hour in the term they graduate. This means that you will have to enroll in an additional course that will be proposed by the program director based on the weaknesses displayed in the exam answers. The comprehensive exam can only be retaken once.

Frequently Asked Questions for Certificate Students

How many courses may I transfer into the Certificate program?

You may transfer no more than 30% of the required hours into the Certificate program if the courses are relevant to the Security Studies program.

How long does it take to complete the Certificate in Security Studies?

Most students manage to complete the Certificate within a year by taking two to three courses per term.

I want to graduate next term but the course that I need is not offered: is it possible to substitute a required course?

In order to enable students to graduate in a timely manner and if a missing required course is not offered in the particular term of the intended graduation the program director may substitute one course for another offered during that term. In the Certificate program a maximum of one course substitution is allowed.

I am currently enrolled in the Security Studies Certificate program: how do I enroll in the MSSS instead?

To transition from an in-progress Certificate to the Master’s degree, students must apply again to the Graduate School. You will go through the Apply-Online process again and this time, specify you are pursuing the MSSS. (Yes, you do have to pay the application fee). You will then go through the application process the same as others applying to the MSSS and submit any outstanding required materials. The transcripts you previously submitted are on file. You likely filed two letters of recommendation the first time through, so you will have to arrange to have a third letter sent. You will also need to submit official GRE scores.