Expand AU Menu
  • RSS
  • Print

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.


Applicants are encouraged to have at least two years work experience in, or relevant to, international development in third world countries, or with disadvantaged communities in the U.S. or other developed countries.

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 course work 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 those 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 US-accredited institution (before enrollment at SIS). The minimum TOEFL score for full admissions consideration is 100 on the Internet-based test (IBT), 250 on the computer-based test, or 600 on the paper-based test. (250 on the computer version). 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 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. 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 are considered after successful completion of 9 graduate credit hours at American University. A minimum grade of B in each course is required for transfer. Transfer courses must have been completed within seven 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 quantitative and informational technology methodologies, 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.
  • 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 work or internship 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)

  • ECON-603 Introduction to Economic Theory (3) or FIN-605 Managerial Economics and Corporate Strategy (3)
  • An additional graduate-level economics course relevant to the student's concentration, as approved by advisor
  • SIS-635 Advanced Topics in Development Management: Leading Social Innovation (3)
  • SIS-635 Advanced Topics in Development Management: Social Enterprise: Context and Best Practices (3

Concentration (15 credit hours)

Each student will select a single substantive international social enterprise-related issue to explore in depth. It will be an area in which they want to apply their social enterprise expertise, and should be related to their capstone project. Issues include but are not limited to: community development, education, environment, health, human rights, international development, justice, microfinance, nonprofit management, and peace building. A list of approved courses in each of these tracks will be provided to students. These will include sequences of courses from Kogod and other schools within AU. They will also be encouraged to create their own specialization with the approval of the faculty advisor.

Elective (3 credit hours)

  • May be used for skills institutes, internship for credit, or any other elective course.

Methods (6 credit hours)

  • SIS-638 Selected Topics in International Development Skills: Professional Competences I (1) Professional Competences II (1) Professional Competences III (1)
  • A second methods course from an approved list for social enterprise students

Capstone: Applying Organizing and Managing Methods to a Social Enterprise (3 credit hours)

  • Practicum requirement (3)