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Prospective Students

The Rutgers' program in political science is directed primarily toward the Ph.D. The Ph.D. is a research and scholarship degree. Exceptional applicants are admitted to this program directly upon completion of the B.A.  Others enter after completion of M.A. work at another institution.  Students take their qualifying doctoral examinations after the equivalent of two years of full-time study. Writing a doctoral dissertation then requires about two additional years.  The typical total time for the Ph.D. degree is five or six years from the time of first enrollment, with a maximum of seven years. Extensions in completion of the dissertation are allowed under exceptional circumstances.


The Rutgers Graduate Program in political science is divided into six substantive areas or fields:  American politics, Comparative politics, International relations, Political theory, Public law and Women and politics.   For the Ph.D., preparation in at least two, and in most cases three, of these fields is necessary, as well as demonstration of competence in quantitative analysis.  A language requirement exists in the fields of comparative politics and political theory.

  • Students will select a major area of study from among the six concentrations in political science and complete required course work in that area. 
  • To qualify in the major field a student must, further, pass a written exam and an oral exam. (See Examinations for further details.) 
  • In addition to the major field, a Ph.D. student must complete work in two additional fields.  
  • To qualify in the first minor field (to be selected from the six fields in political science), a candidate must pass a written minor field exam.  (See procedures for exams below).
  • To qualify in the second minor field, a candidate must complete a series of at least three courses with an average of better than B+ (3.5+).  Individual fields may establish more detailed requirements (see field descriptions below).
  • Courses may be taken from either: (a) the existing six fields or (b) areas not generally available within the department.  Courses selected under option "b" must be approved in writing by the field chair in the student's major field and then submitted for approval to the vice chair for graduate studies.
  • Whatever group of courses is chosen to constitute the second minor field, those courses should be justified in terms of the following general criteria:  (1) the coherence of the proposed course of study, (2) the relevance of the course work to the research and/or teaching of the student, and (3) the relevance of the course work to the student's future job placement, recognizing that most of our students will be asked to teach a broad range of courses within a political science department. 
  • Ph.D. students are required to complete 48 credits of course work and research prior to taking exams and embarking on the dissertation.  Students will distribute their course work among their chosen fields, meeting the requirements of those fields as set forth below.   
  • In addition, a student must complete a "significant" research paper, generally in the major field. 
  • All students are required to participate in the Second Year Graduate Student Conference in which they present a major research paper.
  • Candidates who have successfully passed all exams must submit a dissertation prospectus and organize their dissertation committee of four faculty within six months followed by a formal, oral presentation of the dissertation prospectus (Forms are available at the graduate office). In addition to the chair, two additional members must be members of the Rutgers Department of Political Science faculty. Students must also include an outside reader from another institution at the time they form their committee.

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