International Development Studies Master of Arts

Do you want to see an increase in the well-being of communities and countries around the globe? While the world’s problems are complex with outcomes that affect real people — climate change, humanitarian crises, and inequality, to name a few — you know there are opportunities for positive change. 

The International Development Studies Master of Arts (IDS) degree from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University has been an effective career choice for many graduates who have gone on to have a significant impact in the world.

This is the right master's degree for you if ...

  • You’re looking for the credentials and marketable skills necessary to grow in your influence.
  • You want the strategies needed to shape better outcomes as an operator at the forefront of the international development field.
  • You’ve been working in the social sciences field for some time now and you’re ready to take the next step in your career.
  • The circumstances in your country need to be addressed, and you need the expertise and experience to make that happen.

An IDS degree ensures more than just a sustainable career — you’ll discover a path forward in global development that gives you long-term purpose. 


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Equipped with the skills and experience to facilitate lasting change

A degree in International Development Studies from the Elliott School affirms you are well-versed in collaboration and have exposure to different perspectives.

In the IDS program, you will...

  • Learn ethical, sustainable, and participatory development practices. The IDS course of study takes a multidisciplinary and intellectually rigorous approach, paying particular attention to cultural context, ethics, field-based applied research, and innovative practices. 
  • Acquire practical development skills through a variety of invaluable opportunities, which may include international work experience, an internship, a capstone project, and study abroad. All students complete a real-world consultancy for an international development organization as their final project.
  • Take advantage of the professional and cultural connections Washington, D.C., and the Elliott School have to offer. D.C. is one of the few centers for international development in the world. You’ll have access to many organizations and initiatives, as well as a front row seat for how cross-cutting issues play out on the global stage.   
  • Network and learn beside a strong and diverse community of students and faculty. IDS students connect with other professionals in their cohort while they participate in student-driven engagement opportunities, such as GW’s New Venture Competition. They enjoy learning opportunities at adjacent GW schools and learn from faculty who are experts in the field with first-hand connections to real issues. Learn more about the IDS faculty.

Increase your value in the international development marketplace with the right degree

When you graduate … 

You’re ready to address a myriad of global development challenges including climate change, poverty, inequitable access to quality healthcare and education, proliferation of conflict, the repression of citizen voices, and discrimination towards marginalized populations, to name a few. 

You’ll be recruited by some of the world’s leading change makers, including the Global Environment and Technology Foundation, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Millenium Challenge Corporation,  PricewaterhouseCoopers, Save the Children, US Agency for International Development, the US State Department, and the World Bank Group.

You'll be connected to a valuable network of professionals, peers, and scholar-practitioners who are experienced and active in their field.

"You are not waiting to graduate to actually begin to make social change. What was really inspiring to me was that the professors we had and my classmates were already deep in development when we were going through the IDS Program."

Mariam Adil 
Education Specialist at World Bank & Founder of GRID 
IDS master’s recipient

A transformative academic experience

Earn your master’s degree on your timeline.

The IDS degree is designed as a 2-year program, but you can adapt a schedule that works for you — part-time or full-time — and you can switch between the two options as needed. 

Classes are all in the evening, giving you the flexibility to continue a present job, start a new one, or undertake internships while you earn your degree. 

Be part of a cohort.

The IDS program is cohort-based, fostering connections, friendships, and networking opportunities. Our students take core courses together and interact in and out of class with faculty and alumni. 

Choose your area of specialization and develop your Plan of Study. 

Before classes start, you’ll meet with your advisor to develop your individualized Plan of Study. You’ll develop a specific area of specialization that is customized to your interests and faculty-guided, giving you the opportunity to take classes from other GW schools.  

Complete a real-world consultancy for an international development organization. 

As you grow in your learning and experience, your capstone project will provide you with an opportunity for a pro-bono consulting project in which you’ll partner with an international organization and have the option to conduct research abroad. 

Continue with your job or internship while you earn your master’s.

Program courses are held during the evening, enabling you to work and gain professional experience while earning your master’s. Many students choose to apply their learning to internships with an organization that matches their interests, whether in DC or abroad. 

Receive career counseling.  

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, our Graduate Student Services office has a variety of tools and tips to get you to where you want to be.

IDS Program Prerequisites


Academic coursework in a second language, which will prepare students to complete the program’s language requirement*, is required 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.

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


Course background in economics (micro- and macroeconomics) is a prerequisite to help prepare students to complete the graduate-level economics course(s) required within the M.A. in International Development Studies curriculum. Course(s) must be successfully completed through an accredited institution in:

  • Introductory Microeconomics
  • Introductory Macroeconomics


  • Principles of Economics (I and II)

Spring applicants must fulfill this prerequisite at the time of application.

Fall applicants may be admitted even if they have not fulfilled the economics prerequisite. In this case, the student is required to take the course(s) at a regionally accredited college/university prior to enrollment at the Elliott School. It is the student’s responsibility to complete the required coursework before classes begin. 

Enrolling students who have completed these courses at the time of application will be required to complete online assessment(s) prior to the start of classes. AP credit cannot be used to meet the Economics Prerequisite.


Take a closer look at the
IDS Program


As you’re looking for a master’s degree that will help you enact positive global change, the International Development Studies degree is an investment that leads to a rewarding career. This webpage covers the program highlights, but there’s still so much more to discover.

You can take a closer look at our program when you download a Master of Arts in International Development Studies Program Preview. Inside, you’ll find: 

  • Additional program features and benefits 
  • A closer look at how GW will support your career development
  • More information on the flexibility of the program
  • How you can customize the program to align with your interests and goals

Download Your Free IDS Program Preview

Discover online and on-campus program details, view a snapshot of employers of our most recent graduates, applicant requirements, and more in your free program preview.

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Questions? Let’s connect to discuss your goals and any questions you might have. Email our graduate admissions team, call (202) 994-7050, or sign up for one of our future information sessions.