Master of Liberal Arts

Master of Liberal Arts graduate program and Penn LPS

Earn an MLA degree in a subject that excites you with daytime, evening, and online courses

Your journey to the Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) at Penn starts with you: your passions, your questions, and your unique combination of academic interests. You state your goals, and we help you craft your course of study within the rigorous academic environment of the Ivy League. The MLA offers intellectual explorers like you the opportunity to design your own curriculum at the intersection of your pursuits.

Whether as a full- or part-time student, you’ll have access to classes in more than 50 liberal arts course areas, and the chance to study in other world-renowned departments throughout the University. Most of our courses take place in a small seminar format, allowing you to connect with both professors and peers in an intimate setting. The MLA at Penn provides a powerful combination of customizability, advising, and the outstanding resources of one of the nation’s top research universities. Enrich your career or create a launch pad for new opportunities today—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 >

Upcoming application deadline

The application deadline for fall 2024 is July 1, 2024.

MLA information session

MLA information session

Meet our program director and hear more about the customizable MLA curriculum, application process, and capstone projects.

Individual capstone projects

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

 Apply Now

Ready to apply to MLA?


Have a question about MLA?