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Distance Learning Political Science Ph.D. Programs

Research online political science courses and doctoral programs. Find out what you can learn in these courses and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

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Essential Information

Although fully online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in political science are rare, hybrid programs that allow students to complete some coursework online are available. Students interested in completing all program requirements via distance education might consider doctoral programs in the related field of public administration, which could be more readily available.

Admission into political science programs requires some experience in the field in addition to a bachelor's or master's degree. Students complete online and on-campus courses, as well as a dissertation and field experience prior to graduation.

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Ph.D. in Political Science

Doctoral degree programs in political science provide public policy professionals with advanced theoretical knowledge for high-level work in the field. Students use research and professional experience to enhance their knowledge in order to address issues in public policy and government. Legal and ethical issues, as well as budgeting for the public sector are also investigated.

Information and Requirements

Applicants typically must hold a master's degree from an accredited college or university. Some institutions may require students to have work experience in a related field, such as positions in the government and public policy. Fully online programs are rare; programs generally combine a mix of on-campus classes and distance education. Most degree programs require students to engage in a field experience and deliver a doctoral dissertation in order to fulfill curriculum requirements.

Students must have a personal computer and Internet access. In addition to textbooks, instructors may require students to purchase software programs. Communication, assignments and exams take place through a university's web-based system.

Common Courses

Ph.D. students examine current issues in political science. They gain advanced knowledge of the philosophies and theories that guide policies and practice in governmental and public sector administration.

Governance and Public Policy

This online course covers the concept of democratic governance in the areas of public administration, public policy and private/non-profit organizations. Students examine theories of governance and apply best practices within an area of specialization.

American Political Parties

Students examine the major political organizations that contest elections and seek to gain majority control of the United States government. Major topics of study include the two major American political parties as well as the future of the American political party system.

Public Policy Analysis and Advocacy

This course focuses on the role of policy development in public safety, health care and social services. Students explore the best practices in public policy-making and its application at all levels of the public sector. Other topics covered include advocacy, agenda setting and policy implementation.


Career Information

Graduates of a Ph.D. program can pursue a variety of career options with government agencies, universities or private organizations that regularly interact with the government. In October 2016, Payscale.com reported that the median annual salary for a government affairs director was $99,777 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a job decline of 2% for political scientists from 2014-2024, though the median salary for those professionals was $99,730 as of 2015.

Ph.D. programs in political science are available in a hybrid format for aspiring political scientists and government affairs directors. Students of these programs will need to complete some in-person coursework and fieldwork to master concepts related to public policy.

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