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, all of whom receive full funding. The Graduate Faculty of 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.

Learning Outcomes

  • Produce and defend an original and significant contribution to knowledge in the discipline of political science.
  • Demonstrate mastery of subject material by developing a minimum level of competence in five of the six fields of political science (American politics, public policy, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, and methodology) and a high level of competence in two of these fields.
  • Participate in professional academic community activities, such as attending local seminar series, presenting papers at conferences, and submitting papers to academic journals.
  • Be able to teach the discipline at the undergraduate level.

Course Requirements

Students are required to complete 64 graduate-level credits. Those entering the program from a Boston University MA program will be able to transfer over some of their course credits by arrangement with the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

Selection of courses must be approved by the DGS. Courses may be drawn from the offerings of the Department of Political Science as well as other disciplines such as economics, history, mathematics and statistics, philosophy, and sociology, subject to the following requirements:

Core Seminars

Four Core Seminars should 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 out of four graduate-level methodology courses are required:

  • GRS PO 841 Quantitative Research Methods
  • GRS PO 842 Qualitative Approaches to the Study of Political Science
  • GRS PO 843 Techniques in Political Analysis: Maximum Likelihood Estimation
  • GRS PO 844 Methods for Causal Inference

Students may petition the DGS to replace one or more of these courses with equivalent or more advanced courses from other departments.

Research Workshop

Two semesters of GRS PO 903/904 Research Workshop must be taken in years 2 or 3.

Professional Development

GRS PO 702 Professional Development for PhD Candidates in Political Science must be taken in years 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, political theory, 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. 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 may request that a master’s degree be granted.