Asian Studies Master of Arts

As a global thinker, you’ve followed the growth and influence of Asia and recognize its role as a critical region in economic and international affairs. It’s clear that Asia is an economic powerhouse of the 21st century. 

Maybe that’s why you’re considering a master’s in Asian Studies. You want to position yourself to be in a place of influence, even if you’re still trying to figure out what your specific career trajectory looks like, and you realize there are specific skills and experiences that you need to be successful in this field.

Building your knowledge of Asia’s economy, politics, and history, and making the right connections with people who understand this field and region are important for your career opportunities and personal growth.

The Master of Arts in Asian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs is right for students who are looking to:

  • Deepen their understanding of the countries in the region; their forms of governance, economies, history, and relationships
  • Build expertise in a specific country within the greater Asian region 
  • Participate more in shaping foreign policy 
  • Increase proficiency in an Asian language 
  • Gain study or work experience in Asia 
  • Increase earning potential and career satisfaction

Some of the students who succeed in this program are:

  • Recent graduates with degrees in International Affairs, Asian Studies, East Asian Studies, History, Asian Languages, or Political Science
  • Students with 5 years or less of experience in diverse fields including business, journalism, and the public sector


Get the skills you need to make a global impact.
Learn more with your M.A. in Asian Studies Program Preview.

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Developing the Next Generation of Asian Specialists

Whether you are interested in foreign service, international trade, or policy development, you need the right experiences and connections to step into a position of influence. We’ve designed our master’s in Asian Studies with this in mind, creating an academic experience that can be tailored to your interests and prepare you for the important work ahead.

Thematic Specialization

With a focus on content, Thematic Specialization courses will give you a competitive edge by equipping you with the knowledge you need to engage with leaders in the field. You’ll be able to speak with confidence and hold informed opinions around key issues and the significance of Asian history. Students can choose from among five Thematic Specializations, or design their own in consultation with the program director.

Thematic Specializations

Professional Specialization

With a master’s in Asian Studies, you’ll get the foundational skills you need from a M.A., but also knowledge of a specific area. Students can choose from fields such as conflict resolution, international development, global communication and public diplomacy, research methods, and more. When it comes to securing sought-after jobs, this gives GW graduates an advantage over their competitors.

Professional Specializations

Hands-on Learning 

Every student completes a Capstone project during their final year of study at ESIA. During this experience, students connect with real-life clients and apply the knowledge and skills they have acquired through coursework to a current policy question. Students research, interview, and collect data, traveling to or working with people in the region. 

Capstone examples include studying the effect of Japanese export controls on the South Korean semiconductor industry, opportunities for arts programming to economically empower Rohingya women in Bangladesh-based refugee camps, and ways North Korea’s Juche ideology is affecting human rights violations.


Want to read more about the Capstone experience? Download our program preview and learn more about what you could be doing in the M.A. Asian Studies degree program.


Where Students Find Value at the Elliott School

As you research programs and narrow down your options, you want to feel confident that the master’s degree you pursue will be a worthwhile experience that will get you where you want to go. When our graduates apply and interview for jobs, they reflect on their experience at the Elliott School and find meaningful value in:

The D.C. Experience 

The Elliott School’s central location in Washington, D.C., offers more than a metro station and convenience. Within walking distance of important organizations like World Bank, the State Department, IMF, and USAID, it provides access to major players in international affairs. Each year we host more than 300 events with opportunities to speak with guests, leaders, and visiting scholars, including ambassadors and former ambassadors.

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A Personalized Plan of Study

Students work with team members from Graduate Student Services and their program director to map a learning path to their career objectives, so they can stay focused on learning about the areas that interest them most and getting the skills they need to advance their career. 

Mentorship Opportunities

In addition to a strong mentorship program, students network with peers, faculty, and specialists with ties to the region through study in the classroom. The faculty for this program are diverse and represent a mix of rising stars, well respected senior-level specialists, and award-winning scholars with distinguished accolades. Some of the many respected names include Jisoo Kim, Gregg Brazinsky, Deepa Ollapally, David ShambaughEric Schluessel, and Celeste Arrington

Sigur Center for Asian Studies  

As the host of the largest Asian Studies program in our nation’s capital, the Sigur Center is nationally and internationally recognized for the quality of its academic and policy research. Tasked with developing the next generation of Asian Studies students, scholars, analysts, and policymakers, the Sigur Center promotes collaboration and sharing of knowledge and research on Asia.

GW Institute for Korean Studies 

For students considering a specialization in Korean studies, GWIKS offers access to research and deep knowledge. As the leading institute of Korean studies in our nation’s capital, GWIKS creates an interdisciplinary bridge between humanities and other fields of study, including social science, business, education, and engineering. By bringing together scholars and subject matter experts from around the world, the institute promotes collaboration and partnerships with leaders in the field. 

Access to Funding

Pursuing a graduate degree takes time and money. In addition to esteemed fellowships, GW is one of the only universities in the nation that offers federal Title VI funding. To learn more, continue reading about Funding Graduate Studies opportunities.


Foreign Language 

To be successful during the program, students need to have a strong foundation in a foreign language before enrolling. Academic coursework in an Asian language 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).
  • Growing up in a household where the language is spoken.

Where Our Graduates Make a Global Impact 

Within 6 months of graduating, approximately 90% of Asian Studies grads are employed or pursuing further education. They are positioned for career advancement in the government, international organizations, World Bank, United Nations, think tanks, consulting, and the military. 

Recent graduates went on to become: 

  • Analyst, Legal People
  • Associate Researcher, The Guangzhou Institute of the Greater Bay Area
  • Associate, Two Six Technologies
  • Cybersecurity Analyst, The Federal Reserve
  • Graduate Fellow Northeast Asia, McLarty Associates
  • Research Analyst, Foreign Brief LLC

"Most universities have humanities-focused Asian Studies or regional graduate degree programs, but there are only a handful of schools in the U.S. that have policy-focused Asian Studies programs. This put GW at the top of my list."

Britt Robinson
M.A. Asian Studies '21


Take a closer look at the
M.A. Asian Studies Program


As you’re looking for the right degree to help you make a global impact, the Master’s in Asian Studies degree program is an investment that will pay off and multiply over the course of your career. 

Download our program preview

to see why and get a glimpse at what your experience at the Elliott School could look like.

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Contact Us

If you have questions about how this degree aligns with your career goals, or you would like to compare the Master’s in Asian Studies with our other master’s programs in international affairs, sign up for a virtual information session. You’ll meet with our graduate admissions counselors and have a chance to ask specific questions as we review program details and the admissions process. 

Sign Up for a Virtual Information Session

Call: (202) 994-7050