Frequently Asked Questions
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE APPLICATION PROCESS
Q: What is the difference between an Academy Professor and a Rotating Faculty position?
Rotating faculty positions are for officers who will come to West Point to teach for three years before returning to their basic branch or functional area. These officers will also attend graduate school through the Advanced Civil Schooling process for two to three years before coming to teach. Thus, the entire tour ("round trip") as a rotating instructor is typically five years. These faculty members are selected through the EAST online application discussed below. These FAQs mostly apply to those who are considering positions as a rotating faculty member.
Academy Professors are permanent professors at USMA that must earn a PhD and become a Functional Area 47 officer for the remainder of their career. This hiring process is handled by an external committee. If you are interested in an Academy Professor position within the Department of Social Sciences, you should contact Major Christopher Hartley, the secretary of the search committee.
Q: What are the application requirements?
A: Complete the EAST application online. Digitally submit your undergraduate transcript, Letters of Recommendation (2 to 3), GRE (mandatory for ACS candidates. A GMAT Score may be submitted, but it is not our preference), completed short essay questions, all OERs/AERs, and ORB. The application link is https://east.usma.edu and is CAC-enabled. Please be aware that any data you might have input on USMA's WEST system does not make its way to EAST. If you wish to apply to SOSH, you must put all of the data on EAST (we do not monitor WEST).
Q: Is there a minimum GPA or test score to apply?
A: No, SOSH looks at the entire file to ensure a strong mix of backgrounds. However, we typically look for candidates who demonstrate the academic ability to gain admission to a top-tier graduate program. These candidates usually have an undergrad GPA >3.0 and strong GRE Quantitative and Verbal scores. However, while scores are important, we encourage any interested applicant to apply by submitting their best possible scores in addition to an otherwise strong application. You may continue to take the GRE and submit updated scores until the application deadline of the selection cycle. Note: in accordance with Army Regulation, you must have a minimum GRE score of 153V and 144Q. You must meet these minimum scores in order to have a competitive application.
Q: If I have a master’s degree already, do I have to take the GRE?
A: Yes, even though you have a master’s degree, the graduate programs you will apply to all require a GRE score on your application. Therefore, having a GRE score helps us evaluate your file and will also give you the scores necessary to gain admission to a top program.
Q: Can I take the GMAT instead of the GRE because I want to pursue an MBA?
A: We encourage every applicant to take the GRE and then optionally take the GMAT as a supplement. Having a strong GRE score will give you maximum flexibility for being accepted to SOSH. Though teaching in the Economics Program and pursuing a MBA might be your first choice, you might be offered a position with another program (American Politics or International Affairs). To get into graduate programs for AP and IA, you will require a GRE score. By only submitting a GMAT score, you are limiting your odds for acceptance to SOSH by only being eligible for one degree, for which you might not be selected. Also, almost all top tier MBA programs accept GRE scores interchangeably with GMAT scores. 18% of accepted students at MIT Sloan submitted a GRE score, 19% at Michigan's Ross school, and 14% at HBS. Harvard Business School's Admissions Director published a blog post on August 6, 2018 where he states that HBS (as one example) has absolutely no preference between the two tests: "We are agnostic about the GMAT or the GRE—really. (Really!) Take whichever one suits you best." If an MBA is of interest to you, we encourage you to focus your initial energy on the GRE, and once you have a score that will make you competitive for SOSH, shift your efforts towards taking the GMAT to see if you score comparatively better.
Q: Do you have to be a West Point graduate to teach in Social Sciences? Does being a West Point grad give you an advantage in the application process?
A: Absolutely not! We seek officers from all backgrounds and make a distinct effort to ensure that not all of our instructors come from the same colleges, commissioning sources, or branches. We maintain a faculty with a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences and having officers from ROTC and OCS is important for the development of cadets at USMA.
Q: What is required in my military file?
A: We require all candidates to be complete with company command (or branch equivalent) by the time they would start graduate school in order to ensure they are competitive for promotion to major. If your timeline is atypical, we will evaluate it on a case-by-case basis. For performance evaluations, we look for officers with outstanding military performance who have received strong evaluation reports. There is no standard number of MQ evaluations that are required, but most competitive files have strong OERs that make them competitive for promotion. Though you will most likely not have an evaluation from your command time when you apply, having a "Most Qualified" from company command is usually a requirement before entering graduate school. Officers must be competitive for promotion based on their past performance in order to be selected. This is something that your branch manager will usually be able to help you evaluate.
Q: Do you have to be complete with Company Command or other Key Developmental jobs to apply?
A: No. We only select officers who will have completed their Key Developmental job by the time they would start graduate school (for most branches, a KD job is usually a command, but it depends on the branch and what is considered KD). Most candidates apply and are accepted while they are currently in command or about to take command. For example, if you were to apply for the November 2019 board, you would not begin graduate school until the fall of 2021. Therefore, it is very common for officers to apply before or during their time in command since they do not start graduate school for another 18 months. Though you will most likely not have an evaluation from your command time when you apply, having an MQ from company command is usually a requirement before entering graduate school.
Q: What is the application timeline?
A: It depends on an officer’s year group. The typical zones of consideration are below:
Primary YGs Considered
Grad School Start
West Point Start (for Master’s Degree)
1 NOV 19
13, 14, 15
1 NOV 20
14, 15, 16
1 NOV 21
15, 16, 17
Please note that these primary year groups are simply a guideline based upon a typical officer’s timeline. You will still be considered if you are past this window, although you must be able to complete key developmental jobs in addition to graduate school, a USMA tour, and ILE. In your application, please be sure to explain your proposed timeline for accomplishing these. Your branch manager may be able to tell you if your proposed timeline is realistic.
Q: It’s currently 2019. Do I have to wait until 2021 to start graduate school?
A: Yes. The primary reasons are twofold. First, the timeline allows us to get you released by your branch and approved for graduate school by ACS, which occurs (in this scenario) during the spring of 2020. This then allows you to apply to graduate schools during the fall of 2020, gain acceptance in the spring of 2021, and begin school in the fall of 2021. The second reason is that we have a limited number of slots for each cohort. Much like operational Army units have an MTOE, SOSH also has a TDA which limits the number of slots available for instructors. When we accept a candidate, we are forecasting a specific need for that instructor in 3.5 years. In this scenario, SOSH accepted the instructors it will need for Academic Year 2022-2023 at the November 2018 board. Therefore, we do not have slots available for you to start graduate school in 2020 because those slots were filled a year prior.
Q: Can Non-Commissioned Officers or Warrant Officers apply to teach in the department?
A: Unfortunately, our TDA slots are currently only officer billets. However, West Point as an institution has many excellent opportunities to use the knowledge and experience possessed by senior NCOs and Warrant Officers in teaching and developing cadets. Please see the Brigade Tactical Department’s and Department of Military Instruction’s pages for more information about these positions.
Q: How competitive is the application process?
A: The department seeks a well-rounded and diverse cohort with a variety of Army and academic backgrounds. Every year, the department fields about 130 applicants, of which about 65 will have competitive files. The department typically accepts 12 to 14 officers from this pool. These officers demonstrate that they have the academic and military potential for exceptional performance in graduate school and as a faculty member.
Q: I already have a graduate degree. Can you accept me as a Direct Hire (DH)? How does the DH process work?
A: Every year we consider a few select candidates who already have a master’s degree (MA, MS, MPP, or MBA) or doctoral (PhD or DBA) from an appropriate program while studying in residence there, and the degree is relevant to our department's fields of study (American Politics, International Affairs, Economics, or Finance). If this describes your degree, you can apply through the EAST system (same application) as a Direct Hire.
As a DH candidate, you will be validated at the annual board that meets in November. This places you on a list of qualified DH's. Should an opening become available outside of our normal selection process, we will contact you to see if your timeline will support an assignment to USMA. Please understand that DH positions become open irregularly as the primary means for sourcing faculty is through our ACS selection process. If you already have a master's degree (non-ACS acquired) but want to compete for an ACS slot and get an additional degree, we encourage you to do so and your existing degree will not affect your application. If the degree was acquired through ACS, we cannot sponsor you for an additional degree.
Currently, we do not forecast any Direct Hire openings for summer 2020. Our first potential openings are in 2021, though there is no guarantee that we will have any come open. However, this can always change; please open a file on EAST as this is the place we look for qualified candidates.
Q: Who should write my letters of recommendation?
A: The board values letters from individuals who know you well from a professional performance standpoint and can speak to your potential in an academic setting. Letters from your time as an undergraduate student are welcome. In addition, the board appreciates letters from former supervisors who know you personally and can therefore write knowledgably about your character, performance, and potential. Letters from people who don’t know you well, regardless of rank, often make little impact as they do not give the board members any additional insight into you as an officer and future instructor. If you know a former USMA instructor who knows you well, particularly a former SOSH instructor, we recommend contacting them for a letter of recommendation.
Q: Do I have to go into a functional area to be selected?
A: Absolutely not! In fact, almost 100% of selected officers are still in their basic branch when they are selected. Over half of our faculty members continue in their basic branch after finishing their tour at West Point.
If you decide you are interested in a functional area, we recommend that you do not VTIP into that career field until after you are already in graduate school or at USMA to avoid any misunderstanding with your new branch, or complications with your By-Name Request. It is not uncommon for officers in SOSH to apply to become an ORSA (FA49), Strategist (FA59), Foreign Area Officer (FA48), or the Army's newest field - Marketing Officer (FA58).
Q: I am a Special Forces / Civil Affairs / Psychological Operations officer with an ADSO. When can I apply?
A: Generally speaking, you must complete your three year ADSO before you can begin graduate school (you can still apply while serving your ADSO, but must finish it before starting school). You will have to be released by your branch to start graduate school. If you think you will need to be released prior to this ADSO expiring, you will need to speak with your branch manager to find out the feasibility of your proposed timeline. We must honor your ADSO to these branches and can only accept you on an accelerated timeline if your branch releases you.
Q: I am an Army Reserve officer and have heard about the IMA program. Is it possible to become an IMA for SOSH?
A: Currently, SOSH does not have any openings or slots for additional IMA officers. If you are a Army Reserve Major or Lieutenant Colonel with a graduate degree from an appropriate program and possess talents that will contribute to the development of cadets, please email your resume to the Department’s Faculty Hiring Officer. The department has 5 IMA positions and all are currently filled. However, when slots become available, we look to the list of those who have previously expressed interest to find officers who will continue to provide a cohort of IMAs with diversity of experiences. Please be aware that these slots do not come open often or regularly.
QUESTIONS ABOUT GRADUATE SCHOOL
Q: How does graduate school selection work?
A: The degree you pursue will depend upon which program you will teach in (International Affairs, American Politics, or Economics). Once accepted, your program director will use your preferences (and which schools you were accepted to) and compare them to the needs of the department. For example, if you are accepted to teach in the Economics program, that program director will evaluate your preferences as well as the needs of the department to determine whether you pursue a MBA, MPP, or Economics degree. For school selection, you are expected to attend the highest quality institution within your field of study to which you can gain admission. A few factors play into the final selection including: where you are admitted, cost of the school, and needs of the department. Most often, our selected candidates are able to attend one of their top choice schools. Low and medium cost schools are much easier to accommodate. Once they are admitted to a program, many inbound faculty find success in negotiating a reduced tuition with their school to ensure it is within Army guidelines for low or medium cost. Recent graduate schools that faculty have attended include: Yale, Harvard, Stanford, North Carolina, New York University, Notre Dame, MIT, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown.
Q: Does SOSH help me with placement into graduate school?
A: No, SOSH does not have reserved seats, habitually send SOSH faculty to any particular schools, or weigh in on your application with those schools. Future faculty candidates compete on the strength of their application for admission to each individual program among the general population of applicants. An acceptance to SOSH and approval as an ACS candidate becomes your “license to apply” to graduate schools as your next Army assignment. Future faculty members apply to and get into graduate school on their own merits. We have no established programs or relationships that "place" applicants into these graduate programs, giving you the freedom to find a program that best meets your academic interests and satisfies the needs of the department. While the application statistics to many top programs such as Yale, Harvard, or Stanford might seem intimidating, we accept candidates into the faculty program who demonstrate a strong academic and professional performance record, which are also the same characteristics that many graduate schools seek.
Q: I want to pursue a PhD instead of a master’s degree. Is this possible?
A: Yes, this is possible if accepted for a PhD slot. Every year, we choose about 3 or 4 candidates to pursue a PhD They attend graduate school for 3 years, then teach at USMA for 2 years while finishing their dissertation. Competition for these slots is very competitive. It is also possible to complete a PhD during your teaching tour as an extension of your master’s degree at your own expense and on your own time. This is typically possible for officers who arrive to SOSH after having fulfilled all requirements for the PhD except the dissertation (ABD). If you are selected for a two-year ACS slot but are interested in pursuing a PhD on your own time, you should discuss your options further with your program director. Completing a dissertation on top of your departmental duties and responsibilities is a significant time investment and may not be the right decision for every instructor.
Q: Can I do a joint master’s degree (such as an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School and an MBA from Harvard Business School)?
A: Generally speaking, no. Similar to the question above, you can pursue a joint degree IF you can accomplish it in the same amount of time that you would have otherwise attended graduate school for a single degree. Any additional required classes must not be at expense to the Army. For example, to pursue a master’s degree to teach in SOSH, the Army sponsors you to attend graduate school for 2 academic years. If you can arrange to take enough classes to qualify for a joint degree during this period at no additional expense to the Army, then you can pursue a joint degree. However, it is absolutely imperative that you complete your sponsored (intended) degree within the time allotted with no exceptions. Many joint master’s degree programs require at least three academic years in residence (including the HKS/HBS joint degree) and therefore joint degrees are usually not possible.
QUESTIONS ABOUT LIFE IN SOSH
Q: How long is a normal SOSH tour?
A: A normal tour length is five years total: two years in graduate school followed by three years teaching at USMA. Some faculty members complete a two-year utilization tour, but it is the exception rather than the norm and this is approved on a case-by-case basis.
Q: Can I extend my tour in SOSH?
A: Once your By-Name Request (BNR) is approved during your application/matriculation process, your tour length becomes a binding contract between West Point and your controlling branch. Even if you negotiate a longer tour with your branch manager, our TDA will not support a longer tour without deliberate, prior coordination with SOSH's faculty hiring team. Most officers that extend their tour at West Point increase the length from a two-year tour to a three-year tour. Very rarely are officers approved to serve a tour longer than three years. Extension requests may not be submitted until the end of your first year of teaching, though we encourage open-and-candid dialogue with your program director and the faculty hiring team throughout your matriculation process. Extensions are approved via the Department Head through the Dean's Office and finally by the Superintendent with concurrence from your controlling branch.
Q. How are instructors evaluated? Is it based off of student course grades, research/publications, or some other metric?
A: Instructors are evaluated based on their performance and potential, as in any other Army unit. This involves an assessment of performance across West Point’s five domains, including teaching, cadet development, faculty development, service, and scholarship. We expect each faculty member to contribute to our community through a combination of activities in the five domains, and program directors will work with instructors to develop an individual plan for their tour and for their placement beyond their time in the department.
Q: Does teaching in SOSH impact my ability to attend Resident ILE?
A: It depends. Most of our resident-select officers attend ILE in residence following their USMA tours. Others complete ILE via satellite or distance learning during their time in SOSH. West Point also offers a blended option for the AOC portion of ILE in which officers assigned to West Point conduct classes and planning exercises here at USMA with an instructor from CGSC. The limiting factor is that you must have a minimum of 30 months between leaving USMA or resident ILE and your Primary Zone LTC board (currently occurs at YG + 16 years). If you can fit resident ILE into your timeline and still have 30 months before your LTC PZ board, you can attend in residence. If your timeline precludes this, you must complete ILE via satellite or distance learning.
Q. Are there opportunities to attend Army schools as an instructor?
A: Yes, there may be opportunities to attend Army schools in periods that do not interfere with your department duties and responsibilities (typically during one of your summers as an instructor). These schools are usually tied to career progression opportunities in your branch or career field (a Special Forces officer recently attended Dive Supervisor training; Functional Area 59 officers have attended BSAP during their tours, etc.).
Q. Can you tell me about instructor involvement in SOSH AIADs/extracurricular activities? Specifically, how do I become an OIC for SOSH AIADs and other opportunities (ex. Army Debate)? I want to volunteer in the community, and also help mentor cadets as much as I can.
A: SOSH offers robust opportunities for cadet development outside the classroom. You can volunteer to escort cadets on an academic summer enrichment opportunity, mentor one of our cadet-run Department clubs (Debate, Model UN, Domestic Affairs Forum, Investment Club, International Affairs Forum), or partner with a cadet on research outside the classroom. Many of our faculty take cadets on AIADs to countries across the world, or mentor cadets on sports teams, or help with cadet summer training. These opportunities are open to all interested faculty. You should express your preferences to your stem head upon your arrival to SOSH.