The Master of Liberal Arts, International Relations degree field consists of 12 courses, three of which are required for admission. You choose a thesis or capstone track.
12 Graduate Courses
The degree is highly customizable. Within the program curriculum, you choose the international relation courses and electives that meet your personal learning goals.
- The proseminar
- 5 international relations courses
- 1 international relations seminar
- 1 elective
- EXPO 42b is an elective option
- 1 statistics course
Additional thesis track courses:
- Crafting the thesis proposal
- Master’s thesis part one
- Master's thesis part two
Additional capstone track courses:
- An additional general elective
- Precapstone: Foundations of policy writing and analysis or Foundations of national security writing and analysis
- Capstone: Policy analysis or National security policy analysis capstone
Eight of the above courses need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard instructor designation. The thesis courses are always taught by a Harvard instructor.
Admissions: Earn Your Way In
To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application required—for the following three degree courses:
- SSCI 100B Proseminar: Research Methods 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, which 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)
You complete the three degree courses with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0. The courses need to be taken at the graduate level and be four credits each. Before you enroll in any degree-applicable courses, you need to possess an undergraduate degree.
Applying to the Degree Program
During the semester of your third degree course, submit an official application to the program. We have fall, spring, and summer admission cycles.
If you submit a complete application—which includes required Harvard courses, grades, and cumulative GPA—you will be admitted, after which you'll have only nine more courses to take to earn the degree.
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 of your courses, which gives you 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 (online option courses do not fulfill this requirement).
- Courses that combine weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
- Three- or seven-week summer courses that meet only on campus.
- Three-week January session 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. 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 of the subsequent courses except for statistics, which must be completed with a grade of B or higher. 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 10 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.
Graduate with Your Harvard Degree
When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your degree: Master of Liberal Arts in extension studies, Field: International Relations. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May. You participate in the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.
Degree Guidelines and Policies
For information about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree.