Asian Studies Master of Arts

Asia is one of the most dynamic and rapidly changing regions of the world, and its significance in the 21st century is undeniable. Asia comprises almost 30 percent of the earth's land mass and is home to 60 percent of the world's population; the continent is as diverse as its populations, which drive the region's shifting role in the global arena.

On the path to sustained economic development, Asia’s urban migration and international trade are exploding. Problems still endure, however. The region is a flashpoint for conflicts, and its economic benefits are not evenly distributed. The Elliott School’s Master of Arts in Asian Studies program prepares students to navigate this dynamic environment and address complex diplomatic, economic, security, and cultural issues.



graphic: a folded map with the Asian continent on it



What You'll Study 

Students in this program will gain a fundamental understanding of the key political, economic, and historical issues facing Asia. You'll begin with three to four core courses before moving on to complete your Thematic Specialization and Professional Specialization. 


Program of Study




Thematic Specializations

The required thematic specialization will deepen your understanding of issues in contemporary Asia. You can choose from among five thematic specializations. 


Professional Specializations

You must select three courses listed for one of the Professional Specialization fields. You may design your own field with the approval of the Program Director, or select from one of the listed fields.


Global Capstone

Global Capstone is the culminating experience and signature project for Elliott School graduate students.



graphic: an open laptop with a list on the screen. Beside each item on the list is a check mark, indicating steps that have been completed in a process.



How to Apply 


When you're ready to apply to the program, you will need to follow the graduate admissions process, including completing and submitting the online application with all of the required materials 


There are also certain prerequisites that applicants must meet to be able to apply to the program. 



Academic coursework in an Asian language, which will prepare students to complete the program’s language requirement*, must be shown at the time of application. This can be demonstrated by:

  • Study that is equal to four semesters of university-level coursework or equivalent.
  • Completion of formal language training as part of employment (ex. Peace Corps, JET, etc.).
  • Growing up in a household where the language is spoken.

*Students need to have a strong foundation in a foreign language before enrolling to be successful in completing the language requirement during the program.


Affiliated Institutes and Organizations

photo: entrance to a suite with a glass door that has the writing: The George Washington University, The Elliott School of International Affairs, The Sigur Center for Asian Studies, The Institute for Korean Studies, Suite 503





The Organization of Asian Studies (OAS)

The Organization of Asian Studies (OAS) is a graduate student organization that seeks to foster an appreciation of Northeast, Southeast, Central and South Asian culture as well as explore historical and current affairs issues. The organization focuses on strengthening ties between students, faculty and professionals with an interest in Asia through ambitious programming and events, all made possible by the support of the Sigur Center for Asian Studies.


Student Spotlight


photo: a student poses with a Myanmar local who carries a child on their shoulder. The student holds two peppers in his hand



MA student Grayson Shor in Bagan, Myanmar in July 2017

Asian Studies graduate students pursue opportunities to complement their education at GW with experiences abroad. Grayson Shor worked in Myanmar in the summer of 2017 with The Asia Foundation as a Geographic Information Systems and Environmental Risk consultant. His team supported the Myanmar peace process through an innovative and technologically cutting edge approach that used satellite imagery analysis and grassroots development projects to reduce environmental pollution and enhance public safety. His team partnered with local governments and civil society organizations.




Asian Studies cohort hike in the Shenandoah Valley in November 2017

Each semester, the Asian Studies M.A. program organizes various social events to allow students the opportunity to explore the DC area and form lasting experiences with other Asian Studies students. In November 2017, first and second-year Asian Studies M.A. students as well as the Asian Studies Program Director went on a hike through the picturesque Shenandoah Valley.

photo: a group of students stand on a mountain after going hiking



Events Spotlight


photo: students pose in front of the Lindner Commons at the Japanese Politics and U.S.- Japan Relations event



Japanese Politics and U.S.-Japan Relations, November 13, 2017

Closely affiliated with the Asian Studies Program and the Sigur Center for Asian Studies, the Organization of Asian Studies is a graduate student-led group that organizes academic, cultural, and social events on Asia-related topics for the GW community. On November 13, 2017, OAS gathered two experts on Japanese politics – Dr. Kuniko Ashizawa (second from left) from American University and Mr. Tobias Harris (second from right) from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation – to discuss how domestic Japanese politics influences U.S.-Japan relations. The discussion was moderated by OAS President Tracie Yang (far left, MA Asian Studies 2018) and OAS Director of Japan Affairs Alan Smith (far right, MA Asian Studies, 2019).




Taiwan Conference – U.S.-Taiwan Economic Relations: Domestic and International Drivers

A benefit to studying at the George Washington University is the opportunity to attend numerous public lecture events held at the university. The Sigur Center for Asian Studies holds numerous public events each semester on a wide variety of topics. As part of its Taiwan Conference series, the Sigur Center on December 5, 2017, gathered six experts and a government official for a two-panel conference on the topic of U.S.-Taiwan economic ties. Here, Sigur Center Associate Director Deepa Ollapally (seated on the far right) moderates a panel including (from left to right) Dr. Vincent Wang from Ithaca College, Ms. Shihoko Goto from the Wilson Center, and Mr. Rupert Hammond-Chambers from the US-Taiwan Business Council.

photo: a panel at the front of an event


Alumni Spotlight

Where You'll Go 

graphic: a pie chart with the text "Asian Studies" in the center. Pie chart has 26% private, 40% non-profit, 20% public, 7% further education, 7% other to represent the sectors graduate students enter



Our M.A. Asian Studies graduates continue to pursue a wide variety of exciting careers in diplomacy and public service, business, security, conflict resolution, development and public health. For 2016 graduates, the top employers included: 

  • Advanced Resources Technology
  • Center for International Private Enterprise 
  • Centra Technology
  • China State Council 
  • Council on Foreign Relations
  • Eurasia Group 
  • Institute for South China Sea Studies
  • U.S. Department of Defense
  • U.S. Department of State
  • World Learning

While you study with us and even once you leave, we'll provide you with resources and support to help you get the job you've always wanted post-graduation. From career counseling, workshops, site visits and information sessions, The Graduate Student Career Development Center has a variety of tools and tips to get you to where you want to be. 

Find Career Resources


"Asian Studies at Elliott has opened my eyes to how Asia plays a role for the world, and it has allowed me to connect with many professionals in a variety of fields. Now I have a better vision of what direction I would like to pursue, as well as the steps I need to take to begin moving in that direction."

Zhao (Zachary) Wang

MA Asian Studies