Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

The part-time Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program cuts a wide swath through the humanities and soAGLSP logocial sciences, studying the work of some of the world’s most powerful thinkers. As students explore a broad variety of subject matter, they enrich their understanding of social and cultural issues and improve their ability to analyze, write and complete research. MALS graduates strengthen and refine the analytical, critical and communicative skills that are highly transferable to any number of professional contexts. Secondary school teachers gain a competitive edge by deepening their subject area knowledge. For other students, the program can clarify the next stage in career or in life or provide excellent preparation for further graduate studyNorthwestern's MALS is a full member program of the The Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs



Devin Savage

These were special opportunities for me. At SPS you can go as far as your interests take you. ”

Devin Savage (MALS '09) associate dean for assessment and scholarly services, Illinois Institute of Technology

About the MA in Liberal Studies

Program Goals

MALS graduates benefit from an interdisciplinary program that:

  • Exposes students to Northwestern University’s distinguished and world class instructors.
  • Provides students with countless opportunities to engage with others who are passionate to learn more about vitally important social and cultural issues through history, religion, philosophy, art, literature and film.
  • Prepares students for the intellectual demands of professional life by enriching students’ understanding of a broad array of social and cultural issues while improving their ability to analyze, write and complete research.
  • Sharpens analytical and writing abilities, which can help prepare students for application to PhD programs.


Nine total courses need to be completed. Students need to complete two core courses, six elective courses and a capstone project. The core courses consist of IPLS 410 Introduction to Cultural Analysis and one MALS seminar course (IPLS 401). Students may take electives in subject areas such as philosophy, religion, history, art history and literature.

Students sign up for the final course in the program during the term in which they start their master's thesis. The capstone project for the MALit program is an essay of 45 to 75 double-spaced pages written under the supervision of an approved faculty member. The project presents an opportunity to research and explore a topic thoroughly. Students often elect to expand a seminar paper from a previous course. With the approval of the program director, students may create an interdisciplinary final project rather than a traditional thesis.

Current students should refer to Liberal Studies Curriculum requirements in place at time of entry into the program.


Explore Liberal Studies Courses. You can narrow your course search by day, location or instructor.

MA in Liberal Studies Specializations

Students who wish to lend more structure to their experience can elect to complete a MA in Liberal Studies Specialization. A specialization may be especially beneficial to educators, students who are thinking of going on to a PhD program, or anyone who wants to focus their literary study more precisely. Students complete four thematically linked courses for a specialization. Choose from the five subjects below.

  • American Studies
  • Chicago Studies
  • Digital Studies
  • History
  • Religious and Ethical Studies
  • Interdisciplinary Studies


The Master's in Liberal Studies faculty is comprised of dynamic and distinguished educators. Get to know the instructors on our Liberal Studies Faculty page.

Admission Information

A variety of factors are considered when your application is reviewed. Background and experience vary from student to student. For a complete list of requirements, see the Admission page for SPS graduate programs.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Tuition for the Master's in Liberal Studies program at Northwestern is comparable to similar US programs. Financial aid opportunities exist for students at Northwestern. Complete details can be found on the Liberal Studies Tuition and Financial Aid pages.

Registration Information

Already accepted into the Master's in Liberal Studies program? Get ahead and register for your classes as soon as possible to ensure maximum efficiency in your trajectory.

Liberal Studies Special Events

The Liberal Studies and Literature lecture series connects MALS and MALit students with Northwestern faculty presenting work from a range of engaging and thought-provoking topics. Visit the SPS events calendar to check for upcoming events. See the Liberal Studies Special Events page for summaries and video recordings of past events.

Find out more about Northwestern's MA in Liberal Studies

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