MA Curriculum Requirements

The Master of Arts in Global Thought requires 30 credits, which must be completed in two full-time semesters (two residence units). Included within the 30 credits are five core courses: a one-semester long course in global governance, a one-semester long course in global political economy, a one-semester long course in global politics and culture, MA Seminar I, and MA Seminar II. The remaining elective courses can be selected from across the university according to the student’s interest.

A maximum of two elective courses taken Pass/Fail can count toward the degree. Courses taken for R credit, in which a student is exempt from the final exam or essay, do not count toward the degree. Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher to remain in good academic standing. Language courses do not count toward the degree. Students must demonstrate intermediate proficiency in a language other than English (roughly equivalent to four semesters of collegiate study) during the fall semester. (See “Language Proficiency” below).

The degree requires a 10,000-word capstone essay based on original research. Students work with Columbia faculty and CGT advisers in the context of the year-long MA seminar to design, research, and write their essays.


Process Including Mid-Program Report

Students collaborate closely with the Graduate Program Director and other members of the advising team to plan individualized programs of study, and to ensure their progress toward the timely completion of the program. The Graduate Program Director and advising team provide close support throughout the year, including connecting students to resources on campus, ensuring the selection of appropriate courses, and advising in the development of the final essay.

Core Curriculum

Five Core Courses

The MA in Global Thought program includes three core courses (17 credits), which provide a broad-based conceptual and interdisciplinary foundation in global governance, global political economy, and global politics and culture, as well as a two-semester MA seminar. Each of the core courses exposes students to a range of approaches, methods, and theories, while allowing them to work directly with leading scholars in global thought. Students are required to take a one-semester long course in global governance, a one-semester long course in global political economy, a one-semester long course in global politics and culture, and a two-semester long research seminar course (MA Seminar I and MA Seminar II). The MA seminar combines substantive engagement with CGT faculty members with workshop sessions that help students develop the original research, analytic argument, and persuasive writing of their capstone MA essays.


Five Elective Courses

Students choose five elective courses over two semesters, with the advice of the Graduate Program Director and advising team. They may choose from courses offered by CGT Faculty as well as from hundreds of available graduate courses across the university. The students shape their own course of study to accommodate and develop their interests.

Students may harmonize their electives with the topic of their thesis, or split their electives between their thesis concentration, global themes, methodological work, or other areas of interest that enhance their intellectual and professional prospects.

Use Columbia’s Directory of Classes to find the widest range of courses open to students of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

While most courses in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences are open to students, registration in Columbia’s other graduate schools can be subject to availability. The MA program cannot guarantee you a place in all of the courses that may be of interest to you. Courses offered vary each semester.

Find a list of elective courses taken by MA Global Thought students here.

Language Proficiency

Proficiency in a language other than English

Students must demonstrate proficiency in a language other than English. Students fulfill this requirement in the first semester. Acceptable options for fulfilling the language requirements are:

i. Native fluency documentation: Any student who has fluency in a language other than English achieved through upbringing can complete the language requirement by submitting one of the following:

  • A high school or university transcript, certificate, or diploma in its original language and in translation attesting that the ordinary language of instruction in that institution is a language other than English.
  • Evidence of professional translation work completed.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB) bilingual diploma.

ii. Prior coursework: Students who have completed undergraduate coursework through (or beyond) the intermediate II level (typically four or more semesters) in a language other than English can fulfill the language requirement by submitting:

  • A transcript demonstrating completion of intermediate level II or above, maintaining a B average or above in all courses taken through the intermediate II level. Language classes used to fulfill the requirement must be taken for a letter grade.
  • If the course title on the transcript does not indicate course level, students MUST also submit official course description(s) demonstrating that the courses taken are considered intermediate level or above at the institution where the courses were completed.

iii. Examination documentation: Students who need to meet the language-other-than-English requirement may take exams regardless of how they developed competence:

  • Departmental placement exams: Columbia’s various language departments typically administer these exams in the week before either fall or spring semester classes begin (some exams are fall only). To meet the requirement, students must place into the fourth semester of study/intermediate II level course or beyond. This is CGT’s preferred testing option for students.
  • Departmental reading proficiency exams: Administered by Columbia’s various language departments, these exams require students to translate academic texts in the selected language into English.

Alternative exams may be arranged in cases when an exam is not available via Columbia departments. We will work with heritage speakers (those who have learned a language informally through exposure at home rather than through formal instruction in a school setting) to determine appropriate testing methods.

Students cannot take language classes during their MA degree in order to fulfill the language requirement. Students should NOT take any language exams (Columbia or external) prior to admission. More information about acceptable testing methods and timelines will be provided to admitted students.

For questions about the program and admissions, please consult our MA FAQ page.