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Graduate Degree Programs in Human Rights Overview

Majors Overview November 14, 2015

Graduate certificate programs and master’s degree programs in human rights help students learn about various topics relating to this subject, such as current issues and international law. This article talks about their education requirements, coursework, career and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

Information on Graduate Programs in Human Rights

Schools offer graduate programs in human rights as graduate certificate or master’s degree programs. Though admission criteria may vary, incoming students to both types of programs are required to hold a bachelor’s degree. Although related doctoral degrees are available, they are not usually germane to the issue of human rights.

Coursework differs in graduate certificate and master’s programs; however, both have common courses on current topics related to human welfare, human rights throughout history, and international laws pertinent to human rights. Students enrolled in most programs are allowed to choose an area of concentration, such as Latin American human rights issues or advocacy. In many programs, coursework incorporates seminars and class debates, in addition to an emphasis on research.

Graduate Certificate Programs in Human Rights

Enrollees in a human rights graduate certificate program usually have to attend 4-6 classes, many of which are electives. Human rights-related courses in philosophy, sociology, political science, or anthropology may often be available to students. Areas of study may cover early ideas of human rights, as well as present-day issues that affect the welfare and health of certain genders, societies, or age groups. The focus of coursework in some programs may be on specific cultures, such as European, African, or Latin American.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria require incoming students to be law school students or current graduate students. In some schools, applicants may need to meet a GPA standard, in addition to holding a bachelor’s degree. They are also required to submit applications to the graduate certificate programs, a resume, 1-2 personal references and a purpose statement.


Students may apply certificate coursework toward a master’s degree program. Often, a human rights certificate program incorporates class debates. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Global laws
•Modern day issues concerning civil liberties
•Fiscal rights
•Social liberties
•Gender roles in society

Career Choices

Program graduates may seek careers in journalism or law. They may choose from possible job positions such as:

•Grant writer
•International human rights activist
•Women’s rights activist

Master’s Programs in Human Rights

Issues relating to different races, cultures, sexes and religions are studied in a human rights master’s degree program, delving deeper into the ways these matters influence public health, societal economics, and politics. Some graduate degree programs impart students the ability to focus on areas such as advocacy or organizational management.

Education Requirements

Admission criteria usually require the submission of a resume, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, a personal statement, and a writing sample, in addition to recommendation letters.


A thesis is typically completed by graduate students before graduation. Over the whole duration of a human rights master’s degree program, students’ research and writing skills are developed. Core coursework may cover:

•International laws
•Endowment request proposals
•Societal exoduses
•Human trafficking and enslavement
•Global human rights organizations

Career and Wage Outlook

In May 2013, workers in community and social service organizations brought in an average annual wage of $40,810 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). These professionals were commonly hired by state and federal government agencies, apart from family and individual services organizations.

Continuing Education Choices

Program graduates may pursue continuing education by earning a doctoral degree either in the same field or related areas of study such as ethnic studies, anthropology, social science or sociology.

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