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 US 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.
Customizable online curriculum with stackable certificate options
Expert instructors, including faculty from Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Personalized academic and career advising
A faculty-supported thesis or applied research project
Paid research opportunities supporting faculty
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
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.
We invite you to 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.
Here are a few examples of stackable certificates and courses.
Build an integrative understanding of international relations, sovereign nation standings, and governmental matrices.
Sample stackable courses:
- International Conflict and Cooperation
- US-Mexico Politics
- Power and Politics in Greater China
- Globalization and the Nation-State
Gain insight into the complex issues that shape the global security landscape.
Sample stackable courses:
- Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy
- The Future of War: Conflict and Order in the Twenty-First Century
- Women, Peace, and Security
- Debates in International Politics
Explore theoretical and practical questions of economic, political, and civil rights through several social lenses.
Sample stackable courses:
- Food Systems and Social Justice
- Anthropology and Human Rights
- The Opioid Epidemic
- Psychology of Diversity
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.
Average Courses Taken Each Semester
Work Full Time
Would Recommend the Program
Professional Experience in the Field
Pursued for Career Advancement
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:
- American Red Cross
- 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
Be prepared to work hard for that certificate or degree, while at the same time not wanting it to ever end.
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 (2023–24 rate)||$3,220 per course|
|Average Course Tuition of Peer Institutions||$5,170 per course|
|Average Total Program Cost||$38,640|
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.
Webinar: Program Information Session
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.