SPA Combined Programs

Through SPA’s Combined Bachelor’s/Master’s Programs, American University undergraduate students take graduate coursework and earn credit towards both their undergraduate degree and one of SPA’s seven master’s degrees.

Program Overview

Our accelerated Combined Programs provide qualified AU undergraduate students across all majors with an opportunity to save time, save money, deepen their expertise, and jumpstart their careers. Through SPA's Combined Program offerings, current undergraduate students with a demonstrated history of academic excellence can apply for admission and significantly reduce their graduate program costs and program duration

Who Can Apply?

Current AU undergraduate students should ideally apply for the combined bachelor's/master's program once they have earned 75-90 academic credits. Exceptions to this range are possible depending on individual student circumstances. While we highly encourage first-year students to explore SPA's Combined Program offerings, you must be in your second year at AU to apply. 

Before I Apply:

Before starting your application, you must complete the following:

  • First, speak with the Combined Programs Liaison at

  • Second, speak with your dedicated Undergraduate Advisor about your interest in SPA's Combined Programs.

  • Third, you will be connected with the appropriate Graduate Advisor for the Combined Program master's degree that you are interested in for an important pre-application meeting. 

How do I Apply?

Start your application here. Please note that your Entry Term on your application is the first semester immediately following your undergraduate graduation. For example, if your undergraduate graduation is in Spring 2023, you apply for Fall 2023.  One benefit of the Combined Program is the streamlined application process:

  1. Online Application for Graduate Admissions
  2. Personal Statement
  3. 2 Letters of Recommendation
  4. Unofficial AU Transcript
  5. Resume or CV
  6. Signed Terms of Agreement*
  7. Application Fee – Waived
  8. Official GRE Scores – Waived

*You will receive your Terms of Agreement document after your meeting with the Graduate Advisor. 

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions
Application Questions
Post Admission Questions

Combined Program (CP) students can “double count” approved graduate coursework as part of both their undergraduate and graduate academic plans. These shared credits range from 6-15 credit hours, based on which master’s degree they are pursuing and how many undergraduate requirements are remaining. This results in CP students, most often, being able to complete their master’s degree in just one year following the completion of their undergraduate degree. This also results in tremendous tuition savings since the shared graduate coursework is billed at the undergraduate tuition rate, and you won’t pay any additional graduate tuition for those courses.

The number of credits that will be shared varies based on the SPA master’s degree of interest. See the table below that outlines the number of shared credits for each of SPA’s seven (7) master’s degree programs. As you see, the range of shared credits is 6 credits (two classes) to 15 credits (5 classes). The goal is to have every Combined Program (CP) student design an academic plan that maximizes the number of shared credits. This, then, enables the CP student to fully realize the benefits of saving time and money associated with the CP option! As always, we recommend that every interested student consult with their SPA undergraduate academic advisor as early as possible to learn more. Questions can also be advanced to


SPA Master’s Degree/Total Credit Hour Requirement Maximum # of Shared Credits Allowed

M.A. in Political Communication (36 Credits)

12 (Tuition Reduction Value 12 x $1922=$23,064)

M.A. in Political Science (33 Credits)

12 (Tuition Reduction Value 12 x $1922=$23,064)

M.S. in Data Science (30 Credits)

9 (Tuition Reduction Value 9 x $1922=$17,298)

Master of Public Administration (MPA) (39 Credits)

15 Credits (Tuition Reduction Value 15 x $1922=$28,830)

Master of Public Policy (MPP) (39 Credits)

15 Credits (Tuition Reduction Value 15 x $1922=$28,830)

Master of Science in Justice, Law and Criminology (33 Credits)

12 (Tuition Reduction Value 12 x $1922=$23,064)

Master of Science in Terrorism & Homeland Security Policy (33 Credits)

12 (Tuition Reduction Value 12 x $1922=$23,064)

A Combined Program with the School of Public Affairs allows you to save time and money while pursuing a master’s degree. Students admitted into this program are allowed to take shared credit courses during their time as undergraduates which will then count towards their graduate coursework. In addition, the Combined Program will provide you with advanced skill development and a professional network of support that will help you advance your career. Applicants also get their application fee and deposit waived!

Add bulleted information that is quick to read and digest.

  • Advanced and applied skills
  • Enhanced professional network
  • Accelerated career trajectory
  • Application Fee Waiver
  • Enrollment Deposit Fee Waiver

We hope making the decision to pursue a Combined Program only enhances your undergraduate academic plan and experience at SPA! The stronger your undergraduate experience the more appealing you are as a master’s degree applicant. This said, it is important to discuss the option as early as possible with your undergraduate academic advisor. There may be choices and compromises related to double majors, multiple minors, and concentrations, for instance that need to be discussed to make room for the substitution of graduate coursework into your undergraduate academic plan.

SPA wants you to have a full and enriching undergraduate experience. Thus, if a study abroad experience is an opportunity important to you…seize it! We simply encourage students interested in the Combined Program option to plan ahead if they intend to study abroad. As always, we recommend working closely with your undergraduate academic advisor to determine how a study abroad experience can be included in your academic plan.

While you are an undergraduate student, you will not see any changes to your financial aid package. Any graduate coursework that is substituted for an undergraduate requirement will be billed at the undergraduate tuition rate and will have no impact on your financial aid.

All admitted Combined Program (CP) students are considered for merit aid. Merit aid awards are offered to CP students based on the strength of their application file. (Strength in an applicant’s file is most often demonstrated by undergraduate academic performance, faculty support via the letters of recommendation, a well-written personal statement, co- and extra-curricular involvements, volunteerism, and/or leadership highlighted on a resume.) A CP student is considered for merit aid in the final semester before their undergraduate graduation. Questions about merit aid should be directed to  

Double Eagle is a University initiative primarily designed for undergraduate students who are preparing to graduate or recent alumni who are considering a graduate degree at American University. The Double Eagle initiative offers admitted students a scholarship opportunity from a University-level fund. There is no opportunity associated with the Double Eagle initiative to share credits. The SPA Combined Program, with the combination of the credit hour share and the SPA Merit Award, far exceeds the Double Eagle scholarship value.

We recommend that you apply to the Combined Program when you have completed 75 to 90 credits of your undergraduate degree. Exceptions may be made to that credit hour range, but you will need to seek approval at First year students are not eligible to apply, but we encourage all interested students to inquire early so proactive academic planning may take place in preparation for the Combined Program option. 

The School of Public Affairs has rolling admissions which means you are able to submit your application at any time. However, you will not be able to register for shared and approved graduate coursework until you are officially admitted to an SPA master’s degree program. We prioritize a 7-10 business day turnaround on completed application files so you may gain a quick and, ideally, favorable decision! With this, we recommend that you plan ahead so you may build a strong application file and gain admission ahead of when the course registration date opens for the semester you intend to start taking graduate coursework.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test is optional for all of SPA’s master’s as well as graduate certificate programs. Most students considering the Combined Program option are academically strong undergraduate students at SPA; thus, the GRE would not be necessary to include in an application file to build a case for admission. You are encouraged to reach out to before starting the application process so you may gain insights on how to navigate the online application platform and how to build a compelling application file. 

SPA manages the Spring and Fall admissions process the same. In addition, all admitted students are considered and awarded comparable values of merit aid based on the strength of their application file for each entry term. Combined Program students also have access to a range of graduate course options for both Spring and Fall semesters.

Your entry term is the semester following your undergraduate graduation from American University. This is when you will officially become a graduate student. For example, if you graduate with your bachelor's degree in Spring 2024, your entry term will be Fall 2024. 

Please email if you need to identify or edit the entry term in your application.

SPA requires two letters of recommendation as part of your application file. The admission review committee prefers academic sources such as School of Public Affairs faculty or professors from other AU departments. We encourage you to contact former or current faculty who would be able to best represent your ability to succeed as a graduate student.

Once an application is submitted and all supplemental materials are added, SPA’s admission team will review your application file to be sure the file is complete before sending it to the appropriate admission review committee for consideration. The review committee will do a comprehensive review rendering decisions in 7 to 10 business days. You will then be informed via email to login to the online application portal using the same username and password established for your account to retrieve the decision.

It is important for students to remember that there will be no changes to their financial aid package associated with their undergraduate studies post-admission to a Combined Program. It is only after a Combined Program student graduates with their undergraduate degree that tuition will be charged at the graduate tuition rate and changes in how a student may fund their graduate degree need to be considered.

Most graduate students use the following sources to help finance their graduate degree:

  1. Federal Student Loans - Direct Unsubsidized Loans & Graduate Plus Loans (Administered by American University’s Office of Financial Aid (OFA))
  2. Merit Aid – Partial Tuition Remission Awards (Administered by the School of Public Affairs)
  3. Personal – Income, Employer Contributions, Military Benefits, Educational Awards, Outside Fellowships

It is important for a Combined Program student to learn all they can about the financial responsibilities associated with graduate study. SPA is here to help, please contact for more information.

SPA prides itself in being incredibly communicative with all incoming graduate students. We strongly recommend that you read and heed all communications coming from “spacombinedprograms”, “spagrad”, and “spagradaffairs”, especially in the semester leading up to your undergraduate graduation. SPA will be sharing important information about merit aid, class registration, events, and onboarding initiatives designed to support you in the transition from undergraduate to graduate student.

Yes. Many students have jobs or internships while they are completing their graduate degrees. SPA’s master’s programs are strategically designed to afford students the opportunity to directly apply their classroom learning to the workplace with classes only one day a week and class times in the evening and, at times, on the weekend. SPA also enables students to switch their enrollments between full- and part-time as needed.

Transferring programs may be possible for you, but this may impact how many shared credits you are able to apply to your new master’s degree. If you are considering transferring programs, you should speak to your graduate advisor about this as soon as you are able. Next, consult with SPA’s admissions team about the steps required to gain admission to the new master’s degree program.

No. Combined Program students need to continue their graduate coursework the semester after graduation. (However, a Combined Program student is not required to take Summer classes following a May graduation, although many choose to do so, since it helps expedite the completion of the master’s degree.)

You will not be charged as a graduate student until your Bachelor’s degree is conferred by American University’s Office of the University Registrar. The conferral process typically takes 2-4 weeks post-graduation. Combined program students will then see an adjustment in their tuition bill to reflect the graduate tuition rate.

Combined Program Callouts

The School of Public Affairs (SPA) invites promising undergraduate students to join a “callout” session that highlights the opportunity to combine their undergraduate degree with an SPA master’s degree, completing both in an expedited timeline. 

The callout sessions will include a brief presentation that includes the many benefits (i.e., enhanced career outcomes, cost-savings, expedited timeline), overview of degree program options, merit aid funding, and important next steps. An open question/answer period will conclude the session.

Callout Session #1: 

Date: Tuesday, February 20

Time: 3:30-4:30pm (ET)

Location: Kerwin Hall, Room 301

Callout Session #2:

Date: Wednesday, February 21

Time: 12:30-1:30pm (ET)

Location: Virtual (via Zoom)

Register Here


Alumni Milestones

Learn more about the professional success of our SPA Master's degree students.

Learn More

Learn More Now

Schedule your 1-on-1 informational conversation and personalized application coaching session here

We Know Success

% of Graduates are now Working, Grad School, or Both

Eligible Master's Degrees

Isabel Aldunate

MA Political Communication

Learn the essence of politics through the interplay of message content, delivery media, and audience analysis.

Learn More

Master in Political Science

MA Political Science

Intellectual curiosity fuels this multidisciplinary program of exploratory, critical thinkers.

Learn more

Master of Public Administration

Master of Public Administration

Our program gives you the tools to meet complex public challenges with strong, capable leadership.

Learn more

Master of Public Policy

Master of Public Policy

This program shapes policy analysts and changemakers of the future.

Learn more

MS Justice, Law & Criminology

MS Justice, Law & Criminology

Tackle today’s critically important challenges at the intersection of justice and law.

Learn more

Mufarrj Alusbaiy

MS Terrorism & Homeland Security Policy

From tactical approaches to strategic solutions.

Learn more

Data scientist with glasses

MS Data Science

Build your skill set in data science with this shared degree program, offered by SPA and the AU College of Arts and Sciences (CAS).

Learn More