Graduate Program

Learning Assessment & Goals

The Graduate Program in Political Science at Rutgers University trains students for receiving a PhD in Political Science.

The Graduate Program meets the standards set by the main professional organization in the political science discipline, The American Political Science Association. It meets these standards at an advanced level for all aspects of the discipline’s subfields: American politics, political theory (philosophy), comparative politics, international relations, women and politics, and public law.

Learning Goal 1 for Students: Attain mastery of the essential aspects of scholarship and research in the field of political science

Assessment of student achievement of Goal 1:

  • Grades in graduate courses
  • Annual faculty review by faculty of student progress with close advising and mentoring, including sub-field review and evaluation of student progress in each course taken
  • Second Year Graduate Student Conference that requires students to present a paper before department faculty and advanced level graduate students prior to presenting the paper at a scholarly conference
  • Comprehensive examinations which assess the depth and breadth of knowledge in two of the discipline’s sub-fields
  • Specific procedures designed to create solid foundations for doctoral dissertation research, such as sub-field seminars that enhance student knowledge of that process

Role of the program in helping students to achieve Goal 1:

  • Provide comprehensive advising and assist in the identification of mentors
  • Provide a study rubric to maximize success on comprehensive examinations
  • Provide close advising to assure that students are being prepared in a coherent and academically rigorous manner
  • Effective monitoring of student progress
  • Evaluations of teaching effectiveness of instructors in graduate courses through evaluations conducted each semester
  • If effectiveness is below expectations, work with instructors to improve their teaching effectiveness
  • Periodic review of curricular offerings and assessment tools  by graduate program faculty, in consultation with the office of the dean of the graduate school and/or the unit dean

Learning Goal 2 for Students: Conduct original research for PhD by completing a doctoral dissertation

Assessment of student achievement of Goal 2 is conducted by:

  • Encourage entering students to apply for fellowships for first year graduate students
  • Assessment of quality of doctoral dissertation through periodic and structured interaction with dissertation committee members
  • Critical reading of dissertation by committee of graduate faculty members
  • Public defense of doctoral dissertation 
  • Submission and presentation of papers at academic conferences
  • Submission and acceptance of articles in scholarly journals in the political science discipline
  • Obtaining evidence of student achievement by continuation of graduate studies and professional placement following successful defense of doctoral dissertation

Role of the program in helping graduate students to achieve Goal 2:

  •  Requiring students to take courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods
  • Provide opportunities to present research at scholarly conferences and receive feedback
  • Encourage students to present research results at such conferences
  • Maintain adequate funding levels through the dissertation research phase
  • Provide assistance to students seeking external funding via Chaser - The Resource Center for Graduate Student External Support
  • Use department resources, e.g., Porte Fund, to help students improve their research
  • Assist students in acquiring supplemental funding (on a competitive basis) for graduate student research and travel  
  • To assist students in participating in special study opportunities, such as summer institutes for qualitative and quantitative research
  • Encourage students to apply for external funding in support of their doctoral research
  • Encourage students to apply for rewards for their research and teaching accomplishments

Learning Goal 3 for Students: Preparing them to be professionals in their discipline

Assessment of graduate student achievement of Goal 3:

  • Review evidence of papers presented, publications and professional networking
  •  Aggregate evaluations of teaching effectiveness of graduate student instructors
  • Collection of placement data
  • Ongoing consultation between Graduate Director and department Placement Officer

Role of the program in helping graduate students to achieve Goal 3:

  • Teach students how to conduct assessments in their future professional capacities
  • Facilitate flexible options for students with interdisciplinary interests, e.g., by encouraging to participate in programs offered by Rutgers University interdisciplinary centers
  • Teach students networking skills that will enhance the possibilities of professional success
  • Acquaint students with non-academic career opportunities, e.g. positions with the federal state and local governments, NGOs, and “think tanks.”
  • Conducting periodic teaching workshops to enhance teaching effectiveness of recent PhDs once they obtain a faculty position
  • Acquaint recent PhDs with opportunities for post-doctoral research prior to pursuing a full-time academic position

Job Placement

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 informational 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 successfully placed students in faculty positions and post-doc fellowships at research universities and liberal arts colleges, as well as in jobs in government, research firms, and non-profits. In the past six years, our placements include:  tenure-track positions at Bridgewater State College, Fordham University, Hamilton College, Iowa State University, Kettering University, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Penn State University, the University of Houston, the University of Southern Indiana, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Whittier College, and the Universidad de O’Higgins in Chile; postdoctoral fellowship positions with the American Political Science Association (APSA Congressional Fellowship), Tulane University, the University of Denver; administrative positions at Northeastern University, The New School, Rowen University, Tulane University, and the University of Virginia; and visiting or multiyear positions at American University, Bucknell University, Kuwait University, New Mexico State University, and Ramapo College of New Jersey.


Administration of admissions is handled by the Graduate Admissions Office, 18 Bishop Place, New Brunswick, N. J. 08901. The actual decisions are made by the Committee on Admissions and Financial Aid in political science. Confidentiality is maintained in the consideration of applicants.

The credentials to be submitted are the formal application, obtained through the Graduate Admissions website @, transcripts of all undergraduate work, recommendations of three persons (preferably Professors with whom the applicant has studied), and the verbal, math and writing scores on the Graduate Record Examinations.  Students should, in addition, submit a sample of their written work, which they believe to be indicative of their ability to do graduate work in political science.  Decisions on admission will normally not be made until all of these materials are in hand. 

Early application is urged. Persons seeking financial aid and persons seeking to transfer directly into the Ph.D. program are particularly advised to apply early, in any event, not later than January 10th. For everyone else, the deadline is February 10th (

Budgetary restraints on enrollment mean that all qualified students cannot be accepted. As rough rules, applicants are more likely to be accepted if they have an A- average or better, particularly in social science work, a combined verbal and math score of 1350 or more and a writing score of 5.0 or better in the Graduate Record Examinations, and strong letters of recommendation. However, each case is considered individually. Rutgers desires to attract students from varied backgrounds, including women, members of minority groups, and foreign students. Therefore, the standards listed are rough rules only.

Experience has taught us that graduate school in the United States can be a particularly difficult experience for students whose native language is not English, and we therefore like to see TOEFL scores (Test of English as a Foreign Language) for such students at the 90th percentile or above. (This is 110 or higher on the new internet-based test          

Transfer Credits

Admitted students who come to Rutgers from another institution may transfer up to 24 credits of their previous work towards the Ph.D., after they have successfully completed one semester (12 credits) at Rutgers. However, there is no prior guarantee of the number of credits, which will be transferred. Credits will normally be transferred only for courses comparable in length, quality and content to those offered in the political science program in New Brunswick. Credits are usually not transferred for undergraduate courses or independent study programs. Applications for transfer credits, available at the Graduate School and the Department, must be submitted along with grade. Students should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies and their adviser before submitting this form. (

Financial Aid

A variety of financial aid is available to graduate students in political science at Rutgers. Included are:

Excellence Fellowships and Special Graduate School Fellowships are national awards for students of exceptional ability seeking the Ph.D. Several of these awards provide five-year packages ranging from $25,000 per year plus tuition remission

In each of the last several years, the department has offered six of these awards to outstanding applicants regardless of field and geographical origin. These awards include two years of fellowship and three years of being a T.A. In addition to the usual credentials, applicants for these awards should send a sample of their written research.

Teaching Assistantships Approximately 13 Teaching Assistantships are awarded, offering beginning salaries of approximately $26,000 plus full tuition and health benefits. These provide an opportunity for close work with faculty, and require about 15 hours of work weekly. The assistants are selected by the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee of the Graduate Faculty.

Most of the Assistantships are reserved for students who have completed 24 credits of graduate work at Rutgers by the beginning of the position. The positions are awarded for one year, with re-appointment for a second year considered upon satisfactory performance. A third-year appointment is possible for students showing excellent performance. Applications for Assistantships are circulated in February among enrolled students. In addition, 8 to 10 senior graduate students in political science (ABD) serve as teaching assistants in the English department. Students teach basic expository writing courses which, among other things, stress the importance of "writing across the curriculum."

Various opportunities for research assistantships and part-time employment are available at the Eagleton Institute of Politics and its Center for American Women in Politics and with other Centers and Institutes and individual faculty holding outside grants. ( )  The Eagleton Institute also offers fellowship opportunities for graduate students who wish to further their understanding of the practice of politics and public affairs. (

The William and Mary Porte Peace Dissertation Fellowship is funded by a gift of William and Mary Porte. It supports dissertation research that promises to make a significant intellectual contribution to the understanding of conditions that contribute to world peace.

Students are also encouraged to apply for external dissertation support from organizations such as the National Science Foundation, Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowships, and Fulbright. Our students have had notable successes in each of these areas in recent years.

Course Selection

When registering for courses, students should keep in mind the following principles, regulations and advice. In all cases, students should see their advisers before registration.

All students must submit in writing their major and minor field choices at the end of their first year. Students should consult with their advisor of the field chair of their proposed major field regarding the selection of major and minor fields and get the signature of their adviser on the standard form (available from the graduate office).

Each Ph.D. student must take the proseminar and core courses for his or her major and minor fields, and should then build on this preparation in more specialized work. A minimum of three courses (including the core course) is required in field. As much as possible, students are well advised to diversify their courses among their three fields.

All Ph.D. students must demonstrate competence in research methods by completing 790:532-533 Research Design in Political Science (normally in their first year) and submit at least one significant research paper, which addresses a theoretically interesting topic and/or an analytically important controversy.

Comparative politics and political theory students must pass a foreign language examination. Students in American Politics and International Relations have additional requirements in research methods.

Annual 2nd Year Research Conference

All Ph.D. students are required to submit a "significant research paper" to the graduate office before they sit for their comprehensive exams. Beginning with the entering class of 2008, this paper will be presented at an annual end-of-the-year student research conference held every May. The research is most likely to develop out of one seminar or another (ideally, but not necessarily, in the student's major field), and students are strongly encouraged to begin discussing their research ideas with faculty before the end of their first year of graduate study, and certainly by the beginning of their second year.

On the last Friday of October, all second year graduate students are required to turn in to the Graduate Office a one-page description of their proposed research with a tentative paper title. (If they have already begun seriously talking to a particular faculty member about this research, they should convey this information along with the brief description of the research itself.)

The Director of Graduate Studies will then distribute the research proposals to the various subfields (working through the field chairs), who will select an appropriate faculty supervisor for any research proposal without one.

Students should then begin (or continue) meeting with the faculty formally supervising the research project to continue developing the research idea. These research proposals must describe a project that can be completed in one semester, and faculty will have more realistic ideas about what is possible to achieve. A final (potentially revised) research proposal must be submitted to the Graduate Office by the end of the fall semester of the second year of graduate study. This proposal should be signed by both the student and their faculty sponsor.

Student will register for a 3-credit independent study with their faculty sponsor in the spring of their second year of graduate study. The faculty sponsor has responsibility for supervision and guidance of the research. A formal paper describing the results of the research will be due the final Friday of the spring semester.

Students will also present their research to the department at an annual end-of-the-year student research conference, typically held during the "reading days" after the end of classes in the Spring semester but before finals start. Papers will be organized into as coherently-structured-as-possible panels of 4 or 5 papers each, and students would make a 15-minute presentation of their project to the entire department. A different faculty member will chair each panel, with more advanced (ABD) graduate students serving as discussants on these panels.

Our goal is that every one of these second-year projects is quickly submitted to some professional conference, if not directly to a journal for publication.

Because the faculty believes the responsibility for an opportunity to supervise these second-year research projects should be widely shared among the faculty, no individual faculty member may supervise more than two second-year projects in any given year, nor more than three in any two consecutive years.

Degree Requirements

The general expectation of the department is that students will proceed effectively and directly toward the completion of degrees. A number of Graduate School and departmental regulations are intended to help fulfill these objectives. They deal with the following subjects:

  • Course grades are as follows: A -- distinguished; B -- good; C -- passing; and F -- failure. Intermediate grades of B+ or C+ also may be awarded. An Incomplete grade is available only on a limited basis. No more than one cumulative grade of Incomplete is permitted, and must be removed within one year. Students with more than one Incomplete will not be allowed to register for classes.

  • Time Limits. From the time of first registration, three years are permitted for completion of the M.A. and a total of seven years for completion of the Ph.D. The time for completion of the Ph.D. may be extended annually, for up to three additional years, by the Graduate Director, and thereafter only by special annual action of the Graduate Faculty. These time limits are enforced, and students failing to make continuing progress will have their studies terminated. Transfer credits are included proportionately in these limits.

  • A year's full-time residence at Rutgers is normally required of doctoral students.

  • Students' graduate studies may be terminated if they fail to maintain satisfactory academic or professional standards. Their records are reviewed periodically and termination generally will be recommended for students receiving more than two grades of C or worse in one semester, or four grades of C or worse in their cumulative record at Rutgers. A maximum of nine credits with a grade of C is permitted for the M.A., and a maximum of twelve credits with a grade of C toward the Ph.D.

  • 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.

  • Ph.D. students also are required to register for 24 hours of research credits, usually with their dissertation advisor. While in most cases these credits are taken after passing qualifying exams, under some circumstances it may be advantageous to take some of these credits in an earlier year. Students need the permission of their advisor and the graduate vice chair before doing so.

    Before registering for research credits, students should speak with their advisor and come to an agreement about what research should be accomplished in the semester for the student to receive an “S” grade for the credits. This may mean making measurable progress on a prospectus draft, data collection, the writing of one or more chapters, etc. The student and adviser should stay in regular contact about the student's progress over the course of the semester.

    Students who do not make adequate progress may be given an “IN” grade or a “U” grade. Incomplete grades may be changed to an “S” by the professor if the student makes up the work within two semesters. “U” grades receive no credit toward the degree and cannot be changed. Students who receive “U” or “IN” grades in two successive semesters will be considered no longer in good standing and risk the loss of any subsequent Rutgers funding. Such cases will be referred to the Graduate Program Committee for a decision.

    Every effort should be made to enroll in these 24 credits while the student is still funded. Students should keep in mind, however, that to remain in good standing, all students must register for at least one credit every semester until the dissertation defense. Students should plan ahead and avoid unnecessary payments by accumulating no more than 24 credits.

  • Occasionally, students decide to end their graduate studies before writing the dissertation. In such cases students who do not already have a masters degree from another institution may apply for a terminal masters degree from Rutgers. To receive a terminal masters degree, students must (1) complete 30 credits of graduate coursework from Rutgers, and (2) either a) pass the minor exam in their field of specializations; or b) write a master's thesis, which must be read and approved by a thesis adviser and one other reader from the major field of specialization.

  • Upon completion of his or her qualifying examinations, a doctoral student will commence the serious individual research which culminates in the dissertation. The dissertation is intended to evidence the student's ability to perform a significant and extensive individual work that merits his or her acceptance into the community of scholars. To this end students should consider their dissertations as leading to significant publication in the form of professional journal articles or books.

    Assistance and direction are provided by a supervisor and dissertation committee, appointed by the Vice Chair for Graduate Studies, after consultation with the student and relevant faculty members. While this assistance is vital and freely given, completion of the dissertation ultimately depends on the individual's own research, imagination, preparation, and simple persistence.

    The dissertation committee consists of four persons, normally three political scientists and a relevant outside faculty member, from another university or from another discipline at Rutgers. The chair of the dissertation committee is the person with whom the student will work most closely on his or her dissertation. The chair is not appointed unless both the faculty member and the student agree to work together.

    After the student has prepared an elaborate statement (perhaps ultimately a first chapter) of the purposes, scope, methods and sources of the dissertation research that is satisfactory to the chair of the dissertation committee, the committee is then convened to evaluate this initial prospectus.

    The formal dissertation prospectus should be presented to the committee within six months of the completion of the qualifying examinations. See Dissertation Prospectus: Guidelines for Political Science Graduate Student. At this stage, any member of the dissertation committee has the right to insist that the student revise his or her thinking along specified lines; but once the dissertation committee approves the prospectus, its members are no longer entitled to insist on major revisions in the purpose, scope or methodology of the dissertation. Their role thereafter is rather one of assessing whether the student effectively carried out the research project to which they had given their approval.

Because individual cases are not always met by general rules, special exemptions to any departmental regulations may be granted by action of the faculty (with a minimum quorum of ten). Appeals for such action are made simply by a written request of the student. After an appeal is considered, it may be reconsidered only if such action is requested by the Graduate Director or written request of any five faculty members.

The Graduate Diploma application, obtainable from the Registrar or the Graduate School Office, must be completed and submitted by each candidate before April 2 for a diploma bearing the date of the May commencement, by October 2 for a diploma dated October, and by January 2 for a diploma dated January. Unless the application is filed by the appropriate time, the degree will not be conferred and graduation will necessarily be delayed, in some cases by as much as one year. There is no fee for the MA diploma.

Academic degree requirements, including the completed application for admission to candidacy, must be completed and fees for microfilming and thesis binding paid by April 2, for a May degree; for October, requirements and fees should be taken care of by October 2, and for January, by January 2.

A candidate who is unable to complete the academic degree requirements by the latest date allowed by the department offices and the office of the Dean, and who must therefore apply for a later diploma, must complete a new diploma application.

Areas of Study

Graduate courses in political science are grouped into three categories on the basis of their focus.  In each of the six substantive areas, there are core courses (proseminars) which survey the major literature and methodology of the field, and which are required of all students preparing that field.  A second group of offerings (courses numbered in the 500s) focus on the literature and research techniques of more specialized subjects.  Readings, oral reports, and short research assignments are emphasized.  At a more advanced level, small research seminars (courses numbered in the 600s) emphasize individual focused scholarship.  Most graduate work is taken in courses of the first two categories, but all students benefit from the intense research experience of advanced seminars.