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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 three courses (12 credits) toward the government program for earning the Harvard Kennedy School PLC. To earn the master’s degree, you complete the following nine courses.

9 Graduate Courses (36 Credits)

The degree is customizable. Within the program curriculum, you choose the government courses that meet your learning goals. Courses can be completed online or on campus. At least three courses must be completed on campus.

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

Many courses can be taken online, but the degree requires a Harvard campus experience. You come to Cambridge for at least three courses (12 credits), which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

On-campus course requirements can typically be completed through:

  • 15-week fall or spring semester courses that meet only on campus. Courses with the format “on campus or online” do not fulfill this requirement.
  • Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • Three-week January session courses that meet only on campus.
  • Three- or seven-week summer courses that meet only on campus.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School’s three- or seven-week sessions. For more information, see the important visa information on the International Student Study Options page.

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 US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent, which is a standard admission requirement for all our graduate applicants. Additionally, you cannot already possess or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in government or a related field. 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. We have fall, spring, and summer admission cycles.

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, the application process, and the delayed application fee, 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 (2022–23 rate)$3,100 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.

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, March, 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.