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Knowledge and action for a just and sustainable world

Rising seas. Carbon-intensive economies and climate migrants. Environmental racism. Water grabs and soil erosion. Species extinction and global toxification. The Global Environmental Politics MA program provides perspectives and skills for a career that engages some of the most important and complex issues of our time. We believe that a healthy environment is required for human flourishing and that the work of environmental protection requires knowledgeable, committed, and strategic agents of change. Global environmental challenges are urgent and interconnected. We prepare our students with a flexible and rigorous curriculum that couples breadth with the ability to dive deeply into self-designed concentrations. Our goal is to empower our students to translate their passions for justice, ecological well-being, and humane governance into a lifetime of meaningful work. If this sounds like you, apply to join our community of scholars and graduate students in Washington, DC, the home of powerful leverage points for environmental and social change.

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The GEP degree requires 36 credit hours of graduate coursework and a capstone that can be completed in 2 years (full-time) or up to 6 years (part-time). The curriculum is an interdisciplinary exploration of efforts to advance environmental protection and focuses on natural science, economics, and policy studies. Students will build a thorough and integrated understanding of environmental politics and policy. Through core seminar courses, electives, internships, a substantial research project, and a myriad of events, students learn about and engage with the forces that shape global and international environmental behavior.

Explore degree flexibility options

Full degree and admission requirements

GEP faculty have a wide array of research interests and routinely contribute to scholarly and policy debates through essays in popular media, academic articles, and full-length books. They are regularly invited to speak and present their work at regional, national, and international conferences. In total, nearly 20 core, adjunct, and associate faculty make the program one of the strongest of its kind anywhere in the world.

Faculty devote full attention to master's students in the program; doors are always open, and professors often find ways to involve students in their work. Small class sizes mean students develop relationships with their professors that lead to mentorship, friendship, and academic collaboration.

GEP offers a master’s degree at a top-10 international affairs school located at the heart of environmental politics and policy. Washington, DC, offers more opportunities for meaningful internships in the field than any other city in the world. Capitol Hill is a magnet for organizations interested in making and changing environmental policy.

The Global Environmental Policy (GEP) degree is housed within the Global Environmental Politics Program at the School of International Service. Students pursuing their MA in Global Environmental Policy collaborate and work closely with students pursuing the MA in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development, GEP’s sister degree.

We Know Success

% of Graduates are now Working, Grad School, or Both

Diving into the Causes of Environmental Issues

Lia Cheek, SIS/MA ‘21

My goal is to better address the environmental issues that we face today.

Environmental issues aren’t black and white—they’re not simple. The GEP courses I’m taking continue to help me understand the nuances in the issues I’m interested in, allowing me to really look at what’s underneath the surface of environmental problems and focus on those root causes. Learn more about Cheek’s time in the Peace Corps and her role at the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC).

Frequently Asked Questions

When you should apply to the program depends on what semester you want to start taking classes in and whether you are a domestic or international student.

Application deadlines for the GEP program are as follows:

  • Fall semester: January 15
  • Spring semester: October 1

View required application materials

Missed a deadline but still interested in applying? Email the SIS Graduate Admissions office.

Graduates of the GEP degree program work in a wide range of settings, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, consulting firms, the private sector, activist networks, think tanks, universities, and community groups.

Recent GEP graduates have found jobs at employers including the World Bank, the World Resources Institute, the US Department of State, the US Agency for International Development, the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, the Nature Conservancy, private consultancies and major corporations, and many other leading organizations in Washington, DC and around the world. Within six months of graduation, 88% of graduates are working or continuing graduate studies.

Looking for more information or help? SIS has a dedicated career development center to assist current students and alumni.

In common with more general degrees in international affairs, the GEP degree is deeply anchored in a global perspective. Our program is different, though, in that it is truly a degree focused on environmental protection and sustainability. Our students receive more than an introduction to environmental issues. Instead, our students become specialists. Some of our students focus on water, others on food and agriculture or climate change or security concerns, others on international environmental law. Whatever the specialization, almost all of our students know they have come “home” to work on the issue that defines their passionate concern for the future of the planet. Students are free to take additional coursework within the School of International Service and across American University and, through our consortium arrangement, at other universities in the DC area.

The School of International Service offers merit-based aid in the form of scholarships and fellowships at the time of admission. SIS also has partnerships with a number of organizations like the Peace Corps and Pickering Fellowship that provide qualified individuals with funding.

Financial aid information for prospective students

Global Environmental Policy students may choose to research other relevant fellowship opportunities.

Need-based aid is available through AU Central Office and generally takes the form of a federal low-interest loan package.

Federal loan and work study information for graduate students

Still have questions? Send us an email with program-specific questions at

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