The Center for Middle Eastern Studies administers an interdisciplinary Master of Arts program designed for students with diverse career goals. The program is rooted in intensive study of the languages and history of the Middle East but also offers a high degree of flexibility in coursework. Many MA graduates gain admission to top PhD programs, while others have been successful in government, non-profit, and private sector careers. Students may be admitted to the Master of Arts program in either the Division of the Social Sciences or the Humanities and will receive the degree from the division through which they have registered. Students with significant previous training in Middle Eastern or Islamic studies who wish to earn a doctoral degree leading to careers in research and college or university teaching should apply for admission directly to one of the graduate doctoral departments or committees of the University.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies, in collaboration with the faculty of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, now offers a version of the MA in Middle Eastern Studies focusing on the cultures and languages of the ancient Near East. The Ancient Near Eastern track is designed for students considering an academic career who do not yet have the appropriate academic background for direct entrance into a doctoral program in ancient Near Eastern studies. It is also suitable for students who wish to use knowledge of the ancient Near East in careers other than university teaching and research.

Program Requirements

The requirements are satisfactory completion of:

  • Six quarters of a Middle Eastern language (through at least two year proficiency);
  • One quarter core colloquium: Approaches to the Study of the Middle East;
  • Three quarters of an approved integrated Middle Eastern survey course.
  • Seven electives from courses offered in any department, division, or school;
  • One course in thesis preparation, or reading and research;
  • A master’s thesis.

Only courses taken for a quality grade count toward fulfilling the requirements. No P or R grades will be accepted.

The requirements for the ancient track MA mirror those for the modern track described above. Students must complete two years of an ancient Near Eastern language (for example, Akkadian, Egyptian, classical Hebrew, Hittite), an introductory seminar Approaches to the Study of the Ancient Near East, a year long history sequence, an acceptable MA thesis, and seven additional elective courses. Such electives may concentrate on one or explore several of the fields of ancient Near Eastern studies such as, for example, archaeology, Cuneiform Studies, Egyptology, Semitic linguistics, as well as related disciplines such as Art History, Anthropology, Classics, History and Linguistics. Otherwise the application process and the rules and conditions for financial aid are like those for the modern track.

The Master of Arts program (including the core course and a three quarter survey course, six quarter language courses and three or four relevant electives) offers a joint degree option with the Harris School of Public Policy Studies or the Graduate School of Business. A student may earn the M.P.P. in Public Policy or the M.B.A. along with the A.M in Middle Eastern Studies in an integrated joint program normally requiring a total of three years of study. These joint degree programs require a separate application to each degree granting entity. If you are interested in a joint program with the Harris School or the Booth School of Business, please go to their websites, or, for more information on admission and the requirements of their programs.

Typical Two-Year Program

1st Year

Fall Winter Spring
Language Language Language
Survey Course Survey Course Survey Course
Core Course Elective Elective

2nd Year

Fall Winter Spring
Language Language Language
Elective Elective Elective
Elective Thesis Elective


Placement interviews will be given so that entering students may register for courses at the appropriate level of instruction.

Students who elect to study Arabic will concentrate on the modern literary language. Students who elect to study Persian, Turkish, Uzbek, Armenian, or Hebrew will concentrate on the modern and contemporary idiom.

Core Courses

For the modern track MA, all students are required to take the core colloquium Approaches to the Study of Middle East (CMES 30001). Students must enroll in one of the following three quarter sequences: Islamic History & Society (NEHC 31000, 31100, 31200/HIST 35704, 35804, 35904), or Islamic Thought & Literature (NEHC 30601, 30602, 30603/ SOSC 22000, 22100, 2220). Those with substantial previous work in Islamic studies will be advised to substitute, where appropriate, more advanced and specialized courses in the field.


In consultation with advisers, students select courses providing instruction in skills related to their future careers. These courses may be in research methodology; statistics; cross cultural, demographic, or economic analysis; or computer training. They may be selected from the offerings of departments in the graduate divisions, such as the Departments of Economics, Statistics, or Sociology; or of the professional schools, such as the Graduate School of Business, the Law School, the Harris School of Public Policy Studies or the School of Social Service Administration.

Students are strongly encouraged to consider participating in the University Writing Program (Little Red Schoolhouse).


Consult in the Announcements and the quarterly Time Schedules the listings of the Departments of Art History, Anthropology, English Language & Literature, History, Music, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, Political Science, Sociology, South Asian Languages & Civilizations, and the Committee on Geographical Studies.

Master’s Thesis

Students are required to submit a master’s thesis that should deal with a problem relevant to the student’s intended career and should give evidence of the specialized disciplinary aspects of his or her training. The student’s program adviser and a faculty member with special interest in the subject of the paper will guide the research and writing of the paper and judge whether it exhibits proof of competence in the field. During the writing of the paper, the student will register for a thesis preparation or reading and research course. The thesis title will be listed on the student’s transcript.