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MA in Global Environmental Policy

In the Global Environmental Policy MA program students explore the causes of
environmental degradation and the social, cultural, economic and political
mechanisms that advance environmental protection. This interdisciplinary program
builds a foundation in global environmental policy by integrating the study of
environmental politics with natural science and economics.

During this two-year program, students master theoretical and conceptual frameworks for analyzing environmental problems, gain experience in the practice of policy formation and implementation, and develop research, writing and professional communication skills to enable them to participate in the global environmental policy process.

Recent graduates have undertaken career tracks in government agencies, non-governmental organizations, multilateral lending institutions, environmental activist groups, consulting firms, and for-profit entities.

The Global Environmental Policy program is comprised of courses in global policy studies, environmental science, economics, international environmental politics, and environmental law. The policy component includes both classroom and experiential learning opportunities that build a strong foundation in the legal and political dimensions of policy formation and implementation. The natural science component consists of a two-semester sequence of environmental science courses in which students study the biophysical dimensions of environmental challenges. The economics component aims to provide a general overview of economic theory plus a specific awareness of the relationships among economics, natural resources, and the environment. Elective courses drawn from a rich selection of offerings permit students to deepen their expertise in particular areas of global environmental policy.

Depth of knowledge is ensured through the relatively small size of the Global Environmental Policy program and the fact that most classes are seminars, providing frequent opportunity for student-faculty interchange. As students proceed through the Program, they work closely with individual faculty members to develop their own substantive area of interest.

Offered by the School of International Service, the Global Environmental Policy program provides an in-depth understanding of both the biophysical dimensions of environmental issues and the socioeconomic and political processes that shape the relationship between human beings and the natural world. Graduates are equipped to engage in the policymaking process and develop policy-formulation skills for an increasingly complex, threatened, and interdependent world.

Admission to the Program

Applicants must hold an accredited bachelor's degree with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.30 (on a 4.00 scale). Students who do not meet these minimum requirements, if otherwise admissible, may be assigned additional coursework in excess of degree requirements specified at the time of admission. Students should normally have several years of professional or practical experience.

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.

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 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 credit hours of approved graduate coursework with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.00, including 18 credit hours in the core, 9 credit hours in a concentration, 6 credit hours in research methods, 3 elective credit hours, and a 3 credit hour capstone experience.
  • Capstone experience: demonstration of critical thinking, research and writing skills through completion of a master's thesis, substantial research paper requirement, or practicum. All courses taken to fulfill this requirement must be passed with a grade of B or better.
    • Thesis: 6 credit hours of thesis credit and submission of the thesis
    • Substantial research paper requirement: 3 credit hours
    • Practicum: 3 credit hours
  • 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 (18 credit hours)

Theory (6 credit hours)

Environment and Politics
One of the following:

Economics (6 credit hours)

Science (6 credit hours)

Two courses from the following:

Concentration (9 credit hours)

  • 9 credit hours in a focused area selected in consultation with advisor

Elective (3 credit hours)

  • 3 credit hours selected from skills workshops, internship for credit, master's thesis requirement, or other elective courses

Research Methodology (6 credit hours)

6 credit hours from the following:

Capstone Experience (3 credit hours)

Combined Bachelor's Degree and MA in Global Environmental Policy

American University offers students the opportunity to earn both undergraduate and graduate degrees through its combined bachelor's/master's programs. See Combined Bachelor's and Master's Degrees for more information.

This program enables highly qualified students to earn a BA or BS in any discipline and an MA in Global Environmental Policy.


  • Undergraduates should apply for admission to the combined program by the end of the junior year. At a minimum, students must have an overall grade point average of 3.00 in a suitable undergraduate major. Applications must be accompanied by two letters of recommendation and a statement of purpose. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are not required for admission to the combined program. Students should discuss their interest in the program with the GEP program director before submitting an application.
  • All requirements for a bachelor's degree in the student's major at American University
  • All requirements for the MA in Global Environmental Policy, including a minimum of 18 credit hours completed in residence in graduate status after the undergraduate degree has been awarded. Students must finish the master's degree requirements within three years from the date of first enrollment in the master's program.