Master of Special Operations & Irregular Warfare

Addressing Broader Issues in Strategy & Security

Contemporary armed conflicts have demonstrated a contest between state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence with a target population. Within these types of irregular warfare, the employment of special operations forces has been seen on an unprecedented scale, yet special operations remains an understudied and often misunderstood instrument of military policy.  

 The Master of Special Operations and Irregular Warfare at UNSW Canberra uniquely addresses this gap by offering students a combination of special operations focused content alongside a selection of electives addressing broader issues in strategy and security. This program is ideal for military personnel and those in the security policy community seeking to broaden their understanding of special operations beyond the tactical and operational skills and capabilities involved. It also provides an excellent framework of reference for other government employees and contractors who would benefit from a better understanding of special operations as a military instrument. 

What Our Students Say

“My primary incentive for studying through UNSW Canberra was the potential for greater Defence assistance. Once I finished my first postgraduate degree, I returned to UNSW Canberra due to the unique courses it offers and the excellent structure of its programs.” 


James Easton, Master of Special Operations & Irregular Warfare student

Find Out More

You can find more information on this degree on the UNSW Handbook.

Find out more

Students undertaking the Master of Special Operations and Irregular Warfare are required to take 8 courses (48 UOC) comprising 24 UOC of core courses, with the remaining courses selected in any combination from the elective courses. 

The core courses will normally be offered annually or at least every two years; the elective courses will be offered on an opportunity basis. 

The option of undertaking a research project is available to master's students who attain a Distinction (DN) average or better in courses worth 24 UOC and is subject to the approval of the Head of School. The research project is recommended for those with a strong interest in pursuing original research in a particular area or intending to undertake a higher-level research qualification. This project may be undertaken in a single session or as a full-year course. 

ZHSS8400 - Research Project - International and Political Study (Single Session) (12 UOC) 
ZHSS8401 - Research Project - International and Political Study (Full Year) (6 UOC x 2 semesters) 

Students must complete the following 4 core courses (24 UOC):

Core Courses Semester 1 - 2021 Semester 2 - 2021
History of Special Operations Not Offered Distance Mode
Special Operations: Theory and Strategic Utility Not Offered Not Offered
GRIM Threats Distance Mode Not Offered
Ethics in Special Operations and Irregular Warfare Distance Mode Not Offered

Students must complete a minimum of 4 elective courses (24 UOC) from the following list:

Elective Courses Semester 1 - 2021 Semester 2 - 2021
Leadership Distance Mode Not Offered
Professional Practice Distance Mode Distance Mode
Genocide: Perception and Intervention Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8221 The Development of the Art of War Not Offered Distance Mode
ZHSS8225  Australian Military History Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8226 The Vietnam Wars: A Thirty Year Conflict Distance Mode Not Offered
ZHSS8227  Civil Wars: Societies in Conflict Distance Mode Not Offered
ZHSS8403 Global Security Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8409 Asia-Pacific Security: The Dynamics of Change Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8410 Australian Defence Policy: Concepts and Challenges Not Offered Distance Mode
ZHSS8417 Air Power in the 21st Century: Strategic Issues Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8430 China's Security Policy and Military Modernisation Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8435 Contemporary Strategy Not Offered Distance Mode
ZHSS8439 Reforming Repressive Regimes Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8441 Cyber-Security and World Politics Not Offered Distance Mode
ZHSS8442 Conflict Transformation Distance Mode Not Offered
ZHSS8452 Weapons of Mass Destruction and Global Security Not Offered  Not Offered
ZHSS8453 Culture and Conflict Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8456 Australia and Cyber War  Not Offered Distance Mode
ZHSS8467 Military Game Changers in 21st Century Warfare Not Offered Distance Mode
ZHSS8503 Moral Leadership in Complex Military Operations Not Offered Not Offered
ZHSS8504 Space Conflict and Competition Distance Mode Not Offered

Please refer to the UNSW Handbook for the Entry Requirements.