Graduate Bulletin


The Department of Political Science offers graduate programs designed for those interested in undertaking careers in public service, teaching, and research. Those who plan to do graduate work in the department are expected to have adequate undergraduate background in political science and other social sciences, as well as a strong academic record and other evidence of prospective success in advanced study. The curriculum provides a balanced approach to the discipline and the opportunity to pursue specialized areas.

Two degree programs are available to graduate students in political science: the Master of Arts, and the Doctor of Philosophy. The faculty and departmental courses and seminars are organized according to the following fields: American Political Systems, Comparative Political Systems, International Relations, Political Theory, Public Law, and Public Policy and Administration.

Application for Graduate Study in Political Science

The deadlines for admission as a fully matriculated graduate student in political science are November 1, February 1, and April 1. Students applying after the relevant deadlines may only be admitted on a non-degree basis until the next application period. Students seeking financial aid must apply no later than February 1 of the previous academic year.

Combined B.A.-M.A. Program

Qualified University at Albany, SUNY, undergraduates may apply for admission to the M.A. program and, if accepted, simultaneously work toward completion of the requirements for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. See Combined Baccalaureate-Master's Degree Programs for details.

Master of Arts in Political Science

Requirements and Program of Study

The Master of Arts program may be pursued either as a terminal degree or as the first phase of a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Required Courses

To receive the degree Master of Arts, a student must successfully complete a minimum of thirty-two credits. Two field seminars are required out of those listed below. The student is free to select any two:

Pos 501 Field Seminar in Political Theory;
Pos 550 Field Seminar in Comparative Political Systems;
Pos 570 Field Seminar in International Relations
Pos 521 Field Seminar in American Political Systems;
Pos 541 Field Seminar in Public Law;
Pos 702 Politics and Administration
Pos 513 (Pub 513) Field Seminar in Public Policy

Additional graduate courses must be completed, up to the required 32 credits. No more than 12 credit hours toward the M.A. may be taken on an S/U basis without permission of the graduate coordinator or department chair.

Master's Essay

Students completing a terminal master's degree must complete Pos 698, master's essay; the master's essay is a major research project resulting in a finished written product completed under the supervision of a faculty advisor.

Students pursuing a master's degree who have been admitted to the Ph.D. program at the University at Albany may substitute successful completion of the Ph.D. comprehensive examination (in both a major and second field) for the master's essay requirement. The major field comprehensive examination requires defense of a dissertation prospectus that itself constitutes a substantial research and writing project.

Each student is required to select a faculty advisor in the first semester of graduate study, and to register that choice with the department secretary, prior to pre-registration for the following semester's courses. There are no language, quantitative, or comprehensive examination requirements for the master's degree. Students intending to enter the Ph.D. program are advised to take Pos 516, The Discipline of Political Science, in their first year of graduate work, and to undertake efforts to satisfy the doctoral research tools requirement.

Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science

Attainment of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in political science requires a minimum of three years of graduate study beyond the bachelor's degree and the satisfactory completion of University at Albany residence requirements. In addition to required course work, as set out below, a doctoral candidate must demonstrate competence in a major field and a second field, and in one of the two research tool options. A dissertation accepted by the student's committee and conforming to University at Albany guidelines is required to complete the program.

Admission to the Ph.D. Program

Students beginning their graduate training in Political Science at the University at Albany should first apply to the Master's Degree program, with a clear indication on the application that they intend to pursue a Ph.D. Application for formal admission to the Ph.D. program should be made after completion of the third semester of full-time graduate work. Part-time students should apply for admission to the Ph.D. program after completion of a minimum of 20 credits of graduate work in Political Science. Students with a master's degree in Political Science obtained at another university may be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program.

Application for admission to the Ph.D. program must be made through the Downtown Admissions Office. All internal and external applicants to the Ph.D. program must submit a substantial written piece of research, such as the master's essay or a major seminar paper. Evaluations of applications from internal candidates will be made by the faculty, as a Committee of the Whole, at the beginning of each semester. External applications will be reviewed by the Graduate Committee of the department.

Course of Study

Required Courses

  1. A minimum of 60 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree in courses and seminars and through independent study.

  2. Three field seminars — at least one in both category A and category B
    Category A
    Pos 501 Field Seminar in Political Theory;
    Pos 550 Field Seminar in Comparative Political Systems;
    Pos 570 Field Seminar in International Relations;
    Category B
    Pos 521 Field Seminar in American Political Systems;
    Pos 541 Field Seminar in Public Law;
    Pos 702 Politics and Administration
    Pos 513 (Pub 513) Field Seminar in Public Policy

  3. Pos 516, The Discipline of Political Science. Students intending to pursue the Ph.D. degree are strongly advised to take this course in the first year of their graduate training.

Research Tools Requirement

Prior to the admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, a student must have completed the research tools requirement, either in quantitative methodology or in a foreign language. Students whose field of study or research does not include a need for competence in a foreign language must satisfy the tools requirement in quantitative research techniques.

Quantitative Research Techniques Option. Students satisfying the quantitative research tool requirement must be competent in research design, data analysis, and elementary statistics. The requirement may be satisfied either by successful completion of Pos 517 (Research Methods for Political Scientists) or equivalent graduate course work in another department or at another university.

Foreign Language Option. The foreign language option may be chosen by students whose research requires use of a foreign language. It may be met by passing an examination administered by the appropriate foreign language department of the University at Albany, or through the appropriate graduate school foreign language test administered by the Educational Testing Service. English may not be used to satisfy a foreign language requirement. With the approval of the faculty advisor, a foreign student may present his/her native language other than English in meeting this requirement, so long as the language is relevant to the student's area of academic study and research.

Degree Progress

Full-time course load. In order to insure completion of the degree in an acceptable time period, doctoral students — including those students working on assistantships — are recommended to take 12 credit hours each semester; first-year graduate students who are serving as teaching assistants, however, may wish to consider taking 10 credit hours their first semester of graduate work. While financial and workload considerations may sometimes preclude doctoral students from taking 12 credits each semester, the department will consider registration for 10 credit hours per semester as the minimum for students who wish to obtain funding from departmental sources.

Normal progress toward the degree. The doctoral program has been designed so that it can be completed in four to five years of intense work, even for those students who are supported on graduate assistantships. Students who do not make normal progress toward their degree will not be eligible for departmental funding and will be referred to the department for possible dismissal from the program. While exceptions are possible for good cause, the following situations will be considered in a determination that a student is not making normal progress:

  1. One or more incomplete grades that have not been completed by the midpoint of the following semester;
  2. Any grade below B-;
  3. A cumulative grade-point average below 3.0;
  4. Failure of a full-time student to maintain a courseload of 10 credits per semester, except during final preparation for the comprehensive examinations during writing of the dissertation; or
  5. Failure of a student, in the view of his or her faculty advisor, to move expeditiously toward completion of the degree.

All requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science must be completed within eight calendar years from the date of initial registration in the doctoral program.

Academic Advisement

Each graduate student is required to select a faculty advisor in the first semester of graduate study, prior to pre-registration for classes for the following semester. With the assistance of the faculty advisor, the student must submit to the Graduate Coordinator a Tentative Program of Studies by the end of the first year of full-time or by the end of the second year of part-time graduate study. The tentative program of studies should indicate how and when all departmental and sub-field course requirements will be met. Independent study courses and audits of courses should be included in the Tentative Program of Studies.

The student and his/her faculty advisor should meet at least once a semester to monitor the student's progress. Only a student's advisor may sign the course advisement form which allows a student to register for classes. The student and his/her advisor should also file yearly progress reports with the graduate committee, to be completed at the end of the spring semester. Timely submission of Tentative Programs of Studies and progress reports will be considered in decisions regarding renewal of graduate assistantships.

Two-credit course registration option. Each departmental graduate course (with the exception of field seminars and Pos 516) will be offered both for four credits and on a special two-credit basis. Students enrolled in a course for two credits will generally be expected to complete the reading and class participation requirements of the course, but will not be required to fulfill all the writing requirements of the four-credit course. These two-credit courses will only be available with S/U grading. Students may take no more than one course per semester, or a total of six in the course of graduate study in the department, on this two-credit, S/U basis.

Comprehensive Examinations

Each sub-field has specific requirements for the major and minor field comprehensive examinations. Students should consult the departmental graduate handbook for specific information.

Major Field

The student will take comprehensive examinations when the major field committee has concluded that the student is satisfactorily prepared in the field, and after a written dissertation prospectus has tentatively been accepted. The major field examinations will consist of two separate orals, one on knowledge of the literature of the major field, the second on the dissertation prospectus. The examining committee for the first orals must be composed of faculty from the major field; the examining committee for the second orals may include faculty from other fields or from outside the department, subject to the approval of the chair of the dissertation committee. Both oral examinations must be taken within a two-week period. For full-time students who entered the graduate program with a bachelor's degree, the examinations should normally be taken in the third year or early in the fourth-year of full-time study; for students who entered the graduate program with a master's degree, the examinations should normally be taken late in the second year of full-time study.

Second Field

The second field examination is an oral or written take-home comprehensive examination, at the student's option. The second field examination is ordinarily taken prior to the examination in the major field.

Full Time Study in Residence

Prospective doctoral students should be aware that some doctoral programs require, as a prerequisite to graduate, a period of full-time study in residence. Individuals should consult the policy guidelines of the specific doctorate-granting unit to which they seek admission with respect to this issue. If none is listed within the program description, then the policy listed below is in effect.

Each student in a doctoral program must engage in full-time study beyond the master's degree or equivalent at the University in at least two sessions after admission to the advanced program. This requirement is designed to insure for each doctoral student a sustained period of intensive intellectual growth. For this purpose a student will enroll in full-time study (12 credits) taken in each of two sessions, or in a regular session and a summer session, not necessarily consecutive, which must be completed satisfactorily, except as indicated here:

  1. Students authorized to register for work on a dissertation may meet this 12 credit per session requirement by satisfactorily completing a minimum of 8 earned course credits and registering for work on the dissertation for load credits that will bring the total to 12 credits for each of two sessions.
  2. Graduate assistants holding a full assistantship may meet the residency requirement by completing one academic year in such a position, including the satisfactory completion of a minimum of 15 registered credits during the year plus satisfactory completion of assigned duties.

Waivers to the residency requirement will be granted upon acceptance of a doctoral studentís petition by the department chair, graduate coordinator, and the studentís graduate advisor. Waivers for one semester will be given when the student has demonstrated involvement in the department through such activities as attendance at departmental colloquia and participation in the Graduate Student Association. Waivers for both semesters will be granted when the student has demonstrated involvement in the department through such activities as are cited above and through preparation of a research paper for presentation at a department colloquim or a professional political science conference.


Admission to Candidacy and Degree Applications

Upon the successful passage of the comprehensive examination and research tools requirements, a student must file an application for admission to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science.

A student expecting to complete degree requirements at the end of a particular semester or summer session must file a Degree Application Request with the Registrar during the final registration period.