M.A. in Arab Studies - Center for Contemporary Arab Studies | Georgetown University

M.A. in Arab Studies

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Our renowned Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program offers comprehensive interdisciplinary training in the politics, culture, history, economics, and language of the contemporary Arab Middle East and North Africa, as well as rigorous Arabic language training.  Students design a program of study that allows them to develop expertise on the pressing issues relevant to the Middle East and North Africa today in one of five concentration areas: Politics, Culture and Society, Development, History, or Women and Gender. In addition to their main concentration, students select options from the full range of courses in Middle East Studies offered at Georgetown. The MAAS program further cultivates an in-depth understanding of the region through the program’s intensive Arabic instruction, which allows our students to reach proficiency level. Students have the unique opportunity to deepen their language skills by opting to take courses taught entirely in Arabic.

MAAS students may choose to pursue one of several dual degrees, as well as enroll concurrently in graduate certificate programs in International Business DiplomacyRefugee and Humanitarian Emergencies, and Diplomatic Studies, among others.

Arab Studies Library Books

The Master of Arts in Arab Studies program is a demanding, full-time curriculum comprised of 36 credit hours (12 three-credit courses), not including acquisition-level Arabic classes. The program is designed for full time students to complete the degree in two years, but depending on the student’s level of proficiency, it is possible to complete the program in a shorter or longer period of time.

Upon entry, students must choose to concentrate in one of five significant areas: culture and society,  development, history, politics or women and gender.  Students have considerable flexibility in designing their program in order to meet their academic and professional goals and interests. Although the program structure is very flexible, there are some basic guidelines:

  1. Completion of four core courses (12 credits):
    • MAAS 501- Introduction to the Study of the Arab World
    • MAAS 502 – 20th c. Middle East History
    • Two core courses for declared concentration (see concentration requirements)
  2. Completion of eight electives (24 credits):
    • ​​At least four electives should be offered through CCAS, Department of History, or Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies
    • A maximum of four electives may be taken from other departments at Georgetown
  3. Passage of MAAS oral and written Modern Standard Arabic proficiency exam
    Student must complete this requirement by the end of the program.
  4. Oral comprehensive exam OR thesis
    • Oral comprehensive exam: The oral exam is designed to provide a cross-disciplinary conclusion to the student’s course work and total educational experience in the program. The exam is administered by a panel of three faculty members who have taught the student, two of whom will be in the student’s concentration area. The exam takes place after the student has completed his/her coursework.
    • Thesis option: Students have the option of writing and defending a thesis in their final semester in lieu of the oral exam.  Thesis students must take a methods course and enroll in the three-credit MAAS Thesis Colloquium, both of which count as elective courses.

For additional information about program requirements, please consult the MAAS Student Handbook.

Arabic keyboard

Rigorous training in the Arabic language is a core element of the program, which is supported by the largest and oldest Arabic language department in the country. Students are expected to enter the program having taken at least two years/levels of Arabic prior to entering the program.  MAAS students must be continuously enrolled in an Arabic language class until they pass the MAAS Arabic proficiency exam. The program’s demanding Arabic language requirement is a distinctive feature regularly cited by students and alumni alike as a major draw and strength.


In order to graduate, all students must pass a written and oral proficiency exam in Modern Standard Arabic.  The exam is offered at the end of each semester and students must continue to enroll in Arabic classes until they pass the exam.

The written exam consists of three sections: grammar (25%), reading comprehension (50%), and writing (25%).  The oral exam is an ACTFL oral proficiency interview (OPI) administered through the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies.  The passing score for MAAS students is Advanced Mid and the exam is conducted in Modern Standard Arabic.

Students are given three attempts to pass the Arabic proficiency exam, excluding the exam taken during orientation.


The MAAS program has designated sections of Intensive Intermediate and Advanced Arabic, offered through the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies. The MAAS sections consist of one hour of grammar and one hour of conversation five days a week. Students must be able to enroll in the MAAS section of Intermediate Arabic (ARAB 111-03) upon matriculation to the program. Intermediate Arabic (ARAB 111/112) and Advanced Arabic (ARAB 215/216) are six-credit courses that students take in addition to their graduate coursework.

Once students pass the Arabic proficiency exam, they may enroll in Arabic content courses, or courses taught in Arabic, to maintain or continue to improve their Arabic skills.  Arabic content courses are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Click here for a list of Arabic content courses.

Undergraduate-level language courses (those numbered below 350) do not count toward the MAAS degree, so students must taken them in addition to the required nine graduate credits per semester.  However, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences offers students Language Study Scholarships to cover the cost of one undergraduate-level language course per semester, so MAAS students taking intermediate, advanced, or post-advanced courses below 350 will not pay additional tuition.  Arabic courses numbered above 350 count for graduate credit and are not eligible for a Language Study Scholarship.

Once students have passed the Arabic proficiency exam, they are permitted to take other language courses for which they may receive a Language Study Scholarship.

Tented camp


Students learn the diverse aspects of culture and society in the Arab world, from structures and institutions, art, poetry, multiple discourses and practices, and definitions of identity, drawing on anthropology, sociology, literature and religious studies.

Concentration Requirements:

  • MAAS-518, Culture and Society of the Arab World
  • MAAS-640, Development in the Arab World: Theories, Issues, and Institutions OR MAAS-532, Women and Gender in the Arab World


Students learn about development and political economy in the Arab world, focusing on economic and social development, education, humanitarian aid, gender, and environmental dimensions of development. This concentration draws on economic history, political economy, sociology, and politics.

Concentration Requirements:

  • MAAS-640, Development in the Arab World: Theories, Issues, and Institutions
  • MAAS-564, Economics of the Middle East


In this concentration, students learn about the history of Middle East and North Africa, from the rise of Islam to the present. A wide range of subjects are covered, such as methods and approaches, colonial history, gender, environmental and legal dimensions. It draws on political, economic, social, and cultural history of the region. 

Concentration Requirements:

  • HIST-760, Arab Historiography
  • One seminar in Middle East history, such as HIST-863/864

This concentration also requires that students demonstrate good chronological and geographical coverage of the Arab world.


Students learn about contemporary political developments in the Arab world and the Middle East. The program covers the study of authoritarianism, nationalism, domestic institutions and policies, war and peace-making, identity and security politics, and environmental security. It draws on Comparative Politics, International Relations, history, sociology, political economy and development. ​

Concentration Requirements:

  • INAF-725, Comparative Politics of the Middle East
  • INAF-619, Arab and Middle East International Politics

This concentration also requires that students demonstrate good geographic coverage of the Arab world.


Concentrators learn to identify and analyze the gender dimensions of political, economic and historical phenomena in the Arab world. Through a diverse range of fields such as law, history, literature, economics and anthropology, the concentration provides the students with tools to understand the changing shape of gender relations.

Concentration Requirements:

  • MAAS-532 Women and Gender in the Arab World
  • MAAS-640, Development in the Arab World: Theories, Issues, and Institutions OR MAAS-518, Culture and Society of the Arab World
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At the completion of the two-year Master of Arts in Arab Studies (MAAS) program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate expertise in one of the following concentrations: Politics, Economics and Business, Development, History, Culture and Society and Women and Gender.
  • Understand and engage critically with the theoretical and methodological paradigms most appropriate for the study of the Arab World.
  • Develop skills of analytical and integrative thinking, and learn to communicate effectively and creatively for different audiences and purposes.
  • Acquire basic and advanced research skills, including fluency with relevant print and virtual bibliographic and research guides on the Arab World.
  • Demonstrate superior research, writing and speaking abilities on Arab, Islamic and Middle Eastern affairs.
  • Acquire the cultural skills sufficient to function professionally in the region.
  • Display deep understanding of the Arab World in its contemporary global environment—political, economic and cultural, with particular attention to relations to its complex interactions with the United States.
  • Attain proficiency in Modern Standard Arabic through the utilization of fundamental reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, and be able to communicate clearly and concisely in written and spoken form.
  • Uphold the values of Georgetown University’s founding traditions and its principled commitments to intellectual openness and diversity, justice and the common good.
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One of the attractive features of the MAAS program is its provision for students to enroll simultaneously in either the J.D. program or various Ph.D. programs. Joint degree students receive full preparation both in their discipline and in regional studies, and save up to one year of course work compared to students who pursue the two degrees sequentially. They experience substantial time and cost savings, and may also take advantage of the opportunities provided by both programs, including access to financial aid, teaching fellowships, and alumni networks.

Applicants for the dual degree programs must submit two separate and complete applications: one to the MAAS program and one to the Ph.D. or J.D. program. Admission to the dual degree program is conditional upon acceptance into both programs. While dual degree applicants normally submit both applications in advance of initiating their studies at Georgetown, MAAS candidates who become interested in this option during the first year of study are eligible to apply at the end of their first semester.

Specific degree requirements vary among departments. Please see the student handbook and collaborating departmental websites for additional information.

Currently, the MAAS program has dual degrees with the following programs:

We are currently exploring other dual-degree opportunities. Please check with the program for updates.