Islamic Studies

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Master of Arts (M.A.), Graduate Certificate
Location(s): Foggy Bottom - Main Campus

Program Overview

The Graduate Certificate and Master of Arts in Islamic Studies, offered by the Department of Religion, focus on the study of Islam in its classical and contemporary formations, with an emphasis on developing competence in classical Islamic intellectual traditions. The cross-disciplinary program allows students to study with a variety of faculty members who are knowledgeable about the classical formulations of Islam, and have on-the-ground experience in Muslim-majority countries and communities. Centrally located in Washington, D.C., the program offers students the opportunity to interact with U.S. government agencies, think tanks, non-governmental institutions, and the large Muslim community residing and working in the metro area. The program also offers “non-traditional students” such as working professionals, civil servants, and employees of international agencies the opportunity to tailor the program to their particular needs.

A concentration in Shi'ism is available in the M.A. program. Please see the website for the Department of Religion, linked at right/bottom(mobile users), for more information on the requirements for the concentration. The division between Sunnis and Shi’ites lies at the root of much of the strife in the Islamic world today. Our program uniquely features not only an education in Sunni Islam, but Shi’ite Islam as well. A comprehensive study must include both major branches of Islamic tradition for a full understanding of current issues in the world of Islam, and what its future holds.

Qualified applicants who intend to pursue the concentration in Shi'ism may be eligible for community supported fellowships. These fellowships are not sponsored, awarded, or managed by the university."

Admission Requirements

Admission deadlines:

Fall – April 1 (February 1 for fellowship consideration); Graduate Certificate - July 1

Spring – October 1

Standardized test scores: 

GRE not required.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the academic International English Language Testing System (IELTS), or the PTE Academic is required of all applicants except those who hold a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree from a college or university in the United States or from an institution located in a country in which English is the official language, provided English was the language of instruction. 

Minimum scores for the M.A. and Graduate Certificate program are:

  • Academic IELTS: an overall band score of 6.0 with no individual score below 5.0; or
  • TOEFL: 550 on paper-based or 80 on Internet-based;  or
  • PTE Academic: 53

Applicants who do not meet minimum English language requirements may be eligible for our full-time Applied English Language program.

Recommendations required: 

Two (2) recommendations

Prior academic records:

Transcripts are required from all colleges and universities attended, whether or not credit was earned, the program was completed, or the credit appears as transfer credit on another transcript. Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended must be uploaded to your online application. Official transcripts are required only of applicants who are offered admission.

If transcripts are in a language other than English, English language translations must be provided. The English translation alone should be uploaded into your application.

Statement of purpose:

In an essay of 250 – 500 words, state your purpose in undertaking graduate study in your chosen field. Include your academic objectives, research interests, and career plans. Also discuss your related qualifications, including collegiate, professional, and community activities, and any other substantial accomplishments not already mentioned on the application.

Additional requirement: 

Recent writing sample is required.


An interview may be required. 

International applicants only:

Please review International Applicant Information carefully for details on required documents, earlier deadlines for applicants requiring an I-20 or DS-2019 from GW, and English language requirements.

For more information on the admission process, please visit the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Frequently Asked Questions page.

Supporting documents not submitted online should be mailed to:
Columbian College of Arts and Sciences – Graduate Admissions Office
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street NW, Phillips Hall 215
Washington DC 20052

Contact for questions:
[email protected] ~ 202.994.6210 (phone) ~ 202.994.6213 (fax)
8:30 am – 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday