Degree Requirements

Successful completion of the Duke Graduate Liberal Studies (GLS) course of study leads to a Master of Arts degree.  (This degree is sometimes referred to as a MALS -- Master of Arts in Liberal Studies -- degree.)  This degree requires nine courses and a Master's Project for a total of 30 units of credit.  Students may attend part time or full time.

The GLS Course of Study

Three Liberal Studies (LS) seminars (9 units of credit)

  • The GLS Core Course, which must be taken in the first semester of the program.
  • Two additional Liberal Studies (LS) seminars  (Oxford Summer Schools and independent studies do not count toward this requirement, even if they are listed as LS courses.) 

Six elective courses (18 units of credit)​

  • Students choose the remaining six courses from among both LS courses and courses from other departments of the Graduate School, so long as those courses are graded (i.e. not pass/fail).
  • Many graduate certificate programs can be incorporated into a MALS degree without exceeding the number of units required for the degree.
  • During a student's time in the program, he or she may propose one independent study under the guidance of a faculty supervisor.

Effective Fall 2018, courses below the 500 level may not be applied toward the required credits needed for a post-baccalaureate degree. With the approval of their director of graduate studies and the associate dean for academic affairs, graduate students may enroll in lower-level courses, but these courses will not count toward any graduation requirement and will not be included in a student’s GPA calculation.

Note: Selected graduate-level courses are offered concurrently with their undergraduate-level counterparts. Graduate students enrolled in these courses are required to complete the requirements and meet the rigor delineated on the graduate-level syllabi which must be distinct from – and more rigorous than – the requirements for UG credit. For additional information, please contact the registrar and/or the director of graduate studies, who will be receiving further guidance from our offices.

Master's Project (MP) (3 units of credit)

The Master's Project fulfills the remaining three credits required to complete the degree.  It requires the student to complete a series of prerequisites, which include finding a faculty supervisor and writing a proposal.  Although designated as three credits, the Master's Project is considered a full-time activity, and is typically taken after all other course requirements are completed.  All students must complete a Master's Project in order to graduate.

Non-LS Courses 

Most graduate-level courses at Duke (course number of 500 or higher) are open to GLS students. Course offerings and description for graduate-level courses can be found online through DukeHub. However, the following conditions apply:

  • The course must be graded (i.e., may not be pass/fail).
  • The student must have the appropriate background to fulfill course pre-requisites.
  • The student must have the consent of the course professor.

Students should be aware that units of credit for non-LS courses may vary. It is the student's responsibility to confirm that the course constitutes three units of credit. In addition, courses graded as pass/fail will not be credited towards the MALS degree. Courses in schools other than The Graduate School (e.g., Divinity School, Fuqua School of Business, Law School, Medical School, Nicholas School of the Environment, Pratt School of Engineering and Sanford School of Public Policy) may have registration restrictions or special registration procedures and limited availability to GLS students.