PhD in Political Science

The Graduate Program in Political Science offers an intellectually stimulating and collegial environment for the training of PhD candidates. The program is highly selective, enrolling an average of six students a year to the program, all of whom receive full funding. The Graduate Faculty in Political Science at Boston University is a diverse community of scholars stretching across several departments and schools. Students may also take advantage of the broader resources in the Boston area. Entering students must have a BA or MA. The program trains students in research and teaching methods, preparing them for positions in colleges and universities, research institutions, and government agencies. For a complete description of our program, please visit our website.

Course Requirements

Students are required to complete 64 graduate-level credits. Students entering the program from Boston University’s BA/MA program will be able to transfer over some of their course credits by arrangement with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Students are encouraged to take courses offered in related disciplines such as economics, philosophy, psychology, math/statistics, sociology, and history, and in other universities around the Boston area.

Selection of courses must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Political Science. Courses may be drawn from the offerings of this and related departments subject to the following requirements.

Core Seminars

Four Core Seminars are required and must be completed in Year 1:

  • GRS PO 711 Approaches to the Study of American Politics
  • GRS PO 751 Approaches to the Study of Comparative Politics
  • GRS PO 771 Approaches to the Study of International Relations
  • GRS PO 791 Approaches to the Study of Political Theory


Three methodology courses are required:

  • GRS PO 840 Political Analysis
  • GRS PO 841 Quantitative Research Methods
  • GRS PO 843 Techniques in Political Analysis: Maximum Likelihood Estimation

Students may petition the DGS to replace either of these courses with an equivalent course in the Mathematics or Sociology Departments.

Research Workshop

GRS PO 903 or 904 Research Workshop must be taken in Years 2 and 3.

Professional Development

GRS PO 702 Professional Development for PhD Candidates in Political Science must be taken in Year 2 or 3.

Language Requirement

There is no general language requirement. However, if knowledge of a foreign language is necessary for their research, students are encouraged to develop that competence prior to defending their PhD proposal.

Qualifying Examinations

As one element of the qualifying examination, students must submit an independent research paper of high quality. Typically, this will involve the substantial revision, expansion, and polishing of a graduate seminar paper. In addition, timed qualifying examinations are given in two fields of the student’s choosing: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, public policy, and methodology. After passing all three elements of the qualifying exam, students proceed to their dissertation work.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation before their committee and any others who may wish to attend. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

Any student who has successfully completed all course requirements and has passed the qualifying exam or written an MA thesis may request that a terminal master’s degree be granted.