Top Schools with Political Science PhD Programs

Dec 20, 2019

Political science Ph.D. programs typically consist of advanced coursework in the field and independent research in the student's field of interest, culminating in a final dissertation.

School Overviews

The University of California in San Diego (UCSD), Washington University in Saint Louis and Harvard University all offer top doctoral programs for those who want to study political science. All of these schools earned high national rankings from U.S. News & World Report for 2020.

University of California - San Diego

School Highlight: In addition to the Ph.D. in Political Science, the University of California at San Diego offers an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Political Science and International Affairs.

UCSD has received national recognition from a number of ranking organizations, including a 20th place tied ranking among top U.S. public universities by U.S. News & World Report for 2020. The magazine also named UCSD as tied for 8th best graduate school in the nation for political science.

The Department of Political Science at UCSD has over 40 professors and admits 15-20 students to the Ph.D. program each year. The program stresses a holistic education across various political science subfields. Before advancing into their research field, first year doctoral candidates are required to take six quarters of courses in foundational politics and research methods.

Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

School Highlight: In the past three years, 13 out of 14 of the university's Ph.D. graduates were placed into tenure track jobs at prestigious universities.

Washington University is a private research university that was ranked 19th in U.S. News & World Report's 2020 list of top national universities. It was also tied at 13th for best political science graduate programs.

The doctoral program at the school emphasizes applied statistics and formal theory; however, the program is also open to students who don't have a strong math background. Students may study sub-fields such as comparative politics, political economy, and political methodology, though the research interests of faculty members often transcend individual areas of research. Since 1998, 31 out of 37 graduates of the program have achieved tenure track jobs at various universities.

Harvard University in Cambridge, MA

School Highlight: For 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked Harvard #1 among schools with political science programs.

At Harvard, students interested in doctoral studies in political science apply to the Department of Government. They choose to focus their studies on one of four major fields within political science: American government, comparative politics, international relations or political theory. Once enrolled, Ph.D. students spend the first two years taking core coursework, leading up to a comprehensive exam. After that, they dedicate the next three to four years to dissertation research and supervised teaching.

Top Political Science Ph.D. Programs

Here are some more top schools that offer Ph.D. programs in political science:

  • The political science doctoral program at New York University in New York, NY, takes on about 12 students each year, leading to small courses and strong student-faculty interactions.
  • For 2020, U.S. News & World Report ranked the University of California in Los Angeles at #1 in the nation among Top Public Schools.
  • At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, graduate students can participate in organizations such as the Graduate Association of Political Scientists, the Political Scientists of Color and the Women's Caucus.
  • The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities in Minneapolis boasts that 88% of its Ph.D. graduates who were available for employment since found professional placement in top-tier school and research institutions.
  • At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Department of Political Science provides several fellowships and assistantships for graduate students.
  • At the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA, graduate students in the school's political science department regularly co-author papers with faculty.

Excellent Ph.D. programs in political science are available at some of the nation's top universities, allowing students to take courses in their subfield of interest and conduct publishable research in the field.

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