What can you do with a master's in Regional Studies East Asia?

A multi-disciplinary master’s degree in Regional Studies--East Asia is a springboard to many career directions. RSEA alumni go on to pursue careers in all sectors – public, private, and nonprofit – and in a broad variety of fields including public policy, law, business, management, journalism, and education. Many RSEA graduates live and work in Asia, as well as in North America and other regions.

While there is always variation between and among each cohort, typically about one-third of each graduating class go on to pursue a PhD program in their chosen discipline. Roughly another third of RSEA graduates enter positions in government or public service, or policy-oriented non-governmental organizations. Others go into business, consulting, and private sector companies, or pursue opportunities in education, museum curation, and journalism.

What should I write in my Statement of Purpose?

An applicant’s statement of purpose should introduce their academic and intellectual background, the academic preparations he or she has had for undertaking their proposed study, and should describe his or her plan of study at Harvard in great detail.  

What should I submit as a writing sample?

RSEA does require an academic writing sample.  The writing sample must be in English and should be limited to 20 pages. The writing sample may be an academic paper you have previously submitted to a class, or as part of your senior thesis. Ideally it should focus on your proposed area of research and provides insight into your academic ability.

What kind of funding is available?

There is limited funding available to RSEA master’s degree students which are awarded by the solely based on academic merit.  The Harvard-Yenching Institute Fellowships are awarded through nomination by the RSEA Admissions Committee and applicants may not apply directly for the Fellowship, nor should they contact faculty members to request consideration for the Fellowship.  We recommend that all applicants apply for outside sources of support.  

Do I need a background in East Asian studies?

A background in East Asia is not required to apply to the program. RSEA has admitted students with diverse backgrounds who have successfully completed the program.  However, an applicant with no background in an East Asian language will be required to devote extra time to language study in order to complete the program in two years.

Do I need to take a GRE or TOEFL/IELTS exam?

GRE exam scores are required of all applicants.

TOEFL/IELTS exams are required for all non-native English speakers.  RSEA requires a minimum score of 100 for TOEFL and 7.5 for IELTS.  TOEFL/IELTS scores are waived for non-native English speakers who have received their bachelor’s degree from an accredited English-language college or university.

GRE and TOEFL/IELTS exams must be taken prior to the RSEA application deadline.  Scores for exams taken after the RSEA deadline will not be accepted.

Please note: Due to the pandemic-related closure of testing centers in many locations, for the December 2020 application deadline GSAS will accept the TOEFL iBT® Special Home Edition and the GRE® General Test at home (but GSAS can not accept scores from the TOEFL ITP Plus examination). 

Will my previous language study count towards my degree?

Previous language study may count towards the RSEA language requirement; however, scores from outside organizations are not accepted.  Harvard has its own language assessment exams, which all incoming RSEA students with previous language study are required to take in order to determine their language proficiency. 

Whom should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?

Letters from those who know the applicant well academically and the applicant’s qualifications to succeed in their graduate study are the most beneficial.  Letters of recommendation should be written in English and submitted directly by the Recommender as directed in the GSAS application. Only three letters of recommendation should be submitted.

Should I contact the Faculty members that I want to work with?

Applicants should indicate on their application the professors with whom they wish to work. It is not necessary to contact faculty.

Can RSEA support the unique needs of a military applicant?

RSEA has a history of admitting military personnel as part of the FAO program. We understand the financial commitment required and the time limitations given to our military applicants.   

Can you upload something for me?


Once an application has been submitted, an applicant may not add any additional materials except for Fall term grades which are posted after the application deadline. Recommenders may still submit their letters of recommendation for a very short while after the deadline and testing organizations may submit official test scores of exams taken prior to the application deadline. The RSEA office cannot submit or receive materials outside of the application process.