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.

Doctoral Degrees


Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

51 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

51 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

Half of degree coursework (26 out of 51 total 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

With program approval, students may be allowed to count 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions toward fulfillment of the minor requirement. While satisfying the minor requirement, these credits will not count toward meeting the minimum credit requirement. Coursework earned ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

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

POLI SCI 800 Political Science as a Discipline and Profession; POLI SCI 817 Empirical Methods of Political Inquiry; 3 additional credits of graduate-level statistical methodology

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

Students are expected to consult with their advisors concerning minor/breadth requirements. At the time the student requests the preliminary exam warrant, a summary should be prepared of the effort in interdisciplinary coursework and training. There are two options for completing the minor requirements.

Option A (external): Requires a minimum of 9 credits in a minor program (single disciplinary or multi-disciplinary). Fulfillment of this option requires the approval of the minor program.

Option B (distributed): Requires a minimum of 9 credits in one or more programs forming a coherent topic, and can include coursework in the program. Fulfillment of this option requires the approval of the major program.

The Graduate School’s minimum course requirements for the minor include: An average GPA of 3.00 on all minor coursework; coursework must be graduate level (the equivalent of UW–Madison courses 300 level or above; no audits or pass/fail); maximum 3 credits of independent study (e.g., 699, 799, 899, 999);

All Option B minors require the approval of the student’s advisor and the associate chair.

With program approval, students may be allowed to count 9 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions toward fulfillment of the minor requirement.

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

Doctoral students must complete written exams in two subfields before the end of the sixth semester. A dissertation proposal must be defended prior to the start of the seventh semester in the program.

Time Constraints

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten 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.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may be required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.

Applicants to the Ph.D. program must apply online by December 15 for admission the following fall. The online application requires you to submit the Graduate School application, three references and completion of the Political Science supplemental application. A statement of reasons for graduate study, a scanned set of official transcripts, and a research paper with abstract must be uploaded as part of the supplemental application. GRE scores are required. Applicants from outside the United States may also need to submit TOEFL scores. It is the candidate's responsibility to ensure that all materials are delivered on time.

International applicants whose first language is not English will be admitted only if they have Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) of 100 (Internet-based).

Knowledge and Skills

  • The doctoral-level learning goals of the Department of Political Science are inclusive of the master's-level learning goals.
  • Master the state of existing research in two or more subfields of political science.
  • Acquire expert knowledge of methods of political inquiry.
  • Design, conduct, and complete original research of substantive value to the field of political science that makes and original contribution to knowledge.
  • Master the communication of complex concepts to a range of audiences.

Professional Conduct

  • Demonstrate and foster 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