Skip to content

Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential Pathway to the Government Degree

This degree pathway is designed solely for students who’ve completed the Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential (PLC).

You take specialized courses in American and international government theory and practice that strategically complement the in-depth training that the PLC offers. The program ensures you have the breadth and depth of knowledge to become a changemaker in your community.

What You’ll Learn

Through the master’s degree in the field of government you:

  • Build an understanding of government’s role in relation to economics, education, ethics, history, law, philosophy, and sociology.
  • Gain crucial theoretical and practical insights into governance and other challenges of governmental and nongovernmental administration.
  • Explore political practice and theory, and analyze political behavior, cultures, and systems.

Your Harvard University Degree
Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Government.

Required Courses

In this pathway, Harvard Extension School will credit 3 courses (12 credits) toward the government program for earning the Harvard Kennedy School PLC, leaving you with 9 courses (36 credits) left to complete.

The degree is customizable. Within the program curriculum, you choose the government courses and capstone topic that meets your learning goals.

9 Graduate Courses (36 Credits)

Courses are online with 1 required course on campus here at Harvard University. Weekend options are available for the on-campus course.

With online courses offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats, you can participate in some courses on demand and others live that offer real-time engagement with faculty and peers.

  • SSCI 100B Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Government, History and International Relations
  • 4 government courses
  • 1 Engaging in Scholarly Conversation (on campus)
  • 1 government seminar
  • Precapstone and Capstone (choice of topics below):
    • Equity and the struggle for justice
    • Policy writing and analysis
    • National security writing and analysis (this capstone requires a weekend on campus)
    • Social reform movements in America
    • Deliberative justice
    • Historical biography (you choose a political figure)

Five of the above courses need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard-instructor designation.

Capstone topics are subject to change annually. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in the same topic, in back-to-back semesters (fall/spring), and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement.

The Harvard On-Campus Experience

Nearly all courses can be taken online, but the degree requires an in-person experience here at Harvard University where you enroll in Engaging in Scholarly Conversation (ESC).

Join your fellow degree candidates for this interactive course that highlights the importance of true graduate-level analysis by training you in the skills of critically engaging the scholarly literature in your field of study.

  • Accelerated on-campus option: ESC is offered in two, 2-credit Active Learning Weekends. We strongly advise you complete the two weekends in the same academic year with same instructor (part one in fall and part two in spring).
  • Standard on-campus option: ESC is offered in one 3-week Harvard Summer School session. This option is ideal for those who want a more traditional on-campus experience. HSS offers housing, meal plans, and a prolonged on-campus experience here at Harvard University.

ESC must be completed after admission and prior to either the Crafting the Thesis Proposal tutorial or the precapstone to support your final research project.

You have two attempts to earn the required grade of B- or higher. A withdrawal grade (WD) counts as an attempt.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you choose the Standard on-campus option and study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa for Harvard Summer School’s three-week session. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.

Admissions and Getting Started

To get started, you take the following course. Earn at least a B to qualify for admission.

  • SSCI 100B Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Government, History and International Relations


Before beginning this pathway, which starts with earning the Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential, confirm with the Harvard Extension School Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions that you possess a four-year, regionally accredited U.S. bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent, which is a standard admission requirement for all our graduate applicants.

You will be required to submit an official transcript from all schools and universities from which you earned a degree at the time of application for admission to this program at Harvard Extension School.

Earn Your Way In

After you’ve earned the Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential, you begin the admission process by simply registering—no application needed—for the following graduate-level course:

  • SSCI 100B Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies in Government, History and International Relations

Prerequisites: Before registering for the proseminar course, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills. Alternatively, you can complete EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences with a grade of B or higher at the undergraduate or graduate level. This course will not count toward the degree.

You have two registration attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar, which cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.

Grade requirements: You must complete the proseminar course with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Submitting Your Application

During the semester that you are completing proseminar, submit the official application to the program.

Don’t delay! It is critical to prioritize the degree course required for admission and apply to the program before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • avoid the loss of credit due to expired course work or changes to admission and degree requirements.
  • ensure critical and timely enrollment in degree-candidate-only courses.
  • pay the standard versus delayed application fee.
  • gain access to exclusive benefits (see bottom of page).

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 8 more courses after admission to earn the degree.

For more details about eligibility and the application process, visit Admissions.

Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential (PLC) Pathway

The Harvard Kennedy School Public Leadership Credential must be earned before enrolling in any degree-applicable courses at Harvard Extension School. Further, the credential cannot be more than three years old at the time of application. Credit is only granted for the entire PLC; Harvard credit will not be awarded for individual courses.

For more details about Harvard Extension School degree program eligibility and the application process, visit Degree Program Admissions. If you have questions about the PLC, contact Harvard Kennedy School directly.


Affordability is core to our mission. You’ll find our tuition comparable to tuition at public universities. And when compared to our continuing education peers, it’s a fraction of the cost.

Our Tuition (2024–25 rate)$3,340 per course
Average Tuition of Peer Institutions$5,476 per course

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.

To Complete Your Degree

Required GPA, Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Courses

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in the proseminar and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.

Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive one withdrawal (WD) grade without it affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.

Finish Your Coursework in Five Years

You have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any one degree-applicable course at Harvard, whether or not you have been admitted to the program.

Harvard courses over five years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the five-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work. Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the five-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied.

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, Field: Government. Degrees are awarded in November, February, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.