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Graduate Study

Graduate Program

The Political Science graduate program is designed to allow students to explore the breadth and depth of political science. By specializing in either American Politics, International Security, and Political Theory students will focus upon an area of their interest through a combination of classes and their own research. Any of these specializations will allow students to blend an understanding of academic approaches to political change with an analysis of policy procedures and outcomes. A student can take courses to match the particular blend of theory and policy, and the extent of focus upon one specialization, that matches their interests.

The program welcomes students with a wide range of career goals. The two-year Master's degree is designed to prepare students for careers as policy analysts in government or in the private sector, or those who wish to enter a Ph.D. program and become professional political scientists who teach and conduct research at the university level. Students may choose the specific sequence of classes within the general requirements and the topic and focus of their thesis to match their career goals. Individual faculty, especially the major professor chosen by the student to serve as thesis advisor, will help the student frame their thesis in a way that best matches their career goals.

Students may earn either a Master of Arts or a Master of Science. The program requires completion of 30 graduate credit hours (all courses are three credits unless otherwise designated). The MA degree requires language proficiency in a second language and the MS degree requires students to incorporate a quantitative competency into their research in lieu of a foreign language. The departmental expectation is students will complete a Plan A thesis (

The program offers two tracks of courses that are based on the three areas of specialization within the department. Students must choose one of the tracks. Click on Graduate Program curriculum to see the two tracks of courses. The three areas of specialization are:

American Politics and Public Policy

This specialization focuses on American political institutions and policy processes. Students may specialize in the analysis of elections, political parties, legislative politics, executive politics, regulatory politics, law and courts, federalism, and applied studies in a range of policy areas. In addition to providing broad training on important theoretical and practical questions, the American Politics and Public Policy specialization emphasizes the acquisition of analytical skills through a focus on quantitative research methods. The specialization gives students both the substantive and methodological background they will need to succeed in top-tier Political Science PhD programs. The specialization prepares students equally well for careers in policy analysis, campaign management, political consulting, political party or interest group activism, public opinion research, research positions in government or private foundations, and a wide variety of other public and private sector opportunities. Affiliated faculty: Dr. Damon Cann; Dr. Greg Goelzhauser; Dr. Michael Lyons; Dr. Robert Ross; Dr. Josh Ryan

International Security

Whether you are interested in a career in the security community or want to further explore questions of what International Security is and how it is changing, this specialization will help you understand the issues and let you focus on a topic of your choice. Students who have completed this specialization have gone on to work in a variety of government agencies, or found success in the private sector, or have been accepted into prestigious PhD programs.

This is an exciting time to be thinking about International Security. Policy makers are grappling with a whole range of new issues, such as terrorism and insurgency, global climate change, human rights, the changing nature of war, and geopolitical transitions. Also, new theories are being applied and discussed, and the relevance of old theories is being debated. Understanding of international security is gained through a combination of theory, consideration of broad patterns of change, and focus upon regional trends.

Our professors have expertise in a range of international security topics. Our main areas of specialization are:

Environmental Security: An examination of: (1) the human-induced influences on the purity of the air we breathe and the water we drink, on climate change and the effects on sea-level rise, extreme weather events, disease vectors, and food cultivation; (2) the threats that these changes pose to human welfare and peaceful relations among nations; and (3) strategies for meeting these security challenges. Affiliated faculty: Dr. David Goetze.

Geopolitics: The intersection of geography and politics is used to explore great power competition, strategic thought, conflicts over territory, as well as the militarization of societies. Affiliated faculty: Dr. Colin Flint.

Regional Security: A broad theoretical and empirical analyses of regional security issues. Affiliated faculty: Dr. Robert Nalbandov.

Asymmetric Conflict: An examination of the history and current manifestation of two key aspects of asymmetric warfare, terrorism and insurgency, including discussion of policy procedures and their efficacy. Affiliated faculty: Dr. Veronica Ward; Dr. Jeannie Johnson.


Admissions Requirements

The Department of Political Science expects students to complete an original research project as part of their studies. As a result, although the University permits thesis projects that (1) “make a contribution to the field of knowledge based on a student’s own research” (Plan A) or (2) offer “a review of literature” (Plan B), preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate their desire and ability to pursue a Plan A thesis. It is suggested that applicants include a statement of their research interests, a description of any research experience as an undergraduate or in a professional setting, a reflection on how a Plan A thesis will benefit career goals, and at least one reference letter that is able to speak to the applicant’s potential to conduct research at the graduate level.

Applicants must have a BS or BA degree and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better, or a GPA of 3.5 or better over the last 90 semester credits of undergraduate coursework. Students must have quantitative, verbal, and analytical GRE scores at or above the 50th percentile. Applicants with very high GPAs and other exceptional supporting materials may petition for admission with deficient GRE scores. The graduate admissions committee will review petitions individually. International students must receive a score of 550 or better on the TOEFL exam.

Admission is considered for Fall semester only. Preference is given to applications received by February 1. Students who wish to be considered for financial aid must submit applications by February 1 for the coming academic year. No application will be considered until all required information arrives in the office of the School of Graduate Studies.

Acceptance into Political Science graduate program is not guaranteed for students who meet admission requirements. Moreover, all students are expected to perform at high levels throughout their program. Any student receiving a C grade or lower for any course at any level or a grade point average below 3.0 for a given semester will be placed on academic probation. Receipt of two grades of C or lower or a grade point average below 3.0 for two semesters will result in termination from the program. In addition, students must meet the requirements of the School of Graduate Studies.


The department appoints a number of teaching assistants, each with a $10,000 annual stipend. Appointments are for one year, and may be renewable for a second year. Research assistantships and government internships are sometimes available as well.

Graduate Program Resources

Click for Graduate Program Handbook

Click for Graduate Program Curriculum

Click for Timeline and Forms

Click for Three-Year Course Schedule

Program Contact

Greg Goelzhauser
Graduate Program Director