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    Feb 26, 2024  
American University Catalog 2020-2021 
American University Catalog 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

International Affairs (MA): United States Foreign Policy and National Security

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Offered by School of International Service . The US Foreign Policy and National Security program presents a rigorous course of study that provides students with the knowledge and skills to pursue a career in government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, or academia. The program combines core competencies in foreign policy with programmatic flexibility, including student-selected concentrations.

Admission to the Program

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor’s degree with a cumulative grade point average of at least a B+ (3.30 or higher on a 4.00 scale) and should have had at least 24 credit hours of social science coursework relevant to international studies. Students who do not meet these minimum requirements, if otherwise admissible, may be assigned additional coursework in excess of degree requirements specified at the time of admission.

The priority application deadline for fall admission is January 15; for spring admission October 1 (September 15 for international students). Admitted students may defer matriculation for no longer than two semesters provided that a written request for deferment is submitted to and approved by the SIS Graduate Admissions Office.

A Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is optional. Applicants who have completed the exam are welcome to submit their scores as part of their application. Non-native English speakers are required to submit results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) unless they hold a degree from a U.S.-accredited institution before enrollment at SIS. The minimum TOEFL score for full admissions consideration is 100 on the Internet-based test (iBT) or 600 on the paper-based test (PBT). The minimum IELTS score is 7.0. LSAT scores will be accepted in place of the GRE for JD/MA applicants. Fall applicants should plan to take the appropriate test no later than December to ensure full consideration of the application by the January deadline.

All applicants must submit two letters of reference evaluating undergraduate academic performance and suitability for graduate study in international affairs, at least one of which should be from an academic source. A resume should be included in the application. Applicants must submit transcripts from all institutions attended. Cultural factors are considered in evaluating transcripts and examination results.

Requests for the transfer of a maximum of 6 graduate credit hours from other accredited institutions to be applied to a master’s degree must be completed in the student’s first semester in the graduate program at American University. A minimum grade of B in each course is required for transfer. Transfer courses must have been completed within five years of admission and must fulfill stated requirements of the degree program.

Degree Requirements

  • 39-42 credit hours of approved graduate coursework with a minimum 3.00 cumulative GPA, including 18-21 credit hours in a major field including one theory course and one graduate-level economics or international economic policy course appropriate to the field, 9 credit hours in a related field selected from offerings in SIS or other teaching units of the university, 6 credit hours in research methods, 3 elective credit hours, and a 3 credit hour capstone experience
  • Capstone Experience: demonstration of critical thinking, research and writing skills through completion of a master’s thesis, substantial research paper requirement, or practicum. All courses taken to fulfill this requirement must be passed with grade of B or better
    • Thesis: 6 credit hours of thesis credit and submission of the thesis
    • Substantial research paper requirement: 3 credit hours
    • Practicum: 3 credit hours
  • Evidence of professional experience in the field: Relevant internship or work experience must be certified
  • Proficiency in a modern foreign language: Research competence in English and another language relevant to the student’s career objectives must be certified

Course Requirements

Core (18-21 credit hours)


Note: Students with a strong background in economics may have ECON-603  waived without substitution with permission of advisor.


Complete 3 credit hours from the following, or approved course in economic policy:

Diplomatic History

Complete 3 credit hours from the following, or approved course in diplomatic history:

U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security

Complete 6 credit hours from the following, or approved courses on US foreign policy toward a region, or other courses approved by program director:

Social Science Research Methodology (6 credit hours)

Methods I

Complete 3 credit hours from the following:

Methods II

  • 3 credit hours in methodology or professional skills coursework appropriate to the student’s research and career interests

Concentration (9 credit hours)

  • 9 credit hours of approved coursework constituting an academically-sound functional area (e.g., diplomacy, energy/environment, national security, etc.) or regional field of study

Capstone (3 credit hours)

Complete one of the following:

Note: The thesis or substantial research paper must clearly relate to the field of US foreign policy.


Substantial Research Paper

Complete 3 credit hours from one of the following, with grade of B or better:


Elective (3 credit hours)

  • 3 credit hours selected from skills workshops, internship for credit, master’s thesis requirement, or other elective courses

International Affairs (MA): United States Foreign Policy and National Security and Business Administration (MBA)

For approved dual degree program, see International Affairs (MA): United States Foreign Policy and National Security and Business Administration (MBA) .

International Affairs (MA) and Juris Doctor (JD)

For approved dual degree program, see International Affairs (MA) and Juris Doctor (JD) .

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