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Front view of The White House in Washington, DC

Government Master’s Degree Program

Gain in-depth knowledge of government systems to make a difference in the world.

  • Online Courses

    11 out of 12 total courses

  • On-Campus Experience

    2 weekends or one 3-week summer course

  • Tuition

    $3,340 per course

  • Next Start Term

    Fall 2024

Program Overview

The role of the US government has been evolving to address financial crises, manage pandemics, and confront looming, existential threats. Tackling such demanding issues will require a new generation of leadership with a deep understanding of government.

Whether you’re passionate about public policy, social reform, or national security, pursuing a master’s degree in government will empower you to inspire change within nonprofit organizations, private sector companies, or on Capitol Hill.

Our well-rounded curriculum exposes you to a range of topics related to politics, justice, and the U.S. government. Under the guidance of faculty from Harvard and peer institutions, you’ll develop a greater understanding of the complex role of governmental organizations within society.

Program Benefits

  • Map with a flag.

    Customizable online curriculum with stackable certificate options

  • Teacher speaking to class.

    Expert instructors, including faculty from Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences

  • Two people talking at a table.

    Personalized academic and career advising

  • Notebook and pencil.

    A faculty-supported thesis or applied research project

  • Texbook.

    Paid research opportunities supporting faculty

  • Graduation cap and diploma.

    Harvard Alumni Association membership upon graduation

Customizable Course Curriculum

Our curriculum is flexible in pace and customizable by design. You’ll experience the convenience of online learning and the immersive benefits of learning in person. And you’ll choose courses that fit your schedule and align with your career goals.

In the program’s core courses, you’ll deepen your knowledge of essential government policies, institutions, and systems. You’ll build on that foundation by selecting elective courses that enable you to focus on the areas that are most important to you — for example, urban economics, public finance, and political communication.

11 Online Courses

  • Synchronous and asynchronous formats
  • Fall, spring, January, and summer options

On-Campus Experience

You’ll complete 1 on-campus course, Engaging in Scholarly Conversation, at an accelerated or standard pace:

  • 2 weekends (1 in fall and 1 in spring)
  • A 3-week summer session

Capstone or Thesis Track

  • Thesis: features a 9-month independent research project with a faculty advisor
  • Capstone: includes exploring a topic and completing a project in a classroom community


The path to your degree begins before you apply to the program.

First, you’ll register for and complete 3 required courses, earning at least a B in each. These foundational courses are investments in your studies and count toward your degree, helping ensure success in the program.

As an alternative, you may choose to earn the Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential as part of your admissions path.

Next Start Term: Fall 2024

Course registration is open July 22–August 29.

To get started, explore degree requirements, confirm your initial eligibility, and learn more about our unique “earn your way in” admissions process.

Earning a Stackable Certificate

As you work your way toward your master’s degree, you can take courses that also count — or “stack” — toward a graduate certificate. It’s a cost-effective, time-saving opportunity to build specialized skills and earn a professional credential along the way to your degree.

For each certificate, you can choose courses that best fit your goals.

Stackable graduate certificates include:

A Faculty of Government Experts

Studying at Harvard Extension School means learning from the world’s best. Our instructors are renowned academics in politics, government, social justice, and more. They bring a genuine passion for teaching, with students giving our faculty an average rating of 4.6 out of 5.

Our Community at a Glance

Our students in the Government Master’s Degree Program are established professionals looking to deepen their expertise and advance their careers. In fact, 52% have over 11 years of experience and work across a variety of industries.

Download: Government Master's Degree Fact Sheet

  • 39

    Average Age

  • 1

    Average Courses Taken Each Semester

  • 74%

    Work Full Time

  • 96%

    Would Recommend the Program

  • 64%

    Professional Experience in the Field

  • Most

    Pursued for Career Advancement

four professionals standing on government steps

Career Opportunities & Alumni Outcomes

Graduates of our Government Master’s Program work in the fields of government administration, information technology, law, research, higher education, banking, healthcare, and more.

Some alumni continue their educational journeys and pursue further studies in other nationally ranked degree programs, including those at Boston College, Georgetown University, Northeastern University, and Pace University.

Our alumni hold such titles as:

  • Foreign Affairs Officer
  • Government Administration Consultant
  • Defense and National Security Research Manager
  • Energy Policy Analyst
  • OFAC Sanctions Officer
  • Congressman, Chamber of Deputies of Chile
  • Humanitarian Affairs Officer
  • Chief of Congressional and Media Affairs

Our alumni work at a variety of leading organizations, including:

  • Amazon
  • American Red Cross
  • Boeing
  • US Department of Defense
  • US Department of Energy
  • United Nations
  • Wells Fargo

Career Advising and Mentorship

Whatever your career goals, we’re here to support you. Harvard’s Mignone Center for Career Success offers career advising, employment opportunities, Harvard alumni mentor connections, and career fairs.

Your Harvard University Degree

Upon successful completion of the required curriculum, you will earn the Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Government.

Expand Your Connections: the Harvard Alumni Network

As a graduate, you’ll become a member of the worldwide Harvard Alumni Association (400,000+ members) and Harvard Extension Alumni Association (29,000+ members).

Larisa Svechin
Be prepared to work hard for that certificate or degree, while at the same time not wanting it to ever end.
Larisa Svechin
Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in the field of Psychology; Graduate Certificate in Philosophy & Ethics

Tuition & Financial Aid

Affordability is core to our mission. When compared to our continuing education peers, it’s a fraction of the cost.

Our Course Tuition (2024–25 rate) $3,340 per course
Average Course Tuition of Peer Institutions $5,170 per course
Average Total Program Cost $40,080

After admission, you may qualify for financial aid. Typically, eligible students receive grant funds to cover a portion of tuition costs each term, in addition to federal financial aid options.

Learn more about the cost of attendance.

Coffee Chat: All About Liberal Arts Programs at HES

Are you interested in learning more about liberal arts graduate degree programs at Harvard Extension School? Attendees joined us for an informational webinar where they had the opportunity to connect with program directors, academic advisors, and alumni.

Watch the Webinar


What can you do with a master’s degree in government?

With a master’s degree in government, you can leverage your advanced knowledge of government systems, political theories, and public policy-making processes to pursue a variety of career paths in both the public and private sectors. You could lend your unique expertise to your local government, the courtroom, or even the classroom.

Is a master’s degree in government useful?

For those who are passionate about government and policy, this degree can be a rewarding and valuable investment. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of government institutions, public policy, and political systems, which can become essential insight for many different careers and industries.

How long does it take to complete the government graduate program?

Program length is ordinarily anywhere between 2 and 5 years. It depends on your preferred pace and the number of courses you want to take each semester.

For an accelerated journey, we offer year round study, where you can take courses in fall, January, spring, and summer.

While we don’t require you to register for a certain number of courses each semester, you cannot take longer than 5 years to complete the degree.

What skills do you need prior to applying for the government graduate program?

Harvard Extension School does not require any specific skills prior to applying, but in general, it’s helpful to have solid understanding of the U.S. government and possess reading, writing, communication, and critical thinking skills. Initial eligibility requirements can be found on our government degree requirements page.