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Master of Liberal Arts

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Master of Liberal Arts

Become a master of any subject with a degree in the liberal arts

Your journey to the Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) starts with you: your passions, your curiosity, and your aspirations. Housed in the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS), the MLA offers ambitious and creative thinkers like you the opportunity to design your own curriculum at the intersection of your interests. With access to courses across the University in dozens of academic departments, the MLA program provides a powerful combination of customizability, personalized advising, and the outstanding resources of one of the nation’s top research universities.

This flexible master’s degree can be completed in one full-time academic year or at a part-time pace over several years; evening and online courses make it easy to pursue your education without interrupting your career. MLA graduates come from a wide range of professional and academic backgrounds, and find in their liberal arts degree a springboard for new opportunities: enriching professional engagement, transforming passion into purpose, preparing for advanced studies, and discovering new avenues of thought. The MLA team is here to help you find your way—our doors are open.

What do you want to master?

When you join the Master of Liberal Arts program, you become part of a global network of scholars and professionals from all walks of life.

Meet the alumni who mastered it all >

Fast facts

Number of graduate level courses required to earn the degree
Number of alumni in the MLA network
Percentage of students studying part time
Average number of years to complete the MLA while studying part time

Courses and curriculum

Your ambition is the curriculum in the Master of Liberal Arts program: from the courses you take to the culminating capstone project you complete, you tailor the degree to your individual interests and goals. With access to graduate-level courses in the College of Liberal and Professional Studies and the School of Arts and Sciences, as well as schools throughout the University including the Annenberg School for Communication and the Weitzman School of Design, the MLA program places Penn’s world-renowned faculty and Ivy League resources at your fingertips.

Students may develop an entirely individualized curriculum in collaboration with their advisor, or focus their studies to a particular topic with a graduate certificate. MLA certificate requirements vary by topic, and include African studies, African-American studies, cinema studies, cultural heritage management, East Asian studies, environmental studies, folklore, gender and sexuality, global studies, Jewish studies, Latin American studies, public culture, region, and urban studies.

Learn more about courses and curriculum >

Become a Penn-made thinker and writer

The MLA Proseminar courses are intensive seminars with small class sizes that foster thoughtful conversation and intellectual growth. Each term offers several different Proseminar courses on varying topics such as international politics, film studies, and autobiographical or creative writing, and all Proseminar courses integrate the research, writing, and critical thinking skills that distinguish MLA students and prepare them to design their capstone.

The capstone project is the culminating experience of the liberal arts degree, allowing you to integrate two or more academic disciplines and define your area of expertise. Your capstone project can take the form of an in-depth research paper, a creative endeavor such as memoir or fiction, or a hybrid project designed to meet your unique academic, professional, or personal goals.  

See graduating students present their capstone projects >

Take your liberal arts education to the next level

The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Liberal Arts is an advanced graduate degree designed for individuals who want to demonstrate applied scholarship beyond a master’s degree. The Master of Philosophy in Liberal Arts can serve as an important step in future PhD study preparation or simply an opportunity to extend scholarly engagement with additional courses and a focused thesis project.

Learn more about the MPhil program >


Individualized curriculum

With Penn's MLA program, you design a curriculum centering on a particular theme that interests you.

See Courses and Curriculum >

Program Resources

MLA information session

Meet MLA Director, Dr. Chris Pastore, as he discusses the MLA program, the curriculum and what MLA graduates are doing with their degrees.

View info session video >


Individual capstone projects

The capstone project is the culminating experience, allowing you to integrate and celebrate your education at Penn.

Read about Capstone Projects >

LPS News

  • Restoring the Delaware River for recreational use
    Two students from the master's programs in earth and environmental science are researching how to make the Delaware safe for swimming as part of a project by the Water Center at Penn. View Story
  • In a health crisis, past and current Penn Pre-Health Programs students pitch in
    Volunteer groups organized by Penn Pre-Health students raise funds and coordinate donations for workers on the front lines of COVID-19. View Story


College of Liberal and Professional Studies Office

3440 Market Street, Suite 100
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3335

(215) 898-7326
(215) 573-2053


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Penn LPS

The lifelong learning division of Penn Arts & Sciences

3440 Market Street, Suite 100
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3335

(215) 898-7326