The Department of Political Science at CU Boulder offers instruction and research in the art and science of politics and has a long tradition of excellence in training graduate students. A diverse faculty of nearly 30 professors trains graduate students to conduct original research in six areas of political science:

  • American government and politics
  • comparative politics
  • international relations
  • political theory
  • public policy
  • empirical theory and methodology

Admission is highly competitive, with approximately 10–12 new students enrolled each fall. This ensures a high faculty-to-student ratio and close mentoring opportunities. In addition, the department holds an outstanding placement record.

The department does not accept applications for a terminal MA in political science. Students in the PhD program earn an MA in political science after the completion of a successful qualifying paper and defense at the end of the second year in the program.


The Department of Political Science PhD program includes coursework in six fields of study, a qualifying research paper and oral defense, comprehensive written and oral examinations, doctoral prospectus defense, final dissertation defense, and minimum 30 dissertation credit hours.

Students take a wide range of courses and demonstrate mastery of two different fields, the major (first field) and the minor (second field). Students take a minimum of three seminars in each field and at least three courses outside of their major and minor fields.

Students complete a minimum of 42 credit hours of coursework with a B average or better. Of these 42 credit hours, 39 must be at the 7000 level or higher and 35 credit hours must be taken in the Political Science Department. Students also take a minimum of 30 dissertation credit hours.

Students take additional coursework with the consideration that they will fulfill all requirements needed to complete the program. During the first semester in residence students are required to take three introductory courses:

In addition, there are five majors with required core seminar coursework.

  • American Politics Major - PSCI 7011 is required.
  • Comparative Politics Major - PSCI 7012 is required.
  • International Relations Major - PSCI 7XX3 is required (please identify an appropriate graduate seminar in consultation with your advisor).
  • Political Theory Major - PSCI 7004 is required.
  • Public Policy Major - PSCI 7126 is required.

As a condition of funding, all students appointed as graduate assistants are required to enroll in a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester for their first five semesters or until they have passed comprehensive exams.

Students wishing to pursue graduate work toward the degree should carefully read the Doctoral Degree Requirements section and review the courses listed in this catalog. Requirements for the political science graduate program are clarified in more detail on the department's PhD Requirements and Handbook webpage.

Time Limit

Full-time students are expected to complete all requirements for the PhD degree within five years of entering the program; the maximum time allowed by the Graduate School is six years.