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About MLS

The Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) degree program at Rice University provides working adults and other non-traditional university students a unique opportunity to be intellectually challenged at a world-class university.

Designed for all kinds of students — working professionals, recent graduate, retirees — the MLS program allows students to explore timeless and timely human questions within the humanities, social sciences and sciences. It is for students who have a curiosity about the world – about art, literature, science, politics, human nature and history. It is for people who want to explore new worlds and who enjoy meeting others who want to join the expedition.

The MLS program is founded on the principle that, in an increasingly complex and fragmented world, a liberal arts education becomes all the more important. Though exploring the liberal arts at a highly integrated level is not frequently possible in a career-focused undergraduate curriculum, it is both possible and well suited to a masters’ level program designed for committed, energetic adults. Courses in the MLS program are taught by distinguished Rice faculty and invited visiting faculty who appreciate the opportunity to teach more experienced adults.

Rice University hosts the national office and is a proud member institution of the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs (AGLSP)

Rice University

The beautiful, tree-lined campus of Rice University is located in Houston, Texas -- the fourth-largest city in the U.S. Rice is consistently ranked as one of America’s best teaching and research universities.

  • Size: 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students
  • Selectivity: 14 applicants for each place in the freshman class
  • Resources: An undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio of less than 6 to 1
  • Endowment: $783,568 per full-time equivalent student
  • Faculty: Renowned scholars and researchers who leverage approximately $100 million in annual research funding and engage undergraduate and graduate students in the creation of new knowledge and technology
  • Residential college system: 11 communities both close-knit and diverse
  • Collaborative environment: A culture that crosses disciplines, integrates teaching and research, and intermingles undergraduate and graduate work

how to apply


At institutions nationwide, graduate-level liberal studies programs appeal to a broad audience. Professionals, even those who may already hold advanced professional degrees, find that their liberal studies help them communicate more effectively, make better decisions and understand the broader context of their work. Others enroll in liberal studies programs to discover or explore the field they may know only slightly, whether to pursue a later degree in that field or to integrate that knowledge into what they already know. Still others pursue advanced liberal studies for the sheer pleasure of learning – and to be part of a learning community.

The Rice University Master of Liberal Studies program seeks committed, energetic students who hold bachelor’s degrees from an accredited college or university, have significant life experiences and who are able to communicate effectively.

Students will begin the MLS Program by taking MLSC 500 Introduction to Graduate Liberal Studies, followed by three core courses - one in humanities, one in social sciences and one in natural sciences. These courses are designed to acquaint first-year students with the contrasting perspectives and methodological approaches that define academic inquiry in the three broad fields. A student may take only one course in his or her entering semester.

The next six courses a student will take will be electives. Students may focus on just one “track” (science, social science or humanities) or choose electives more broadly. All courses will require research papers; some may require tests or oral presentations.

The final course will be a capstone course, designed to help students integrate their knowledge through writing an extended paper or completing a project to be presented to the program orally. A thesis is not part of the degree program.

All courses earn three credit hours. The total course of study is 33 credit hours and can be completed in less than two years if pursuing a full-time course of study or four years if pursuing part-time study.

Join us for a Master of Liberal Studies information session and learn about the program while meeting program administrators, faculty and alumni. We will provide an overview of the program and admissions process and answer questions. We offer online and face-to-face sessions.