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What are the Top Middle East Studies Programs in the U.S.?

posted on: Nov 30, 2020

By: Ivey Noojin/ Arab America Contributing Writer 

Studying the Middle East and Northern Africa is important because of the region’s influence within the globe. Many universities have bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs for Middle East Studies for students to immerse themselves in the history, languages, and cultures in these countries.

Middle Eastern Studies is a fairly new program at colleges. Before Sept. 11, 2001, few people cared enough about the region to dedicate their lives to studying it. However, after the terrorist attacks, learning the languages and understanding the cultures became a hot commodity. An increase in demand led several universities to adopt this program or strengthen the program if it already existed. Recently, as the internet has become more popular, online programs have appeared also. Now, it is fairly accessible for someone who wants to learn about the Middle East to study it.

If you are interested in Middle East Studies in college or postgraduate options, here is an all-encompassing outline to list the best programs available in the United States in person and online. Other programs can be found on Assignment Geek.

Middle East Studies: In a Classroom

In 2017, a list was published about the highest ranking Near and Middle Eastern Studies curriculum available. Here are the top 25 options:

1. Harvard University

Middle East Studies, Harvard

Harvard University is near Cambridge and Boston of Massachusetts. It has over 20,000 enrolled students in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. This is also the most popular program for Middle East Studies in the United States, with 30 graduates in 2017. The Center of Middle Eastern Studies has three Ph.D. programs, which include History of Art and Architecture, Anthropology, and Middle Eastern Studies and History, and one master’s program, which is the AM Program in Regional Studies–Middle East.

2. Princeton University

Middle East Programs, Princeton

Princeton University is in Princeton, New Jersey with an undergraduate enrollment of 5,260. Within the Medieval Studies department, the Near Eastern Studies program includes bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree options. Even though this concentration is within a historical department, more emphasis has been provided on the modern Arab world.

3. University of Chicago

Middle East Studies, University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is located in Chicago, Illinois with 6,300 undergraduate students and 10,100 graduate and professional students. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) has four master’s degree options: an MA in Middle Eastern Studies, a dual BA and MA degree for University of Chicago students, a joint program in Public Policy and Middle Eastern Studies, and a joint program in Business Administration and Middle Eastern Studies. This university has the fourth most popular program for this area of study, graduating 24 in 2017.

4. Yale University

Middle East Programs, Yale

Yale University is in New Haven, Connecticut, and houses 5,500 undergraduates and 7,000 graduate and professional students. The university offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Modern Middle Eastern Studies, a Certificate of Concentration in Middle Eastern Studies, and Ph.D. programs that can focus on the region of the world.

5. Cornell University

Middle East Studies, Cornell

Cornell University was founded in 1865 in Ithaca, New York. Currently, there are 15,000 undergraduates and around 8,000 post graduate students. The Near Eastern Department offers language instruction in Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Persian, along with an undergraduate major and several PhD programs.

6. Columbia University

Middle East Studies, Columbia University

Columbia University is in New York, New York 32,500 students, including undergraduate and graduate. Within the Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies department, there is a linguistic and cultural focus within the undergraduate major. There also are master’s and doctoral degrees available.

7. University of Pennsylvania

Middle East Studies, University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania, with 10,500 undergraduates and 11,000 graduate or professional students, is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As an undergraduate, you can major or minor in Modern Middle Eastern Studies through the Middle East Center of the college. There is also a Certificate in Middle East and Islamic Studies for students at the law school.

8. John Hopkins University

Middle East Studies, John Hopkins University

John Hopkins University, also known as the first research university in the United States, is located in Baltimore, Maryland. More than 24,000 full and part time students are enrolled. While this university does not offer a specific Middle Eastern Studies program, there is an abundance of options for concentrations within the School of Advanced International Studies.

9. Brandeis University

Middle East Studies, Brandeis University

Located in Waltham, Massachusetts, Brandeis University is home to 3,600 undergraduates and 2,100 graduate students. At the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, there are several options for students who want to study the region:

  • a major and minor for a Bachelor’s degree
  • concentration within the Business School for Master’s Degree and PhD
  • concentration within School for Social Policy and Management for Master’s Degree and PhD

This is the second most popular Middle East Studies program in the U.S. with 28 graduates in 2017.

10. University of California- Berkeley

Middle East Studies, University of California Berkeley

At the University of California in Berkeley, California, there are around 30,500 undergraduates and 11,000 graduate students. The Center for Middle Eastern Studies hosts a scholarship for students who have exhibited an intense interest in the region. It also supports graduate students whose work focuses on the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Middle East Studies: Online

Many people decide to pursue their degrees online, and it has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years. Online programs are often less expensive than taking classes at a university, and they often have more options than a traditional setting. Some decide to utilize this option because of its ability to be flexible; they can work, whether that is at the office or at home with children, while studying. Therefore, you can essentially study all around the world, using online programs. Other people cannot afford commuting fees or university housing. Also, being admitted into an online program is generally easier than that of a college.

Here is a list of the four best online programs. This list also includes degrees other than a bachelor:

American Military University

Middle East Studies, American Military University

At this university, you can receive a Bachelors of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies. The program requires 120 credits to graduate, and the majority of students can acquire a degree from this program in four years. Tuition costs $270 per credit hour.

American University

Middle East Studies, AU

Here, you can acquire a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a Concentration in the Middle East. The program requires 120 credits, but internships and study abroad experiences may count toward this condition.

California University of Pennsylvania

Middle East Studies, California University of Pennsylvania

There are three options for you if you decide to study online at California University of Pennsylvania:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Arabic Language and Culture
  • Master of Arts in Social Science: Arabic Language and Linguistics
  • Certificate Program relating to Middle East Studies

The bachelor degree requires 120 credits, and the certificate with 12 credits can accompany many undergraduate programs. The master’s degree has 30 credits and is usually completed in under 16 months.

Southern New Hampshire University

Middle East Studies, SNHU

At Southern New Hampshire University, you can receive a Bachelor of Arts in History with a Concentration in Middle Eastern Studies. This program requires 120 credits, and the tuition is $320 per credit hour.

University of West Florida

Middle East Studies, University of West Florida

Online, you can receive credit for a Certificate in Arabic Language and Culture. This is a 12 semester hour program that will help you achieve basic conversational skills in the language.

In recent years, studying the Middle East and Northern Africa regions of the world has become increasingly more popular. Therefore, the many of the larger universities have been able to accommodate this trend faster. However, the number of smaller universities, especially liberal arts colleges, with this geographical concentration is growing.


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