Strategic Studies and Defense Analysis FAQs

1. What does the strategic studies and defense analysis (SSDA) bachelor’s degree completion program entail?

The SSDA bachelor’s degree completion program is designed to build upon the military education and experience of Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel. The program expands on students’ training and knowledge in vital areas such as sociology-anthropology, geography, cultural awareness, regional politics, and international conflict as well as general education areas. Students apply their class work and studies to initiatives and field exercises related to their deployment areas. Students also conduct research on a particular region’s conflicts and opportunities and contribute their research and field experience to the U.S. military’s body of knowledge of that region. Principles of critical thinking, ethical decision making, and leadership are interwoven throughout the curriculum.

2. Who may enroll in the program?

The program is open only to students who are active duty, Reserve and National Guard soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines assigned to or retired from the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and its subordinate commands and sub-unified commands.

3. I have no military background but the program interests me. Can I apply?

The SSDA program was designed exclusively for, and to build upon the military training and experiences of, military personnel assigned to or retired from the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) and its subordinate commands and sub-unified commands. Unfortunately, this program would not be available to anyone outside of this audience. Our bachelor's program in National Security Studies could be a great fit as it builds upon the education and experience of Combat Arms and Combat support personnel in the military, law enforcement personnel, and members of the intelligence community.

4. Is the program entirely online?

Yes. Norwich has built a leading-edge online learning environment that promotes networking, peer support, and one-on-one interactions with faculty and student support staff. Classrooms are virtual, accessible from your home military base or in a theater of operations, and filled with extensive online learning resources.

5. What are the admission requirements for the program?

In addition to being an active, separated, or retired SOF member, you must meet the following requirements to be eligible for the program:

  • For service members, the program is tailored to those who have successfully completed one of the following: the U.S. Army’s Civil Affairs Qualification Course (38), Military Information Support Operations (37), Special Forces (18), Warrant Officer (180), MOS courses, or related occupations.
  • At least sixty (60) semester credit hours through prior college or military training (as reviewed by ACE) or both.
  • Earned credits must include proficiency in basic math and English writing skills through either prior college or training credit in these areas.

To apply, you must submit the following items:

  • Program application
  • Letter of Intent (1-2 pages) outlining your SOF experience, prior learning, and educational/career objectives
  • Official military training transcripts (Joint Services Transcript/CCAF)
  • Official transcripts from all colleges previously attended. Mail official transcripts to: Norwich University College of Graduate and Continuing Studies – ATTN: SSDA, PO Box 367, Northfield, VT 05663
6. How many credits will I take, and can I transfer additional credits to apply toward my degree?

To complete your SSDA degree, you must earn 120 credits. As an admissions requirement, 60 of those credits must be earned prior to enrolling in the program through military training, CLEP, or college courses completed at another institution. You may transfer up to 30 additional semester-credit equivalents from other accredited institutions of higher education for courses that meet specific SSDA requirements.

7. How much does the program cost?

The per-credit cost for the SSDA program is $250. The federal government’s Tuition Assistance (TA) program covers the per-credit cost for active duty military personnel. For detailed information about program costs, visit the tuition information page.

8. I would like to use my VA benefits. What is the process, and whom do I contact for more information?

The SSDA program is approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs. As such, all GI Bill® and other military payment options will be available to students applying for admission to the program. For consolidated information about specific programs, visit our Veterans Benefits page.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at

9. Is this program covered under federal financial aid?

The SSDA program is eligible for Federal Student Aid, including need-based (i.e., Pell Grants and Direct Subsidized Loans), and non-need based (i.e., Direct Unsubsidized Loans) programs. To get started on your Federal Student Aid application, you will need to complete the FAFSA form.

10. How long is each trimester, and how long will it take me to finish the program?

Each trimester is 16 weeks long and made up of two eight-week sections. There is a one-week break between trimesters. There is no break between sections within the trimester. Full-time students (meaning at least 12 credits per term) may complete the program in less than two years. This estimate does not factor in planned or unplanned leaves from the program, which may occur from time to time. Part-time enrollment will take longer. 

11. How many hours a week must I commit to my studies?

You should plan to spend approximately 15 to 20 hours each week on readings, discussion postings, and written assignments. This will vary depending on the number of courses and the types of courses you’re taking. Students new to the program will spend more time as they get used to online learning and delivery.

12. What happens if I am suddenly deployed and need to withdraw from a course or the entire program?

The program is designed with the duties of SOF personnel in mind and can be flexible to accommodate the needs of students in the field. Unexpected interruptions won’t impact your learning plan. Your student services advisor will work with you so you are able to leave and return to the program as needed.

13. When can I begin the program?

There are several start dates per year, please speak to your admission advisor for more details.

14. How large will my class be?

Approximately 15 to 25 students will be in your class. You will break into groups of six or fewer so that discussions and projects are productive and manageable.

15. How do I plan my curriculum and program schedule?

Once accepted into the program, you will work with one of our student services advisors to outline your degree plan, which will determine the courses you need to graduate.

16. What credentials will my instructor have?

Norwich University’s College of Graduate and Continuing Studies recruits from a national market and cultivates a very selective faculty. Most SSDA instructors have a Ph.D. and significant experience teaching in face-to-face and online environments. Many have direct military experience and experience educating service members. They are devoted to students and passionate about teaching and learning. All complete specialized online teaching training and are held to the college’s high standards with regard to quick turnaround on communications and grading of assignments.

17. What Norwich University resources will be available to me?

You will have access to vast online resources through Kreitzberg Library, including our dedicated distance learning librarian. You will also receive academic support from your instructor, administrative support from program staff, and technical support for the online learning platform.

18. Is Norwich University accredited?

Norwich University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (formerly the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc.).

Accreditation of an institution of higher education by the Commission indicates that it meets or exceeds criteria for the assessment of institutional quality periodically applied through a peer review process. An accredited college or university is one which has available the necessary resources to achieve its stated purposes through appropriate educational programs, is substantially doing so, and gives reasonable evidence that it will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Institutional integrity is also addressed through accreditation.

Accreditation by the Commission is not partial but applies to the institution as a whole. As such, it is not a guarantee of every course or program offered, or the competence of individual graduates. Rather, it provides reasonable assurance about the quality of opportunities available to students who attend the institution.

Inquiries regarding the accreditation status by the Commission should be directed to the administrative staff of the institution. Individuals may also contact:

New England Commission of Higher Education
3 Burlington Woods Drive, Suite 100, Burlington, MA, 01803-4514
Phone: (781) 425-7785


19. Will there be a graduation ceremony when I complete the program?

Graduating students are welcome to attend the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies residency in June, where they can participate in a commencement ceremony with other graduating students at the College, and an SSDA academic recognition ceremony with their program peers. Due to the nature of our students’ commitment to service obligations, participating in residency events at Norwich University is optional, not required. Once students have fulfilled their degree requirements, Norwich University will confer the degrees and send them to students not participating in the commencement on campus. Degree conferrals take place in June and December.