Graduate Program

Phd requirements.

The Political Science department at UC Berkeley admits students only for the Ph.D. degree. The Ph.D. program has two major phases: coursework and examinations, and dissertation research and writing. The two phases typically take approximately five or six years (three years to candidacy and two or three for dissertation research and writing).

The coursework and examination phase requires 40 units (typically 10 classes) of graduate-level coursework and competence in three of nine  Subfields . Subfield competence is demonstrated through written exams offered each semester. The Field Exams are typically taken in the student's second and third years of the program. All students must pass one exam in a major subfield (Comparative, American, International Relations, or History of Political Theory). Competency in a second and third subfield may be demonstrated by taking a prescribed series of courses in that field with a combined GPA of 3.5.

The particular sequence of courses that a student takes in preparation for the comprehensive exams is not prescribed. Rather, the faculty assist students with selection of courses that best meet their intellectual and academic interests. There are no formal foreign language or statistics requirements although many students will find that their program of study and dissertation research will require the engagement of particular foreign language or methodology coursework.

When the coursework and examination requirements have been met, the student prepares a prospectus for dissertation research. The student convenes a committee known as the Qualifying Exam (QE) committee. The Qualifying Exam committee advises on the prospectus and examines the student on specific research plans. Berkeley is highly committed to interdisciplinary scholarly engagement and this is codified in the requirement that both the Qualifying Exam committee and the dissertation committee include a faculty member from another department at Berkeley. Engagement with members of the faculty from other departments should commence during the coursework stage so that the advisement and input of the "outside member" is represented in the prospectus.

When sufficient preparation for the proposed research has been demonstrated to the Qualifying Exam committee, the student is advanced to doctoral candidacy. It is expected (and for most funding packages, required) that students advance to doctoral candidacy by the end of their third year.

Doctoral candidacy initiates the second phase of the program during which the student normally devotes full attention to the research and writing of the dissertation. The student's dissertation committee is typically comprised of the members of the Qualifying Exam committee although there are sometimes changes in committee membership as the research evolves. The doctorate is awarded when the student submits a satisfactory dissertation to the dissertation committee. A reasonable estimate of the research and writing phase of the program is approximately two to three years although students whose dissertations require more extensive research may take longer to earn their degree.

  • Second year
  • Sixth year and beyond

The second year is used to further narrow down one's interests and to continue exploring ideas and potential advisors for a dissertation topic. Coursework continues as students prepare for the M.A./Second Year Paper and Field Exam.

Students who plan to continue in the Ph.D. program are expected to engage in advanced topical research leading to a research paper to be completed by the end of the second year, together with any additional coursework appropriate to their topical focus. Three faculty members (one of whom is selected by the student and serves as principal advisor for the paper) will review this paper. This paper, which continuing students will submit at the end of their second year, also serves as the M.A. project.

Completion of a yearlong graduate seminar (Research & Writing 290A and 290B) during the second year is strongly recommended.  Each student taking this course is advised by a faculty advisor external to the course (who will also serve as one reviewer of the second-year paper) as well as the two co-instructors of the seminar. The goal of the seminar is to assist students in preparing a high-quality research paper, which will serve as the M.A./Second-year paper as mentioned above.

All students are reviewed at the end of the second year of study on their continued overall academic performance. This overall evaluation will include GPA, successful completion of all required units, and successful completion of the M.A./Second-year paper. The Graduate Studies Committee will take these factors as well as the rigor of the academic program and the number of incompletes into consideration when determining whether to invite the student to continue in the PhD program.

Students in their second year also usually serve as a Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), which are 20-hour per week positions

During the third year, most students continue to teach as GSIs and complete their coursework in addition to taking their Field Exam. Political Science graduate students must show competency in three Subfield specialties to be eligible to sit for the oral prospectus defense (known formally as the Qualifying Exam). Instead of sitting for three Field Exams, students have the option to "course out" of two field specialties by taking a prescribed set of three-four courses in the Subfield.

Students may sit for the Field Exam as early as the beginning of the second year, but if desired, students may sit for an exam in their second year or in the third year. Field Exams are offered at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters. All students are expected to have completed their Field Exam, to have “coursed out” of a two fields, and to have written and defended their dissertation prospectus (passed their Qualifying Exam) by the end of the third year. It is highly recommended (and essential to most funding packages) that students advance to Doctoral Candidacy by the end of the third year. The third year is also when students should begin to apply for extramural fellowships to support their dissertation research.

The Department of Political Science

  • PhD Requirements

Two students outside on a lawn with laptops on their laps

  • Alumni Job Placement
  • Graduate Courses
  • Honors & Fellowships
  • PhDs on the Job Market
  • Seminar on Political and Moral Thought

The requirements for the Ph.D. in political science are divided between those that must be satisfied by all candidates for that degree and those particular to the student’s major and minor fields.

Department-Wide Requirements

All candidates for the Ph.D. must satisfy the following requirements:

Course Requirements

  • To fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D. in Political Science students must complete 12 courses at the 600-level with a grade of B or better.
  • Of these 12 courses, eight must be graduate-level (600-level) courses taken in the Political Science department.
  • No more than two of these eight courses (600-level) may be Independent Studies.
  • If a graduate student is interested in taking an undergraduate-level course, the student must make arrangements to take a graduate-level Independent Study with the professor teaching that course. (NB: As noted above, a student may take no more than two Independent Studies for credit toward fulfilling the requirements of the PhD.)
  • A graduate student may take no more than one graduate-level course at another division of Johns Hopkins University (i.e. SAIS, Public Health, etc.) for credit toward fulfilling the requirements of the PhD in Political Science.
  • Students may make a formal request to the DGS to have up to two graduate-level courses taken at another institution count for credit toward fulfilling the requirements of the Ph.D. in Political Science at JHU.

Foreign Language Requirement

All students must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language. This requirement can be fulfilled as follows:

  • Demonstrate fluency in a foreign language (granted automatically for students whose first language is not English).
  • Complete four semesters of college-level foreign language instruction.
  • Pass a translation exam.
  • Earn a degree from a University where instruction is not in English.
  • With a degree from an institution in which the language of instruction is a language other than English.
  • Place into a third-year foreign language course through online placement tests (see MLL website).

Comprehensive Examination Requirement

Students are required, at a minimum, to take comprehensive exams in one major field and one minor field. Students may also elect to take two major exams or a major exam and two minor exams (one of which may be outside the Department of Political Science).

Faculty members in the field write and evaluate the exams and determine the format. Major field comprehensive exams take place over two days (8 hours per day); minor field exams take place over one day. The fields within the department are American politics, law and politics, political theory, comparative politics, and international relations.

Students choosing a second minor outside the department must devise a coherent program of study in that discipline, in consultation with their political science faculty adviser and with faculty from the other department. Students choosing an external minor must complete a minimum of three courses at the 600 level in the external minor’s discipline, earning a grade of B or better. They must also pass a comprehensive examination prepared and evaluated by faculty from that department in consultation with faculty of the Department of Political Science.

Dissertation

The dissertation is the capstone of doctoral education, and it must be a substantial work of independent scholarship that contributes to knowledge in the student’s field of study. Students must identify a tenure-track or tenured member of the Political Science faculty who is willing to supervise the preparation of their dissertation. A dissertation prospectus must be submitted to two professors (one of whom must be the dissertation advisor) and that prospectus must be accepted by them both.

Students must pass a final examination that takes the form of a defense of the doctoral dissertation that is conducted under the rules of the Graduate Board of Johns Hopkins University.

Note: Exceptions may be made to some of these requirements but only with the approval of the graduate student’s adviser and the Political Science department’s Director of Graduate Studies.

Field-Specific Requirements

Field-specific basic expectations, procedures, and requirements are stated below. These are implemented, interpreted, and adjusted in the light of the intellectual orientations and objectives of individual students. It is important that students work closely with their advisers and with the faculty in their major and minor fields in constructing and pursuing their programs of study.

American Politics

Students majoring and minoring in American Politics will work with at least two faculty members to develop a plan of study that includes recommended course work and other preparation needed to pass a comprehensive exam. Students completing a major are expected to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge sufficient for framing a dissertation in the relevant disciplinary literature and teaching undergraduate courses in the field; students who pursue a minor may focus more narrowly on an area of study in which they demonstrate fluency. These may include, but are not limited to, the following areas of faculty interest:

  • American Political Institutions (Congress, Courts, and the Executive)
  • Urban Politics
  • American Political Development
  • Race and Politics
  • Political Behavior and Public Opinion
  • Public Policy
  • American Political Thought
  • Political Parties and Elections

In addition, students majoring in the field are strongly encouraged to take AS.190.602 Introduction to Quantitative Political Science as part of their course of study.

Comparative Politics

All students majoring and minoring in comparative politics will become conversant with major substantive and methodological debates in the field, and be able to comment on the key theoretical literature in several of those debates. They will typically also develop knowledge of at least one world region. Students majoring or minoring in comparative politics are required to take AS.190.625 Theories of Comparative Politics and at least one seminar in quantitative or qualitative methods. Students are expected to master the material covered in these courses, as well as others with more specialized topics.

Students will take a comprehensive exam that will test their ability to engage with several areas of theoretical debate in comparative politics, and their ability to use comparative examples to support their arguments. Students may focus on (but are not limited to):

  • Civil Society
  • Institutional Theories
  • Transnational Relations, Social Movements, and Contentious Politics
  • Political Parties, Interest Groups, Representation, and Political Behavior
  • Comparative Political Economy
  • Comparative Racial Politics, Nationalism, and Migration and Citizenship
  • The Political Economy of Development
  • Economic and Political Transitions
  • Ideas and Politics

Within the spirit of this division of the overall field, students may propose alternative delineations of thematic subfields.

Students working in specific thematic and substantive subfields within comparative politics will be required to demonstrate competence in methodologies and bodies of theory judged by the faculty to be necessary for quality research and teaching in those subfields.

Requirements for the major exam:

Students taking the major exam are expected to compile a reading list that includes at least six fields, including a general “Theories of Comparative Politics” field. The reading list must be approved by the student’s advisor at least six weeks before the exam. We strongly advise students to submit their reading lists to all of the CP faculty for feedback at least a few months before the exam. A minimum of three CP faculty members will read each major exam.

Requirements for the minor exam:

Students taking the minor exam should seek two readers among the CP faculty for their exams. Students are expected to compile a reading list that includes at least four fields, including a general “Theories of Comparative Politics” field. The reading list must be approved by the two readers at least six weeks before the exam. We strongly advise students to submit their reading lists to all of the CP faculty for feedback at least a few months before the exam.

International Relations

All students majoring or minoring in international relations will be required to have deep knowledge of the scholarship relevant to their area of research and to be conversant with the major theoretical, substantive, and methodological themes and debates of the field. It is strongly recommended that students take AS 190.676 Field Survey of International Relations (or a similar course) and a methods/epistemology course chosen in consultation with their faculty advisers.

Students majoring in international relations will take an examination covering two subfields. The first subfield must be international politics. The other subfield is to be determined in consultation with faculty teaching international relations. Choices include but are not restricted to:

  • International Law and Diplomacy
  • International Relations Theory
  • International Security Studies
  • Science, Technology, and Art and International Relations
  • Global Political Economy

Students minoring in international relations will take a comprehensive examination of international politics.

Political Theory

Students majoring in political theory will take a comprehensive examination covering the following two subfields:

  • Contemporary Political Theory
  • History of Political Thought

Each student preparing for a major comprehensive exam will propose six or seven thinkers in the history of thought, six or seven recent or contemporary thinkers, and three or four issue areas. Examination questions are composed in light of the theorists and issues articulated in the exam prospectus.

The minor comprehensive exam in political theory asks the student to select half the number of thinkers required for the major exam and three issue areas.

Preparation for these examinations will be arranged in consultation with relevant faculty.

Students majoring in political theory will also take at least one minor field from American politics, law, and politics, comparative politics, or international relations.

Law and Politics

Law and politics focus on American constitutional thought, judicial politics, law and society, and philosophy of law. Students learn not only about the history and context of American constitutional developments but also about the operation of the judicial branch of government in the past and the present. Studying how courts and judges do their work, students also consider how that work has changed over time. Students explore how legislation, as well as court decisions, reflect and influence a society’s policies, politics, and moral commitments. In addition, they examine how social movements, interest groups, and professional networks help to shape the law’s content and implementation.

Students may major or minor in law and politics. In either case, students work closely with at least two members of the faculty to develop a plan of study regarding coursework and additional reading to prepare them for comprehensive exams. Majors are expected to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge in the field sufficient for framing a dissertation and for teaching undergraduate courses; minors may focus more narrowly on a particular area of study.

PhD Political Science

You are here: american university school of public affairs phd programs phd political science.

Women gesturing while speaking.

PhD Political Science (On-Campus)

Dive deeply into US and global politics. Learn empirical methods that allow you to produce meaningful research with profound impact. Prepare yourself for university-level teaching.

(202) 885-6230

[email protected]

Kerwin Hall, Room 306 on a map

202-885-6203

Fax: 202-885-2967

[email protected]

Kerwin Hall, Room 230 on a map

Back to top

At the Heart of Policy and Politics

The PhD in Political Science at the School of Public Affairs draws from the breadth and depth of intellectual resources within the Department of Government and across American University, providing our students with rigorous substantive and methodological training. Students work closely with prominent scholars who have made major contributions to academic research and national and global policy via cutting-edge research and professional activities.

Our students organize their programs around a choice of three fields of study. For their primary and secondary fields, students specialize in American politics, comparative politics, or political methodology. Students may also take courses in other departments and schools within the university and even at other Washington, DC-area universities.

Learn and Make Professional Connections

In addition to their coursework, doctoral students are introduced into the discipline and make professional connections through a variety of research workshops in the Department of Government and the School of Public Affairs. They also benefit from exposure to activities, conferences, and research opportunities offered by the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies , the Women & Politics Institute , the Center for Data Science , and the Center for Environmental Policy , all of which are directed by Department of Government faculty.

Publish and Present

We encourage graduate students to present research papers at major academic conferences, co-author papers with faculty members, publish in top journals, and seek prestigious awards to fund their research. All students receive a yearly stipend to attend research conferences.

Become an Expert

Our students wield multiple skills at graduation. They have already produced original research and taught classes, and are prepared for careers in academia and beyond.

The PhD degree in Political Science requires 36 credit hours of approved graduate work. Most students complete 12 credits in their primary field of study, 12 credits in research design and methodology, 6 credits in their secondary field of study, and 6 credits of electives, which they choose in consultation with their advisor.

As work on the dissertation project progresses, students register for dissertation credit to maintain active status. They take  Doctoral Continuing Enrollment (GOVT-898)  during the third year of study and  Doctoral Dissertation (GOVT-899)  after their dissertation proposal is approved.

A minimum grade point average of 3.20 in all coursework is required to remain in good standing and to earn the degree. Full-time status is considered to be nine credit hours per semester. Students are expected to complete the degree in four to five years.

Students advance to PhD candidacy by successfully completing all required courses, passing a qualifier paper and two written comprehensive exams (one in each of their fields of study), and defending their dissertation proposal. To earn the degree, students must complete the dissertation and pass a final oral defense of the dissertation.

More information about course requirements can be found here .

For more information, please contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office at 202-885-6230 or  [email protected] .

Applicants are considered and students admitted for the fall semester only. Please refer to the  application deadlines  page for the deadline to apply. 

While previous academic or professional work in politics or political science is not required, applicants need to demonstrate a serious commitment to a career in this field. The personal statement on reasons for pursuing graduate study in the program is essential, along with the other required application materials .

We accept PhD applicants for full-time study only. Students must be funded either by the School of Public Affairs or by an external sponsoring organization (self-funding is not permitted for newly admitted doctoral students).

For more information, please contact the SPA Graduate Admissions Office at 202-885-6230 or [email protected] .

The PhD in Political Science is a 36-credit-hour program. To estimate the cost of tuition, please see the  current cost per credit hour  for graduate students.

Unless applicants expect to be funded through a reliable external source, they must request consideration for funding on their application. Upon acceptance into the program, students selected for AU funding are granted a fellowship with full funding for four years of study, contingent on maintaining satisfactory progress each year. Some limited funding is available on a competitive basis for a fifth year of study.

As a requirement for the fellowship, students work 20 hours a week with a faculty member. If possible, our graduate office will assign students to faculty members with expertise in their areas of research interest. 

Students must advance to candidacy by the end of their third year of study to continue receiving funding.

  • Government Department
  • Curriculum & Requirements
  • Program Handbook

Application Requirements

How to apply.

The admissions application is accessible through the  Office of Graduate Admissions .  A complete application consists of the following documentation:

  • Stanford online application including statement of purpose
  • At least three letters of recommendation
  • Unofficial transcripts from each institution you attended for at least one year (Official transcripts are not required at the time of application. If you are offered admission to Stanford and accept the offer, you will be required to submit official transcripts that show your degree conferral.) 
  • General  GRE and TOEFL scores reported directly to Stanford (code 4704) - Learn more about these  test requirements . GRE scores are required for the Fall 2023 admissions cycle.  
  • Writing Sample : a recent scholarly or critical paper (20-35 pages, double-spaced). Applicants may submit two or three shorter samples if they do not have a long one. Writing samples must be written in English. 
  • CV/resume  
  • Application fee of $125. Information on Graduate Fee Waivers is available here . 

Please refer to the FAQ for Prospective Students and the Office of Graduate Admissions Frequently Asked Questions for additional information on the application process and requirements.

Application Deadline

December 5, 2023 at 11:59 Pacific Standard Time. Unfortunately we are not able to accept late applications. 

IMAGES

  1. PhD Requirements

    phd political science requirements

  2. Political Science Degree Guide: 2024 Costs, Requirements & Job

    phd political science requirements

  3. Political Science (PhD)

    phd political science requirements

  4. Your Guide To A PhD In Political Science: Everything You Need To Know

    phd political science requirements

  5. What Can You Do with a PhD in Political Science? [2024 Guide]

    phd political science requirements

  6. How to get a PhD: Steps and Requirements Explained

    phd political science requirements

VIDEO

  1. BHU phd Political Science solved question paper #2022-23#

  2. PHD Degree of Political Science with a Major in Global Indigenous Cultures 'o Dr Sione F Fukofka Nz

  3. Rajastan PHD Political Science paper solving /Ugc NET /Ssb /PGT /tgt

  4. ANALYSIS OF University of Hyderabad- MA POLITICAL SCIENCE PAPER- 2021

  5. Rajastan PHD political science paper solving / ugc net / PGT / tgt / ssb / dssb

  6. MARXISM IN IR : PART I #rpscassistantprofessor #cuetpoliticalscience #ugcnetpoliticalscience

COMMENTS

  1. PhD Requirements | UC Berkeley Political Science

    PhD Requirements. The Political Science department at UC Berkeley admits students only for the Ph.D. degree. The Ph.D. program has two major phases: coursework and examinations, and dissertation research and writing. The two phases typically take approximately five or six years (three years to candidacy and two or three for dissertation ...

  2. PhD Requirements | Political Science | Johns Hopkins University

    Course Requirements. To fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D. in Political Science students must complete 12 courses at the 600-level with a grade of B or better. Of these 12 courses, eight must be graduate-level (600-level) courses taken in the Political Science department. No more than two of these eight courses (600-level) may be ...

  3. Ph.D. Admissions | Political Science - Stanford University

    All questions regarding graduate admissions should be directed to politicalscience@stanford.edu. The principal goal of the Stanford Ph.D. program in political science is the training of scholars. Most students who receive doctorates in the program do research and teach at colleges or universities. We offer courses and research opportunities in ...

  4. PhD in Political Science | Department of Political Science ...

    The Ph.D. in Political Science program prepares students to be outstanding researchers and scholars at top universities, policy think tanks, consulting firms, and U.S. and international institutions. Working in small classes and with experienced faculty mentors, doctoral students construct a program around a major and minor field of study.

  5. Ph.D. Requirements | Political Science - Columbia University

    The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Political Science require the completion of all M.A. requirements within two years, M.Phil. requirements within four years, and Ph.D. requirements within seven years. Students who do not complete all requirements for the doctoral degree by the end of the ninth year will no longer be ...

  6. Political Science, PhD < Johns Hopkins University

    All candidates for the PhD must satisfy the following requirements: Course Requirements. To fulfill the requirements for the PhD in Political Science students must complete 12 courses at the 600-level with a grade of B or better. Of these 12 courses, eight must be graduate-level (600-level) courses taken in the Political Science Department.

  7. Doctoral Program Requirements | Political Science

    Doctoral Program Requirements. Programs of study leading to the Ph.D. degree in Political Science are designed by the student, in consultation with advisors and the Director of Graduate Studies, to serve his or her particular interests as well as to achieve the program requirements. The most current and complete information about degree ...

  8. PhD Political Science | School of Public Affairs | School of ...

    The PhD degree in Political Science requires 36 credit hours of approved graduate work. Most students complete 12 credits in their primary field of study, 12 credits in research design and methodology, 6 credits in their secondary field of study, and 6 credits of electives, which they choose in consultation with their advisor.

  9. Political Science, PhD - Johns Hopkins University

    To fulfill the requirements for the PhD in Political Science students must complete 12 courses at the 600-level with a grade of B or better. Of these 12 courses, eight must be graduate-level (600-level) courses taken in the Political Science Department. No more than two of these eight courses (600-level) may be Independent Studies.

  10. Application Requirements | Political Science

    GRE scores are required for the Fall 2023 admissions cycle. Writing Sample: a recent scholarly or critical paper (20-35 pages, double-spaced). Applicants may submit two or three shorter samples if they do not have a long one. Writing samples must be written in English. CV/resume. Application fee of $125. Information on Graduate Fee Waivers is ...