Political Science, PhD

Gain a strong foundation in research methods and substantive content for advanced, postgraduate study of political science. Our very low student-to-faculty ratio provides you exceptional opportunities for research collaboration and guidance throughout the doctoral program.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: Political Science, PhD

The PhD program in political science is intended to develop scholars who demonstrate a high level of excellence in teaching and research as professional political scientists. It offers a variety of areas of specialization within and between the four main subfields of political science: American politics, comparative politics, international relations and political theory. Students interested in a political theory specialization should consult with the academic unit prior to application.

Program faculty have particular strengths in Latino and Latina politics, women and politics, ethno-religious dynamics, political violence, human rights, political psychology and political economy.

The school is host to the the Center for Latinos and American Politics Research, the Center on the Future of War, and an experimental lab. Faculty are also affiliated with other centers at ASU, such as the Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab; the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict; the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies; as well as the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty. Many faculty members are active in collaborative interdisciplinary research at ASU and with scholars at other universities, and they have won major grants and awards, as have the school's doctoral students.


Students are expected to take courses for the first four semesters that will prepare them for comprehensive exams by the beginning of their fifth semester.  Each subfield has required methods courses, research courses, and core seminars for major and minor fields and these must be included on the IPOS. The faculty advisor and the student will set timelines for course completion and exams, bearing in mind the goal of being prepared to take comprehensive exams by the beginning of the fifth semester at ASU. 

A minimum of 84 hours is required.

Courses and electives

Students are generally expected to complete their substantive coursework during the first two years of the program. Following the first two years, students will enroll in a variety of credits including research, independent study, reading and conference, and dissertation hours. In the first semester, doctoral students should enroll in POS 598, a one - credit workshop facilitated by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

At a Glance: program details

Degree Requirements

Required Core (3 credit hours)
POS 503 Empirical Political Inquiry (3)

Electives and Research (69 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
POS 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
A maximum of 12 credit hours of approved coursework outside the department but within ASU may count toward the required 84 credit hours.

Coursework beyond the 12 credit hour maximum may be taken outside the department with permission of both the director of Graduate Studies and the faculty advisor.

When approved by the student's supervisory committee and the Graduate College, this program allows 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree to be used for this degree. If students do not have a previously awarded master's degree, the 30 hours of coursework is made up of electives and research to reach the required 84 credit hours.

Also required is a formal oral defense of the dissertation and a written comprehensive examination in the major field.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree, in any field, from a regionally accredited institution.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. personal statement
  4. writing sample
  5. GRE scores
  6. three letters of recommendation
  7. list of political science courses taken
  8. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.

To assist in evaluating all candidates, the applicant should list titles and related information for all previous undergraduate and graduate courses or coursework in political science or related fields. The file must be saved in a .pdf, .doc, .rtf or .txt format and uploaded with the online graduate admission application. The information should be in a table with the following column headings: Course Title, Undergrad Credit Hours, Graduate Credit Hours, Grade, Institution, Year.

Undergraduate coursework in political science is not a prerequisite for admission. However, applicants to the doctoral program should have a basic understanding of elementary statistics and the undergraduate content of the political science fields of specialization that they wish to study. Students without this background should allow sufficient time to acquire it.

Career Opportunities

Program graduates have a strong track record of obtaining positions in academic, public and private sectors. The program works closely with students so they have the opportunity and tools needed to achieve their career goals. The doctoral program provides advanced education for students preparing for teaching, research or applied careers in political science in government, nonprofits and the private sector.

Career examples include:

  • campaign consultant
  • campaign strategist
  • data analyst
  • lobbyist
  • research specialist
  • tenure-track or instructional faculty in political science

Core Courses (3 credits)

POS 503 - Empirical Political Inquiry

Research methods and techniques of the discipline, emphasizing empirical foundations and analytic methods employed in subfields.

Electives and Research (69 credits – 39 if previous MA applied to program)

If your field is American Politics:

  • POS 603 - Polimetrics I
  • POS 604 - Polimetrics II
  • POS 530 - American Politics
  • Three elective courses in subfield

If you field is Comparative Politics:

  • POS 603 - Polimetrics I
  • POS 604 - Polimetrics II
  • POS 550 - Comparative Politics
  • Three elective courses in subfield

If your field is International Relations:

  • POS 560 - International Relations
  • POS 603 - Polimetrics I
  • POS 604 – Polimetrics II or approved Methods course
  • Three elective courses in subfield

Culminating Experience (12 credits)

POS 799 – Dissertation

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