10 Best Online Master’s of Strategic Studies Graduate Schools

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Updated: March 11, 2024, Reading time: 31 minutes

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Did you know that Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is considered a classic work in military strategy and tactics? Indeed, its huge influence is an excellent book for understanding military thinking and warfare! If you’re planning to pursue a master’s of Strategic Studies, you may want to read and understand it, too, for recreational and academic purposes. 

Strategic Studies is a multidisciplinary academic field focusing on the comprehensive study of peace and conflict strategies. Most programs offer a curriculum that emphasizes the close connection between international politics, diplomacy and economics, and military power and geostrategy.

Students acquire basic proficiency in diplomacy, international cooperation, and intelligence, a skillset acquired through a combination of academic coursework, graded research, and internships. 

Individuals interested in Strategic Studies can enroll in graduate programs or professional programs offered to military personnel and the diplomatic corps. But civilians in government agencies, defense companies, and think tanks involved in national security and international relations are also welcome to apply. Many programs have an equal focus on military strategy and civilian diplomacy due to the diversity of the student population. 

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Graduate academic programs, such as the master’s degree programs discussed below, welcome applicants with a bachelor’s degree, among other admission requirements. A bachelor’s degree can be in any field, whether in strategic studies, political science, or international relations. The applicant’s life and work experience, such as military service or in a think tank, may also be advantageous in the classroom. 

(Note that there are only a few online Bachelor of Strategic Studies programs in the United States. Among the best is the Bachelor of Science in Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis (SSDA) program at Norwich University. This is specifically designed for active-duty military personnel, National Guard and Reserve personnel, and Marines with the NATO Special Operations Forces and US Special Operations Command.) 

master's in strategid studies

While there are similarities between military and business strategies, these are completely different fields of study! For one thing, military strategy results in only one outcome – either a win or a loss with little gray areas. Business strategy results in either a win-lose or a win-win scenario. 

Furthermore, the military strategy focuses on paralyzing the enemy’s position and ending the war in the soonest possible time with the least possible resources. Business strategy doesn’t end the competitors’ business operations but in achieving its own self-directed goals. Such differentiation is important to set realistic expectations when enrolling in a Master’s in Strategic Studies program. 

Quick audio summary:


By indexing The Best Online Master’s of Strategic Studies Graduate Schools, we hope to provide future graduate students in this field with excellent choices for advanced learning in this field of study,

The list outlines the top attributes of the online graduate schools and programs that produce superior Master’s of Strategic Studies graduates:

Best Online Master’s of Strategic Studies Graduate Schools

Norwich University 

Norwich University

Northfield, VT

Online Master of Arts in Strategic Studies

The oldest of six senior US military colleges, Norwich University offers the most prestigious online Master of Arts in Strategic Studies program. Such prestige comes from the combination of rigorous professional study, dedicated faculty known for their thought leadership, and a liberal studies-centric curriculum. Indeed, the Birthplace of ROTC lives up to its motto of peace its mission and strategy its means!

While it’s an online program, students must participate in a one-week residency as a culminating experience. However, the rest of the program is delivered online so working professionals can enjoy a good work-life balance. The graduation ceremony is typically held in June on campus. 

Standout Features of Norwich University’s Online MA in Strategic Studies: 

Students have to commit themselves to the rigorous curriculum, but their efforts are well-rewarded since their graduate degree has immediate and significant applications in their careers. Norwich also has effective mechanisms in place that support active-duty personnel in their academic pursuits.

For example, scholarships including the Achievement Scholarship,  Active Duty Military Scholarship, and Norwich Alumni Scholarship make it easier to achieve a degree from a private military academy. 

Norwich was one of two educational institutions – the other one was the  US Coast Guard Academy – which opened its doors to women in 1974. It’s also praised for being among the first military colleges to admit traditional students, while Alden Partridge, its founder, introduced experiential learning in its system. 

University of Texas at El Paso 

University of Texas at El Paso

El Paso, TX

Online Master of Defense and Strategic Studies

The University of Texas at El Paso, one of the largest Hispanic-serving universities in the US, is an R1 public research university. Non-Hispanics may also apply to its top-ranked online Master of Defense and Strategic Studies, one of its more than 160 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

At UTEP, students learn about the crucial importance of national defense and international relations and the need for different viewpoints and skill sets. Indeed, the program features students from different socio-economic, political, and educational backgrounds that contribute to the vibrant dynamics!

Students can look forward to engaging in discussions about modern warfare, the security environment, and national military strategy, from their History to their current situation. 

Standout Features of UTEP’s Online Master of Defense and Strategic Studies: 

Individuals with a keen interest in a career in national security or intelligence are best suited for the program, thanks to its emphasis on these areas. Faculty members are known for their academic expertise and thought leadership and emphasize cultural awareness and higher thinking skills. 

UTEP is the United States’ top-producing university of Hispanic engineers with master’s and doctoral degrees! As its students and alumni are called, the Miners enjoy a campus reminiscent of Bhutan and Tibet, thanks to many of its buildings designed according to the Dzong architectural style. The iconic Mining Minds public art enhances the campus atmosphere, particularly at night when LEDs illuminate it in various colors. 

University of Missouri

University of Missouri

Columbia, MO

Online Master of Arts Defense and Strategic Studies 

The University of Missouri, also known as Mizzou, is known for its competitive admission for its more than 300 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Students enrolled in its online Master of Arts in Defense and Strategic Studies are then considered the cream of the crop! The rigorous curriculum will challenge them at every turn, but it’s just as well since the national security and intelligence industries are also challenging. 

Mizzou, a Purple Heart University, welcomes individuals to its online MA in Defense and Strategic Studies, which is interested in promoting military effectiveness, international relations, and national security. Both civilians and military personnel are welcome to apply, too, whether their reasons are for a career change or career advancement. 

Standout Features of Mizzou’s Online MA in Defense and Strategic Studies:  

Students acquire mastery of a wide range of topics related to national security, international conflict and relations, and Strategic Studies, an uncommon aspect of a master’s degree in Strategic Studies. Lessons learned can be applied in civilian and military settings, including joint staff officers, battalion commanders, and intelligence officers. 

Mizzou is the sole producer and supplier of nuclear medicine-related isotopes and host of the most powerful research reactor in a university in the world. And if that isn’t enough to impress, it’s also home to the largest collection of books in Missouri, with more than 3.1 million volumes, among others. 

The United States Army War College

The United States Army War College

Carlisle, PA

Online Master’s in Strategic Studies 

The United States Army War College (USAWC) offers graduate-level instruction for civilians and senior military officers in preparation for senior leadership roles. Every year, a board of admission considers applicants for the competitive program, but only about 800 students are granted the privilege. 

The Master’s in Strategic Studies program has two components. First, half of the admitted students are enrolled in the on-campus, full-time program completed in 10 months. Second, the other half is in the online program that lasts for two years. Both cohorts, nonetheless, receive the same education and master’s degree upon completion. 

Standout Features of the War College’s Online Master’s in Strategic Studies: 

The AWC prides itself on being the Think Factory for notable leaders in the military and civilian sectors. Such is its fierce focus on achieving its goals that it has become among the best schools for professional military education! The AWC is also known for its world-class research and active engagement in the public discourse about Strategic Studies and military effectiveness.  

The AWC was established in the wake of the Spanish-American War when it revealed the US military’s weaknesses. It was created to address the professional education of its officers. The AWC now has split yet complementary functions – education for staff officers and research. It’s among the military’s senior service colleges, with the others being the Air War College and the Naval War College.  

Missouri State University 

Missouri State University

Springfield, MO

Online Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies

The Missouri State University is unique in that it has a dedicated Department of Defense and Strategic Studies program! While its main campus is in Fairfax, Virginia, interested individuals can enroll in its highly-rated online Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies. Working professionals in the civilian and military sectors may apply for admission into the program and find it convenient for their work-life balance. 

As a public university, MO State has one of the state’s lowest graduate tuition and costs. Online students pay an estimated $18,700 in total costs, but this can be reduced with scholarships and other financial aid forms. 

Standout Features of MO State’s Online MS in Defense and Strategic Studies:  

MO State graduates have a strong support system, including faculty and staff members who connect alumni and employers in Missouri and even Washington, DC. The CIA, FBI, Capitol Hill, and Lockheed Martin are among the notable employers of DSS graduates. 

Aside from its three physical campuses in Missouri, MO State also has a dynamic campus in Dalian, China. These campuses offer a wide range of student-centric activities like concerts, poetry slams, and bowling nights. 

American Public University 

American Public University

Charles Town, WV

Online Master of Arts in Military Studies 

The online Master of Arts in Military Studies at American Public University (APU) provides students ample opportunities to explore military strategies in peace and conflict situations. Such focus on military operations covers current and emerging security challenges for the US and the laws of conflict on the international stage. But it isn’t just the issues of peace, security, and defense that are discussed – more importantly, students are encouraged to identify viable plans for their resolution. 

The curriculum isn’t academic since it was developed with inputs and insights from senior military leaders and national security experts. The relevance and realistic nature of the courses prepare students for leadership positions and for becoming published authors of military studies-related research. Indeed, both action and thought leaders in military studies and strategy call APU their alma mater!  

Standout Features of APU’s Online MA in Military Studies: 

APU strongly believes in the value of a world-class education at an affordable price. For this reason, the cost per credit is $370, but it’s reduced to $250 per/credit with a military grant. However, most course materials are Open Educational Resources (OER) that are available for free. 

APU isn’t a public university despite its name! It’s a private, for-profit university that offers online undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs and is a publicly traded corporation. But more than 50% of its students are either active-duty or former military personnel. 

Hawaii Pacific University 

Hawaii Pacific University

Honolulu, HI 

Online Master of Arts in Diplomacy and Military Studies

Hawaii Pacific University is a household name in the Aloha State partly because it’s among the largest universities here. Thanks to its rigorous curriculum, hands-on learning style, and social responsibility, it is renowned for attracting students from the mainland US and foreign countries.  

The online MA in Diplomacy and Military Studies attracts the best students’ keen interest in the military, government, and civilian careers. Working professionals agree that its online format makes it easier to earn a degree while balancing personal and professional responsibilities. Active-duty military personnel, National Guard members, and reservists are among the typical students. 

Standout Features of HPU’s MA in Diplomacy and Military Studies:

This is among HPU’s flagship academic programs, and it has gained an enviable national reputation for being one of the best in military studies and strategy. The diverse student body reflects its international prestige, too, while its faculty members are known for their experience and expertise in these subjects. Faculty members include diplomats, generals, and intelligence professionals. 

The program is the first civilian program to be accredited by the US Naval War College! Such prestige has spurred HPU to make consistent improvements to the program, too. 

Liberty University 

Liberty University

Lynchburg, VA

Online Master of Arts in Military Operations – Military History

Liberty University encourages its students to pursue excellence in their personal and professional lives, including their academic studies. Every student is viewed as a valuable member of a nation-building team whose education at Liberty has equipped them with crucial skill sets. Students have access to its online writing center, library, and other academic resources that become crucial tools for their success. 

The online MA in Military Operations – Military History program is designed for working professionals in the military, both active-duty and former members, and civilian sectors. Career advancement is a common reason, with career change also being cited. Graduates also learn the skills for effective management of large-scale operations. Thus, it’s a popular program for military members and contractors. 

Standout Features of LU’s MA in Military Operations – Military History: 

Military historians are at the forefront of education at Liberty’s master’s degree program, meaning students learn from the experts. This is of vital importance in learning military History and, thus, in connecting it to contemporary military studies. Military discounts are available, and students can rely on military affairs experts for guidance in the tuition reimbursement process. 

Liberty University is a proud Christian university, among the largest of its kind globally, and its more than 450 online programs reflect its beliefs. Female students (61%) outnumber male students (39%) in its online programs, too. 

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina

Charleston, SC

Online Master of Arts in Military History 

The Citadel, one of six senior military colleges in the country, offers online graduate degrees, including the MA in Military History degree. The 1,000-strong student body of The Citadel Graduate College doesn’t live on campus, unlike the cadets enrolled in its bachelor’s degree programs. By the way, the Citadel Graduate College is a civilian program with an emphasis on military studies. 

Students learn about the evolution of war, including its relationship to contemporary joint warfare, military operations, and civil-military relations. Armed conflict at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels is also discussed in-depth, while analytical thinking, critical writing, and historical thinking skills are developed. Students also learn to appreciate the different contexts of war, from its political causes to its social and environmental consequences. 

Standout Features of The Citadel’s Online MA in Military History: 

The Citadel is cited as the #1 Public College in the South by the US News & World Report for ten consecutive years, from 2012 to 2021. Plus, it’s the best college for military veterans in the South, too! Its distinguished faculty of military historians and experts is the breeding ground for leaders and soldiers. 

The Corps of Cadets bring honor to The Citadel through academic excellence and military leadership. The corps live and study – many will say breathe – with the classical military system as their guide.

Bellevue University 

Bellevue University

Bellevue, NE

Online Master of Science (MS) in Intelligence and Security Studies

Individuals with a passion for protecting national security and peace will find Bellevue University’s online MS in Intelligence and Security Studies worthy of consideration. Faculty members have the experience, expertise, and respect that comes with it on matters related to the degree. Students develop their foundational knowledge, critical thinking skills, and research skills to prepare for the demanding jobs of intelligence officers and security analysts. 

Applicants don’t need to present their GMAT or GRE scores, thanks to the simplified admission process. Non-traditional students find it fast and easy to enroll in the program, although it must also be emphasized that the retention requirements are challenging. 

Standout Features of Bellevue University’s Online MS in Intelligence and Security Studies:  

Every student is provided with the necessary tools and resources for academic success, including a student coach. You will work with your student coach from admission until graduation, whenever necessary. 

Did you know?

Bellevue University is committed to the academic success of its adult students and, indeed, it’s respected for its high-quality online adult education programs. Earning a master’s in Strategic Studies and related fields isn’t easy even when you benefit from online, asynchronous classes. But the rewards in the form of career advancement and personal fulfillment will make the sacrifices worth it. So, check out these graduate programs and start your journey toward becoming a respected expert in Strategic Studies!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the importance of Strategic Studies?

“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.” These words by John F. Kennedy sums up the importance of studying Strategic Studies. The enormous cost of lives lost and societies ruined when a man goes to war demands that civilians and military personnel study war and its prevention. World War I and II, humanity’s large-scale wars so far, resulted in the deaths of more than 110 million! 

With more sophisticated war-related technology, including weapons of mass destruction combined with a booming world population, humanity’s extinction may well be at hand in its own hands. By studying history, we have hope that the third world war can be averted.  While there are current wars now – war, by the way, is defined as an active conflict with more than 1,000 deaths – there may be ways to minimize them. 

Unfortunately, historians have estimated that in the last 3,400 years of man’s history, there were only 268 years when humanity was entirely at peace. Think about it: That’s just 8% of man’s recorded history! Studies, nonetheless, point to a more peaceful world in the past 30 years, so there’s still hope for humanity. 

The bottom line: Students gain an advanced understanding of conflict and its causes and consequences. These causes and consequences are more complex in the modern world due to the emerging threats of scarcity of resources, catastrophic climate change, and infectious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic, for example, has made international politics, trade, and conflict even more complicated! 

What are the possible careers with a Master’s of Strategic Studies degree?

While you and your classmates in an online Master of Strategic Studies program follow the same curriculum, you likely won’t be following the same career path after graduation. Indeed, there’s no “typical career,” but there are plenty of career paths to choose from! 

But these aren’t the only career possibilities! If you are interested in working in diplomacy, national policy, and strategic planning, you will likely find the graduate degree useful. You may even use it to further your career in the academe. 

What’s the common curriculum for Masters of Strategic Studies programs?

Every university has its unique curriculum for its Master’s of Strategic Studies program, but there are also several common courses, although the names may differ. In general, every curriculum is designed to provide students with an outstanding platform to gain vital skillsets in Strategic Studies and defense studies. 

The courses may include the following: 

Suffice it to say that pursuing a Master’s in Strategic Studies degree isn’t a walk in the park! This is true even with online programs where asynchronous delivery is the norm. You must adopt effective time management habits to thrive in the program. Otherwise, you may find yourself cramming for your assignments and other requirements. 

You are also well-advised to carefully plan your course load, or a number of classes, every term. You don’t want to take on more than you can chew, particularly when you’re juggling family, work, and school commitments. Your academic advisor should give guidance on this matter. 

What can you expect from the thesis component?

Many programs have a thesis or dissertation component that students must be prepared for due to its intensive demands. But there are also programs without a thesis requirement, although these aren’t easier than those with it. Instead of a thesis, for example, students may be asked to complete a capstone project or pass a comprehensive exam. 

The thesis requirements will vary depending on the program. You may be required to write a thesis consisting of at least 100 pages, for example, complete with an extensive review of the literature. Regardless of the specific thesis requirements, you must show mastery of your chosen topic before the review panel. 

While writing the thesis itself may only start in the second semester of a two-year program, it’s best to start preparing for it in the first semester. List relevant topics that can be narrowed down as the semester progresses. You may also be required to attend a thesis meeting in your first semester. 

The second semester typically includes submitting your thesis proposal and building your thesis committee if you choose the thesis option. You may also start your research, attend thesis meetings and perform related tasks. 

Your third semester can include an oral presentation and collection of information, such as a survey of participants. Your outline and draft thesis must meet standards at this point, too. By your fourth and final term, your thesis will undergo several readers and revisions before being approved. 

What are the common learning outcomes?

Again, the learning outcomes will differ between graduate programs. But there are several similarities, too, albeit in different words, including graduates being able to: 

Indeed, individuals with a Master’s of Strategic Studies degree must live up to high expectations! But doing so should be easier considering that your academic education and training were top-notch. 

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.