MA in Political Science

Our master’s program gives students an introduction to the academic study of political science. MA students take courses with the doctoral students and are exposed to the same scholarly material. Full time students do four semesters of coursework, mastering scholarly debates in one chosen field of study, and learn basic statistical research techniques. They must pass one comprehensive examination in their chosen field at the end of their studies.


Hours Required

Minimum of 33 credits of coursework


Research Tool Requirement

Students must demonstrate competency in one research tool prior to completion of General Exams. Competency in a research tool can be established by:

  1. Demonstrating reading knowledge in a modern foreign language (determined by an exam given by the relevant language department)
  2. Demonstrating a specified level of knowledge in quantitative methods (students who complete PSC 8102 with grade B or better meet this standard)

Or successfully completing two approved graduate-level courses in a cognate field (such as economics, sociology, anthropology, law, or other appropriate fields). Courses taken outside the department in order to meet the research tool requirement are not counted toward the overall requirement of 33 or 30 hours.


Required Courses

Students must take six courses (including all required courses) in their primary field and five electives, at least two of which must be outside of their primary field of concentration.


Course Work and Comprehensive Exams

All students are required to pass a comprehensive examination in one of the following fields:

  1. American Politics and Government
  2. International Relations
  3. Comparative Politics
  4. Political Theory
  5. Public Policy

Soon after their arrival in the department, students should speak with the professors who are the conveners for the field in which they plan to take exams. Professors will advise students about coursework that is most appropriate, combining the parameters of the field with the student's interests. Check with the graduate director (currently Brandon Bartels) about who the conveners are for the current year.

During the first semester, and no later than the second, students should fill out a plan of study in consultation with the director of graduate studies and the conveners of the major and minor fields. This allows students and their advisors to plan for the entire program, and determine which classes are necessary to prepare for comprehensive exams and dissertation research.

The examinations are intended to test students' familiarity with, and critical understanding of, the broad range of ideas and literature that the fields comprise. Consequently, students prepare for exams by engaging in substantial reading beyond that required for their specific courses in consultation with faculty. Copies of exams from previous years are available in the front office.

Opportunities to take the exams are offered three times per year, in September, January, and May. An extra exam may be scheduled in April for MA students planning to graduate in May. Be sure to contact the graduate advisor in advance to arrange this if necessary. Comprehensive exams are evaluated as fail, bare pass, satisfactory pass, or pass with distinction. Students must receive a grade of bare pass or better on the MA exam in order to fulfill this degree requirement. Students may retake an exam once, if necessary; under no circumstances may a student take a comprehensive examination a third time. Failure to demonstrate the required level of performance on comprehensive examinations after two efforts will result in termination from the program.