PhD in Political Science Curriculum

The PhD in Political Science degree program at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government is designed to prepare students for teaching and conducting research about government, careers in government and politics, and work in domestic and international nongovernmental organizations. The program allows students to combine their academic education with experience in the kinds of complex domestic and international political organizations they are studying. This model for political science education, patterned after the American Political Science Association’s Congressional Fellows Program, is designed to foster scholarship and a firsthand understanding of domestic and international institutions such as think tanks, international bodies, nongovernmental organizations, journals of political opinion, and congressional and executive branch offices.

Reduction of Credit

For students entering the program with a master’s or MPA degree, the number of credits required for the doctorate may be reduced by a maximum of 30 credits subject to approval of the graduate coordinator and the dean.

Progress Review

For students who have been admitted with a bachelor’s degree, the Faculty Review Committee will review each student’s progress after 30 credits of course work to determine whether the student will be allowed to continue their work toward the PhD. For students entering the program with a master’s degree, this review will occur after 12 credits in this program. Students that are not allowed to continue to work toward the PhD will be allowed to complete the MA degree.

Degree Requirements

In addition to meeting the following requirements for this degree, students must meet the university requirements for all doctoral degrees.

Students pursuing this degree must complete a minimum of 72 graduate credits. The course work for the degree is divided among core courses, advanced courses in two major fields and one minor field, research methods courses, experiential learning, and dissertation. A total of 12 credits of supporting courses may be taken in other departments to fulfill a minority of the credits for any of the requirements below, including the methodology requirement, with prior written approval of the director. All the courses should be planned with an advisor and appear on a program of study, which requires the approval of the director.

Doctoral Course Work (48-60 credits)

Three core courses (9 credits) chosen from:

GOVT 510 – American Government and Politics
GOVT 520 – Political Theory
GOVT 530 – Comparative Politics
GOVT 540 – International Relations
GOVT 550 – Seminar in Theories of Public Administration

Seven advanced courses (21 credits) in two major fields

Students choose two major fields from the four fields below and complete all course requirements for both fields of study.

American government and politics

Two required field seminars (6 credits) chosen from:

GOVT 603 – Seminar in the Courts and Constitutional Law
GOVT 604 – Seminar on Congress and Legislative Behavior
GOVT 605 – Seminar on the Presidency
GOVT 706 – Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

One to three elective courses (3 to 9 credits)

Comparative politics

Two required field seminars (6 credits)

GOVT 631 – Seminar in Comparative Politics and Institutions
GOVT 731 – Advanced Seminar in Comparative Politics

One to three elective courses (3 to 9 credits)

International relations

Two required field seminars (6 credits) chosen from:

GOVT 641 – Seminar in Global Systems
GOVT 741 – Advanced Seminar in International Politics
GOVT 743 – International Political Economy
GOVT 745 – International Security

One to three elective courses (3 to 9 credits)

Public administration

Two required field seminars (6 credits)

GOVT 753 – Third-Party Governance
GOVT 755 – Seminar in Politics and Bureaucracy

One to three elective courses (3 to 9 credits)

Three advanced courses (9 credits) in a minor field

Students choose one minor field in consultation with an advisor. The courses in the minor field should complement the two major fields and need the prior written approval of the advisor.

Three advanced methodology courses (9 credits)

Two required methodology courses (6 credits)

GOVT 500 – The Scientific Method and Research Design
GOVT 511 – Problem Solving and Data Analysis I

One elective methodology course (3 credits)

Students choose an elective methodology course to meet their dissertation research needs. Course work in language or to help achieve proficiency in quantitative or qualitative research techniques may be used to meet this requirement with prior written approval of the program director.

Electives (0-12 credits)

A maximum of 6 credits of electives may come from experience in government and politics. Students do 20 hours per week in the field for one semester or 10 hours per week for two semesters. They produce an academic paper at the conclusion of the experience discussing the implications of their observations for research in the field and how scholarship in the field might be applied to an issue faced by the organization.

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, students must complete all course work required on their approved program of study. Students must also successfully complete and pass two qualifying exams in major fields. In addition, students must have an approved dissertation committee as well as an approved proposal. Evidence of the approved proposal must be on file in the Dean’s Office before a student can advance to candidacy.

Dissertation Research (12-24 credits)

Once enrolled in 998, students in this degree program must maintain continuous registration in 998 or 999 each semester (excluding summers) until the dissertation is submitted to and accepted by the University Libraries. Once enrolled in 999, students must follow the university’s continuous registration policy as specified in the Academic Policies section of the catalog. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of 999.

Students may apply to this degree a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 credits of 998 and a minimum of 6 credits of 999. They apply a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 24 dissertation credits (998 and 999 combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

Students who do fewer than 24 credits of dissertation will complete their degree with additional elective courses.

GOVT 998 – Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Credits: 3-6
GOVT 999 – Doctoral Dissertation Research Credits: 1-12 (minimum of 6 credits)

Total: 72 Credits
Requirements may be different for earlier catalog years. See the University Catalog archives.

PhD in Political Science Program Description and Admissions Information