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15 Master Degrees in Humanitarian Action

Humanitarian action is about saving lives and alleviating suffering caused by conflict and natural disasters. We have compiled 15 Master degrees in Humanitarian Action around the world for your consideration, the last four of which are available online.

Master Programme in Humanitarian Action and Conflict (Uppsala University – Uppsala, Sweden)

Uppsala University in Sweden offers a Master of Theology degree in Humanitarian Action and Conflicts. Students spend one year on campus completing the necessary course requirements and conducting independent research that culminates in a master’s dissertation. Required courses for the program include Introduction to Humanitarian Action, Anthropology in Humanitarian Action, International Law in Humanitarian Assistance, Geopolitics, Public Health in Humanitarian Action, Management and Conflict and Peace-Building. To qualify for admission, students must show demonstrated fluency in English and have a bachelor’s degree. A statement of purpose is also required for admission to the program.

Humanitarian Action (Ruhr University Bochum – Bochum, Germany)

Ruhr University of Bochum in Germany offers a Master of Arts degree in Humanitarian Action through a partnership with the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA). This intensive multi-disciplinary program requires 24 months to complete. Students are free to specialize in one of the following fields: Humanitarian action management; Humanitarian international law; International relations in humanitarian action; Public health/medicine in humanitarian action; Anthropology in humanitarian action; or International organizations in humanitarian emergencies. A master’s degree dissertation based on independent research is required for each concentration. To be considered for admission, students must hold a bachelor’s degree in law, medicine, international relations, political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, management, economics, geography, communications, or a closely related field.

Master of International Humanitarian Action (Fordham University – New York City, NY, USA)

Fordham University in New York City, United States, offers a Master of Arts degree in International Humanitarian Action. The program is designed as a full-time course of study over two years. Students take courses on a wide range of topics, including Current Humanitarian Issues; Vulnerable Populations and Migration; Humanitarian Logistics; and Accountability in Humanitarian Action. Prospective students must have a bachelor’s degree, a strong academic history, and three letters of recommendation for admissions consideration.

MSc in Humanitarian Studies with a concentration in Human Rights (Fordham University – New York, NY, USA)

Fordham University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) offers an MSc in Humanitarian Studies. This program is designed for recent undergraduates and young professionals with less than five years of experience in the field of humanitarian work. Students gain an interdisciplinary perspective on relevant issues and take evening classes to complete their degree, allowing time to work in the professional field or take on an internship while completing their degree. Students can choose to concentrate in one of three focus areas, including Human Rights, in which they will take a variety of specialized courses. They also must complete an internship and a thesis to complete their degree.

Tuition rates for this 30-credit program are $1486 per credit. GSAS offers several scholarships and fellowships to students. Students may also apply for external financial aid to pay for the cost of their studies.

Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action (University of Geneva – Geneva, Switzerland)

This unique Master’s program is a collaboration between the university and partner organizations The International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. Students receive interdisciplinary, evidence-based education in humanitarian action, gaining both theoretical, practical, and managerial skills. Students will learn to deconstruct the humanitarian system, learn about its frameworks, and reflect on its power dynamics.

The program, which is a modular executive training, consists of 60 ECTS spread across four parts. The first part is a residential term in Geneva while the other three are online. In total, the program takes about 1500 hours to complete. There are two fee options. The first (completing the program in 14 months) costs CHF 15,000. Option II (completing the program in 2-3 academic years) is CHF 17,000. The university offers partial and full scholarships. The university admits 30 students per year for this program. Applicants must have a university qualification (bachelor’s or equivalent), at least three years of relevant professional experience, excellent English skills, and a passion for the humanitarian field.

MA in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action (SciencesPo Paris School of International Affairs – Paris, France)

SciencesPo’s Paris School of International Affairs offers an MA in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action. This program blends philosophy, history, sociology, and anthropology to help students connect the fields of humanitarianism and human rights. The program also aims to take a unique “French” approach to these issues. In addition to classes, students also complete an internship and a thesis and may also have the option to study abroad.

Fees for this 2-year program vary based on place of residence. Students in the EEA area pay on a sliding scale based on annual income. For graduate students outside of the EEA area, annual tuition is €14,500. The school states that one in three students receives a full-fee scholarship to attend. They offer various scholarship and aid programs for French students, EEA students, and non-European students, as well as income-based grants and scholarships.

MPA or MIA with a concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy (Columbia University – New York, NY, USA)

Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs offers a concentration in Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy for its Master of Public Administration and Master of International Affairs programs. This concentration creates a more focused course load and experience for students interested in these particular areas of study. Students can choose to focus on either Human Rights or Humanitarian Policy through the curriculum, in addition to taking a few elective courses. Students can take courses from a variety of schools and institutes at Columbia within the subject areas of human rights and humanitarian policy, including the Law School, Mailman School of Public Health, and the Institute for the Study of Human Rights.

The 2-year MPA and MIA programs cost $57,576 in tuition per year. The School of International and Public Affairs offers scholarships and assistantships for students that can help finance their studies. Columbia also has several fellowships and scholarships available for students to apply for.

Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Programme in International Humanitarian Action (Multiple universities – Multiple locations)

The Network on Humanitarian Action International Association of Universities offers the Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Programme in International Humanitarian Action through multiple universities throughout Europe. This program provides a theoretical, analytical, and practical approach to issues of humanitarian action, taught by experts in-house and in the field. The program is offered in English, French, and Spanish. In addition to taking courses at the Uniwersytet Warszawski and the student’s home university of choice, they also have the opportunity to get regional training at one of the partner universities around the world and participate in a research project to complete their degree.

This 2-year program costs a total of €12,000 for the entire duration. This does not include expenses and fees, especially for the regional training semester. Students may be able to seek out financial aid and scholarships through their host university. This program is offered by the following universities: Aix-Marseille Universite (France), University of Malta (Malta), Rijksuniversiteit Groningen (the Netherlands), Ruhr-Universitat Bochum (Germany), Universidad de Deusto (Spain), University College Dublin (Ireland), Uniwersytet Warszawski (Poland), Uppsala Universitet (Sweden).

MA in Humanitarian Assistance (Tufts University – Boston, MA, USA)

Tufts University Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy offers an MA in Humanitarian Assistance. This program prepares professionals in the humanitarian field for future challenges and a changing landscape. In addition to core classes and electives, students must also complete a capstone project and pass a foreign language proficiency test to graduate. Students must also pass an online test in research ethics.

This 1-year program costs $43,144 in tuition. Some scholarships and assistantships may be available. This program is also designed for current professionals to be able to continue to work during the day, so employment is another option for financing the degree. Students may also be able to apply for graduate loans.

MA of Humanitarian and Development Studies (Western Sydney University – Sydney, Australia)

This degree program is the only one of its kind in Australia. It’s designed for students interested in the aid and health sectors with a focus on rehabilitation and development. Students explore topics through a practical and theoretical learning lens. With the skills and knowledge gained through this program, students are equipped to work in complex emergencies.

A few study modes are available. The program can be completed in two years full-time or four years part-time. 1.5 years full-time (three years part-time) or one year full-time (two years part-time) modes are also available. Entry pathways also vary based on a student’s prior learning and/or experience. For example, applicants for entry pathway 1 (80 credit points) must have completed a bachelor honours in a related discipline; a bachelor’s degree in a related discipline and two years of relevant work experience; or a graduate certificate/diploma in a related discipline. For a domestic student, the fees for the full-time study load of the program (80 credit points) per annum are AUD 23,240 while international students pay AUD 28,080.

MSc in International Development with Conflict and Humanitarian Action (University of Bath – Bath, United Kingdom)

Using innovative learning approaches, this 1-year course equips students to address the challenges of conflict and humanitarian crises. Students will gain an interdisciplinary understanding of modern humanitarian action and conflict response, as well as peace-building and development policy and practice. They’ll also gain practical skills in research, analysis, and communication. The taught-stage consists of 60 credits; most units are 12 credits. The dissertation or work-based project (an 8-week project with an organization working in international development) is 30 credits.

Students with degrees in relevant subjects (politics, economics, anthropology, African studies, environmental studies, etc) are encouraged to apply. Students with professional experience in international development are also welcome. Tuition depends on whether you’re a Home, Island or Overseas student. Recently, Home students taking the full-time taught program paid £10,700 while Overseas students paid £23,000.

Online program: MS in Humanitarian Action (University of San Diego – San Diego, CA, USA)

Note: U.S. Department of Education regulations don’t allow students living in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia to enroll in University of San Diego online programs.

Offered completely online, this Master of Science in Humanitarian Action (MS-HA) is designed for working professionals already working in (or hoping to work) in the humanitarian field. Students are trained to assess humanitarian needs; work in complex local, national, and international landscapes; and develop innovative solutions to humanitarian crises. Graduates work in areas like international development, human rights, environmental policy, and peace and security.

All courses are asynchronous and instructor-led, so you have the flexibility to work on assignments on your own schedule. You’ll take two courses during each 14-week semester, focusing on one seven-week course at a time. Six units focus on humanitarian foundations; nine focus on skills and methods; 12 units cover core themes; and three units cover the final capstone humanitarian crisis simulation. To graduate, students must complete 30 credits (10 three-unit courses). The MS program can be completed in 5 semesters over 20 months and costs $710 per credit. Scholarships and grants may be available to students.

Online program: MSc Humanitarian Action (SOAS University of London – London, United Kingdom)

This 2-year MSc in Humanitarian Action explores the history, politics, and practice of humanitarian action. To graduate, students must take 180 credits, including one core module and three elective modules. Students must also take four supporting mini-modules and a 60-credit dissertation. The program is completely online with anytime access to learning materials and course resources. Each module has a dedicated Associate Tutor and a study timetable. The program is divided into two study sessions per year; each subject module takes 16 weeks with research mini-modules (8 weeks) afterward. Following each module, students are assessed with five written online assessments and an essay.

Students can pay in full at the time of enrollment (£12,000) or pay as they learn (£3,000 per module). If a student has lived in England for three years, they may be eligible for postgraduate loans. Most program applicants have worked in development and/or conflict before, but any students (with a first degree) who show a passion for humanitarianism are encouraged to apply.

Online program: MSc International Humanitarian Affairs (University of York – York, United Kingdom)

This program teaches students to understand and respond to humanitarian needs in complex situations like natural hazards, political crises, and violent conflict. Students will explore modern challenges through social, political, cultural, economic, and environmental lenses. With experts from Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan and West Africa, the program harnesses a variety of online learning techniques like interactive discussions, webinars, case study materials, collaborative exercises, and more. The program is divided into three main stages over two years, the third of which is a 15,000-word dissertation based on an original research project.

The program uses a part-time, distance-learning study mode that takes two years. The year one fee is £5,570; fees are subject to change no more than 2% each year. Fees also depend on whether you’re a UK or international student. To apply, you’ll need a 2:1 or equivalent in a relevant subject. The program also considers applicants with work experience in the development and/or the humanitarian field.

Online program: Humanitarian Action and Peacebuilding MA (Oxford Brookes University – Oxford, United Kingdom)

Designed with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, this program gives students access to support and resources from the institute and Oxford Brookes University. Students will explore issues in the field and current practices. They’ll also propose their own ideas for tools and develop hard and soft skills with the guidance of academic experts, field experts, and practitioners. The program is a combination of compulsory and optional modules. The final project is a 50-credit practice-based study/dissertation.

Because this program is designed for students working in the field, it’s part-time and takes 30 months. Students can also extend their studies up to 5 years if needed. Each module takes around 200 hours. Fees vary, though for the 2023/24 session, distance learning for the UK costs £5,000. The program is open to all candidates who have an approved honours degree (2:1 or above) in a relevant field and some experience in humanitarian or peace-building. It’s also open for students with at least 10 years of experience in humanitarian action, peace-building, or a related field, as well as those with a relevant recognized diploma/certified professional qualification and 3-5 years of experience.

Interested in other issues? Check out our page on human rights masters!

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.