M.A. in International Studies

The Jackson School offers nine programs that lead to an MAIS degree: seven world area-studies programs, a comparative religion program, and a comparative and thematic program in international studies that concentrates on the interaction of international, economic, political, and cultural processes with states and societies around the world.

The Jackson School offers nine programs that lead to an MAIS degree: seven world area-studies programs, a comparative religion program, and a comparative and thematic program in international studies that concentrates on the interaction of international, economic, political, and cultural processes with states and societies around the world.

All programs require study or competency in a foreign language; the focus of other course work is primarily in the social sciences and history. If you are interested chiefly in studying language or literature, your interests might be better served through one of the University’s many language departments (Asian Languages and Literature, French and Italian Studies, Spanish and Portuguese Studies, Scandinavian Studies, Slavic Languages and Literature, Classics, Germanics, and Near Eastern Languages and Civilization).

While faculty and resources are shared among JSIS programs, each has its own structure and requirements. Capsule descriptions follow.

For more information click on the program.

Length of Program

Most Jackson School Master’s programs are structured to be completed in two years (except the MAAIS program, which is a 10-month program). Concurrent degree students usually need one year beyond the time normally required for the professional program. (For example, the MBA/MAIS-Japan Studies program or the MPA/MAIS-General program normally would be completed in three years.) The PhD program assumes three to four years of study. While it may not be necessary to attend full-time in all quarters, students should not enroll with the intention of being part-time students.

Funding Opportunities

There are a number of funding opportunities for current and prospective graduate students. Some deadlines require prospective students to apply before they learn whether they have been accepted into the program, so be sure to plan ahead. Prospective students are especially encouraged to apply for a FLAS Fellowship. Learn more on our Funding Opportunities page.

Scope of JSIS Programs


JSIS master’s programs do not necessarily lead into the Ph.D. program, although they provide appropriate preparation for doctoral study, (as do many other master’s programs). Many MAIS graduates pursue a Ph.D. with a regional focus through discipline departments such as History, Political ScienceAnthropology, Economics, Ethnomusicology, or a language/literature department. The Near and Middle Eastern Studies Interdisciplinary PhD program is administered through the Graduate School.

See grad.washington.edu/students/interdisciplinary/nme for more information.

Three Separate MAIS Programs on East Asia

Those interested in this region at master’s level must choose from among the China, Japan, or Korea Studies programs.

Graduate Study About Africa, Canada, Latin America, or Western Europe.

JSIS does not have independent graduate programs for these regions. Through the MAIS general International Studies program you may complete a minor focus on one of these areas. To be accepted by the general program, however, you must meet the special admission criteria discussed above.

Day versus Evening Study

Students admitted to the Jackson School must be able to attend day classes for all JSIS programs. A student admitted concurrently to the Jackson School and to the UW’s Evening MBA program must be prepared to complete the JSIS portion of his or her studies during the day.

China Studies

Provides a broad understanding of the Chinese people and their culture, historical development, and contemporary problems. The curriculum emphasizes the attainment of facility in Chinese language, a grounding in history, and a familiarity with the approaches of the social sciences to China studies. The breadth of offerings allows students to select courses to meet career goals in business, government, teaching, or other professions.

Degree Requirements:

Three years of Chinese; a two-quarter introductory seminar to the interdisciplinary study of China; 26 additional credits focused on China in at least two different disciplines; two papers or a thesis; an oral exam.

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Comparative Religion

Developed out of the study of a wide spectrum of cultural traditions in the area studies programs of the Jackson School, this program is highly international and trans cultural in nature. The University’s language and literature/civilization departments, particularly in areas represented by the regional programs within the Jackson School, offer incredibly diverse resources. This program provides a particularly strong foundation for students headed toward Ph.D. programs in religion.

Students complete both a major and a minor concentration. The major options are Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Religion, and Religion and Culture. Minor options are the same, plus Greco-Roman religions, East Asian indigenous religions, African religious traditions and Native American traditions.

Degree Requirements:

Two years in a language appropriate to the major concentration; two courses on the history of world religions if unable to pass basic exam; one course each on scholarly approaches to the study of religion, similarities and differences in religious traditions, and historical relations between religious traditions; four or five courses in the major concentration and two or more in the minor concentration; colloquium on religion each quarter; one or two papers, a written exam and an oral exam.

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International Studies

Draws on both area studies and other disciplines in molding a new approach to the study of international affairs. This interdisciplinary curriculum is intended to help students approach a profession with a better understanding of how to relate it to an increasingly interdependent world. The MAIS emphasizes inquiry-based, critical analytic and writing skills that public and private employers demand. The MAIS is designed for two kinds of students:

  1. Those concurrently pursuing another graduate degree in one of six professional schools at the University: the Graduate School of Business Administration, the College of Forest Resources, the School of Law, the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, the Graduate School of Public Affairs, and the School of Public Health;
  2. Those with some professional experience or advanced training, who want to solidify their international and global studies scholarship and practical training.

All graduate students participate in a year-long core series (JSIS 500, 501 & 511), providing them with the framework and map for navigating and contributing to the field of international and global studies. Throughout the two years of their enrollment in the program they participate in a graduate colloquium that provides a forum for discussions about research and practice with faculty, practitioners, and peers. The MAIS degree is designed to provide students with the utmost flexibility so that they can take full advantage of opportunities for teaching, research, professional degrees, and study abroad.

Degree Requirements:

Three years of Japanese or Chinese OR two years of any other modern foreign language; three core courses titled: International Studies Survey, Comparative Studies, and Research Methods in International Studies, plus a graduate colloquium each quarter; three courses in two of the following foci: Regional Focus, I.S. Field Focus, Professional Focus (Professional Focus required for concurrent students); two papers and an oral exam.

Special Features of the General International Studies Program

The general International Studies program was designed to complement professional training and is usually done concurrently with one of the following professional degree programs:

  1. Business Administration (MBA)
  2. Forest Resources (MFR/MS)
  3. Law (JD)
  4. Marine Affairs (MMA)
  5. Public Affairs (MPA)
  6. Public Health (MPH)

Students who pursue concurrent degrees must complete all requirements for two degrees, but may count certain relevant coursework toward both programs. To connect to the home page for each of these programs, click on the program name above.

It is possible to pursue the International Studies program without concurrent enrollment. The ideal candidate would already have a professional degree or experience equivalent to such a degree. However, individuals who lack professional training are considered if they have a clear reason for choosing this program over other JSIS programs, and if their qualifications are extremely competitive. The International Studies M.A. does not prepare students for Ph.D. work or an academic career; it is meant to lead to a career in international affairs.

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Japan Studies

Gives students in-depth knowledge of many facets of Japan and familiarity with Japanese society and culture. Designed for students who need Japanese language and interdisciplinary training to pursue career goals, as well as for students preparing for a Japan-related Ph.D. program who have had little or no training on Japan or in the language. The curriculum provides additional variety and depth through Japan Colloquia and occasional special symposia. A concurrent degree programs with the School of Business Administration (MAIS/MBA) is offered  Other concurrent-degree combinations can be arranged on an individual basis, including an MAIS/MPA program with the University’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance.

M.A. Requirements:

Proficiency in Japanese through the third-year level; an introductory course in modern Japanese studies; a modern Japanese history course; three core courses; 27 additional credits on Japan; two papers or an Essay of Distinction; an Oral Exam.

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Korea Studies

Korea Studies, one of the few programs of its kind in the United States, focuses on Korea within the broader context of East Asia. It combines language instruction with history, anthropology and interdisciplinary area training. The history courses cover the full range of the Korean experience. Graduate seminars provide opportunities for research in a variety of topics in the political, social, economic, and intellectual history of the country. Course offerings are supplemented by visiting professors in fields such as political science, economics and economic development, folklore, and literature. A concurrent degree program with the School of Business Administration (MAIS/MBA) is offered.

Degree Requirements:

Three years of Korean; one course each on Korean history, comparative politics, and modern Korean society; one research seminar; 15 additional credits on East Asia or International Studies; two papers or an Essay of Distinction; an oral exam.

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Middle East Studies

Provides students with a thorough grounding in the modern Middle East and Islamic Central Asia and a view of how this region fits into the world community politically, historically, and economically. A variety of courses in economic development, anthropology, economics, and historical and political geography is offered. Political Science courses range from those concerning the government and politics of the Middle East in general to theories of revolution in the Middle East and North Africa, and the Arab-Israeli dispute. History courses range from the general history of the region to such topics as the expansion of Islam, the modern Middle East, and Ottoman history.

Degree Requirements:

Three years of relevant language study; 20 credits on the modern Middle East, plus one International Studies course and two courses in one social science or professional field; a thesis and an oral OR a written exam and two papers.  Total of at least 36 credits.

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Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies

Allows flexibility in designing a course of study to meet career goals calling for area expertise. Students usually focus on one geographical region – Russia, East Europe, the Baltics, or Central Asia. The curriculum, especially strong in the social sciences, history and languages, includes courses in anthropology, comparative literature, economics, geography, history, linguistics, political science, art, sociology, business, drama, law, marine affairs, music, public affairs, education and forest resources.

Degree Requirements:

Four years of relevant language study (two years are required as prerequisite for entry); one introductory seminar and two thesis seminars; 25-30 additional credits in a discipline of concentration and at least one minor discipline; a thesis; and an oral exam.

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South Asian Studies

Offers students a framework within which to carry out the interdisciplinary study of the peoples and nations of the South Asian subcontinent: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal,  Afghanistan, and Bhutan. The curriculum combines rigorous training in one or more South Asian languages with study of various aspects of modern and classical South Asian civilizations. The University has a distinguished faculty of scholars who provide instruction in diverse areas of South Asian studies, offering a rich variety of courses on these topics. Students may specialize in (or combine) two areas of concentration: language, religion, and culture; or environment, development, ethnicity and nationalism, human rights, gender, migration, and contemporary politics.

Degree Requirements:

Three years of relevant language study; two introductory seminars and one research seminar; 21 additional credits on South Asia from at least two different departments; thesis or two papers; and an oral exam.

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Southeast Asian Studies

Southeast Asian Studies focuses specifically on the study of Southeast Asian languages, histories, cultures, and politics and allows students to complete their coursework in at least two disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. The program prepares its graduates for work in professional fields as well as for Ph.D. programs in the student’s chosen social science or humanities discipline. The particular area strengths of the Southeast Asia faculty lie in the study of Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Burma (Myanmar).

Degree Requirements:

Three years of relevant language study; one introductory seminar and two history seminars; 16 additional credits on Southeast Asia from at least two disciplines; and a thesis or a non-thesis project (e.g., papers, documentary film, or performance project).

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