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Degree Programs FAQs

Master of International Affairs (MIA)

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

MPA in Development Practice

  • STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supports STEM education in the U.S. by establishing criteria that marks some degree programs as “STEM degrees.”

    Students completing STEM-designated programs receive an internationally recognized education in these disciplines, which can help them prepare for and secure jobs after graduation.

    International students completing a STEM-designated program are eligible to apply for the F-1 STEM OPT Extension. This designation enables students to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT authorization beyond their standard 12-month OPT.

  • For each cohort, we seek diverse international representation and a range of disciplinary backgrounds to enrich the learning environment. Our current two MPA-DP cohorts include students from 30 countries, coming from a range of academic backgrounds, including economics, business, architecture, engineering, finance, geography, mathematics, computer science, agriculture, public health, biology, religion, history, communications, political science, law and social work. This cultural and professional diversity within each cohort is a powerful asset for learning and contributing to a vibrant program.

    We look for candidates with some professional international experience, with most of our successful candidates having between two and 10 years. We believe that prior field experience improves the quality of the education experience. We especially seek out candidates with a demonstrated passion for sustainable development practice.

  • No, but students with majors that are far removed from the international relations or public administration fields are advised to address with extra care in their essay why they now wish to “change gears” and study at SIPA.

  • A very small number of the accepted students each year may come directly from undergraduate institutions. These are individuals with extraordinary academic records who have also had significant internship and/or study abroad experience. Recent undergraduates with very strong academic credentials might be encouraged to reapply after they have pursued one or more years of relevant work experience.

  • The MPA-DP program administration is available to meet with you by appointment. Please email us at [email protected]. With advance notice, we can also arrange for you to sit in on a current MPA-DP core course.

  • The MPA-DP program has a separate admissions committee that reviews applications and selects students for admission.

  • In exceptional circumstances, deferment may be permitted. These circumstances include health issues duly certified by a medical professional or unexpected impediments to obtaining a visa. An applicant can also reapply by following the reapplication procedure provided here. We will retain materials for 2 years after the original application deadline.

  • SIPA's MIA, MPA and EMPA students can request to transfer to the MPA-DP program before the course registrations’ add/drop deadline, in their first semester, or before registration opens for the second semester of their degree. Students need to express their wish to one of the Deans at the Office of Students Affairs. The Dean will then contact the MPA-DP leadership, and a decision will be made based on the student's application material submitted to SIPA, plus the number of available spaces in the MPA-DP cohort.

  • This additional fee contributes to the cost of the 12-week professional summer placement, one-week “Getting Started” program, and three-day MPA-DP retreat.

  • In exceptional cases, the MPA-DP Program Director may grant students a waiver from completing core requirements. If a student can clearly demonstrate that he or she has expertise in the subject and that there is no advantage to taking the course, he or she may request a waiver from the Program Director. The decision to approve course waivers will be made jointly by the Program Director and the professor of the required course. Students are also required to identify an alternative course to fulfill the requirement.

  • Yes. You may take any Columbia University course that allows SIPA students to enroll, and are encouraged to do so when possible. Students should be aware that some undergraduate courses, such as Elementary level language courses, will not count toward the 54 credits required for graduation from SIPA.

  • Yes. MPA-DP students have conducted research on a wide range of topics related to sustainable development practice. Learn more.

  • MPA-DP students are required to complete a 12-week consultancy with an organization between their first and second year at SIPA. The scope of work must be graduate-level and related to sustainable development. In addition to completing the deliverables required by the host organization per the Terms of Reference, students must submit several deliverables to the MPA-DP Program Director designed to facilitate reflection on this experience.

  • The minimum duration of the professional summer placement is 12 full-time weeks. 

  • The MPA-DP program administration aims to limit out-of-pocket expenses for basic expenses incurred during the professional summer placement. Some host organizations fully fund summer placements per internal policies, but often there is a cost-sharing arrangement. Partner organizations are asked to provide financial or in-kind support for their student “consultants,” and often cover accommodations, meals and in-country project-associated travel. Students can apply for a DP summer stipend up to a maximum of $2,500 to cover gaps in basic expenses.

  • Yes! In fact, MPA-DPs hold leadership positions on the executive boards of 14 student organizations within SIPA. More than half of the MPA-DP class of 2018 hold leadership roles in organizations ranging from the Humanitarian Affairs Working Group, the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Group, the Monitoring and Evaluation Student Society, to the Social Enterprise Club (SEC) and Columbia Impact Investing Initiative - Ci3. As true interdisciplinary practitioners, many MPA-DP students serve on the boards of multiple organizations.

  • Besides the required professional summer placement, many MPA-DP students take advantage of the opportunity to intern with an organization in New York City.  Though not required, MPA-DP students may receive up to 3 credits for internships undertaken during their first or second year at SIPA.

  • Please refer to SIPA's auditing policies. Please note that you cannot audit required courses.

MPA in Economic Policy Management

  • STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supports STEM education in the U.S. by establishing criteria that marks some degree programs as “STEM degrees.”

    Students completing STEM-designated programs receive an internationally recognized education in these disciplines, which can help them prepare for and secure jobs after graduation.

    International students completing a STEM-designated program are eligible to apply for the F-1 STEM OPT Extension. This designation enables students to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT authorization beyond their standard 12-month OPT.

  • The MPA-EPM program has a separate admissions committee that reviews applications and selects students for admission.

  • The MPA-EPM is best for mid-career professionals who are interested in emerging markets and focused economic policy issues, while the two-year MPA is better for younger candidates who want to explore broader issues.

  • MPA-EPM students who have previously completed a graduate degree in economics or a related discipline may apply to transfer up to 12 credits from their previous graduate degree toward the MPA-EPM degree. Students who wish to apply for such transfer should contact the MPA-EPM Office prior to March 15 at [email protected].

  • Students confirm a focus at the end of Summer Session II. The MPA-EPM curricular focuses are: the traditional Economic Policy Management Track (EPM), the Global Energy Management and Policy Track (GEMP), and the Central Banking and Financial Markets Track (CBFM).

  • The EPM focus builds students’ technical competence with the tools of economic management and policymaking and their application, and also educates students about current thinking on the global economic environment, as well as its history and institutions. The GEMP focus teaches the fundamentals of the energy industry, including study of international energy systems and business organizations involved in the production, transportation, and marketing of energy products. The CBFM focus teaches an in-depth understanding of corporate finance, capital markets, banking and regulation, covering both emerging and advanced economies while also examining the process of building sound capital markets in emerging economies.

  • No, the one-year MPA-EPM is a full-time program at SIPA. Students take six courses in the summer, six courses in the fall, and six courses in the spring.

  • Prospective students are welcome to sit in on a MPA-EPM core class. If you are traveling to New York City, please email [email protected] to schedule a class visit. MPA-EPM encourages prospective students to schedule their visit between July 5 and August 5 for the summer term, September 30 and November 30 for the fall term, and between February 1 and April 1 for the spring term.

  • Yes, through MPA-EPM’s Ambassador Program. Please email [email protected] for more information.

Executive MPA

  • Deferral is possible for up to a year. You must pay an additional non-refundable deposit to reserve your seat for the following year; in other words, you would return the response form sent with your admissions letter to the Picker Center with both the standard non-refundable deposit fee of $2,000 and the $1,000 non-refundable deposit fee for deferral. The $3,000 will count towards your tuition and fees upon official enrollment into the program.

  • Because admission is granted on a rolling basis, decision dates are not fixed. Generally, applicants will hear back within a month.

  • If you have applied and are encouraged to reapply for the following year, you must submit a new application; however, your supporting materials from the previous year will have been preserved. This includes your transcripts, recommendations, test scores, and personal statement, though the committee strongly encourages an update on the personal statement for the new application. Be sure that you contact the Office of Admissions to inform them you want to reapply for the following fall semester.

  • Prospective students are strongly encouraged to visit classes and/or schedule an informational interview with the program's faculty and administrators. Sitting in on a class is an excellent way to find out more about the EMPA program and meet faculty, staff, current students, and fellow applicants. Informational interviews give prospective students a chance to determine more fully if SIPA’s program is right for them.

    Please email the EMPA Recruitment Office if you would like to set up an informational interview, sit in on classes, or if you have any questions about the program.

  • We can only accept relevant graduate-level courses from a previously completed graduate program. Any course must be at least a B grade from an accredited university. The maximum number of credits you may transfer into the EMPA program is six credits, pending approval from your academic adviser.

  • Microeconomics I and II are considered core courses and no core courses can be replaced. You can forego taking these classes  by passing the Micro Exemption Exams, which the program assistant can schedule with you directly. You must take separate exams for Micro I and Micro II which we will determine if you are exempt from Micro I, Micro II, or both. If you place out of Micro I, Micro II or both, you will have to take another three to six credits (depending on your results) to replace these classes. Your academic advisor will provide you with a list of courses that qualify as possible replacements. 

  • Students who have extensive work experience or have previously completed a degree in a quantitative field may email [email protected] to request a waiver for the upcoming admissions period. If you have already taken the GRE and would like to submit your scores for consideration, you are welcome to do so.

  • If the official language of instruction at your undergraduate institution was NOT English, you must take the TOEFL or the IELTS exam. An acceptable TOEFL score is 100 and above. The minimum IELTS score is 7.5.

  • EMPA students have the option of concentrating in Advanced Finance and Management, Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management, International Economic Policy and Management, or Urban and Social Policy. You will choose your concentration after you have successfully completed two semesters in the EMPA program. 

  • Yes, you can change your concentration. However, you must consult with your academic adviser about making such a change.

  • Yes, you can take up to six credits (two courses) outside of  SIPA. However, all courses must be approved by your academic advisor prior to your cross-registration at another Columbia University school. 

  • The EMPA alumni association hosts events that bring alumni and students together. In addition, SIPA's Office of Alumni Affairs and Office of Career Services hold events that offer opportunities for alumni and students to meet.

  • Picker Fellowships are awarded to selected EMPA students who work for certain departments of the City of New York. Not all public employees are eligible; please contact the EMPA office for more information.

    All students may be considered for an EMPA Fellowship, a merit-based, one-time award that grants qualified applicants a monetary scholarship of up to a semester's tuition. The fellowship application is part of the general EMPA application.

  • As an international student, you must apply to Columbia University’s International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) for an I-20 Certificate of Eligibility (COE) for student status. The I-20 is required to apply for a student entry visa (F-1) at a U.S. consulate to present at a port of entry upon arrival.

MPA in Environmental Science and Policy

  • STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.  The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) supports STEM education in the U.S. by establishing criteria that marks some degree programs as “STEM degrees.”

    Students completing STEM-designated programs receive an internationally recognized education in these disciplines, which can help them prepare for and secure jobs after graduation.

    International students completing a STEM-designated program are eligible to apply for the F-1 STEM OPT Extension. This designation enables students to apply for an additional 24 months of OPT authorization beyond their standard 12-month OPT.

  • Our program is the only one of its kind to require 12 points (i.e. six two-point classes) in basic applied environmental science, which ensures that our graduates are able to understand and communicate the scientific issues behind the sustainability issues that they are called to address.

  • The one-year structure of the program has several important advantages: 1) It saves you time, allowing you to re-enter the workforce more quickly; and 2) it saves you money, both in terms of tuition and in lost income. The one-year structure also makes for an immersive program, which creates a lifelong camaraderie among the cohort of students who complete the program each year.

  • The program awards the Dean’s Fellowship, a full-tuition grant and Earth Institute internship valued at about $80,000. In addition, the program offers partial fellowships, ranging from $5,000 – $20,000. In rare occasions, partial fellowship support of up to $50,000 is available. All fellowships are based on academic merit and financial need. In addition to fellowships, the program also offers a small number of Earth Institute internships, valued at about $3,600 per semester; course grading assistantships ($6,000); and financial aid in the form of work-study, and subsidized and private loans. To deadline for fellowship consideration is January 15.

  • No, a five-credit Workshop in Applied Earth Systems Policy Analysis and Management course in the spring semester takes the place of a thesis. In this course, student teams work as consultants to clients in government and the nonprofit sector. These teams, working under the supervision of faculty advisors, analyze sustainability problems and recommend solutions. Clients have included the New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, Natural Resource Defense Council, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

  • No, the intensive nature of the MPA-ESP program requires a great deal of dedication and time, so an internship is not required for the completion of the degree. The five-credit workshop in the spring semester allows students to obtain similar professional experience as an internship.

  • The MPA-ESP program is a terminal master’s degree, intended to prepare students for professional, not academic, careers. Although some MPA-ESP graduates go on to pursue doctoral degrees, the program is not designed to prepare students for further academic study.

  • On-campus housing is available for approximately 40 percent of incoming MPA-ESP students through the University Apartment Housing Office. All incoming students are given access to Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA). Many MPA-ESP students choose to live in International House, an independent residential community just a few minutes away from SIPA.

  • The MPA-ESP program boasts an international network of over 800 sustainability professionals. These graduates hold important positions in government, business, and civil society. In these positions, they provide the expertise and leadership that have been integral in advancing sustainability since the program’s first graduation in 2003.

MPA in Global Leadership

  • We seek diverse international representation and a range of disciplinary backgrounds to enrich the learning environment. Candidates should have 10 to 15 years of progressively senior experience that demonstrates advanced public policy knowledge, analytical skills, and the capacity to make an even greater impact in your field or shift to a senior position in a new sector.

  • The MPA-GL program is distinguished by both the experience of its students and the length and the requirements of its curriculum. 

    Applicants should have at least 10 to 15 years of increasingly senior professional experience. In contrast, applicants to our traditional MPA program typically have only two to five years of experience.

    The 34-point MPA-GL program is designed for 10 months of full-time study. Our traditional program calls for 54 points over four semesters spanning 21 months.

  • No, the one-year MPA-GL is a full-time program. Students must complete at least 34 credits over 10 months, beginning in late July with an intensive, specially designed summer session (total of 6 credits), followed by the fall and spring semesters where students are required to complete at least 14 credits per semester.

  • GRE or GMAT scores are optional for applicants to the MPA-GL program—but they can be useful indicators of academic ability, especially for candidates without a demonstrated record in certain areas. This blog post offers additional guidance.

    Either way, the admissions committee reviews every application carefully.

  • International students who did not earn a four-year bachelor's degree (or international equivalent) from an institution in which English is the primary language of instruction, must submit proof of competency in English by submitting TOEFL, IELTS, or Cambridge English scores for the application to be reviewed. 

    Applicants must successfully achieve a minimum score on the English proficiency exam:

    • TOEFL ibt minimum score: 100, preferred score: 110 or above
    • IELTS minimum score: 7.0, preferred score: 7.5 or above
    • Cambridge English C1 Advanced/ C2 Proficiency: minimum score: 185 C1 Advanced, preferred score: 191 or above

    Applicants who have lived or worked in an English-speaking country for at least four years may waive the test. A waiver request may be submitted as part of your application.

  • Yes, you can take classes outside of SIPA. All courses must be approved by your academic advisor before you cross-register at another Columbia University school. Each school has its own registration requirements and procedures; you can read more about the cross-registration procedures here.

  • The MPA-GL program administration is available to meet with you by appointment. Please email us at [email protected].

  • Applicants should plan to enroll on schedule. We may grant a deferral in exceptional circumstances, such as health issues or visa problems; contact [email protected] for more details.

  • Yes. MPA-GL scholarships are based on a combination of merit and financial need, without regard for citizenship. Check the appropriate box when you apply, and you’ll be considered for funding as long as your application is complete.

    At the same time, please note that resources are limited, and awards are competitive. We cannot fund every student, and most awards cover only a portion of the costs in any case.

  • On-campus housing is very limited and available only for a small percentage of incoming MPA-GL students through the University Apartment Housing Office. All incoming students are given access to Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA). Some MPA-GL students may choose to live in International House, an independent residential community just a few minutes away from SIPA.

PhD in Sustainable Development

  • Applications for the PhD program are due on December 16, 2021.

  • The PhD program generally takes five years to complete. Students are heavily encouraged to complete the program within five years, as funding is not guaranteed past the fifth year.

  • We generally receive about 130 applications per year and enroll 4-6 students per cohort.

  • The students we admit have different academic, professional, and national backgrounds. While there is not one single, ideal profile, the essential common qualities are the ability to do extensive quantitative work and the interest in and commitment to sustainable development work.

    In recent years, students have had backgrounds in subjects including geography, environmental science, civil engineering, economics, chemistry, and physics. Most of them already hold master's degrees, and most of them have professional experience.

  • Students admitted to the program come with a variety of educational and professional backgrounds. While there are no fixed academic requirements for admission, typically successful applicants have the following:

    1. A strong background in natural sciences or engineering, with usually three or more courses in college-level science
    2. Two economics courses, preferably including microeconomics and econometrics
    3. A strong grounding in mathematics, including at least two courses in college-level calculus through multivariate calculus (Calculus III in the US) and at least one college-level course in linear algebra. 
       

    Candidates who do not have all the prerequisites may be considered at the discretion of the admissions committee.

  • No, students will have to complete two years of coursework, write a master's thesis, and take comprehensive exams before they have to formulate a PhD dissertation proposal. However, you need to have a well-developed idea about what your research interests are.

  • No. SIPA and/or Columbia students will have to apply separately just like everyone else. All applications for the PhD in Sustainable Development go to GSAS admissions.

  • We welcome applications from both professionals and students. Relevant prior professional experience does strengthen the application. We expect that the strongest applicants will have outstanding academic and professional qualifications.

  • At this time, the GRE is required. Should you have access issues related to Covid, please contact the Program Coordinator.

    Students who are non-native speakers of English must also take the TOEFL or IELTS test. The only exception to this rule is for students who have completed a bachelor's degree at an institution in an English-speaking country. Students who have completed only a master's degree with English as the language of instruction must still submit TOEFL or IELTS scores in support of their application. More information on test scores and other admissions info can be found on the GSAS Admissions page.

  • Yes. You are free to submit the references that you believe best support your application. Two or more academic references are preferred, and even one reference from a professor who knows your work is helpful, but the committee also recognizes that professionals who have worked for several years may have difficulty obtaining references from their college studies. In such cases, relevant professional references are certainly acceptable. Personal references, e.g., family or friends, are not acceptable.

  • All admitted students are guaranteed full funding for five years. This includes the cost of tuition as well as a salary and stipend (fall, spring, and summer). More info on salary and stipends can be found on the GSAS Financial Aid page.

  • Health insurance is covered in full for students and dependents of students in the program.

  • Most likely, no. This program has a high component of required core courses (see the curriculum description). Credit for previous graduate work done elsewhere, while very rare, may be granted on a case-by-case basis, at the discretion of the program directors—after students have already been admitted to the program—and cannot exceed a total of 30 credits.

  • No, students will have to complete two years of coursework, write a master's thesis, and take comprehensive exams before they have to identify a dissertation supervisor.

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Admissions Frequently Asked Questions