MA in East Asian Studies

Students in the Master of Arts in East Asian Studies program engage in the interdisciplinary study of Northeast Asia (China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea), Southeast Asia (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam), or any combination of these countries/regions.

Information on these pages is provided for current as well as prospective students. For more information on the MA in East Asian Studies, please email us or call 919-684-2604.

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Program features

  • Students can select courses from a broad range of offerings in area studies, political science, literature, history, art history, religion, cultural anthropology, sociology, music, and visual and media studies
  • Students may enroll in up to one course per semester at UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Students typically complete the program within two years (four semesters); the final semester is typically reserved for writing
  • Students may complete an MA thesis or revise two academic research papers completed during coursework

Program opportunities

  • Prepare to enter a new profession in the diplomatic corps, law, education, journalism, consulting or business
  • Enhance your current career path with advanced academic training
  • Build a solid foundation for further study in social science or humanities doctoral programs
  • Attain proficiency in a regional language
  • Experience a unique exchange program in Tokyo, Japan, at Meiji University’s Graduate School of Political Science and Economics

    Degree Requirements

    Effective Spring 2020 students pursuing an MA in East Asian Studies will be given the option to either write an MA thesis or revise and submit two research papers originally developed during coursework to satisfy milestone requirements for the degree.  Students are required to declare their milestone option by September 30th of the second year via this form. All students, whether choosing the Thesis or Research Paper option, must take an East Asian Studies Core Course as part of their EAS listed course requirements and demonstrate proficiency in an East Asian language equivalent to successful completion of the full 3rd-year language sequence at Duke.  Up to two regional language courses taken at the graduate level may count toward course requirements.  

    Thesis Option

    Students who intend to pursue a PhD after completing the MA program are strongly encouraged to select the thesis option.  A thesis is an original scholarly work, rooted in one or more relevant academic disciplines, that is crafted under the supervision and guidance of a thesis advisor.  Theses in EAS are typically 40-60 pages in length not including references.  The MA thesis must follow all guidelines stipulated by the Graduate School and must be defended before an examination committee of three or more faculty members. The Chair and at least one other committee member must be APSI core faculty. Students are required to form their committee by September 30th of their second year.

    Students who elect to write an MA thesis must complete 10 graduate-level courses (30 semester hours) including 6 listed East Asian Studies courses and 2 independent studies with a thesis advisor to develop the thesis project. Graduate-level independent studies taken with other APSI core faculty members may also count as East Asian Studies courses.  Courses must be from 2 or more programs or departments.

    Research Paper Option

    Students who anticipate pursuing a career outside of academia are encouraged to consider this option, which allows students to revise and submit two significant academic research papers developed during coursework to an examination committee.  Both research papers must have received a letter grade ‘B’ or above in the course they were originally submitted and be revised based on faculty comments from the course.  Students are required to share faculty comments on each paper as early as possible with their committee Chair. Additionally, students must write a 4-5 page introduction to the research papers demonstrating the role the research has played in the students’ MA program of study.   The two research papers must be defended before an examination committee of three or more faculty members.  The committee Chair and at least one other member must be APSI core faculty. Students are required to form their committee and identify the papers they will use to fulfill the milestone requirement by September 30th of their second year.

    To earn the MA, students must complete a total of 10 graduate-level courses (30 semester hours) including 8 listed East Asian Studies courses. Graduate-level independent studies taken with APSI core faculty members may count as East Asian Studies courses.  Courses must be from 2 or more programs or departments.

    View a list of courses that fulfill the requirements of the MA program and a sample MA-EAS Curriculum.


    Information about the application process, including requirements, deadlines and a link to the online application is on the Duke Graduate School's Admissions website.

    Complete applications for the MA in East Asian Studies must include:

    • Online application (via ApplyYourself)
    • Statement of purpose
    • Writing sample
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • Official university transcripts from all schools attended
    • GRE scores
    • TOEFL, IELTS or Duolingo scores, if applicable