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MA in Social Enterprise

This program is the first of its kind offered by an Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs member, and is among the very few graduate degrees available worldwide that directly focuses on social entrepreneurship.

This program is designed to assist you in acquiring the knowledge, skills, and mindset necessary to launch a new social entrepreneurial venture or play a key leadership role in an existing one. These ventures may be new stand-alone enterprises or may be contained within existing organizations.

It is oriented at developing practitioners. Its focus is more on the doing of social enterprise than its study as a subject of inquiry.

This program’s curriculum blends learning about both hard and soft management practices with an examination of the dynamics of social innovation. Based in the School of International Service, it gives special attention to enterprises dealing with issues that are global in scope.

Offered by the School of International Service, the MA in Social Enterprise builds on and expands teaching and researching social entrepreneurship. The program supports students who want to create and work in social ventures that drive societal change by providing innovative, economically sustainable solutions to public problems. This program's curriculum blends learning about both hard and soft management practices with an examination of the dynamics of social innovation.

Admission to the Program

Applicants are encouraged to have at least two years work experience in or relevant to international development in less developed countries or with disadvantaged communities in the United States or other developed countries. Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.30 or higher on a 4.00 scale and should have at least 24 credit hours of social science coursework relevant to international studies.

The application deadline for fall admission is January 15. 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.

All applicants whose native language is English or whose degrees are from an accredited institution where the language of instruction is English are required to submit results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). 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. Applicants should plan to take the appropriate test no later than December to ensure full admissions 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 a current or former employer. 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. Work experience must be clearly explained in the applicant's letter of application.

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.

Degree Requirements

  • 39-42 credit hours of approved graduate credit work with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0, including a minimum of 12-15 hours in the core, 15 credit hours in a concentration selected from offerings in SIS or other teaching units of the university, 6 credit hours in methods, 3 elective credit hours, and 3 credit hours of supervised practicum and capstone project.
  • Comprehensive examination based on a paper and presentation relating the student's practicum and capstone project experience to previous coursework and the relevant scholarly literature.
  • Capstone experience: demonstration of ability to conceptualize and create a new social enterprise, or make analytic-based recommendations for significant improvement in an existing organization through completion of a 3 credit hour practicum and capstone project supervised by program faculty advisors.
  • 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 (12-15 credit hours)

Concentration (15 credit hours)

  • 15 credit hours from approved courses in a substantive international social enterprise-related issue, including courses from the Kogod School of Business and other schools within American University. Students explore in depth an area in which to apply their social enterprise expertise, and should be related to the capstone project. Concentration issues include community development, education, environment, health, human rights, international development, justice, microfinance, nonprofit management, and peace building. Students may create their own concentration with the approval of the faculty advisor.

Elective (3 credit hours)

  • 3 credit hours selected from skills workshops, internship for credit, or other elective courses

Methods (6 credit hours)

  • SIS-638 Selected Topics in International Development Skills (1) :
  • Professional Competences I (1 credit hour required)

    Professional Competences II (1 credit hour required)

    Professional Competences III (1 credit hour required)

  • Second methods course from an approved list for Social Enterprise students

Capstone Experience (3 credit hours)

  • Practicum requirement