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International Relations Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, International Relations degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits), three of which are required on campus. You choose a thesis or capstone track.

  1. Review the details below to learn more about the curriculum and course selection.
  2. Determine your admission eligibility.
  3. Complete the 3 courses for admission. Once you’ve been accepted, you’ll continue the remaining coursework—customizing your path to support your goals.

Required Courses

12 Graduate Courses

The degree is highly customizable. Within the program curriculum, you choose the international relation courses and electives that meet your learning goals.

  • The proseminar
  • 5 international relations courses
  • 1 international relations seminar
  • 1 elective
    • EXPO 42b is an elective option
  • 1 research methods and data analysis course

Additional thesis track courses:

  • Thesis proposal tutorial
  • Master’s Thesis (8 credits)

Additional capstone track courses:

  • An additional general elective
  • Precapstone:
    • Foundations of Policy Writing and Analysis
    • Foundations of National Security Writing and Analysis
    • Deliberative Justice: The Theory and Practice of Good Citizenship
  • Capstone:
    • Policy Analysis
    • National Security Policy Analysis
    • Deliberative Justice

Eight of the above courses (32 credits) need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard-instructor designation. The thesis course is taught by a Harvard instructor. 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.

Admission

Eligibility

Before you enroll in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree. You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in International Relations or a related field. If you are unsure, and because the Admissions Office makes all final determinations about program eligibility, we strongly encourage you to inquire with us in advance of enrolling in any courses at Harvard Extension School.

Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated, and the Admissions Office makes final determinations about eligibility. Refer to Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.

Earning Your Way In

To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application required—for the following three, four-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online):

  • SSCI 100B Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Studies and Scholarly Writing in the Social Sciences–Government and History
    • Before registering, you’ll need to pass our online test of critical reading and writing skills, or earn a B or higher in EXPO 42b Writing in the Social Sciences.
    • You have two attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in the proseminar (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt). The proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
  • One international relations course
  • One international relations course or elective (e.g., EXPO 42b)

While the three courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, we highly recommend that you start with the proseminar. All three courses must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your third degree course, submit the official application to the program. 

Don’t delay! To achieve academic success and meet your expected graduation date, it is critical to prioritize the three degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll avoid the delayed application fee and gain access to exclusive degree candidate privileges.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 9 more courses after admission to earn the degree.

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

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 provides 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.

To Complete Your Degree

Maintain a Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or Higher

Earn a B or higher in each of the three degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each subsequent course. Be sure to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher. You are allowed to receive two withdrawal (WD) grades with them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Finish Your Coursework in Under 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 three degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program. Moreover, courses over 5 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: International Relations. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Guidelines and Policies

Learn more about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies.