Preparing for a Career in National Security


National Security Career Tiger Track


  • National security is a broad term that includes military service, law enforcement, homeland security, diplomacy, intelligence, emergency management, and cyber security.
  • Interested individuals often report responding to a "call" to serve
  • National security offers unique challenges, adventures, and possible dangers
  • Individuals who serve in national security display appreciation for tradition and active patriotism


We encourage students to follow a broad course of study to develop the habits of thoroughness, intellectual curiosity, logical thinking, analysis of social institutions, and clarity of expression that are the hallmarks of liberal arts education. Those skills are employed throughout the Hampden-Sydney curriculum, beginning with the Government and Foreign Affairs department and the Rhetoric program.

  • The following courses are not prescribed for students interested in the national security arena, but they do provide some background: Military History, US National Intelligence, and Issues in US National Security.
  • The Military and National Security Studies Program is designed for students who are interested in the historical, political, cultural, ethical, and legal dimensions of national security policy.
  • The Public Service Program prepares students for careers in government agencies, non-profits, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
  • Foreign Languages, particularly "hard languages" such as Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, and Farsi.
  • Study Abroad gives international experience which is excellent preparation for serving overseas.

Programs & Co-Curricular Activities

  • Hampden-Sydney Army ROTC students train on campus with Longwood students and are affiliated with the Spider Battalion out of the University of Richmond.
  • Marine Platoon Leaders Course lets students complete their OCS training during two six-week summer courses held at Quantico Marine base during their undergraduate years.
  • National Guard, Air National Guard, Marine Corps Reserve programs allow students to attend school while in the military reserve, and they may provide various sources of financial aid to students.
  • The Wilson Center for Leadership in the Public Interest develops effective and ethical leaders who link theory with principled action, and understand the challenges to the United States and the world.
  • Wilson Center Freshman Leadership Program provides an early opportunity for college students to get involved in developing leadership skills.
  • Beyond the Hill, a program run by the Dean of Students, organizes service trips to Central America and the Caribbean for small groups of students over holiday breaks.
  • Model Organization of American States Team competes each year in DC at the Model OAS exercise in international diplomacy, policy development, advocacy, and parliamentary debate.
  • The Hampden-Sydney Volunteer Fire Department offers an opportunity to serve and lead while dealing with stressful and potentially dangerous situations.
  • Student Government & Other Campus Organizations provide opportunities to develop, sharpen, and practice leadership skills.

Preparation for Employment

  • Paths into the national security arena can be competitive and lengthy. Start your preparation and exploration early in order to have more options.
  • Identify and develop a relationship with a mentor. Talk to them regularly about why they chose their career and what life is like in their area of the national security arena.
  • Network. Like many professions, the national security world is a well-connected network. Meet and learn from men and women who can provide applicable career advice.
  • Internships are critical and competitive. Seek opportunities that allow you to explore and pursue your national security interests.
  • The Office of Career Education and Vocational Reflection offers opportunities to practice networking, résumé and cover letter writing, interview preparation, and general workplace etiquette.

Graduate Studies

  • If you intend to go to graduate school to study national security, it is vital to prepare thoroughly before taking the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). Top programs include Georgetown's Securities Studies Program, John Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies, and the Institute of World Politics.
  • Students interested in policy or legal careers in the national security realm may benefit from pursuing law school, in which case they will need to take the LSAT.
  • JAG - Students interested in the study of law and military service can combine these two interests by pursuing admission to the Judge Advocate General's program of one of the military services


National Security is a broad field that includes military service, law enforcement, and homeland security, diplomacy, intelligence, and cyber security. Federal departments and agencies include Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, State, Treasury, FBI, CIA, DEA, National Guard, and countless others. Potential jobs are vast and numerous, such as a soldier, FBI agent, Border Patrol agent, intelligence analyst, foreign service officer, intelligence collector, or pilot, at the national, state, and local levels.

Alumni with careers in national security