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A&S—Political Science

Contact Information

Department Chair: Steven E. Finkel
Main Office: 4603 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
Fax: 412-648-7277

Additional information concerning the department’s graduate program may be obtained from the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Political Science, Graduate Administrator, 4601WWPH, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Phone: 412-648-7270. Fax: 412-648-7277. E-mail:

Graduate Program

The Department of Political Science offers the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. However, the MA degree functions primarily as a stepping-stone to the PhD. The department does not have a distinct MA program, and does not, except under very unusual circumstances, admit students for graduate study who seek a terminal Master of Arts degree. However, PhD students who, for various reasons, choose to discontinue their training after two years are eligible for a terminal MA, contingent upon the successful completion of the requirements outlined below.

The graduate program in political science incorporates six fields:

Students choose two of these fields as areas of specialization. Students may also choose a concentration or theme, such as Human Rights or Governance, that cuts across these fields. Students may combine work for the MA and PhD degrees with a program of regional specialization leading to a certificate in Latin American studies, Asian studies, West European studies, or Russian and East European studies.


Applicants for admission must submit transcripts of all college-level work, three letters of recommendation, a career statement, and scores on the verbal, quantitative, and writing assessment-analytical sections of the Graduate Record Examination. International applicants whose first language is not English are required to submit either the TOEFL administered by the Educational Testing or the IELTS administered by the University. For fall term admission and awards consideration, complete applications must be submitted by early January (see deadlines) 1. The department admits students only for the fall term.

Financial Assistance

Graduate students entering the program with a fellowship or teaching assistantship/teaching fellowship who have demonstrated high-quality graduate work and are maintaining good academic progress can expect to have financial aid renewed for up to five years. A graduate student who has not passed the PhD comprehensive examination in September of the fourth year of graduate work ordinarily is not eligible for additional financial assistance until these examinations are passed.

Requirements for the MA

For the MA, students must earn 30 hours of credit with a B average or better in courses numbered 1000 or above. At least half of these credits must be carried in courses numbered 2000 or above. All MA students are required to complete a 13-credit core-course sequence in theory and methods (PS 2000, 2010, 2030, and 2040), comprising graduate-level training in empirical analysis of political behavior and normative political thought. The remainder of the students’ MA course work is used to develop competence in one of the main fields of political science the department offers.

Students must then pass a comprehensive examination, for MA purposes, covering two of six fields.

Requirements for the PhD

Credit Requirement: A minimum of 72 credit hours, including the master’s degree, earned from any suitable combination of formal course work, independent study, research, teaching, or dissertation work as detailed elsewhere in this bulletin.

Students in the PhD program must choose two fields. The requirements for the first field are outlined above in the section regarding requirements for the MA. Unless otherwise stated below, students are required to complete at least four graduate seminars beyond the departmental core (PS 2000, 2010, 2030, and 2040) from one of the remaining five fields of study for their second field.

PhD Qualifying Examinations: At the conclusion of the first year, all students will face a "first year review" before the entire faculty. The faculty will review each student, based on his or her performance in the first year, to determine whether or not he or she should continue in the program. Students who have passed this review are considered to have passed the PhD Qualifying Examination.

Supervised Teaching Experience: Supervised teaching experience is an integral part of the doctoral program. Normally, teaching experience is gained by conducting recitation sections of an introductory course or by assisting a faculty member in an undergraduate course, followed by the teaching of one’s own course, in the fourth or fifth year of study.

Comprehensive Examination: Students take a PhD comprehensive examination after approximately one year of coursework beyond the MA, comprising a written exam in both fields, with a possible oral exam if the results of the written exam are unclear.

Dissertation Overview: Following successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the student files an application for admission to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. At this stage the student presents a proposed topic for doctoral research and a research design for its execution to be reviewed by the dissertation committee.

Dissertation Defense: The final oral examination in defense of the doctoral dissertation is conducted by the doctoral committee and is open to the University community.


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