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Ph.D. students must pass a comprehensive exam in their major field of study and their first minor field. Both the major and minor examinations are given twice a year, usually over a week's time in November and April. The dates of examinations are announced at least a month in advance, at which time students are asked to inform the Graduate Department of their intention to take these tests, along with a statement of the field and sub-field to be taken. In announcing their intentions, students are responsible for adhering to the following regulations:

The written examinations are constructed by all faculty in the field and graded by three-person committees. The major and the minor exams may be taken in the same semester or in consecutive semesters, typically starting in the semester following the completion of the 48th credit. Both must be taken by the end of the third year of graduate study. Students entering the program with a masters degree in hand will typically begin taking their exams in their 4th semester at Rutgers.

  • The minor exam from all subfields will be offered on one day, announced early in the semester. The exam lasts 8 hours, but may be taken anywhere the student prefers. Questions and completed essays can be distributed and turned in via email. In fact students must turn in an electronic (Word or Word Perfect) version of their essays to the graduate office, where they will be saved for at least five years. Students can use any aids they want during the exam, including books, articles, electronic versions of notes, pre-written exam answers, and whatever printed documents they can find on the internet. The only thing that is not permitted is help from other people, including email messages written during the exam.

  • The major exam is comprised of both a written and an oral examination. The written portion of the major exam from all subfields will be given on the same day, typically one week after the minor exam. The oral portion of the exam is normally scheduled within two weeks of the written exam. Students cannot pass or fail the major exam based on the written portion of the exam alone; both the written and oral portions of the exam matter. [If, however, (a) all three members of the reading committee agree that the written portion of the exam is of such poor quality that it cannot possibly be "saved" by an oral exam, and (b) the student concurs, then the oral portion of the exam need not be taken.] Questions on the major exam should be field-integrative: that is, they should ask students to go beyond the material that was covered in any particular seminar they may have taken. The written portion of the major exam lasts 12 hours, and may be taken anywhere. Questions and completed essays are distributed and can be turned in via email. Students can use any aids they want during the written exam, including books, articles, electronic versions of notes, pre-written exam answers, and whatever printed documents they can find on the internet. The only thing that is not permitted is help from other people, including email messages written during the exam. Students have none of these aids available to them during the oral exam, however. Examiners typically ask a student to elaborate on his or her responses from the written exam, to probe the student's ability to defend and elaborate his or her ideas in greater depth and detail. But the oral exam may also ask a student questions from the written exam that the student had not answered and/or other general questions about the subfield. As with the minor exam, students must submit an electronic (Word or Word Perfect) version of their essays to the graduate office when they turn in their major exam.

If any student fails an exam, they have one more opportunity to take the exam - presumably, the next time the exam is offered. Students who pass one of their exams but fail the other do not have to repeat both exams - just the one they failed.

Students successfully passing both major exams may apply to the graduate school for a Masters degree in political science. There are no additional requirements for obtaining this degree, and while it is not particularly useful, it is free.


kiraJob Placement:
Placement Director:
Kira Sanbonmatsu (

Graduate students in the department receive assistance in seeking jobs in academia and beyond from their faculty advisors as well as from a faculty member who serves as placement director. The placement director meets one on one with students entering the job market to help them prepare their application materials, maintains an informa-tional website of advice about applying and interviewing, and arranges practice job talk interviews for students. The department also provides assistance in forwarding credentials and recommendation letters to hiring institutions. The department has an excellent record of placing our students in faculty positions and post-doc fellowships at research universities and liberal arts colleges, as well as in jobs in government, re-search firms, and non-profits. Recent placements include positions at American Uni-versity, Arkansas State University, Auburn University, Barnard College, Bates College, Bryn Mawr College, California State University, Canisius College, Chatham University, Clark University, College of Charleston, College of New Jersey, Drew University, Fair-leigh Dickinson University, Georgetown University, Georgia State University, Handong University Korea, Haverford College, Illinois State University, James Madison Universi-ty, John Jay College, Lafayette College, Lehigh University, Long Island University, Northeastern University, Northern Colorado University, Notre Dame, Ohio University, University of Oregon, Penn State University, Pomona College, Providence College, Quinnipiac University, Rider University, Rutgers University, Sacramento State Universi-ty, Sam Houston State University, Sonoma State University, Stanford University, Texas Tech University, University of Cincinnati, University of Hartford, University of Indiana, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, University of Miami – Ohio, University of Ver-mont, US Military Academy, Whitman College, Whittier College, William Patterson Uni-versity, Williams College, and Yonsei University Japan.

PhD program

The PhD program provides cutting-edge training in a supportive environment. Our approach is methodologically pluralistic, encouraging the use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches to research. Classes are small and students work closely with faculty in their field, who often co-author articles with their students, in addi-tion to providing mentorship throughout students’ own research.

All students who are admitted to the program are offered funding packages that cover tuition expenses and a combination of fellowship stipends and positions as teaching assistants (TAs) or research assistants (GAs) to provide living expenses. Funding is limited, and so we also admit students who are supported by outside scholarships.

Being located within easy reach of New York, Trenton, Newark, Philadelphia and Washington, the program has extensive resources for pursuing advanced studies and research in politics. Rutgers is a member of the Inter-University Doctoral Con-sortium, which allows our graduate students to take courses at other universities in the area, including Columbia University, New York University, the New School, and Princeton University.

Welcome New Graduate Cohort 2013

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