PhD in Political Science

A student speaks with Professor Bruce Dickson

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.

Recent dissertation topics have spanned women's organizations and the partisan gender gap, judicial politics in the Middle East, media freedom in Turkey, social justice in the corporate world, and coercive kidnappings in violent political organizations. Our students present their research at conferences around the country, earn awards and prestigious research grants for their scholarship, and publish articles in major journals, such as International Security, American Political Science Review, International Organization, Perspectives on Politics, and Journal of Politics.

Funding is guaranteed for five years, conditional on adequate progress.


The deadline for our MA program is April 1, 2024, for Fall 2024 admission. Our next Ph.D. application deadline is Dec. 15, 2023, for Fall 2024 admission. If you have questions, please contact the Department Administrator by email: [email protected].

Major and Minor Fields

Doctoral students choose both a major and minor field of study. Any of the major fields is also an option for a minor.

Major Fields

  • American Politics
  • International Relations
  • Comparative Politics

Minor Fields

  • Political Theory
  • Public Policy
  • Research Methods

Learn About Research by Field

Course Requirements 

Students of outstanding ability are admitted to the doctoral program upon recommendation of a departmental graduate committee and the concurrence of Columbian College.

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program.

PSC 8101Introduction to Empirical Political Analysis
PSC 8108Craft of Political Inquiry
PSC 8109Dissertation Development Workshop
Five major field courses, including a field seminar, if applicable.
Four minor field courses, including a field seminar, if applicable.

Additional requirements

In addition to required coursework, program requirements consists of two comprehensive examinations covering a primary and supporting field, an original research paper, and a dissertation demonstrating the capacity to undertake original and significant research. The research paper, to be completed by the second year in the program, must reflect the student's ability to conduct original research. Students prepare for the comprehensive exams by taking at least five courses in their primary field and at least four courses in their supporting field, selected according to departmental guidelines. Three primary fields are available: American politics, international relations, and comparative politics. In addition, political theory, public policy, and research methodology are available as supporting fields. Petitions for a self-designed minor field (e.g., political communications) composed primarily of courses not offered by the established fields can be jointly proposed by students and faculty. All students must complete a sequence of courses in research methodology comprising PSC 8101, PSC 8108, and PSC 8109

A recommendation to the Dean for Admissions to candidacy, or the dissertation research stage, will be considered upon satisfactory completion of all coursework, research paper, field examinations, and successful defense of the dissertation prospectus. Students must pass their primary field examination with a satisfactory pass or above and must pass their supporting field examination with a bare pass or above in order to be considered eligible for promotion to candidacy. Admission to candidacy is permitted only if the student’s performance on the examinations and in the coursework gives a good indication of success in the second unit. Passing the field examinations does not in itself ensure admission to candidacy.

The dissertation prospectus must outline the central research question(s), relate the proposed research to the existing literature, detail a research methodology, and explain the nature of the original contribution that the completed project will provide. The prospectus must be presented and defended in an open forum, which all faculty and doctoral students are invited to attend. The full dissertation must be similarly defended. A dual degree program enables students to earn the master of public policy along with the PhD in the field of political science.