International Development Studies Master of Arts

The Master of Arts in International Development Studies grounds international development practitioners in the theories, policies, and skills necessary for operating at the forefront of the field. Graduates of the program are prepared to address global development challenges in the most disadvantaged regions and among the most marginalized populations. The program takes a multidisciplinary and intellectually rigorous approach, paying particular attention to cultural context, ethics, field-based applied research, and innovative practices. Developing marketable skills and broadening professional experience are a central part of the program. All students complete a real-world consultancy for an international development organization as their final project.





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What You'll Study 

The IDS Program is a cohort-based program which fosters student-to-student intellectual exchange, social engagement, and networking opportunities. Our students take core courses together and interact in and out of class with program faculty and alumni. Most IDS students have some development experience, or at least experience in the developing world, and are seeking career advancement.

Program of Study




Students must fulfill 18 hours of coursework for a self-designed area of specialization, developed in coordination with their advisor when they meet to discuss their Plan of Study.



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 

Graduate Admissions 

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



Academic coursework in a foreign 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, 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.

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

In some cases, a student may be admitted who has not fulfilled the economics requirement*; in which case, the student is required to take course(s) at an accredited college/university prior to enrollment at the Elliott School.

*Spring applicants are expected to have fulfilled this prerequisite at the time of application.


Meet the Faculty

The Elliott School's prime location in the heart of Washington DC attracts a wide variety of highly qualified and experienced development practitioners who act as professorial lecturers in the International Development Studies Program.

Meet the Faculty


Meet the Students

photo: five students stand in front of the Model G20 Summit logo and flags



Elliott Students Participate in Model G20 Summit

A group of students from the Elliott School International Development Studies (IDS) program recently participated in the first-ever U.S-based intercollegiate Model G20 Summit that took place at American University’s School of International Service.


Students Publish Insights on Agricultural Development’s Impact on UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In the Agriculture and Sustainable Development graduate seminar, taught by Prof. Samuel Ledderman, students had an opportunity to publish their insights on agricultural development’s impact on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through a collaboration with the premier site for policymakers - the SDG Knowledge Hub hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

image: text, Sustainable Development Goals, SDG Logo



Meet our Alumni

photo: IDS Alum holds her phone to the screen showing the starting screen of the video game she developed



Alumna creates educational video games with global reach

Alumna Mariam Adil was sitting in a graduate development economics class in 2013 when she found herself zoning out of the lecture. But it turned out to be a productive daydream. Now, in addition to being on the staff of the World Bank, she runs a social venture called GRID, Gaming Revolution Inspiring Development.


Advice from alumni: Grad school is a time to learn what motivates you

After receiving her bachelor’s degree, Sanola A. Daley, IDS ’08, took a few years to figure out what her next career move would be. With Jamaican roots and a one-year stint teaching in Puerto Rico under her belt, Daley was committed to working on development issues in Latin America, which led her to the Elliott School.

Sanola Daly


Did you know you can make a direct donation to the IDS Program? We have established an IDS capstone travel fund to help defray costs for student groups each year. Your donations will go towards supporting capstone travel. Thank you for your support!

Where You'll Go

graphic: pie chart, 20% private, 30% non-profit, 35% public, and 15% other International Development Studies



Our graduates continue to pursue a wide variety of exciting careers in diplomacy and public service, business, security, conflict resolution, development and public health. For 2017 graduates, the top employers included: 

  • Chemonics
  • Counterpart International
  • Food & Water Watch
  • Global Environment and Technology Foundation
  • Global Health Unit, Cardno International Development
  • International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
  • Management Systems International
  • Millenium Challenge Corporation
  • SAP
  • Save the Children
  • Social Impact
  • US Agency for International Development
  • US State Department
  • USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
  • World Bank Group

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.  


Mariam Adil

Mariam Adil

Education Specialist at World Bank & Founder of GRID

"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."