Eligibility & Overview

The Graduate Degree Program (GDP) provides an opportunity for Fleet Seminar Program (FSP) students and graduates to earn the U.S. Naval War College (NWC) Master of Arts in Defense and Strategic Studies degree. The NWC is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) pulls alongside USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) to conduct a replenishment-at-sea in the Mediterranean Sea, Dec. 6, 2019.
The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) pulls alongside the fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE 6) to conduct a replenishment-at-sea in the Mediterranean Sea, Dec. 6, 2019. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is conducting operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations to support maritime security operations in international waters, alongside our allies and partners. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Isaac Esposito/Released)
Please Note: Students applying to the Graduate Degree Program must have completed one or more Fleet Seminar Program courses with no course grade lower than a B-.


All applicants applying for this program must:

  • Be currently serving as an active duty or reserve officer, federal employee, or congressional staffer.
  • Possess a Baccalaureate Degree (i.e., B.S./B.A.), preferably from a regionally accredited institution. For those holding non-U.S. baccalaureate degrees, please contact the GDP Program Manager at GDP@usnwc.edu prior to applying to the program.
  • Have completed one or more FSP courses with all course grades B- or better.

Military Officers

Active and reserve officers in the Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard must be in the grade of O3 or above to be eligible. Active and reserve officers in other military services must be in the grade of O4 or above.

Federal Employees

Civilian federal government employees must be in the grade of GS11 or above (or equivalent). Selected staff members in the federal Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches that are eligible to take part in FSP may also be eligible.

Course Overview

GDP students must complete coursework that closely mirrors that of U.S. Naval War College’s resident student body. To be awarded the NWC Master’s degree, GDP students must complete 30 semester credit hours of coursework: 21 hours from core FSP courses and nine hours from electives.

Please Note: Coursework applied for credit in any other degree program cannot be used to meet the requirements for this degree.

Core Courses

Core courses for the GDP are taken through the Fleet Seminar Program and are conducted at the graduate level. All courses must be completed with a B- or better grade.

GDP students who receive a final grade of C+ or below in an FSP core course will be disenrolled from the GDP. Core courses cannot be repeated in order to meet the minimum grade standard.

The required core courses and credits awarded are:

  • Strategy and War: Seven (7) Graduate Semester Hours required
  • Theater Security Decision Making: Seven (7) Graduate Semester Hours required
  • Joint Maritime Operations: Seven (7) Graduate Semester Hours required
  • Elective coursework: Nine (9) Graduate Semester Hours required

Please Note: Core courses taken through the U.S. Naval War College’s CD-ROM, Web-enabled, Online, or NWC at NPS Programs will not satisfy this requirement. Credit for similar courses taken at another institution cannot be transferred.

Students must complete all core courses and electives within a seven-year time period. Coursework for the Graduate Degree Program degree requirements cannot be more than eight years old at the time of graduation.

Elective Courses

Both the NWC in-residence curriculum and NWC’s Online Program offer a very limited number of elective courses—GDP students in nearly all cases will need to take elective courses from non-NWC institutions.

Elective coursework can be completed at non-NWC institutions regionally accredited to award graduate degrees. Students admitted to GDP must complete all electives under a single Area of Study.

Before enrolling in or registering for any elective course (even those offered by NWC), students should receive approval from the GDP manager to use that course. Students must use the Request for Approval of Elective Course form below.

Accreditation Information

The Naval War College (NWC) has been accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) since 1 March 1985 to award the Master of Arts Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies (“MANSSS”) to eligible resident students.

Beginning in the fall of 2001, the accreditation was extended to the College of Distance Education’s (CDE) Fleet Seminar Program (FSP) in the Washington, D.C. area. This soon expanded so that students at all FSP sites could have the opportunity to pursue a course of study leading to a NWC degree.

Beginning with Academic Year 2015/2016, those resident students in the College of Naval Command and Staff (NWC’s resident Intermediate Level Course or “ILC”) were awarded the Master of Arts Degree in Defense and Strategic Studies (“MADSS”), a degree separate and apart from those graduating from the College of Naval Warfare (NWC’s resident Senior Level Course or “SLC”).

As CDE’s Fleet Seminar Program is designed as an ILC and parallels as closely as possible the course courses taken by NWC’s resident College of Naval Command and Staff students, students accepted into the GDP from the July 2015 Admissions Board forward will receive the MADSS upon program completion.

Those accepted prior to that Admissions Board and graduating after June 2015 will have the option to be awarded either the MANSSS or the MADSS.

Discover More on Graduate Degree Program

For more information on Electives or Areas of Study for the Graduate Degree Program (GDP), please visit the Electives & Area of Study page. If you are eligible to apply for GDP, please visit the Enrollment page for more information on the application process. For information on taking core courses, please visit the Fleet Seminar Program (FSP).