Degree Requirements

This field will no longer be accepting applicants after the spring 2018 admission cycle (March 15 to April 15, 2018). If you have started your admissions coursework, you may continue and apply during summer, fall, or spring (see Degree Program Admission for specific dates). To find courses, you can log into online services and choose Degree Program Admissions from the menu.

Check out our graduate degrees and certificates in related fields.

Required Courses

The Master of Liberal Arts, Legal Studies degree field consists of nine courses—three of which you take to gain admission—and a thesis. You study through a combination of on-campus and online courses.

Admission Courses

To begin the admission process, you complete:

  • Proseminar: SSCI 100B Research Methods and Scholarly Writing in the Social Sciences: Government and History
    • To register, you must either pass the test of critical reading and writing skills or earn a B or higher in Writing in the Social Sciences.
    • You need to earn the minimum grade of B in a maximum of two registration attempts. The proseminar cannot be more than two years old at the time of application.
  • One legal studies course
  • One legal studies course or elective

You need to have an undergraduate degree to begin taking degree-applicable courses. The admission courses must be 4-credit, graduate-level courses. You complete all admission courses 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 admission course, you may apply to the program. We have fall, spring, and summer admission cycles. 

How to Apply 

Total Required Courses

Including the admission courses, you complete the following courses to earn the degree:

  • The proseminar
  • Five legal studies courses 
  • One legal studies seminar
  • One seminar or writing-intensive elective
  • One general elective
  • A master’s thesis

Eight of the above courses need to be taught by instructors with the Harvard instructor designation. The thesis is always taught by a Harvard instructor.

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 options include: 

  • Fall- or spring-semester course that meets only on campus.*
  • Course that combines weekly online classes over a semester with an intensive weekend on campus.
  • Three- or seven-week summer course that meets only on campus.
  • Three-week January session course that meets only on campus.

* On-campus courses that have an online option do not count, even if you attend all of the class meetings on campus.

International students

To meet the on campus requirement, you should plan to 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 details, see the important visa information on the International Student Study Options page.

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To Complete Your Degree

Achieve an Average Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or Higher

Earn a B or better in each of the three admission courses and a B– or better in each of the subsequent courses, but be sure to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher. You are allowed two withdrawal (WD) grades. 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: Legal Studies. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May. You may participate in the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May. 

Degree Guidelines and Policies

For information on special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies, see Completing Your Degree