Master of Arts in the Field of Middle East Studies

The Middle East is one of the world’s most important and challenging regions, where conflict seems chronic but peace elusive, resources are abundant but sustainable development difficult, and where the roots of major religions and global terrorism can be found. There are few issues in international affairs that do not involve the Middle East. The master of arts curriculum includes a range of courses covering the history, politics, economics, international relations, and cultures of the societies and nations of the Middle East.

In consultation with the program director, each student will develop a program of study that combines a broad overview of the region through a set of core courses, along with a more specialized field based on the student's specific academic and career interests. In addition, completion of the MA in Middle East studies requires demonstrated oral and reading proficiency in a language of the Middle East region.

The MA program in Middle East studies is supported by the Elliott School’s Institute for Middle East Studies. Its Director is Professor Marc Lynch, a prominent scholar whose blog is featured on, and its core faculty includes both established leaders in their fields such as Nathan Brown (Political Science) and Dina Khoury (History), and outstanding junior faculty spanning a wide range of academic disciplines. The Institute’s programming is enhanced by a million dollar gift from the Amir of Kuwait and by a partnership with the Middle East Policy Forum, run by former Ambassador Edward “Skip” Gnehm.

Visit the program website for additional program information.

Admission deadline: Fall: January 7th - Fellowship & Application Deadline
Spring: October 1st - Fellowship & Application Deadline
Standardized test scores: GRE/GMAT test-optional
Recommendations required: Two (2) letters are required. Applicants should submit one (1) academic letter from a professor and one (1) professional reference.
Prior academic records: Transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned, the program was completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended should be uploaded to your online application. Official transcripts are required only of applicants who are offered admission and choose to enroll.
If academic records are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. The English translations alone should be uploaded into the online application. Official transcripts and certified English translations will be required of applicants who are offered admission and choose to enroll.
Statement of purpose: All applicants are required to submit an essay of approximately 500 words that answers one of the two questions below:
State your purpose in undertaking graduate study at the Elliott School. As part of your statement of purpose, describe your academic and research interests, career objectives, how a degree from the Elliott School will enable you to achieve your goals, and what unique skills, talents and/or perspectives you will bring to your program. Please be specific.
- OR -
Please discuss an issue of international importance you wish to address in your professional career. Please include how the Elliott School and the academic program to which you have applied will prepare you to address this global issue.
Additional requirements: A resumé or curriculum vitae is required.
High intermediate coursework in an approved Middle Eastern Language is required at the time of application. Approved languages for the M.A. in Middle East Studies are: Arabic (Modern Standard Arabic), Persian, Hebrew, Kurdish, and Turkish.
Prerequisites: Academic coursework in an approved Middle Eastern language, which will prepare students to complete the program’s language requirement*, is required at the time of application. This can be demonstrated by:
Study that is equal to four semesters of university-level coursework or equivalent.
Completion of formal language training as part of employment (ex. Peace Corps, JET, etc.).
Growing up in a household where the language is spoken.
Approved languages for the M.A. in Middle East Studies are: Arabic (Modern Standard Arabic), Persian, Hebrew, Kurdish, and Turkish.
*Students need to have a strong foundation in a foreign language before enrolling to be successful in completing the language requirement during the program.
International applicants only: International Applicants may be required to submit official English Language tests scores with their application. Please see the Elliott School's English Language Requirements for guidance on whether you need to take the TOEFL/IELTS/PTE. Please send official TOEFL scores to institution code 5246.
The minimum English Language Test Requirements can be found below:
Eligible for Admission & requires EAP Courses:
IELTS- 7.0 overall score, no band score below 6.0
TOEFL- 100 (internet test) 600 (paper test)
PTE- 68
Eligible for Admission & Exempt from EAP Courses**:
IETLS- 7.0 overall score, no band score below 6.5
TOEFL- 105 (internet test) 650 (paper test)
PTE- 72
**Spring applicants must receive at least these scores to be considered for admission.
Please review International Applicant Information carefully for details on required documents, earlier deadlines for applicants requiring an I-20 or DS-2019 from GW, and English language requirements.

Supporting documents not submitted online should be mailed to:
Office of Graduate Admissions
The Elliott School of International Affairs
The George Washington University
1957 E Street, NW, Suite 301
Washington, DC 20052

Contact for questions: ~ 202-994-7050 (phone) ~ 202.994.9537 (fax)
9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday

The following requirements must be fulfilled: 40 credits, including a 3-credit cornerstone course, 9 credits in core field courses, 3 credits in skills courses, a 4-credit capstone sequence, 12 credits in one professional specialization, and 9 credits in elective courses. In addition, students must fulfill a foreign language proficiency requirement (see below).

See note regarding special topics and skills courses, the capstone sequence, and LAW courses*.

Cornerstone (3 credits)
IAFF 6361Middle East Studies Cornerstone
Core field courses (9 credits)
One course in each of the following disciplines for a total of three courses: ANTH/GEOG, HIST, and PSC.
ANTH 6707Issues in Middle East Anthropology
GEOG 6262Geographical Perspectives on the Middle East
HIST 6801Topics in Middle Eastern History (History of the Modern Middle East)
HIST 6801Topics in Middle Eastern History (Middle East in the World)
PSC 6377Comparative Politics of the Middle East
PSC 6478International Relations of the Middle East
Professional skills courses (3 credits)
Three 1-credit professional skills courses in any combination from the following:
IAFF 6502Professional Skills I
IAFF 6503Professional Skills II
IAFF 6504Intermediate Conversation
Capstone sequence (4 credits)
Students are required to complete a two-semester capstone sequence that involves collaboration on a project of mutual interest and research related to the Middle East. The capstone sequence includes a 1-credit course that must be taken in the fall of the student’s final year and a 3-credit course that must be taken in the spring of the student’s final year. Both courses in the capstone sequence must be taken consecutively.
IAFF 6377Middle East Studies Program Capstone Workshop
IAFF 6379Middle East Studies Capstone
Professional specialization (12 credits)
12 credits in one of the professional specializations listed below. At least one 3-credit course must cover content on the Middle East. Students may construct an individualized professional specialization in consultation with, and with the approval of, the Program Director.
Middle East electives (9 credits)
Three elective courses (9 credits) related to the Middle East, selected in consultation with the Program Director. Students may include up to 6 credits of content-based language study (i.e. not basic language acquisition) toward this requirement. All offerings under ANTH 6707, IAFF 6378, HIST 6801, and REL 6460 may be used for elective requirements and repeated for credit provided the topic differs.
ANTH 6707Issues in Middle East Anthropology
ECON 6295Special Topics *
IAFF 6364Religion and Society in the Modern Middle East
IAFF 6378Special Topics in Middle East Studies
GEOG 6262Geographical Perspectives on the Middle East
HIST 6801Topics in Middle Eastern History
PSC 6377Comparative Politics of the Middle East **
PSC 6478International Relations of the Middle East **
REL 6401Islamic Historiographies
REL 6402Qur'an and Hadith
REL 6441Islamic Law
REL 6460Topics in the Study of Islam
*Only specific topics that are determined by the Program Director to be relevant to the student's program of study may be used to fulfill this requirement. Any topic intended to be used for this requirement must be approved by the Program Director prior to enrollment.
**If not taken as core course.

*Specific subject matter covered in special/selected topics courses varies by semester. Consult the Schedule of Classes for each semester's offerings. Topics courses not listed here may be used to fulfill program requirements if approved by the Program Director. 

Additional information regarding skills courses and the capstone is available on the Elliott School website. 

Law School courses—Students may, with permission of their advisor, include courses in the Law School in their major field. Enrolling in a LAW course also requires permission of the Law School dean of students. Students should consult the Elliott School Office of Academic Advising and Student Services office before enrolling in LAW courses.


Thematic specializations

Regional specializations

Foreign language proficiency requirement 

Students in the Middle East studies program are required to demonstrate the currently-required level of proficiency in one of the following languages by passing a reading and speaking proficiency examination administered by the Elliott School: Modern Standard Arabic (taught at GW); Persian; Hebrew (taught at GW); Kurdish; or Turkish. The Elliott School administers foreign language proficiency examinations once in the fall and once in the spring semesters. Students may take the examination at any point during their academic program. Students have three opportunities to pass the examination. Consult the Program Director for more information