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Curriculum | MA

Students typically enroll in four classes, plus a non-credit language course each fall and spring semester to satisfy the program’s 64 credit requirement. This includes completing core, quantitative reasoning, non-native language proficiency requirements and a capstone project.


MA students pursue two concentrations — the first in international economics and the second in one of the school's international policy areas or regions of the world.

International Economics Concentration

Every student in the MA program is required to complete a concentration in International Economics. We believe a firm understanding in the principles and analytical tools of economics is essential to understanding international relations. We also hear frequently, from employers and alumni alike, that the economics concentration gives our graduates an edge in the job market. 

For students who are new to economics, we'll provide you with multiple forms of support including weekly group tutorials, generous office hours, pre-exam review sessions, and our Online Principles of Economics course.

For students whose primary interest is economics, we offer advanced study, research opportunities, and field experiences across a range of specialized areas. These specializations include microeconomics, macroeconomics, international trade theory, and international monetary theory.

All students must successfully complete four economics courses. At a minimum, these four course include:

  • Microeconomics (intermediate)
  • Macroeconomics (intermediate)
  • International Trade Theory
  • International Monetary Theory

International Economics Program

Second Concentration

Each of the following concentrations has its own requirements. Your overall course of study and the way in which you fulfill your core requirements will be largely determined by the concentration you select. 


MA students must complete a capstone within their second concentration. Capstone requirements vary by program and may include:

  • Oral exams
  • Written exams
  • Specialized courses that requires intensive writing and research or a practicum project
  • Research projects

MA Oral Exam to Compete for Honors

The MA Oral Exam tests students' knowledge of international economics and their chosen functional or regional concentration. Only the top 30 percent of the student body are eligible to compete for honors.

MA Oral Exam to Compete for Honors

Core Requirements 

Students in the MA program must complete two of the following core course requirements by either taking a for-credit course, or by passing a non-credit core exam:

  • American Foreign Policy Since World War II
  • Comparative Politics 
  • Evolution of the International System
  • Theories of International Relations
Regional/Policy Concentration Core Requirements
African Studies Comparative Politics + any other
American Foreign Policy American Foreign Policy Since World War II + any other
Canadian Studies Any 2
China Studies Comparative Politics + any other
Conflict Management Theories of IR + any other
Energy, Resources and Environment Any 2
European and Eurasian Studies requires 3 comprehensive exams in lieu of 2 Core requirements
General IR Theories of IR + any other
Global Theory and History Theories of IR + any other
International Development Any 2 (Comparative Politics encouraged)
International Law and Organizations Theories of IR + any other
International Political Economy Theories of IR + any other
Japan Studies Comparative Politics + any other
Korea Studies Comparative Politics + any other
Latin American Studies Any 2
Middle East Studies Any 2
South Asia Comparative Politics + any other
Southeast Asia Comparative Politics + any other
Strategic Studies Any 2

Quantitative Reasoning 

MA students must complete one quantitative reasoning course. Course options include:

  • Applied Econometrics
  • Credit Markets and Credit Risk
  • Econometrics
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Macro Econometrics
  • Quantitative Global Economics
  • Risk Analysis and Modeling
  • Statistical Methods for Business & Economics

Non-Native Language Proficiency 

MA students must demonstrate non-native language proficiency in one of the languages taught at the school (some concentrations may specify which language must be used for proficiency). Students satisfy this requirement by passing a proficiency exam.

We offer robust, non-credit language courses through our Language Studies program to prepare you for proficiency. These courses, taught by professionals, focus particularly on conversation skills related to international affairs.

The Language Studies program offers courses in:

  • Arabic*
  • Burmese
  • Chinese**
  • English
  • French*
  • German*
  • Hindi-Urdu
  • Indonesian
  • Italian*
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Persian (Farsi)
  • Portuguese*
  • Russian*
  • Spanish*
  • Thai
  • Vietnamese
*Offered in Washington DC and at SAIS Europe
**Pilot program at SAIS Europe with the Confucius Institute at the University of Bologna.

Language Studies Program


The majority of incoming MA candidates attend Pre-Term. Pre-Term is highly recommended if you want to get a jump-start on your studies of economics and quantitative reasoning. Many students prefer to take economics and quantitative reasoning courses during Pre-Term in order to free up time for more general electives in their concentrations. 

Pre-Term offers the possibility of completing a foundation economics course (microeconomics) or quantitative reasoning course (statistics) as a way of allowing more room for general electives that satisfy the 16 non-language courses needed for graduation.

Learn About Pre-Term

Specializations and Minors

Beyond the requirements, students in the MA program have room in their degree for electives, which can be used for a specialization and minor.

Specializations and Minors

Dual-Degree and Exchange Programs

To enhance their graduate education and professional opportunities, some students pursue dual-degree or exchange programs in business, law, public administration, public health, public policy, and international diplomacy.

Dual Degree and Exchange Programs