A number of readers have contacted me via blog comments or by email to ask where they might be able to pursue a post-graduate degree or certificate in conflict early warning. That is indeed a good question. I don’t know of any graduate program (or undergraduate, for that matter) that includes courses specifically on conflict early warning.
I would therefore suggest looking for graduate programs that have a strong focus on conflict analysis and risk assessments. I would also recommend looking for programs with courses on international security, human security, human rights, complex emergencies and causes of conflict. Courses on international institutions, decision making, humanitarian logistics, etc., would also be a plus.
In addition, it is important to venture beyond your own field, say political science, and to learn as much as possible about how other fields such as public health, environmental studies, disaster management, etc., approach the challenge of early warning and rapid response. To be sure, some of the most valuable insights I have gained over the years have been from those fields.
Taken together, these courses will allow you to write research papers that focus on various aspects of conflict early warning that are of interest to you. You’ll want to develop good analytical skills, both qualitative and quantitative, as well as research methodology skills. So find a program that has a strong track record in methodology and research design.
Now, I realize no one program will necessarily have all the above courses. So it’s up to you to find out which courses appeal to you in particular and which professors you’d specifically like to work with. Scholarships, stipends, etc., will also play an important role (if not be the overriding factor). Finally, it’s important to feel good about location and environment.
So that would be my advice on the academic end. But you don’t have to wait until graduate school to get started and remember also that practical experience is important. I would encourage you to read as much of the literature and material available online as possible (for as long as you’re still interested!).
To get you started, here are similar syllabi for seminars I have taught on disaster and conflict early warning/response: syllabus 1 and syllabus 2. Feel free to get in touch if you can’t find any of the readings online and I’ll try to see whether I can share an electronic/scanned copy. I would also recommend reading the posts (and comments) on this blog! If you find any other blog on conflict early warning, please let me know!
Finally on experience, get in touch with practitioners and other scholars in the field. Ask them specific and informed questions on issues or ideas you’re thinking about and ask them for advice on further reading or other individuals to get in touch with. Offer to volunteer on projects of interest to you and ask about the availability of internships or other short-term research assignments.
Use papers you are writing in class as a reason to get in touch with practitioners and scholars. Write papers on projects or issues they are currently working on. This serves two purposes: first, your papers would become directly relevant to the “real world”; and second, you’d be able to share your papers with practitioners who will most likely appreciate and read your work. This is a great way to network and could open up professional opportunities for the future.
If you still have any specific questions on issues I may not have addressed, please always feel free to get in touch. My contact information can be found in the “Contact” link above. If I don’t answer within a week it’s usually because I’m traveling or under a tight deadline. In any case, please contact me again if you don’t here from the first time around, perseverance is a good skill in any field!