Curriculum and Requirements

Georgetown’s Master of Arts Program in Democracy and Governance addresses the diverse challenges and obstacles to achieving sustained democratization and effective governance. Leading scholars and practitioners in the field teach core courses, while courses offered by the Department of Government and other Georgetown departments permits students to design a program that meets their specific interests (see recent course offerings).

The program typically takes two years to complete on a full-time basis, though some students elect to complete the program on a part-time basis over three years. Full-time students take anywhere from three to five courses per semester (9 to 15 credits), though nine credits qualifies as full-time. Part-time students typically take two courses per semester, and may also participate in the summer session.

Current students may use this Curriculum Guide to track their requirements and plan for future semesters. (Note: You will need to use your Georgetown Email and Make a Copy)

The following requirements apply to all students entering the program in 2020 or later. For degree requirements applicable to students who entered the program in 2019 or earlier, please refer to this overview.

All students must complete the following three requirements:

1. GOVT 5400: Democracy and Governance: Approaches & Topics (taken in the first semester)
2. GOVT 5640: Program Design and Evaluation -or- GOVT 5432: Research Methods in Democracy and Governance
3. GOVT 5453: Comparative Political Institutions -or- GOVT 5450: Democracy Promotion

The program requires students to take at least one course in each of the following themes:

Each thematic area encompasses issues that are central to an understanding of current debates in the study of democracy and governance, with a balance of applied and theoretical training. In addition, we encourage students to take courses that allow them to focus on the unique political trajectory of a particular world region.

Students must also fulfill the following requirements:

  • Three Elective Courses
  • One Credit of Practical Skills Training
  • Comprehensive Oral Final Examination

I. History and Theories of Democracy and Democratization

Students receive the conceptual and historical foundations necessary to comprehend the varied forms and practices that constitute contemporary democracy, as well as an understanding of democratic political institutions and the policies that maintain them through this focus field. It includes courses that address:

  • The origins and trajectories of democracy
  • Democracy in Western political thought
  • Ideologies and norms, including religion, in the study of democracy
  • The quality of democracy

II. Democracy, Governance, and Institutions 

Policymakers and scholars agree that concerns over responsible governance and effective representation are at the forefront of current debate about the future prospects for democratic life. They are also central for understanding conditions that impede accountable government and how processes such as globalization are transforming representation and institutional capacity. Courses in this focus field will cover concepts and approaches to:

  • Corruption and rule of law
  • Institutions of governance and representation
  • Globalization and democracy
  • Political economy of development and economic reform

III. Democracy and Society

Coursework in this area covers the full range of issues associated with contemporary experiences of civil society, social movements, religion, identity, and migration on democratization and political reform, as well as the role of civil society in consolidated democracies, and the links between globalization and transnational civil society. Courses in this area include:

  • Civil society in transitioning countries and emerging democracies
  • Social movements and political change
  • Citizenship and migration
  • Globalization and trans-national civil society

IV. Democracy, Governance, and Development Policy

The complex and still contested relationship between development, governance, and democracy is our fourth focus field. Courses in this area address foundation questions about democracy and economic development: Are development and democracy linked intrinsically? Does democracy promote economic development or vice-versa? Is good economic governance the same as good political governance? Are there differences between effective development policies in democracies and non-democracies? In this focus field we examine:

  • Theories of democracy and economic development
  • Governance and economic development
  • Development policies of states and international organizations
  • Theories of political development

V. Regional Studies in Democracy

Students are required to take one course that focuses on the experience of democracy within a specific global region. This complements the broader and comparative nature of our program with useful contextual and specific knowledge of areas of interest to students.

VI. Elective Courses

Students take three elective courses to help them gain greater expertise on a sub-field of their interest such as electoral studies, democracy promotion, governance and economic reform, or methodological tools for policy. These classes are available through the MA Program in Democracy and Governance, but also from the wider Georgetown course catalog. Students are limited to two 400-level courses per year.

In addition students may opt to complete a research or internship tutorial in lieu of one 3-credit electives. An internship must receive approval from the associate director of the program and must have relevance to the academic focus of the program.

VII. Skills Training

Students must complete one credit of practical skills training. Most students fulfill this requirement by completing one of our 1-credit skills courses. Students may also petition to complete this requirement with a 1-credit internship tutorial.

VIII. Oral Exams

In the month prior to graduation, students must also pass an oral comprehensive examination. This exam lasts 30-45 minutes and is administered by the program directors. Students are given a study guide in advance.