The Department of Political Science offers graduate study leading to the doctor of philosophy in political science. The department accepts students only for the Ph.D. program, but a master's degree can be obtained en route to the Ph.D.

The Ph.D. is earned through a combination of coursework and dissertation. The program is designed to provide students with both a general training in political science and the opportunity to specialize in their areas of interest.

The subfields of political science found in the department are American politics, comparative politics, political theory and philosophy, international relations, and political methodology. The department has a national and international reputation for the high quality of its faculty and for the diversity of their approaches and interests; the department has long been known for both collegiality and acceptance of varied approaches to the study of politics. Political science shares faculty with the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs, the Law School, and the Department of Gender and Women's Studies. The presence of programs and centers such as the African Studies Program, the Center for European Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA), Integrated Liberal Studies, the International Studies Major, Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies, and others is also beneficial to graduate students, providing opportunities for the advancement of interdisciplinary approaches in student research.

The department guarantees funding for all students making satisfactory progress for at least their first five years. Support may be in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships, or as an assistant to a faculty research project.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master’s Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

30 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

30 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

At least 15 of the 30 credits must be in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

No credits from graduate work from other institutions may count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

No credits from a UW–Madison University Special student career may count toward the degree.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

Complete 30 credits of coursework with at least a 3.0 average.

At least 18 of the 30 credits must be in political science. No more than three credits of POLI SCI 999 Independent Work can be counted toward the 18 credits.

Courses taken outside the department must be chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor and must be in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the University's Course Guide.

POLI SCI 800 Political Science as a Discipline and Profession is required.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

No other grade requirements.

Probation Policy

The status of a student can be one of three options:

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Off normal progress: (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status.
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).

Advisor / Committee

All students are required to meet with their advisor to discuss the first year review.

Assessments and Examinations

No formal examination required.

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.

This master’s program is offered for work leading to the Ph.D. Students may not apply directly for the master’s, and should instead see the admissions information for the Ph.D.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Develop an appreciation of the diverse subfields of political science.
  • Learn to articulate questions of importance to the field that can be answered using the methods of political science.
  • Learn to select and utilize methods of political inquiry appropriate to particular research questions.
  • Learn to constructively critique existing work in political science.
  • Develop an understanding of political science from an historical context.

Professional Conduct

  • Recognize and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct in research, teaching, and service.

Faculty: Professors Burden, Canon (chair), Cramer, Ewig, Gehlbach, Hendley, Herrera, Kydd, Marquez, Martin, Mayer, Owens, Pevehouse, Schatzberg, Schweber, Shafer, Straus, Tripp, Weimer, Yackee, Zumbrunnen; Associate ProfessorsAvramenko, Copelovitch, Kapust, Kinsella, Ringe, Shelef; Assistant Professors Bhavnani, Lindsay, Lupu, Powell, Renshon, Rousseliere, Schwarze, Simmons, Weeks, Tahk