General requirements

To earn the Master of Liberal Arts degree, you must:

  • Complete 10 courses, including a thesis (40 credits).
    • The area proseminar.
    • Six in the field of concentration, at least one of which is a graduate seminar.
    • Two electives outside the field of concentration; one must be a graduate seminar or writing-intensive course.
    • The master’s thesis.
    • Course requirements differ for some fields. See the field-specific requirements below for biology, clinical psychology, government, international relations, literature and creative writing, psychology, and history of science, technology, and medicine.
  • Earn a grade of B– or higher in each course (B or higher in the three required for admission) and maintain an overall average of B (3.0) in all ALM courses, which can only be earned at Harvard Extension School, Harvard Summer School, or as a Special Student in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

  • Complete eight of the 10 courses with Harvard instructors. In fields in which fewer Harvard instructors may be offering courses, you should choose electives that are taught by Harvard instructors. Not all course offerings meet the Harvard-instructor requirement. Courses marked with the HI attribute in the degree course search meet this requirement.

  • Complete the degree in five years. The clock starts ticking at the end of the third class.

  • Spend at least two semesters in residence during which you complete the proseminar, field seminar, and at least one other on-campus-only course at Harvard Extension School or Summer School.

  • No more than six online or online-option courses may be counted toward the degree. Summer School study abroad programs do not count toward the residency requirement, although you may count a maximum of 8 credits from a study abroad program toward other ALM degree requirements. Online-option courses do not count toward residency, even if you attend classes on campus.

Field-specific requirements

Statistics waiver exam

ALM concentrations in government, international relations, biology, clinical psychology, and psychology have a statistics requirement. Please refer to the field-specific information that follows.

In all cases, students who have taken a graduate-level statistics course elsewhere, before beginning any ALM coursework, may apply to take the statistics waiver exam. A transcript, sent from the university registrar to the ALM office, must show a grade of B or higher in a statistics course that is equivalent to the field-specific course required by the ALM program.

Statistics courses taken elsewhere after beginning their ALM coursework are not eligible for ALM credit. Students who pass the exam must take another ALM-eligible field or elective course in lieu of the waived statistics course.

Government concentrators

  • Effective with applications completed after September 1, 2012, government concentrators must pass a statistics course (with a B or higher), which may be either GOVT E-1005, GOVT E-2000, or GOVT E-2001, which will count as a field course; or STAT E-100, STAT S-100, or STAT E-150, which will count as an elective. The statistics requirement must be completed at Harvard Extension School or Summer School with a grade of B or higher before submission of the thesis proposal.

Please note: You may count only one of the following courses: GOVT E-1005, GOVT E-2000, or GOVT E-2001. You may take one of the STAT courses that counts as an elective and one of the GOVT courses that counts as a field course. GOVT E-2001 and STAT E-150 are recommended for students already possessing some background in statistics.

International relations

  • Effective with applications completed after September 1, 2012, concentrators in international relations must pass a statistics course (with a B or higher), which may be either STAT E-100 (an elective), STAT S-100 (an elective), STAT E-150 (an elective), GOVT E-1005 (a field course or elective), GOVT E-2000 (a field course or elective), or GOVT E-2001 (a field course or elective). The statistics requirement must be completed at Harvard Extension School or Summer School with a grade of B or higher before submission of the thesis proposal.

Please note: You may only take one of the following courses: GOVT E-1005, GOVT E-2000, or GOVT E-2001. You may take one of the STAT courses that counts as an elective and one of the GOVT courses that counts as a field course. GOVT E-2001 and STAT E-150 are recommended if you already possess some background in statistics.

History of science, technology, and medicine concentration

The requirements for the history of science, technology, and medicine concentration are as follows:

  • One proseminar
  • Two history of science courses *
  • Two history courses *
  • Two science courses in student’s chosen research field **
  • Two courses drawn from the approved list of electives **
  • A thesis

* Of these four courses, one must be a seminar. One may be SSCI E-107/W (offered intermittently).

** Of these four courses, one must be a seminar or a writing-intensive course.

Biology

In the field of biology, one graduate course in statistics must be completed at Harvard Extension School or Summer School with a grade of B or higher before submission of the thesis proposal. STAT E-100, STAT E-102, or STAT E-150 fulfills this requirement. This course may count as either a field course or an elective.

Literature and creative writing

For the field of literature and creative writing, you must complete:

  • The proseminar
  • CREA E-100r
  • Four additional courses in creative writing
  • Three courses in English or any foreign literature, one of which must be a seminar
  • One thesis

Admission to this field is not guaranteed. Applicants to this concentration must submit original manuscripts in both fiction and criticism for evaluation.

Clinical psychology

For the field of clinical psychology, you must complete:

  • The proseminar
  • STAT E-150 (with a grade of B or higher before admission to the program. The course counts only as an elective)
  • Six field courses, one of which must be a graduate seminar:
    • One abnormal psychology course
    • One PSYC E-380 (the field placement course)
    • Two clinical psychology courses
    • Two human psychology courses (which can be clinical psychology courses if you wish)
  • One elective course in one of the following: neurobiology, medical anthropology, psychological approaches to literature, or an upper-level course in statistics or psychology research methods (not SSCI E-100a)
  • One thesis

Field placement in clinical psychology. PSYC E-380, which counts as one of the four clinical courses, is a limited-enrollment course required of all clinical psychology concentrators and an optional field course for psychology concentrators. You must have completed at least six courses toward the ALM degree to enroll.

You devote 150 hours to work in a laboratory or human services setting of your choosing. Because the fieldwork takes place in a research, clinical, or agency setting, most placements require some of the hours to occur during normal business hours. Expect to spend more concentrated time during the January semester break, both in the classroom and orienting to the field, followed by weekly work in the field and biweekly seminar meetings.

If you are interested in this course, you must begin discussing specific placement options no later than October 1 and must apply for permission to enroll by November 1. Note: it is expected that you will be actively involved in identifying and arranging the actual placement. 

Admission

Before you can be admitted to the ALM program, you must pass three courses with a B or better in each class. One of those courses must be the proseminar. See Admission for specific requirements.

Find courses that satisfy requirements

Use the degree course search to find courses.

About the requirements

You are responsible for knowing and following the policies and requirements of the ALM program. This is a self-directed program for adult learners, and lack of familiarity with the program rules is not a criterion for academic appeal.

The ALM program reserves the right to make changes at any time to its requirements. If you have already been admitted to the program, you are not subject to curricular changes subsequent to your admission.

Downloadable requirements summary worksheets

Biological sciences (Area A)

Social sciences (Area B)

Humanities (Area C)