SIPA student speaking at event

Concentrations & Specializations FAQs

Economic and Political Development

  • Beyond the core requirements, EPD allows for a considerable amount of flexibility with courses. As an EPD student, you are able to dive into your chosen focus area by choosing from an extensive list of curated courses, supplementing your schedule with courses from other SIPA concentrations, and pursuing opportunities at other Columbia schools. In fact, EPD has traditionally been one of the largest MIA-MPA concentrations because it allows students to explore a variety of interests while fulfilling concentration requirements.

  • Each specialization can be tailored to mesh with the EPD curriculum. Students may select whatever specialization will help fulfill their professional goals.

  • The Capstone workshop is a degree requirement for all MIA and MPA students. EPD has its own version of the Capstone workshop program called the Capstone Workshop in Sustainable Development Practice, which is a required course for EPD students in their second year and is part of a two-course sustainable development practice series through which students gain practical skills and experience working with external clients on various development related projects. The Capstone Workshop in Sustainable Development Practice runs from early November until early May, and usually involves an overseas study trip, either during winter or spring break.

  • Completing an internship is a degree requirement for all MIA and MPA students. Since many EPD students come to SIPA to change careers, internships provide a valuable opportunity to build a resume with relevant experiences, hone new skills and expand professional networks. EPD students pursue internships in public, private, and nonprofit sectors, with many interning in New York City at the United Nations, prominent foundations, global NGOs, financial institutions and consulting firms, and the growing tech and startup industries. EPD students interested in the US federal government also seek opportunities in Washington DC, and many opt to arrange summer internships abroad to develop international experience. The EPD concentration provides wide support to students in identifying internships through advising, alumni connections, and events.

Energy and Environment

  • Check back later for more FAQs.

Human Rights & Humanitarian Policy

  • Yes, as long as you complete the required 15 credits in core and elective courses prior to graduation.

  • You can select or change your focus area anytime as long as you fulfill the requirements. Please contact the Concentration directly if you have any questions, or would like to explore the differences between the focus areas.

  • Before you take courses that are not listed on the curriculum website, please make an appointment with the Concentration to discuss how the chosen course relates to your program of study.


  • Yes! We encourage students to plan their curriculum around their area of expertise. This will allow them to build their coursework, engage in meaningful internships, and make a network of connections for future careers.



  • Absolutely; the concentration has a tight-knit community of students and professionals who can give you advice in this respect. Please reach out to us and we will connect you with relevant contacts. The concentration director, teaching faculty, and departmental assistants have regular office hours, and are available in person and by email.


International Finance and Economic Policy

  • Check back later for more FAQs.

International Security Policy

  • The ISP concentration Director, Stephen Biddle, will consider such petitions after receiving and assessing the syllabus of the course.

  • The ISP staff communicate with students primarily through an email listserv which students can join by logging into CampusGroups using their UNI credentials and joining the ISP group.

  • Yes! SIPA student groups whose activities overlap significantly with ISP-related topics include: the Progressive Security Working Group (PSWG), Women in Security and Peacebuilding, the Columbia SIPA Veterans Association (CSVA), the Conflict Resolution Working Group (CRWG), the Digital & Cyber Group (DCG), the Journal of International Affairs (JIA), the Political Risk Group, and various groups with a regional or national focus. Students can join these groups' listservs and be notified of upcoming events via CampusGroups using their UNI credentials.

  • The ISP program regularly organizes co-curricular and social events, including but not limited to: a Fall Retreat for ISP students, a spring Crisis Simulation/Wargame, and regular guest lectures, workshops, and happy hours. ISP also co-hosts events with other concentrations and specializations, such as the Interdisciplinary Security Dialogues, a lecture series bringing together experts and students from different disciplines to discuss topics of shared interest. These lectures are advertised through the participating programs' listservs.

  • Yes! Full-time students at SIPA are permitted to work up to 20 hours per week, and there are a variety of part-time jobs available to students on campus. These include Program Assistant/Research Assistant positions in academic departments and research institutes; Teaching Assistant/Course Reader positions for SIPA courses; and various Assistant positions in administrative departments. Students interested in applying for PA/RA/Assistant positions should inquire directly at the department(s)/institute(s) in question; TA/Course Reader openings are usually announced via email to the entire student body once per semester. Visa restrictions and other regulations apply; international students and those already employed elsewhere should seek further guidance from the relevant offices before pursuing on-campus employment.

Urban and Social Policy

  • Check back later for more FAQs.

Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis

  • Check back later for more FAQs.

Gender and Public Policy

  • Yes. There is a list of pre-approved such electives, and the specialization director will consider other courses upon student request.

International Conflict Resolution

  • No. While some ICR alumni do go on to work for the UN, our most recent graduates currently work for humanitarian assistance organizations, civil society organizations committed to community development, government agencies as analysts, and at public sector organizations with a global focus.

  • While a significant number of ICR students are part of the International Security Policy (ISP) concentration or the Human Rights concentration, they belong to every concentration at SIPA.

  • No. The ICR specialization is open to both MIA and MPA degree candidates.

  • Along with ICR’s annual simulation, a weekend exercise where students work in teams towards a solution to a simulated conflict based on real-world scenarios, the specialization also offers mediation training courses, conflict-mapping workshops, and short courses that cover topics including conflict analysis.

International Organization & UN Studies

  • A robust series of programming and initiatives are offered to students, including trips to the Security Council, high-level panels with UN staff, special guest events such as “Voices from the Field,” the Annual IO/UNS retreat, simulations, working lunches with UN ambassadors, and networking opportunities such as “A Day at the UN.”

Leadership, Innovation, and Design

  • Check back later for more FAQs.


  • Check back later for more FAQs.

Technology, Media, and Communications

  • Yes, subject to the approval of the specialization director. Please submit the course syllabus for consideration, and note that registration deadlines vary across Columbia’s schools.

  • Yes; SIPA offers dual-degree programs with CJS and other Columbia graduate schools as well as selected partner institutions around the world. Dual-degree candidates must apply and be admitted to each school separately.

    Please note: The opportunity for dual-degree students to take electives may be limited, and they are not required to complete concentrations or specializations (although many choose to do so anyway).

    Learn more about dual-degree programs »