Legal Institutions and Theory

Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

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

Program Overview

The graduate program in legal institutions and theory combines training across multiple disciplines—including political science, history, philosophy, and social policy—to equip students with an essential understanding of the creation of laws and their implications on our society.

The Master of Arts in Legal Institutions and Theory combines courses in political science, history, policy, philosophy, and sociology, enabling students to explore why the laws are written and how laws shape behavior and outcomes. Coordinated by GW's nationally ranked Political Science Program, the degree offers graduate students an opportunity to work with prominent scholars in a wide range of fields and to take advantage of the resources and opportunities of the nation’s capital. The MA trains students broadly, and encourages students to earn credit while interning at organizations that work on the development and implementation of law.

Centered around the law, its development, and its impact on society, the degree program prepares students for a career in teaching legal studies or a career policy analysis centered on issues in fields such as discrimination, education policy, and environmental protection. It is also designed for students interested in pursuing a doctorate degree in law, political science, sociology, or history. The degree does not entitle a student to a Juris Doctorate (JD) and does not meet the bar requirements in any state.

Admission Requirements

Admission deadlines:

Fall – April 1 (February 1 for fellowship consideration)
Spring – October 1

Standardized Test Scores:

GRE is 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. 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

Recommendations required:

One (1) recommendation

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.

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 107
 Washington DC 20052

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