Universiteit Leiden

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Middle Eastern Studies (MA)

Career prospects

The Middle Eastern Studies programme can open doors to you in a wide variety of fields and industries in which the Middle East plays a prominent role, or serve as a stepping-stone to help you reach the next level of your academic education.

Student signing his name in the University's 'zweetkamertje' (sweat room) after graduating.

Knowledge and skills

After successfully completing the Middle Eastern Studies programme you will have developed and honed a unique set of academic skills that will be highly relevant to a career requiring a specialist language or cultural knowledge of the Middle East.

You will have:

  • learned to independently formulate research topics, conduct scrupulous research and complete research projects of a different size and nature;
  • acquired the skills to present your research in oral and written forms;
  • learned how to approach and discuss complicated questions and issues in the field of Middle Eastern Studies and Area Studies;
  • been trained in high-level academic writing.

These skills and competences will serve as a strong foundation for a wide variety of academic-level positions, and will also enable you to furthering your academic education with a PhD programme. 

What our graduates do

Our graduates pursue careers in the (international) job market in fields including:

  • research
  • teaching
  • governmental and semi-governmental organisations
  • non-profit organisations
  • business services
  • banking

An academic career

Although the MA Middle Eastern Studies prepares you aptly to pursue an academic career, you may also wish to consider the more research-intensive, two-year research MA in Middle Eastern Studies. This programme is specifically designed to prepare students for an academic career. That said, many of our graduates have gone on to pursue PhDs at programmes such as Harvard, Stanford, Syracuse, and more.

A Leiden University degree

Leiden University Master's graduates are sought-after employees at (inter)national organisations. Our graduates are known for their combination of robust academic training, in-depth and relevant knowledge, and critical, multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving.

Alexandra Nieweg

Graduated with an MA in Middle Eastern Studies

Alexandra Nieweg

"I took the MA in Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University because I wanted to specialise further in the Turkish-Persian world and its Islamic traditions, modern political ideologies and cultural production. In similar studies, these areas tend to receive little attention, but the lecturers in this programme have precisely these areas of expertise."

Researching motives, metaphors, images and narratives

"After completing my MA, I immediately started as a PhD candidate in the Beyond Sharia: The Role of Sufism in Shaping Islam project at Utrecht University. Here I investigate antinomian (qalandariyyāt) motifs, metaphors, images and narratives that aimed to challenge the religious hierarchy and orthodox Islam, in Persian poetry from the 12th century onwards. More specifically, I analyse how themes in these poems influenced social, political, and religious developments in the subsequent centuries."

Advice and encouragement from lecturers

"The MA in Middle Eastern Studies prepared me for this by stressing the need for independent analysis of primary sources. I was also able to improve my command of the Persian language and I learned a lot about the relationship between politics and Persian literature. This made it possible for me to independently analyse Persian-language primary sources for my thesis. In addition, I was able to count on the advice and encouragement of several of my lecturers during the application process."

Jiayi Zhu

Graduated in Middle Eastern Studies (MA)

Jiayi Zhu

The Institution of Area Studies (LIAS) of Leiden University has a high reputation all over the world because of its well-organized curriculums, vibrant research works, knowledgeable teachers, and senior scholar standard. It was a massive challenge for a Chinese student like me who neither was familiar with European education system nor did I have any historical or political training before to keep pace with the program. With the courage of my teachers and my hardworking, I’ve finished all my required 75EC of courses and master thesis within one year and graduated in 2019, with which I could say I have a much more comprehensive understanding and constructive analysis of Turkey than one year ago.

Make a more logical course curriculum  

I am now continuing my career as a university teacher in the Turkish Language Major, where I am able to make a more logical course curriculum, give clearer related courses, and also try to do some academic researches with the readings I read, the lectures I’ve listened, and the research skill I’ve acquired during my MA in Turkish Studies.

In which sector do students find jobs?

The graphs below are based on alumni data from the MA in Middle Eastern Studies 2016-2020.

  • 25 % Communication and marketing
  • 13 % Consultancy
  • 13 % Culture, sports and research
  • 13 % Financial institutions
  • 12 % Healthcare and welfare
  • 12 % Business services
  • 12 % IT

How successful are they in finding a job?

  • 44 % found a job within two months
  • 67 % found their first job at academic level

Career preparation

Find out how this programme exactly prepares you for your future career and check our career preparation activities.

The Middle Eastern Studies programme will help you make a clear difference in your chosen career. It will introduce you to the conceptual and academic approaches at play in the region, such as linguistics, history, anthropology and political science. Furthermore, developing your in-depth knowledge in the field and giving you the ability to think critically and analytically are also key goals of the programme.

Do you consider to put your knowledge into practice during your studies? Determine whether an internship could be an option for you. Start orientating your possibilities by visiting an internship information session. This way you can receive information about the internship procedure and listen to tips of former interns.
Notice that you will search for an internship yourself to find a place of your interest. Do you need some help with this or the application process? Do not hesitate to contact the Career Service. When you have found an internship, inform us. Then, the internship coordinator advises you how to proceed and provides your internship plan with feedback so it can be submitted for approval to the board of examiners.

Our staff can help you identify both the career that is right for you, and the necessary steps to get you there. Our team at Humanities Career Service provide all Leiden University humanities students with professional advice and guidance on everything from internships and career planning to job applications. Humanities Career Service also organises regular workshops on topics such as effective interview skills and creating a successful CV.

The Humanities Career Service offers you various (online) workshops, webinars and info sessions. Check our overview of career activities

The Leiden University Career Zone is an online career portal that helps you to prepare for the job market. Here you can find information, tools and tips to help you gain more personal insight, learn about the job market, develop your application skills, plan your academic and professional career, find job vacancies and discover what the Career Service can do for you.

Join the Mentor Network to contact alumni with experience on the labour market and ask them for advice. More than 1200 alumni are happy to help you!

Jelle on finding an internship via Leiden University's Mentor Network

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