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

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

The subfields of political science found in our department are American politicscomparative politicspolitical theoryinternational relations, and political methodology. The department has a national and international reputation for the high quality of its faculty and the diversity of their approaches and interests. It has long been recognized for an acceptance of varied approaches to the study of politics and for its collegiality. The Political Science Department 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 (BA and BS), Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies, and others is also beneficial to our graduate students, providing opportunities for the advancement of interdisciplinary approaches in student research.


Students may not apply directly for the master’s and should instead see the admissions information for the PhD. This master’s program is offered for work done en route to the PhD. 


Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

The department currently guarantees at least five years of financial support to all students admitted to the doctoral program, assuming they are making satisfactory progress toward their degrees. This funding may be in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships, or project assistantships. All appointments receive valuable fringe benefits such as tuition remission and eligibility for excellent health insurance.

The department does not admit for a master’s degree in political science. Please see admissions information for the PhD.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements

Mode of Instruction

Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions

Accelerated: Accelerated programs are offered at a fast pace that condenses the time to completion. Students typically take enough credits aimed at completing the program in a year or two.

Evening/Weekend: ​Courses meet on the UW–Madison campus only in evenings and/or on weekends to accommodate typical business schedules.  Students have the advantages of face-to-face courses with the flexibility to keep work and other life commitments.

Face-to-Face: Courses typically meet during weekdays on the UW-Madison Campus.

Hybrid: These programs combine face-to-face and online learning formats.  Contact the program for more specific information.

Online: These programs are offered 100% online.  Some programs may require an on-campus orientation or residency experience, but the courses will be facilitated in an online format.

Curricular Requirements

Minimum Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 30 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement 15 credits must be graduate-level coursework. Refer to the Graduate School: Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1244.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Refer to the Graduate School: Grade Point Average (GPA) Requirement policy: https://policy.wisc.edu/library/UW-1203.
Other Grade Requirements No other grade requirements.
Assessments and Examinations No formal examination required.
Language Requirements No language requirements.

Required Courses

The MA is not offered as a standalone degree program, but is earned along the way to the PhD. To leave with a master's degree, students must complete the minimum degree requirements listed above as well as follow the parameters below in consultation with the program.

At least 18 of the 30 credits must be earned in graduate courses in Political Science numbered 800 or above. 18
No more than 3 credits of POLI SCI 999 may fulfill degree requirements..
Courses taken outside the department must be chosen in consultation with a student’s advisor and must be at a level (course numbered 300 or above) for which graduate credit is available.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions

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

Undergraduate Credits Earned at Other Institutions or UW-Madison

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

Credits Earned as a Professional Student at UW-Madison (Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary careers)

Refer to the Graduate School: Transfer Credits for Prior Coursework policy.

Credits Earned as a University Special student at UW–Madison

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


Refer to the Graduate School: Probation policy.

Advisor / Committee

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

Credits Per Term Allowed

15 credits

Time Limits

Refer to the Graduate School: Time Limits policy.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


The department currently guarantees at least five years of financial support to all students admitted to the doctoral program, assuming they are making satisfactory progress toward their degrees. This funding may be in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships, or project assistantships. All appointments receive valuable fringe benefits such as excellent health insurance and tuition remission.

Professional Development

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Information

Department of Political Science PhD students are encouraged to participate in our weekly workshops and colloquia. The workshops and colloquia offered in the department are the American Politics WorkshopComparative Politics ColloquiumInternational Relations ColloquiumPolitical Economy ColloquiumMEAD – Models and Data Workshop, and the Political Theory Workshop.

Workshops are one of the most important intellectual spaces in the department, providing an opportunity to become exposed to cutting-edge research and a chance to meet with scholars from other universities. In addition to featuring faculty papers and outside speakers, the workshops are an integral part of graduate training, serving as a place for students to present papers, as well as dissertation prospectuses, grant proposals, dissertation chapters, and practice job talks.

The department also hosts the Political Science Graduate Workshop (PSGW), which focuses on personal and professional development for graduate students in the department. The PSGW’s mission is to “foster communication and information-sharing among the grad students and faculty members of the political science department and to promote professional development opportunities for the grad students.” The topics covered in PSGW range from topics in graduate life (health and balance, financial life) to discipline professional development (publishing, communications). This workshop convenes several times per semester each academic year.

The department also actively supports our students throughout their job search. The Director of Graduate Studies and the major advisors review all job market materials such as CVs, writing samples, and diversity and teaching statements.  In addition, the department arranges special informational sessions, mock interviews, and practice job talks to prepare students for the kinds of questions they will face from potential employers. This support complements other departmental activities designed to professionalize graduate students, including brown bag discussions about attending professional conferences, publishing opportunities, and seeking grant funding.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Develop an appreciation of the diverse subfields of political science.
  2. Learn to articulate questions of importance to the field that can be answered using the methods of political science.
  3. Learn to select and utilize methods of political inquiry appropriate to particular research questions.
  4. Learn to constructively critique existing work in political science.
  5. Develop an understanding of political science from an historical context.
  6. Recognize and apply principles of ethical and professional conduct in research, teaching, and service.


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