Painting by Yi Chung-Sop

Painting by Yi Chung-Sop

Information for prospective MA and PhD students.

Prospective MA Students

The M.A. program in Columbia’s Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALAC) has a very strong record of placing its graduates in first-rate Ph.D. programs around the country. Many of M.A. graduates also hold significant East Asia-related positions in law, foreign relations, business, journalism, museum or library work, and other fields.

This program offers M.A. students exactly the same courses that are open to Ph.D. students, assuming appropriate language capacities, and our students are free to take courses across the humanities and social sciences, tailoring their programs to their own needs. M.A. students share in a common student community with our Ph.D. students as well.

The EALAC MA program differs the MARSEA (MA in Regional Studies of East Asia) program in the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University in that it focuses predominantly on history, humanities, and languages. This approach is manifested in EALAC’s many courses on history, literature, philosophy, religion, popular culture, film, visual culture, material culture and archaeology, and it does so in both the pre-modern and modern/contemporary periods. Applicants who are primarily interested in contemporary issues such as international politics, economy, and social sciences should apply to the MARSEA program.

Funding & Cost of Attendance

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While partial funding is available to select MA students in each incoming class, the majority of EALAC Master’s students are self-funded, and we recommend that all potential students review their funding options as outlined by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences:

Duration of Study

Typically, students complete their program of study in 3-4 semesters. While it is possible to complete the program in a single year and summer, most students choose to take advantage of an extended period of study. Please see potential models of study under MA requirements.


The MA Directors serve as general advisors for all MA students, and are available to advise students in addition to their advisors and the Director of Graduate Studies. However, students from their second semester onward are expected to work closely with their faculty advisor in shaping their course of study, formulation of their thesis, and addressing any issues that might arise.


Students are encouraged to take courses outside of their field, regional focus, and also outside of the EALAC department. Our department’s graduate level seminars and colloquium allow MA student enrollment.

While the department does not place restriction on MA students’ course enrollments, some courses are offered only by permission of a given program or instructor. Many students take advantage of courses at Teacher’s College, the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and the Law School.

Progression to Doctoral Study

Approximately half of our MA students proceed to doctoral study after the completion of their degrees, both at Columbia and other top universities. MA students wishing to matriculate as doctoral students at Columbia must reapply as such through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Potential Career Options

While many graduates of the MA program choose to pursue a Ph.D., other students continue on into careers in the Foreign Service, museums and foundations, as well as higher education or business.


Prospective PhD Students

EALAC has long been known for its distinguished faculty and for its many PhD alumni, who teach in numerous universities and colleges around the United States, Europe, and Asia. EALAC is one of the only programs in the world to have deep strength in China, Korea, Japan, and Tibet in both modern andpremodern periods, across a wide spread of disciplines, ranging from history, religion, and literature to visual culture and film. The PhD program in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures is also closely affiliated with the Department of History, under a joint degree program called History-East Asia. For more specific details, please see specific “Fields” under “Graduate Programs.”


All students interested in applying must do so through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences online system: In order to guarantee that your application is read, you must submit your complete set of materials by December 16th. All students matriculate in the fall term of the year for which they apply.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact faculty members in the department whom they are interested in studying with so as to discuss their potential research plans, and to gauge their fit with the aims of the program. Applicants are advised to read information on the “Fields” page and the “Faculty Profiles.”

GRE scores are required for all students, and the TOEFL or IELTS are required for students who receive their undergraduate degree from an institution at which the primary language of instruction is not English. For more info on standardized testing requirements, please visit:

Writing samples should be approximately 15 pages in length and composed in English.

Duration of Study

Ph.D. students are expected to complete their study in the program within seven years. Students who do not enter the program with an MA, or hold an MA in a field other than that in which they are pursuing the Ph.D. are required to complete a MA, generally within the first one or two years of study. Most candidates take their oral examination and defend their dissertation proposal, earning an M.Phil. in the third year of study. For details, see PhD Degree Requirements: link.


Students who are offered admissions into the Ph.D. program receive five years of full funding (covering tuition, stipend, and fees) from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Additional support is provided depending on the circumstances. GSAS external funding policies can be found here:

In 2014-2015, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will offer students summer fellowships in the amount of $3,250 for five years. Students can also apply for additional funding from EALAC and Weatherhead East Asian Institute.


Because housing is extremely limited, students who accept offers of admission should immediately apply for housing. To do so, please visit:

Visa Questions

Visa questions should be directed to the International Student and Scholars Office (ISSO):