SAASS PhD Programs



The AU PhD program began in 2011 and is administered through the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies (SAASS) and is a program accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and approved by the Federal Departments of Education and Defense. Candidates embark upon a further period of study after the awarding of their MPhil degree at SAASS. Further study includes research and writing toward the completion of a dissertation and possibly additional coursework. Candidates that successfully complete program requirements, to include the dissertation defense, are awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Military Strategy from Air University.


Students must meet the following criteria to be eligible for consideration:
SAASS graduate (oral comp grade of A- or above; completed thesis) Cumulative, minimum 3.7 GPA
Successful completion of application and entry exam (minimum A- standard)

Selection process

Candidates must fill out an application that places them among the pool of candidates for program consideration. Successful completion of the application, including meeting the eligibility criteria, allows the candidate to take the entry exam. This process must take place during the spring semester of the candidate’s current school year unless directed otherwise by the SAASS Commandant. The AU Graduate PhD Committee will evaluate the applications and exams of the candidates and recommend selections to the faculty and the Commandant. Upon approval by the Commandant, candidates will be formally admitted to the program.

Completion process

Admitted candidates should identify a Dissertation Chair with the help of the PhD Program Director and Graduate Committee prior to the student’s departure from AU. The Chair will supervise and guide the academic development of the student, to include the preparation of a dissertation topic, prospectus and completed dissertation.With assistance from the student’s Chair, candidates will develop a dissertation committee of at least three terminally degreed members (SAASS: advisor, another AU faculty member, and an outside faculty member from a different institution) to assist the student in completing the PhD. Students have seven years from the completion of their SAASS resident curriculum to complete all PhD requirements, the primary of which is the completion and defense of a dissertation.

Lorenz Fellowships

Some PhD candidates will compete for and undertake a fellowship year for the express purpose of completing the dissertation. Typically, AU will have an allotment of three Lorenz Fellows per year. These will usually be available to Air Force members in the program, counting as each officer's year of Senior Development Education. A fellowship year is not a requirement for the PhD degree, but provides an opportunity for a dedicated year of intensive work to aid in the completion of the degree.

Current AU PhD Statistics

Number of AU PhDs Awarded to date: 40

Current Enrollment: 41

Lorenz Fellows for AY21: 1

Faculty Development PHD Program

Every year, SAASS selects approximately 2 graduating students to earn a doctoral degree at a civilian university immediately following graduation from SAASS. These students spend three years at graduate school, then typically complete a "re-bluing" assignment in the Air Force before returning to SAASS faculty. SAASS graduates have earned doctoral degrees in Political Science, History, and related fields from a wide range of universities.

Interested SAASS students will apply for the program in autumn of their SAASS academic year. This entails both a written application and an interview. Students selected for the Faculty Development PhD program will then apply to civilian institutions.