Master of Science in Humanitarian Action  (2023)

Degree Programs Master of Science in Humanitarian Action


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Master of Science in Humanitarian Action (1)

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At a Glance

Position yourself for leadership and success in the humanitarian field with a master’s degree you can earn online in just 20 months from the Kroc School of Peace Studies.

20 months

30 Units


September 5

August 1

Program Details


Students are admitted throughout the year for admission into one of three terms (spring, summer and fall). Two courses are offered each term, with students focusing on one course at a time — a total of seven weeks for each course.

(Video) About the Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action (Continuing Education Programme)


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Respond to the World’s Greatest Challenges with a Master’s Degree in Humanitarian Action

Now more than ever, the world needs dedicated leaders and trained, experienced professionals who are equipped to tackle all types of humanitarian crises. Whether you are a recent graduate or a working professional, the Kroc School of Peace Studies 100% online Master of Science in Humanitarian Action (MSHA) program will cultivate the skills and knowledge needed to help prevent, respond to and recover from complex global humanitarian emergencies. This multidisciplinary approach will prepare you to become the type of valued resource, critical thinker and humanitarian leader who top companies and organizations are looking for to help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Who Is the MSHA Degree For?

Are you motivated by change and making a difference? The M.S. in Humanitarian Action degree program is ideally suited for candidates who recognize the need to think holistically about humanitarian crises in a broader context.

You may have an undergraduate degree, background and/or relevant experience in areas including but not limited to:

  • Humanitarian Aid
  • International Affairs
  • Political Science
  • Social Justice
  • Social Impact
  • Economic Development
  • Government Relations
  • Sustainability
  • Volunteerism
  • The Military
  • Grant Development/Writing
  • Community Outreach
  • Program Coordination
  • Financial Accountability
  • Peace Corps
  • AmeriCorps

Specific positions that are well suited for this program include:

  • International humanitarian aid and development workers
  • U.S.-focused natural disaster response workers
  • Refugee service providers
  • Staff from philanthropic foundations
  • Government personnel (U.S. Navy, Marines, FEMA, U.S. State Department, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, etc.)
  • Private sector employees working with (or for) firms that sell or source to markets in insecure and/or disaster-affected areas
  • Social entrepreneurs

Whether you are an experienced professional looking to take your career to the next level or a recent graduate, we invite you to apply to this program. We also seek applicants who may not have background or experience in any of these areas but are action-minded individuals with volunteer experience interested in pursuing a career in the humanitarianism or disaster relief sector.

(Video) MSc Humanitarian Action - Study Online at SOAS University of London

Admissions (Earn Your Degree in 20 Months)

Getting Started with Your Humanitarian Action Master’s Degree Application

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. For details on specific requirements needed for admission, please connect with an Enrollment Advisor.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. An official transcript is required.

Candidates with a GPA under 3.0 will be asked to provide an essay in support of their candidacy. In addition, it is recommended that candidates with a GPA under 3.0 complete a standardized test such as the GRE or GMAT.

International students hailing from non-English speaking countries will require a TOEFL score of 83 or higher.

Interested students must complete an online application, a personal statement comprised of four short essays, and include a professional resume. One letter of recommendation is required from a professor or professional supervisor. If the student is unable to obtain a letter from a professor or professional supervisor, two letters of reference are required.

The personal statement prompts include the following questions:

  • What is a specific social issue or problem that you believe plays an important role in creating, exacerbating or prolonging humanitarian crises? Justify your answer.
  • In your opinion, what are the biggest obstacles to solving that problem? (In other words, why hasn’t it already been solved?)
  • Describe something that has inspired you to enter the humanitarian field.
  • Why do you want to pursue a Master of Science in Humanitarian Action at the University of San Diego’s Kroc School in particular? Be sure to address how a Master of Science in Humanitarian Action fits into your professional plan or career trajectory.

Speak to a USD advisor

Humanitarian Action Careers

Graduates of the MSHA program are likely to go on to work in a variety of positions related to humanitarian action. These may include:

  • Program Director
  • Director of Operations
  • Executive Director
  • Chief of Party
  • Chief Innovation Officer
  • Social Worker
  • Health Care Professional
  • Grant Writer
  • Grants Specialist
  • Communications Officer
  • Humanitarian Affairs Officer
  • Crisis Response Lead
  • Counselor
  • Advocacy and Communications Consultant
  • Philanthropy Officer
  • Fundraising Coordinator

Some of the top companies and organizations involved in humanitarian action are hiring. Take a look at some of the employers you will see as you research popular job sites:

  • Action Against Hunger
  • Alight
  • Bureau of Humanitarian Affairs (USAID)
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • CARE International
  • Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  • Doctors Without Borders
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (US Government)
  • Global Communities
  • Habitat for Humanity International
  • Helvetas
  • International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) (including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC))
  • International Medical Corps
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Mercy Corps
  • Save the Children
  • UN Women
  • VolunteerMatch
  • UN World Food Programme
  • World Jewish Relief
  • The World Health Organization
  • World Vision International
  • World Vision USA
(Video) Master's in Sustainable Humanitarian Action - UCAM Campus

In addition to humanitarian and disaster relief organizations, top colleges and universities are looking for skilled program coordinators, instructors and project managers with the kind of knowledge and experience that the MSHA degree program can provide.

academic calendar

Degree candidates are admitted throughout the year to begin their degree during one of three terms (Spring, Summer, Fall). Students take two courses during each 14-week semester, focusing on one 7-week course at a time. This degree program can be completed in 5 semesters (20 months).

Download the MSHA Academic Calendar

Practical, Relevant Curriculum

Our innovative, multidisciplinary courses prepare graduates to tackle the biggest global humanitarian challenges.

The curriculum of the Master of Science in Humanitarian Action program will teach student how to:

  • Assess humanitarian needs
  • Manage the complex landscape of local, national and international challenges
  • Design and evaluate innovative solutions

The 30-credit program will culminate in a capstone simulation exercise in which students tackle a realistic complex humanitarian emergency. They will demonstrate the skills and thematic knowledge necessary to design, implement and evaluate creative solutions in a real-time scenario. Students will take a total of 10 three-unit courses including the capstone, all of which can be completed in 20 months.

Program Goals and Learner Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, MSHA graduates will be equipped to:

Integrate and apply humanitarian skills and knowledge.

Graduates will gain the complex skills and thematic knowledge required to effectively navigate and address complex humanitarian crises.

Apply a diverse perspective to humanitarian affairs.

Graduates will be able to apply logistical, legal, political, economic, cultural and environmental lenses to humanitarian affairs. They will appreciate the values and strengths of those from different cultures, ethnicities and religious and political backgrounds and perspectives.

Exercise critical inquiry and applied learning.

Graduates will be able to analyze and research the historical, structural and cultural parameters in which humanitarian crises develop. They will also be able to apply interdisciplinary skills to navigate, manage and address a broad spectrum of national and international humanitarian crises.

Communicate effectively and efficiently during all aspects of a humanitarian crisis.

Graduates will understand the importance of effective communication during challenging humanitarian contexts. They will be able to clearly and concisely communicate their knowledge and expertise while demonstrating intercultural and trauma awareness and conflict sensitivity.

Implement ethical reasoning to assess humanitarian problems, possible solutions and impacts on various stakeholders.

Humanitarian workers have an ethical responsibility to ensure that their work is in the best interest of those it serves.


The faculty involved in the MSHA program include current USD instructors and external experts. The academic director of the MSHA program, Associate Professor Topher McDougal, holds a Ph.D. in International Economic Development from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At USD, he teaches courses on economic development, environmental peace and justice, humanitarianism, black markets, research methodologies and evaluation.

The faculty in this program have extensive knowledge and hands-on experience in everything from peace and conflict resolution to international law and diplomacy. While some are full-time professors within USD’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, others are executive-level directors, experienced consultants and regional coordinators who work directly for humanitarian-related organizations.

(Video) Executive Master of Advanced Studies in Humanitarian Action


Accreditation is an important quality indicator for college and university degree programs, generally regarded as a stamp of approval that ensures you will be able to apply for financial aid and transfer your credits if you decide to switch schools. Most state universities and private nonprofit universities will have a regional accreditation. The University of San Diego has earned both regional and national accreditations.

Accreditations include:

The WASC Senior College and University Commission – WASC is a regional accrediting agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as certifying institutional eligibility for federal funding in a number of programs, including student access to federal financial aid. Learn more about the importance of selecting a regionally accredited program.

Tuition & Financial aid

Program tuition is competitive with other top institutions. Federal financial aid can help you fund your degree. Scholarships and grants may also be available.

One of the University of San Diego’s highest priorities is to ensure that sufficient tuition and financial aid support is available to all eligible students. The first step is to complete the free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Master of Science in Humanitarian Action (2)

Affordable Tuition

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Master of Science in Humanitarian Action (3)

Financial Aid

Discover possible additional sources of funding to help pay for your degree.

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How to apply

Learn more about the application process, including detailed instructions on how to apply.

See Application Process

(Video) M.S. in Humanitarian Action Information Session | Fall 2022
Master of Science in Humanitarian Action (4)


Master of Science in Humanitarian Action ? ›

What is a Master in Humanitarian Assistance? It is a graduate degree that builds on more general studies in public policy and emergency management by teaching

Teacher education or teacher training refers to programs, policies, procedures, and provision designed to equip (prospective) teachers with the knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, approaches, methodologies and skills they require to perform their tasks effectively in the classroom, school, and wider community. › wiki › Teacher_education
students the core skills needed to understand the best practices for providing humanitarian assistance outside of one's own country.

What can you do with a humanitarian studies degree? ›

20 Humanitarian Careers to Make a Real Difference
  • Foreign aid worker. ...
  • Social worker. ...
  • Nurse. ...
  • Nutritionist. ...
  • Midwife. ...
  • Health officer. ...
  • Human resources specialist. ...
  • Training coordinator.

What degree do you need to be a humanitarian worker? ›

Qualifying for a position as a humanitarian aid worker requires a bachelor's degree or master's degree in international studies or international relations. Many such programs now include experiential learning that includes several weeks of hands-on volunteering experience.

Why do we need to study humanitarian action? ›

The study of humanitarian assistance may involve learning to save lives, maintain human dignity, and help reduce suffering around the world.

What are humanitarian degrees? ›

Humanitarian studies focus on people and all the challenges they might be facing. Students who graduate with humanitarian degrees will study a range of topics, including: Global health. Gender studies. Food management.

How long does it take to get a humanitarian degree? ›

The three-year-long undergraduate program offers a wholesome study of disaster management, humanitarian aid, as well as development practice. It is designed to give students all necessary skills and knowledge that would enable them to work in a humanitarian crisis.

What does the humanitarian action do? ›

Humanitarian action aims to protect and save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering and meet the basic needs of the population from a vulnerability reduction and capacity-building perspective.

Do humanitarian jobs pay well? ›

Entry-level professionals earn an average of $27,000 to $32,000 per year. Mid-career professionals and those with more field experience can expect a salary of $35,000 to $45,000. Senior-level positions typically have an annual salary of $60,000+ with some positions earning more than $100,000.

How much do you get paid for humanitarian studies? ›

Humanitarians earn an average yearly salary of $37,610.

What major is best for humanitarian aid? ›

Many degree paths, including the ten listed below, could help you begin a humanitarian career:
  • Disaster and Emergency Management.
  • Economics.
  • Humanitarian Studies.
  • International Relations.
  • Nursing (BSN)
  • Peace and Conflict Studies.
  • Political Science.
  • Social Justice and Human Rights.
Feb 7, 2023

How much does a humanitarian earn in USA? ›

How much does a Humanitarian make in USA? The average humanitarian salary in the USA is $85,750 per year or $41.23 per hour. Entry level positions start at $40,950 per year while most experienced workers make up to $128,650 per year.

Can you make a living as a humanitarian? ›

Humanitarian jobs are available in many different fields and at many different organizations. What they all have in common is the goal of saving and improving lives while helping communities become more resilient to future crises. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some humanitarian jobs are in high demand.

What is a masters in humanitarian action university of geneva? ›

This opens in a new window. This Master programme is a unique blended learning postgraduate course on humanitarian action providing current and future humanitarian professionals with the managerial, theoretical and practical skills needed to optimize responses to humanitarian crises.

What is MAS in humanitarian health? ›

The Humanitarian Health Master's program focuses on both local and global issues, and prepares students to address public health problems through multidisciplinary approaches that apply the latest scientific knowledge.

What is the degree program in international humanitarian action? ›

The Erasmus Mundus Joint Master's Degree Programme in International Humanitarian Action is an inter-university multidisciplinary postgraduate programme that provides high quality academic education and professional competences for personnel working or intending to work in the area of humanitarian action.

How do I start a humanitarian career? ›

How to start a career in humanitarian aid
  1. Get the right education. The degree you choose will influence which skills you begin to build first. ...
  2. Develop your skills. ...
  3. Work or study abroad. ...
  4. Intern for experience. ...
  5. Volunteer locally or abroad.
Nov 16, 2022

What qualifications do I need to be a humanitarian? ›

What educational qualifications are required? Most international aid workers need a higher education degree. If you look at humanitarian NGO job listings, you'll see that a bachelor's degree is usually the minimum qualification for an entry-level position. That said, most NGOs want job candidates with master's degrees.

What are humanitarian workers called? ›

Aid workers (also known as humanitarian workers) manage projects in areas suffering from war, natural disasters and other complex problems. Save. Share. What do aid workers do? Aid workers typically operate in front-line conditions, distributing humanitarian aid to people who have been hit by human or natural disasters ...

Can you become a humanitarian without a degree? ›

If you want to get a humanitarian job but don't have a degree, it is important to have professional experience related to humanitarian aid. Crucially, this does not need to be actual international aid experience, it is more important to have transferable skills that the aid industry needs.

Where does a humanitarian work? ›

Humanitarians strive to alleviate suffering, promote dignity, and help people rebuild their lives after a crisis has occurred. Humanitarians may work for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international organizations, governments, or as independent volunteers.

Who qualifies for a humanitarian visa? ›

Usually, the humanitarian visa is given to those who want to visit their ill family members in the U.S., need medical help from a U.S. doctor, or attend a funeral. However, there is no specified emergency or purpose necessary to apply for a humanitarian visa.

What are the 7 humanitarian principles? ›

Humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity and universality: these seven Fundamental Principles sum up the Movement's ethics and are at the core of its approach to helping people in need during armed conflict, natural disasters and other emergencies.

What are the four main principles of humanitarian action? ›

The principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence are fundamental to humanitarian action.

What is the downside of humanitarian? ›

Humanitarian aid has many advantages and disadvantages.
The Pros and Cons of Humanitarian Aid.
Benefits of Humanitarian AidNegatives of Humanitarian Aid
Increases local capacityPossibility of corruption
Helps build peaceDoesn't always reach the most in need
Assists tradeDependant on donor funding
Works to alleviate povertyNot a long-term solution
7 more rows

What are the benefits of working humanitarian? ›

International humanitarian work can help you build a range of essential skills, such as teamwork, communication, leadership and problem-solving.

Which country does the most humanitarian work? ›

United States (USA)

A total of $23 billion is spent each year on humanitarian work for nations that are in crisis across the world.

What is a doctorate in humanitarian? ›

PhD Humanitarianism and Conflict Response. Undertake advanced research training in the practical and theoretical aspects of humanitarian issues. Postgraduate research.

What is philanthropy and humanitarianism degree? ›

A degree in philanthropic studies prepares you to work in fundraising, grant making, and program management, across a broad range of fields including religion, education, social services, health, arts and culture, animals, the environment, developing countries, and many other worthwhile causes.

What is the acceptance rate for global humanitarian studies? ›

3 in 4 applicants to this programme received an offer. Data shown above is for the academic year 2022/23 (sources).

What is the difference between humanitarian aid and aid? ›

How humanitarian aid and development aid differ. Humanitarian aid is a rapid intervention designed to save lives, alleviate hardship, and get disaster victims back on their feet. Development aid is an effort to help people in their efforts to lift themselves out of poverty and develop further.

What kind of skills are needed for humanitarian aid workers? ›

Skills and qualities
  • A passion for helping people.
  • To be able to cope with distressing situations.
  • To get on well with all types of people.
  • Stamina - being a Humanitarian Aid Worker can be hard work and demanding.
  • Excellent listening skills.
  • A caring and empathetic nature.
  • The ability to ask the right questions to help others.

What organization gives the most humanitarian aid? ›

The world's largest humanitarian organization, the IFRC serves around 160 million people each year. Through its national societies, the organization provides essentials like water, food, and medical supplies.

How do I become an international humanitarian aid worker? ›

How to become an international aid worker
  1. Earn an undergraduate degree. Earning an undergraduate degree is important for aspiring international aid workers because it can help them harness the skills and technical knowledge required for this role. ...
  2. Develop critical skills. ...
  3. Work or study abroad. ...
  4. Volunteer for organizations.
Dec 12, 2022

Does the US military do humanitarian work? ›

The military has a special operation that helps with disaster relief. It is known as Military Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).

How prestigious is the University of Geneva? ›

About University of Geneva

Originally founded as a theological seminary and law school in 1959, the University of Geneva is considered to be one of the best 100 universities in the world. The third-largest university in Switzerland in terms of student numbers, it has a sizeable international population.

Is the Geneva graduate Institute prestigious? ›

Accreditation, Diploma Recognition, Ranking

The Graduate Institute is a Swiss, government-accredited institution of higher education, receiving subsidies from the Swiss Confederation and the Canton of Geneva. Its master and doctoral degree diplomas are recognised nationally and internationally.

What language does University of Geneva teach in? ›

All first-year Bachelor's classes are taught in French and English. In the second and third years, classes are taught in either the one language or the other.

What credentials are MAS? ›

A Master of Applied Science, or MAS degree, is a graduate-level degree that emphasizes practical applications of knowledge and research. This degree is more common in Canada, Australia, and other parts of the world.

What does MAS designation mean? ›

Mass Appraisal Specialist (MAS) The purpose of the MAS designation is to recognize professionalism and competency in a wide range of matters covering mass appraisal theories, techniques and application.

What does a humanitarian assistance officer do? ›

Monitors, analyzes and reports on humanitarian developments, disaster relief/management or emergency situations in assigned area. Organizes and prepares studies on humanitarian, emergency relief and related issues.

What are the risks of humanitarian aid workers? ›

In 2020, there were 276 major attacks across 40 countries, 108 frontline workers were killed, 242 wounded and 125 kidnapped. The means of killing reflect contemporary forms of fighting. Humanitarian workers have been beaten, stabbed and shot. They've also faced shelling, explosives and aerial bombardment.

What are the challenges faced by humanitarian workers? ›

Many humanitarian workers will be affected by seeing people die from war wounds, malnutrition or disease, or from the constant fear of being in harm's way. The sense of helplessness when surrounded by severe suffering can be overwhelming.

What is another name of humanitarian? ›

On this page you'll find 61 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to humanitarian, such as: altruistic, charitable, humane, philanthropic, good, and beneficent.

How long does it take to get a US humanitarian visa? ›

USCIS normally adjudicates most parole requests within 90 days of receipt. If we need to ask you for additional information, it will take us longer to process your request.

How do you get a US humanitarian visa? ›

To apply for humanitarian parole the applicant should submit the following: Form I-131, Application for Travel Document; Form I-134, Affidavit of Support; Either the $575 filing fee or, if appropriate, a Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver; 4 and.

How do I get into humanitarian field work? ›

How to start a career in humanitarian aid
  1. Get the right education. The degree you choose will influence which skills you begin to build first. ...
  2. Develop your skills. ...
  3. Work or study abroad. ...
  4. Intern for experience. ...
  5. Volunteer locally or abroad.
Nov 16, 2022

Who does the most humanitarian work? ›

International Federation Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC)

The world's largest humanitarian organization, the IFRC serves around 160 million people each year. Through its national societies, the organization provides essentials like water, food, and medical supplies.

Who is the largest humanitarian organization in the world? ›

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world's largest humanitarian network.

How do I start a humanitarian project? ›

How to Start an NGO
  1. Step 1: Find your passion. ...
  2. Step 2: Find the right people. ...
  3. Step 3: Clarify your vision and goals. ...
  4. Step 4: Register the NGO. ...
  5. Step 5: Conduct local research, network, and form an action plan. ...
  6. Step 6: Write a budget and fundraise. ...
  7. Step 7: Start your projects. ...
  8. 15 Gender Issues We Must Address.

Do you have to go to college to be a humanitarian? ›

Education Requirements for Humanitarian Work

Some undergraduate degrees include economics, sociology and political science. Examples of graduate degrees are humanitarian affairs and international relations. Generally, the coursework provides the communication and analytical skills that lead to positive change.


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