An intelligence analyst monitors a situation.

How Does a Background in National Security Help You Gain a Government Position?

International Relations

Preserving and enhancing U.S. national security is costly. For 2020, the White House proposed a $750 billion budget for national defense and peace preservation. Strengthening military forces, promoting international diplomacy, investigating federal crimes, and monitoring signals intelligence for foreign and domestic criminal activity are elements of the national security strategy.

But, what is national security, and how does online Master of Arts in International Relations degree prepare students for the challenging landscape of identifying and mitigating national threats?

What Is National Security?

The definition of national security focuses on the ability of a nation to protect itself from external and internal threats. The military plays a large role in preserving and addressing terrorism and international warfare; but, these are not the only dangers faced by a nation. Threats to public infrastructure and economic systems, cybercrime, and even climate change and the resulting natural disasters are hazards that may challenge national security organizations.

National threats are not standalone events. Their impacts ripple throughout a nation. For instance, following World War II, the proliferation of nuclear weapons changed how governments responded to international threats. Decisions of national security couldn’t occur in separate government silos. It required an integrated approach involving military, economic, and political perspectives.

Agencies, councils, committees, subject matter experts, and government employees contribute to the study of national security and the development of domestic and foreign policies. These efforts are dynamic, changing with political leaders, globalization, and technology to reflect shifting global circumstances. For example, financial cybercrime schemes that result in monetary ruin for individuals and organizations cost the country billions of dollars each year. In response, agencies from the Department of the Treasury to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have developed specific task forces to address them.

National security is an especially challenging, rewarding, and exciting profession, with government agencies demanding the best from employees. Aspiring professionals can acquire and develop the skills for success by pursuing a degree in national security.

How Norwich University Prepares Students for Careers in National Security

Many national security careers require candidates to complete a rigorous application process. The FBI, for example, has a six-step application process to become an intelligence analyst.

While each agency has a different process, they look for candidates with specific skills and training. Graduate degrees, such as Norwich University's online Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) program with its National Security concentration, can establish a foundation of knowledge and competencies to excel in a national security career.  

As the nation’s first private military university, Norwich University is uniquely suited to prepare students for national security roles. Consider these classes from the National Security concentration of the MAIR program:

  • World Politics—International Relations: Defining national security begins with this foundational course. International relations is the study of the relationships between global and national powers such as political parties, international organizations, and sovereign nations. Using established international relations theories such as realism and liberalism, students cultivate their critical thinking skills.
  • American Foreign Policy: Foreign policy analysis is key to understanding international relations. In this core course, students examine U.S. foreign policy from the start of the 20th century, focusing on key events in American history such as the Cold War.
  • National Security: This course emphasizes the crucial theories and concepts that address homeland security and critical infrastructure, focusing on the system of industries and public sectors that run the country. There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S., including chemical, communications, defense, and health care. If one of these sectors suffers a disruption, either man-made or natural, the consequences impact the other sectors. Students learn how national security practitioners develop plans and policies to moderate and resolve security threats.
  • Intelligence and National Security Policy: Students explore the history of the intelligence community and how the progression of technology and the internet have fundamentally changed the world of intelligence, as well as the relationships between policymakers and intelligence.

National Security Career Opportunities

Effective national security is impossible without a multifaceted approach. Graduates of the Norwich University MAIR program with a concentration in National Security gain the knowledge and skills to pursue a career that helps protect the nation's interests through world politics and foreign policies.

Intelligence Analyst

Intelligence analysts play a significant role in defending the country against security threats by anticipating risks. They collect and review data for specific threats using surveillance, interviews, intelligence networks and law enforcement databases.

The median salary for intelligence analysts is $68,692, while entry-level analysts can expect to earn a median salary of $53,767, according to September 2019 data from the compensation website PayScale. As analysts gain experience, they can expect their salary to increase. Those with five to nine years of experience earn a median salary of $71,195, according to PayScale.

Government Program Analyst  

Similar to intelligence analysts, government program analysts spend significant time collecting and interpreting data, although this information centers around current foreign and national policies and their efficacy.

Often, government program analysts focus on a specific topic such as health care. They look at policy utilization rates and complement existing data with cost analyses and public interviews. Also known as policy analysts, government program analysts help decision-makers adjust policies to increase utilization and decrease risks.

According to PayScale’s September 2019 data, government program analysts earn a median salary of $64,020, entry-level analysts with less than five years of experience earn a median salary of $60,027, and those with five to nine years of experience earn a median salary of $71,926.

Foreign Service Officer

One component of national security involves working with foreign parties and other nation-states. Foreign service officers represent the U.S. abroad in consulates, on diplomatic missions or as consultants in roles such as consular officers, economic officers, management officers, political officers, and public diplomacy officers. Regardless of job title, the overall goals remain the same: to promote peace and prosperity abroad, protect nationals and advance the interests of their home country.

Foreign service officers often propose and execute external policies. This can entail conducting delicate and sometimes tense discussions with foreign officials, which requires composure and discretion when navigating different cultural values.

According to September 2019 PayScale data, a foreign service officer earns a median salary of $88,996. Early career officers with one to four years of experience earn median compensation of $82,145, and those with five to nine years of experience make a median salary of $89,974, according to PayScale.

Exploring the Future of National Security

While the larger fundamental goals of national security are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future, the skills necessary to work in the field continually evolve. Cybercrime, globalization and even space exploration opened opportunities for aspiring national security professionals.

Exploring Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations program is an excellent first step for those who wish to pursue an exciting career in national security.

Recommended Reading

Key Theories in International Relations
An Intriguing Career: How to Become an Intelligence Analyst
How to Become an Ambassador and Work for a U.S. Embassy


Members of the IC, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
National Security 2020 Budget Fact Sheet, Office of the President of the United States
National Security, International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences
Understanding the Threat, National Security Agency
Climate change threatens the backbone of America’s global power, The Hill
Federal Laws Relating to Cybersecurity: Overview of Major Issues, Current Laws, and Proposed Legislation, Congressional Research Service
Intelligence Analysts, Federal Bureau of Investigation Jobs
Master of Arts in International Relations, Norwich University
US Foreign Policy (3rd edn), Politics Trove
The Foreign Policy Decision Making Approaches and Their Applications, CESRAN International
Critical Infrastructure Sectors, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Average Intelligence Analyst Salary, PayScale
Policy Analyst Job Description and Education, Houston Chronicle
Average Government Program Analyst Salary, PayScale
Foreign Services Officer, U.S. Department of State
5 Career Tracks For Foreign Service Officers, U.S. Department of State
Average Foreign Service Officer Salary, PayScale

Learn More Today

Complete the form on the next page to request more information about our online programs.

Request Info