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    Jun 21, 2024  
American University Catalog 2023-2024 
American University Catalog 2023-2024

International Development (MA)

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Offered by the School of International Service , for over 35 years, the International Development program has trained students to participate effectively in driving socio-economic, political, and environmental change throughout the world. The program’s primary focus is the improvement of opportunities for the world’s poor and disenfranchised. Students have the opportunity to custom-design a particular focus or concentration to fit their interests.

Admission to the Program

Applicants must hold an earned bachelor’s degree from an institution accredited by one of the six United States regional accreditation agencies or a degree equivalent to a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree from an international institution with a similar level of accreditation or recognition by its home country. Assessment of a foreign degree will be based upon the characteristics of the national system of education, the type of institution attended, its accreditation, and the level of studies completed.

Competitive candidates may demonstrate their potential to excel in diverse ways, including a strong academic record, demonstrated success in relevant coursework and/or professional experience, the presentation of a compelling motivation and objective for graduate work, or a combination of some of these factors.

The 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. 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 work
  • Minimum 3.00 cumulative GPA maintained during all graduate work toward degree
  • Capstone Experience: Demonstration of critical thinking, research and writing skills through completion of one of the following:
    • Practicum: 3 credit hours with grade of B or better
    • Substantial Research Paper: 3 credit hours with grade of B or better
    • Thesis: 6 credit hours of thesis credit and submission of the thesis
  • 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 (9-12 credit hours)

Economic Theory

Note: Students with a strong background in economics may have ECON-603 Introduction to Economic Theory (3)  waived without substitution with permission of the division director.

Economic Development

Complete 3 credit hours from the following:

Electives (6 credit hours)

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

Research Methods (6 credit hours)

Methods II

Complete 3 credit hours from the following, or approved methods coursework appropriate to the student’s research and career interests:

Capstone (3 credit hours)

Complete one of the following:

Note: The thesis or substantial research paper must clearly relate to the field of international development.


Substantial Research Paper

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


Concentration (15 credit hours)

  • 15 credit hours from faculty-approved coursework constituting an academically-sound functional area (e.g., Community Development; Governance and Development; and Monitoring and Evaluation)

International Development (MA) and Business Administration (MBA)

For approved dual degree program, see International Development (MA) and Business Administration (MBA) .

International Development (MA) and Master of Theological Studies

For approved dual degree program, see International Development (MA) and Master of Theological Studies .

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