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15 Top Human Rights Graduate Programs

Note: Also check out our listings to find masters in human rights.

Degrees specializing in human rights have become more popular and important over the past several decades. Human rights encompass a wide array of issues, including preventing torture, bioethics, climate change, health care access and freedom of speech, to name a few. Frequently, individuals who are interested in a career focused on human rights already have an undergraduate degree in another field and then seek to steer their career path to something more meaningful – human rights may be the perfect fit. Here are a few excellent Human Rights Graduate Programs for your consideration with exciting specializations. Also check out our growing degree portal featuring many tuition-free programs that contains many more top human rights masters programs.

Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights: MPH, MSc (Boston University)

Boston University is located in Boston, Massachusetts. Unlike other human rights graduate programs, Boston University’s degree blends public health and human rights into a single degree. Public health is one area particularly relevant to human rights as international disasters lead to critical healthcare crises. The expected completion time for this degree is approximately two to three years. Examples of courses in the Boston University’s program include:

• Healthcare Rationing, Medicine, Markets and Morals – This course covers governmental control of healthcare access and how these actions result in poor health outcomes. Specifically, this course examines low income, elderly and disabled populations and financial factors that impact healthcare delivery.

• Health and Human Rights – This course focuses on the link between public health policies and how they impact human rights. Specific topics reviewed are premature infant death rates, life expectancy and access to healthcare and how these public health issues relate to human rights on both the United States and internationally.

• Health Law, Bioethics, and Human Rights – With technological advances in medicine and increased levels of large terror attacks, the issues of bioethics, law and human rights intersect in ways that challenge corporations, governments and human rights advocates. This course examines issues such as torture, genetic engineering, right to health and mass quarantine policies.

Other courses cover issues such as heath care access and heath insurance, public health law and other relevant topics.

Veterans of the United States armed forces are eligible for financial assistance provided through the Veterans Administration.

Human Rights: MA (Columbia University)

Columbia University is located in New York City. Their degree is part of the university’s Institute of Human Rights Studies (IHRS), one of the premier human rights graduate programs in the United States. The Institute holds a strong reputation within the field of human rights, with decades of study and research into international human rights.

The Master’s Degree is a 30-unit program that can be completed by students attending either full time or part time. This degree is an interdisciplinary program and falls under the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and under the Liberal Studies division of the school. Students take courses from both the IHRS and courses from other related departments, such as history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, religion and political science.

Columbia offers fellowships for students attending under a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS). The FLAS is a specialized program available for students interested in international studies in their field. This program requires intermediate and/or advanced language proficiency and the application must be approved by the US Department of Education no less than 30 days before starting the program.

Human Rights Concentration, LL M (Harvard University)

Harvard University offers an adjunct specialization for students enrolled in a wide variety of degree programs, including law, political science and international studies. Additionally, the Human Rights Program (HRP) is also available for students within the community who are not enrolled at Harvard, making this uniquely special among human right graduate programs.

Harvard has several programs associated with human rights. These include Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights and The Committee on Ethnicity, Migration, Rights. All of these organizations interact with the local community, providing seminars, legal support and other relevant services.

The university has several fellowships available, including:

• Visiting Fellow for teachers and individuals working within the human rights field. This fellowship provides one to two semesters of concentrated study, research and professional/academic writing.

• Henigson Human Rights Fellowship, which is available for Harvard Law School graduates and current students. Prospective students are required to demonstrate interest in working in the field of international human rights. Additionally, prospective students should be prepared to make a valuable impact within the field of human rights, working with a non-governmental agency, as a building block to a career in the field. This is a year-long fellowship.

The Harvard program in human rights includes several specific international areas of study, including Myanmar, Business and Human Rights, Alien Torts, Human Rights and the Environment and Transitional Justice.

Master of Human Rights, MA, CHR (Curtin University)

Curtin University is located in Bentley, Australia. Curtin University’s human rights graduate programs can be completed either on- or off-campus. The MA degree program can be completed in 18 months of full-time study. In addition to traditional on-campus courses, Curtin also offers online courses. It is an interdisciplinary degree that includes courses in anthropology, political science, legal studies, education, philosophy and social work. In addition to examining human rights issues in Australia, students also develop skills to work internationally, understanding differing religious, cultural and political perspectives.

Students are introduced to the practical application of human rights theory. The curriculum is designed for students who anticipate working with non-government organizations (NGOs), conflict mediation, community advocacy, and international community development.

Curtin University also offers a Certificate in Human Rights. This program is a post-undergraduate program similar to the Master’s Degree. However, it is intended as an introductory certification for individuals considering pursing a graduate degree in the field of human rights.

The Certificate can be completed in six months of full-time work and it can be completed both on- and off-campus. Once completed, students are eligible to apply for the MA in Human Rights.

International Studies, PhD, (Henry M Jackson School of International Studies – University of Washington)

The Henry M Jackson School of International Studies at the University of Washington is one of the few human rights graduate programs to offer a doctorate level degree focused on human rights. The degree is specifically designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore innovative approaches to addressing real-world human rights issues. The wide range of contemporary human rights issues include global policy, emerging international crises, refugees, health care and more. Students are provided with opportunities to move beyond the classroom and experience real-world practice in the field. The PhD program also includes an in-depth tutorial system which allows students to complete their degree within three to four years of full-time study.

Students are exposed to a wide array of concepts relevant to human rights studies including:

• States, Markets and Societies, reviewing the political impact of political states and historical, social and political leadership.

• Religions, Cultures and Civilizations, examining how history, cultural and religious beliefs impact political and cultural practices within a society or geographical region.

• Law, Rights and Governance, investigating the consequences of legal and policy in both world affairs and international conflicts.

• Peace, Violence, and Security, providing students with the opportunity to examine how global conflicts and violence develop, and methods to prevent such developments.

Students are also required to complete a dissertation as part of their degree. This PhD program provides students with the opportunity to choose between writing a book-length monograph dissertation or a dissertation examining three article length themes that are related.

While full funding for graduate tuition is not guaranteed for students attending the Jackson School of Human Rights, upon admission, PhD students are automatically considered for a variety of financial aid programs, including Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants and numerous fellowships that are available through the school.

International Human Rights Law Certificate (George Washington University)

Georgetown University is located in the United States capital, Washington, D.C. The Certificate in International Human Rights Law is offered as a specialization for students enrolled in George Washington University’s LL M program. However, students enrolled in the university’s JD program are not eligible for this certificate program. Given that the Certificate is also part of the LL M program at the School of Law, this program does not accept students who only want to earn the Certificate.

As part of Georgetown University’s human rights graduate programs, students are encouraged to expand their knowledge of the many aspects of human rights that apply to the legal profession. This program is for LL M students and courses are taught by professors pulled from the US government with direct experience in human rights, including individuals from non-government organizations, the Organization of American States and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Master of Human Rights (MHR), University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, MN

The University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs offers a Master of Human Rights program. This program is an interdisciplinary degree, allowing students to take courses through a variety of departments and schools. Students learn theory and skills and gain practical experience through an internship program and a capstone project. Students also have opportunities to participate in workshops, attend conferences, and engage with research centers. Through classes, seminars, conferences, workshops, and more, students learn from and engage with leaders, scholars, and activists in the field.

This 2-year program costs $18,182 for in-state residents and $27,530 for out-of-state residents. The university offers a variety of merit-based and need-based financial aid programs, including multiple graduate fellowships, loans, work-study programs, and more.

MA in Social Justice and Human Rights, Arizona State University – Tempe, AZ

Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences offers a Master of Arts in Social Justice and Human Rights program. Students in this degree program can choose to follow a course track of research, advocacy, or critical trauma studies and social work. The courses in each track teach students theory and method relating to issues such as human security, labor, migration, children, family, education, and environment. Students also have the opportunity to obtain an accelerated bachelor’s degree, in addition to their master’s degree, through a 5-year program. To complete the degree program, students must take the required courses, including a research class and either a thesis or an applied project.

For the 2-year master’s program, tuition is $12,134 for in-state students, $23,372 for out-of-state students, and $25,046 for international students. These costs do not include additional fees and expenses for living and supplies. ASU states that more than 80% of their students receive some type of financial aid. On their site, they have a link to search for various scholarships, as well as information about university fellowships, on-campus employment, and loans.

LLM in International Human Rights, Northwestern University – Chicago, IL

The LLM in International Human Rights at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law is specifically designed for JD and LLB students to gain an in-depth knowledge of theories, methods, and issues relating to international human rights. Taught by scholars with hands-on law practice experience, students have access to several resources, including the Center for International Human Rights and various seminars. Students are encouraged to look at relevant issues and situations in their home countries from the perspective the international human rights law theories they learn. In addition to the core courses, students must also take electives and complete a graduate thesis. Any applicants without a law degree who have significant relevant work experience can be accepted into the Master of Legal Studies in International Human Rights program, which is identical in content to the LLM program.

For this 2-year degree, tuition is $67,066 per year. The law school and the university offer a variety of scholarships for students that they can be considered for upon applying to the program. Students who receive a scholarship will continue to receive that scholarship for their additional years of study, as long as they keep good academic standing.

MA in International Human Rights, University of Denver – Denver, CO

The University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies offers an MA in International Human Rights. As an interdisciplinary program, the courses aim to bring human rights together with development, health, security, and humanitarian assistance through both theory and practical skills. To complete their degree, students take a variety of theory and method courses, as well as participate in an internship. Students can choose a specialization from a large selection of topic areas. The program also encourages students to gain proficiency in a foreign language. The Josef Korbel school also offers students the opportunity to get involved with academic groups, research centers, and more.

This master’s program is designed to be a 2-year degree. Tuition is charged per term and costs $17,112 each term without fees or living expenses for a total of $51,336 if your year consists of fall, winter, and spring term courses. The University of Denver offers some financial aid for students, including assistantships, fellowships, scholarships, and loans. The Josef Korbel school also offers scholarships and fellowships to its students, including a few full-tuition fellowships.

MA in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Social Justice and Human Rights, George Mason University – Fairfax, VA

George Mason University, through its College of Humanities and Social Sciences, offers a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Social Justice and Human Rights. This program is specifically designed to give students a multi-perspective approach to issues of social justice and human rights, allowing flexibility in which topic areas the students choose to study and focus on. Students are taught by faculty who are engaged in a wide variety of social justice issues around the world, teaching them theory, methods, and practical skills, all just outside of the hub of politics and activism—Washington, DC. The program requires students to take a small number of core courses, in addition to taking courses centered around a focus area, as well as electives. To complete the degree, students must complete a research methods class, proposal class, and thesis or project.

This 2-year master’s program costs about $12,402 per year for in-state students and $27,841 for out-of-state students. GMU offers several scholarship and fellowship options for graduate students, as well as grants and loans.

LLM in Human Rights & Social Justice, University of Connecticut – Hartford, CT

The University of Connecticut (UCONN)’s School of Law offers an LLM in Human Rights & Social Justice. This program is designed for students with a previous law degree to gain knowledge and experience that will allow them to work on a domestic or global level with legal issues relating to business, social policy, civil rights, and more. In addition to interdisciplinary courses teaching theory and practice in law, students will also have the chance to take classes through the Human Rights Institute at UCONN, a research center focused specifically on human rights issues. Students may also have the opportunity to participate in the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic to gain practical experience. They can also obtain a certificate in a specific law focus area through the completion of 9-12 additional credits.

The 2-year law program costs $28,560 for US students and $22,976 per year for international students. UCONN offers law scholarships and also has a list of both internal and external scholarships students may be eligible to apply for.

LLM with a concentration in Human Rights Law, Yale University – New Haven, Connecticut

Yale Law School offers an LLM degree for which students can obtain a concentration in Human Rights Law. This program, accepting a limited number of students, is designed for those who wish to teach law academically. LLM students choose their courses from a variety of elective classes and are encouraged to participate in a number of extracurricular opportunities such as presenting at national conferences, participating in student organizations, and attending events offered by the law school, such as their Works in Progress Symposium, workshops, luncheons, and field trips. With the Human Rights Law concentration, students can learn about human rights issues and contribute to research and discussion around the world. They also have the opportunity to participate in a legal clinic specifically focusing on human rights cases.

This 2-year degree program costs $62,017, not including other fees and expenses. The law school offers financial aid scholarships based solely on need, giving some level of aid to about 70% of students at the university. Those studying human rights also have a chance to obtain one of several fellowship opportunities offered.

LLM in International Human Rights Law, University of Notre Dame – Notre Dame, IN

The University of Notre Dame Law School has an LLM in International Human Rights Law. The program is designed to give students theoretical and practical experience in international human rights law, preparing them to work in the field anywhere in the world. While not ideal for students looking to begin practicing law, the curriculum is created to support practicing lawyers already in the field with additional knowledge and skills to bring to the field. In addition to a few required courses, students choose from a variety of electives to create their own concentration. If desired, students may apply for additional funding after completion of their courses to participate in an internship relevant to their degree.

This program is a 1-year program that costs $60,240 per year for all students. All applicants are considered for a scholarship and stipend upon submission of their academic application. Students can apply for additional internal and external scholarships, loans, and employment opportunities to finance their studies.

LLM with a concentration in Human Rights, New York University – New York City, NY

NYU’s law school offers an LLM degree in which you can obtain a concentration in Human Rights. Students may also choose to pursue an LLM in International Legal Studies and gain specialization in Human Rights & International Criminal Law. Through the general LLM program, students can choose courses that best fit their interests in the area of law. The Human Rights concentration offers a variety of courses designed to provide an interdisciplinary approach to students interested in this subject area. Students may participate in legal clinics that focus on human rights cases and seminars that give an in-depth study to specific human rights issues. Students can also choose to pursue a thesis or research project to complete their degree.

This 1-year program costs around $31,901 for tuition, not including fees and expenses. NYU offers some financial aid in the form of scholarship, grants, and loans. Students can also obtain external scholarships to cover expenses.

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Human Rights Careers

Human Rights Careers (HRC) aims to help human rights students, recent graduates and young professionals to pursue a career in the highly competitive field of human rights.