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

At Least 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.) 

Up to Six Elective Courses (18 units of credit)​

  • Students choose the remaining six courses from among any graduate-level (500 or higher) courses offered at Duke, so long as:

    • The course is graded (i.e. not pass/fail).
    • The course instructor feels that the student has the appropriate background to fulfill course pre-requisites.
  • GLS students are free to take further LS seminars as their electives, or to explore other program and department offerings.  Graduate-level courses offered can be found online through DukeHub.  Students should be aware that units of credit for non-LS courses may vary. 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.
  • During a student's time in the program, he or she may propose one Liberal Studies independent study under the guidance of a faculty supervisor. Students interested in proposing an independent study should contact the GLS director in advance of the semester in which they wish to do the independent study.
  • Many graduate certificate programs can be incorporated into a MALS degree without exceeding the number of units required for the degree.

Note: 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.

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.

Additional Graduate School Requirements

RCR Training

All master’s degree students enrolled in the Duke University Graduate School must participate during Orientation week in a four-hour Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training.  This training will be posted on the student's transcript, but does not contribute to meeting your GLS degree requirements.  Beginning in Fall 2019, master's students are also required to complete one additional two-hour RCR forum before graduation.  There is no fee for any of the RCR trainings.

Time to Completion

Master's degree students who are enrolled full-time (between 9 and 15 credits of coursework each fall and spring semester) have up to four years in which to earn their degree at Duke. Students who are enrolled part-time (under 9 credits of coursework each fall and spring semester) have up to six years.