International Affairs and Leadership, MA

At a Glance: program details

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  • Second Language Requirement: No
Learn practical, character-driven leadership skills and gain a strong foundation in international affairs and U.S. foreign policy in this program taught by experienced professionals.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: MA International Affairs and Leadership

The MA program in international affairs and leadership prepares students for international leadership roles in a dynamic learning environment led by senior international affairs professionals from the public and private sectors.

The program offers a unique blend of leadership capacity development --- both theory and practice --- as well as substantive training focused on U.S. foreign policy decision-making, national security, international trade, human rights issues and other key global issues. Courses are taught by experienced experts, including former U.S. ambassadors and three-star generals, with the goal of readying students to become leaders in the international affairs realm. Students have regular interactions with world-class professors and practitioners who help students learn how to shape the world in a meaningful and positive way.

The program is designed and led by the ASU Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab and offered through the School of Politics and Global Studies.

IAL Program Faculty and Staff


The program offers a unique blend of leadership capacity development, both theory and practice, foreign policy decision-making, regional international affairs knowledge, and key global issues training.

  • Coursework focuses on current challenges and future trends.
  • Classes are led by top foreign policy and national security experts who have vast experience developing policy and leading programs.
  • The program stresses practical applications and case studies of international affairs issues, and hands-on experience.

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Degree Requirements

Curriculum Plan Options

  • 30 credit hours including the required capstone course (IAL 560)

Required Core (9 credit hours)
IAL 501 Principles of Character-Driven Leadership (3)
IAL 502 The Making of U.S. National Security Policy (3)
IAL 503 Applied International Leadership: Case Studies (3)

Electives (18 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (3 credit hours)
IAL 560 Capstone (3)

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree in any field from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

Applicants are required to submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. letter of intent
  4. professional resume
  5. writing sample
  6. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

GRE or GMAT results are not required but can be submitted as an additional application material. ASU does not accept the GRE® General Test at home edition.

Applicants should have a deep-rooted interest in international issues of the future and a desire to influence them through character-driven leadership within the context of an increasingly complicated, globalized world. Ideal candidates have previous leadership experience and plan to devote their careers to working with other cultures and nations across a variety of sectors. While an ideal candidate has previous experience traveling or living overseas or has studied a language other than English, candidates with no prior experience in these areas are also welcome to apply. Both international and domestic students are encouraged to apply.

Using the letter of intent, applicants should narrate their own leadership journeys and their motivations for further studies in the areas of international affairs and leadership. The letter of intent should describe applicants' academic and professional interests to date, their reasons for pursuing a master's degree in international affairs and leadership, and how this advanced degree relates to their specific future goals.

The application review panel also reviews the applicant's writing skills. The writing sample could be an original essay or previously written research paper, essay, policy memo, or other document that demonstrates the applicant's writing and analytical skills.

Courses and Electives

IAL 501: Principles of Character Driven Leadership, 3 credit hours

Principals of Character Driven Leadership provides the student with the core concepts of character driven leadership defined as the commitment to do the right thing, the right way for the right reasons. The course focuses on values; individual, organizational, and national, along with ethics; culminating with a clear understanding of leadership. Students will explore the “leader in me” by examining the values that they embrace and the causes that they believe in, along with understanding “the environment I lead in” and the criticality of comprehending where they lead and who they lead.

IAL 502: U.S. National Security Policy, 3 credit hours

IAL 502 outlines the origins and current structure of America’s national security architecture. Using actual policy decisions, students will exercise the process of analysis, decision-making and translating into action, elements of the country’s national security agenda. The course will also include intensive analysis of the intent and outcome of such critical policy decisions and the leadership exercised by the participating decision-makers.

IAL 503: Applied International Leadership: Case Studies, 3 credit hours

IAL 503 builds on the theoretical and practical foundation of the development curriculum conveyed in IAL 501. During the semester, students will engage with faculty and with each other in multiple in-depth applied leadership scenarios, examining various aspects of leadership in international settings. The semester will culminate in individual student presentations analyzing a complex international leadership challenge. Case studies and scenarios in international settings with real-world choices and dilemmas that require group decision-making and leadership in a pressure-filled, crisis situation to achieve a peaceful and successful outcome.

Students will take six elective courses of their choice from a list of course offerings. These classes will cover a range of topics including regional focuses, leadership decision making, global issues, and international relation issues.

See the list of potential courses

IAL 560: Capstone, 3 credit hours

In consultation and with the approval of the instructor, students research and identify a specific international affairs leadership challenge they will present at the conclusion of the degree program. The capstone product should be a visually rich 20-minute oral presentation that shows analytical rigor and defends a tangible strategic plan for achieving impact and positive change. The oral presentation must be accompanied by written back-up material that substantiates and defends the student’s policy analysis and proposal for action.

Flexible Degree Options

Accelerated program options

This program allows students to obtain both a bachelor's and master's degree in as little as five years.
It is offered as an accelerated bachelor's and master's degree with:

BS - Political Science

Interested in politics and public issues in the United States and abroad? See yourself heading to law school, working on political campaigns or as a diplomat? Springboard your education in preparation for a wide variety of careers, both inside and outside of government.

Website | Locations: TEMPE,ONLNE

BA - Global Studies

Study how cultures, economics, institutions and social issues shape our increasingly globalized world. Through a global experience or an internationally focused internship, you'll put your learning to work as you help to address current challenges.

Website | Locations: TEMPE,ONLNE

BA - Political Science

Interested in politics and public issues in the United States and abroad? See yourself heading to law school, working on political campaigns or serving as a diplomat? Springboard your education in preparation for a wide variety of careers, both inside and outside government.

Website | Locations: TEMPE,ONLNE

Acceptance to the graduate program requires a separate application. During their junior year, eligible students will be advised by their academic departments to apply.

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Application Deadlines



Session A/C
July 25th



Session A/C
December 11th

Career Opportunities

Graduates are prepared to succeed in a wide variety of international affairs professions. Opportunities include foreign policy positions at the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Department of Defense, and leadership positions in international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Career opportunities include:

  • Capitol Hill staff member
  • foreign service officer
  • human rights expert (nongovernmental organization, think tank, USG, etc.)
  • international development expert (USAID, World Bank, etc.)
  • military officer or noncommissioned officer in strategic, special or tactical operations

Attend Online

ASU offers this program in an online format with multiple enrollment sessions throughout the year. Applicants may view the program description and request more information here.

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.