Political science Ph.D. programs prepare students to use science and the study of history, current developments, and human behavior to learn about political processes and behavior, governmental policies, and actions across the globe. Within that scope, you might test theories, publish research articles, study policies, and forecast social and political trends. Earning a Ph.D. in this field can prepare you for careers that impact the policy-making and delivery process of governments on a national or international level.
What Does it Take to Get Accepted into a Ph.D. in Political Science Program?
Universities tend to be rather targeted when selecting students for Ph.D. programs in political science, and many gauge a more holistic profile rather than just focusing on previous college work and test scores. Of course, GRE scores and transcripts play a part, but you'll also be asked for specifics about what you want to research and what your career goals are. Essentially, university admissions committees want to determine if your areas of interest coincide with the current faculty. Other common requirements include a bachelor's degree (potentially in a related area of study), a personal statement describing what inspired you to pursue this degree, a writing sample, and one or more letters of recommendation.
What Types of Questions Should You Ask When Selecting Your Political Science Program?
Choosing the right program for your Ph.D. can be crucial to your success, both while as a student earning a degree and during your job hunt after graduation. After all, you don't want to spend all that time and money only to discover that a better program could have really propelled your career forward. With that in mind, here are some questions you should consider when choosing your program.
- How long does it take the average person to earn their degree?
- What options are there for funding your degree and how much money is available?
- What support does the department offer in job placement once you've earned your degree?
- What is the placement rate of graduates from the program?
- Does the school offer teaching programs for doctoral students?
- Does the school offer a wide variety of areas of specialization in political science?
What Types of Courses Will I Take?
Ph.D. programs aim to provide a broad spectrum of political science courses to ensure understanding of the discipline. Once you've demonstrated knowledge in the fundamentals of political science, you'll often be able to specialize with more specific courses and projects depending on your focus. All told, your coursework, combined with additional teaching and research projects, will generally take four to five years.
Common coursework topics include:
Courses in this category generally focus on the structure of the U.S. government. These courses cover topics like a breakdown of the presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives. You'll also dive into our political party system, public opinion, ethnicity, voting rights and local and state politics.
This type of class analyzes the part judges, lawyers, the Supreme Court and other legal entities play in shaping public policy. You could review previous cases impacting freedom of speech and ethnic and religious controversy. Topics covering global justice such as intellectual property rights and human rights could also fall into this category.
You'll cover extensive international politics as part of your coursework. Some courses will focus on shared interests and concerns like the international economy, trade, and climate change. A dive into international relationships might also include security issues, strategies, arms coalitions, and conflict management.
This course type will go into depth on comparisons of different types of political systems and policies. Different international parties existing in Europe, China, Africa, and South America are likely to be discussed. You might also compare similar types of political parties to discuss differences and similarities, such as democratic nations. Or you might get even more granular and compare political parties and interest groups, bureaucracy, or various political institutions.
Courses falling into this category will get to the fundamentals of political science and the methods used when researching and hypothesizing outcomes. How to design surveys or set up experiments are just some of the basics. The use of statistics and quantitative research methods will be an important part of your research and how to write about political science topics, and similar courses will help prepare you for your dissertation and future career.
Extensive courses, fieldwork, and preparation for your dissertation will prepare you to conduct research, communicate your findings, and use creative analysis to educate others and impact policies. The individual focus of your Ph.D. might land you a career shaping future strategy in a government agency, academic field, or Fortune 500 company. Regardless, there is clearly an opportunity for a stimulating career in political science. Start your journey today by picking the right program to get started.