Frequently Asked Questions

International security studies is an academic discipline that examines potential threats to security and policy tools that aim to protect security while preserving peace. Nonproliferation and terrorism are most often studied from within the field of international security. Students in this field explore the sources of violence and instability in the world, as well as the role that changes in technology play in both creating and solving these problems. They then identify and assess alternative strategies to address security concerns.

Terrorism studies is an academic field that explores the causes of, consequences of, and solutions to terrorism. In a master’s program in counterterrorism, you will study the methods terrorists use to raise money, spread their messages, select targets, and put pressure on their enemies. In this way, you’ll learn how to anticipate the threat of terrorism and counter it effectively.

Nonproliferation studies focuses on preventing nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological weapons (also known as weapons of mass destruction or WMD) from spreading to new governments, terrorist organizations, or other entities. Students in this field learn about the science behind nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; existing international arms control efforts; new threats likely to arise in the future; and strategies to track, control, and eventually eliminate weapons of mass destruction.

Counterterrorism careers apply antiterrorism expertise in a variety of intelligence, law enforcement, and private-sector contexts, as well as in relevant international organizations. From police departments to the FBI, or Interpol, to the CIA to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to large banks and corporations, myriad organizations work on global, national, and local efforts to protect people from terrorist attacks. Terrorism studies experts help these organizations prepare for terrorist attacks and take steps to prevent terrorism.

Nonproliferation specialists may work on tracking proliferation or conducting analysis or inspections for international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Others work in a variety of federal government agencies such as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in the U.S. Department of Energy. Others pursue careers as intelligence analysts or as compliance officers to help banks and companies in the private sector avoid transactions that could assist proliferation. Individuals trained in nonproliferation also obtain positions as congressional staff or at think tanks and NGOs, where they might be involved in conducting research or making policy recommendations.

Cybercrime refers to criminal acts committed using computers, mobile devices, the Internet, or other digital devices and communication methods. Cyberterrorism refers to cyber activities that aim to destabilize whole countries or communities, often with a political or ideological goal. Cybersecurity is the art of defending against cyberattacks in all their forms.

Careers in the intelligence community take many paths. Intelligence analysts may work in the private sector, in fields such as finance and tech where security expertise is in high demand. They may also work as defense contractors supporting the intelligence community. Others may work in state or local law enforcement jobs, which provide important experience gathering and using intelligence data. U.S. citizens can pursue government careers working for one of the 17 intelligence organizations that form the U.S. intelligence community. Many of these jobs will require the ability to obtain a security clearance. A government internship or fellowship program is a great way to get a job in the intelligence community.

An intelligence analyst synthesizes information gathered by the intelligence community into concise reports on matters of concern to government officials. Analysts must also identify gaps in available information and coordinate with other intelligence officials to fill in those gaps. Thanks to analysts, the intelligence community can provide decision makers with timely information about potential threats to national and international security. Some individuals also do intelligence analysis in the private sector, gathering and analyzing information to help private-sector entities anticipate risks to their personnel or business activities.

Financial crimes are crimes that target money, property, or other assets. Such crimes include stealing or defrauding others of their belongings; bribery and other illicit payments; forgery, or the fabrication of money; and money laundering, or disguising money earned from an illegal source (such as drug sales) as money earned from a legitimate, legal source.

Financial crimes specialists must understand how to anticipate financial crimes, analyze those that have already occurred, and communicate effectively with law enforcement, businesses, and all other financial crimes stakeholders. A financial crimes specialist should have a good understanding of cybercrime and other high-tech methods financial criminals use. They should also know how to comply with relevant financial laws and regulations.

Charles Schwab, HSBC, Western Union, and other banking and financial services organizations are among the largest employers of financial crimes specialists. Other key employers include federal government agencies like the CIA, the FBI, and the Treasury Department; federal contractors like Thomson Reuters; and tech companies like PayPal, Airbnb, and Google.

For more information on nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and financial crime management, check out our MA in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies or contact