Master of Arts in Regional Studies - East Asia
Degree Requirements

Please see the MARSEA Handbook for detailed information on Rules and Regulations of the program.

Important Forms:
MARSEA Degree Audit Form
Thesis Advisor Form
Thesis Grade Form
Application for Graduation Form

Summary of Basic Requirements

  1. A master's thesis (this course does not count as an elective, but can be counted as regional course)
  2. Language: Proficiency equivalent to 3 years of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, or 2 years of modern Tibetan
  3. Modern History: 2 modern history courses on the country or area of focus
  4. Regional Courses: 6 appropriate regional courses (at least two of which are colloquia or seminars)
  5. Electives: 2 elective courses
  6. Resident Requirements and Credits: Minimum of 30 credits in total (approximately 10 courses) Students are required to complete 2 residence units at Columbia University.


Students should closely consult the Student Affairs Officer regarding their proposed course of study. The requirements listed above must be fulfilled in accordance with Graduate School of Arts and Sciences degree requirements. No credits from an outside institution and no undergraduate courses will be counted toward the degree requirements. No courses can be taken for R credit nor Pass/Fail. Any exception to the requirements below must be approved in advance with written permission by the Institute Director. Please see the MARSEA Handbook above for full details of the MARSEA Program.

  1. Language: Proficiency equivalent to the third-year level of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, or the second-year level of modern Tibetan. The language requirement may be met through coursework or by passing a language placement examination at Columbia. The examination is offered in the beginning of each semester. For more information on language placement exam, contact the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at 212-854-5027.

  2. Modern History: Two courses in modern history in the country or area of focus. Must be the same as that of language proficiency.

  3. Regional Courses: Six regional courses selected from at least two different disciplines: at least one of the six courses must focus on an Asia Pacific country or sub-region other than the student's country or area of specialization. These courses must include at least two colloquia and/or seminars drawn from a range of offerings in Anthropology, Business, Economics, History, International Affairs, Literature, Law, Political Science, and Sociology. Courses dealing with the region as a whole or dealing with the region's relations with other countries or regions may also be taken to fulfill this requirement.

  4. Electives: Two elective courses not necessarily dealing with East Asia.

  5. Thesis: The master's thesis must be at least thirty pages in length and deal with a modern or contemporary topic in the social sciences that focuses on East Asia. It must substantially incorporate the student's country or region of focus, although other countries can be dealt with in the paper.

    Approval of the thesis topic must be obtained from the Institute Director. A thesis proposal must be submitted and approved by the Director one semester before the student writes and submits his/her thesis (i.e., to submit a thesis in the spring semester, the student should submit a proposal in the preceding fall semester; to submit a thesis in the fall semester, the student should submit a proposal in the preceding spring semester).

    The thesis proposal must include the following:

    • a title
    • a one to two page narrative of the subject, research methodology, and conceptual framework
    • a preliminary bibliography

    To assist students with choosing a thesis topic, a thesis topic discussion will be held mid-semester. This discussion will be an opportunity for students to get feedback from each other and at least one faculty member. The Institute will assist students in finding an academic advisor.

    Each student works with a professor who serves as thesis adviser. As most students choose to take a paper written for a seminar course (generally an 8000 or 9000 level course which requires the submission of a substantial paper) and expand it into a thesis, the professor from the seminar course typically serves as the thesis adviser. Students may, however, work with any faculty member of the Institute.

    Each thesis is reviewed by the Institute Director. The Director's approval is required for the thesis requirement to be completed.

    Students will register for a thesis course in the second semester of their program.

    For those students interested in presenting the results of their research to their fellow students and others, the Institute will arrange a thesis presentation at the end of the semester.

  6. Resident Units and Credits:

    Students are required to complete two residence units at Columbia University. One full residence unit is equivalent to full-time registration for one semester. Students must formally apply to the Student Affairs Officer to be granted extended residence status which includes a plan for completion with specific courses taken during extended residence.

    A one semester course is typically worth three credits, and meets for three hours per week over approximately 15 weeks. A full-time student typically takes a minimum of five courses or 15 credits per semester.



Applying to MARSEA
Degree Requirements
Frequently Asked Questions
Resources for Current Students
Current Students

For questions and inquiries, please contact the Student Affairs Officer, Jamie Tan at