Political Science Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

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 with a bachelor’s degree who ultimately plan to pursue a PhD are advised to apply directly to the PhD program, since only students in the doctoral program are eligible for funding, and the path directly to the doctorate is typically faster and more direct. Students in the direct track from BA to PhD usually apply for their Master’s Degree upon successful completion of their comprehensive examinations and dissertation prospectus defense. Students admitted to the master’s track may apply for formal admission to the PhD program. Students with a master’s degree in Political Science obtained at another university should apply directly to the PhD program. 

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, Introduction to Political Inquiry. 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 9 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. Extensions may be requested on a case by case basis. 

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 Director of Graduate Studies 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 give an AVN which allows a student to register for classes. The student should also file yearly progress reports with the Director of Graduate Student Services, to be completed middle 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 required scope and methods courses) 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 are A-E graded.

Comprehensive Examinations

1.  Examinations for all subfields will be offered on the same dates, once in the fall and once in the spring, for both major and minor examinations.  The actual dates of examinations will be determined administratively each semester.  All subfields will have the same examination procedures.

2.  For full-time students who entered the graduate program with a bachelor's degree, the major field examination and prospectus defense should take place in the third year of full-time study; for students who entered the graduate program with a master's degree, these examinations should normally be taken late in the second year of full-time study.

3.  Graduate students may retake a failed examination in a major or minor field once.  Selecting a different major or minor field is permissible at any time, but regardless of whether a student changes fields, only two attempts may be made to pass a major or minor field examination.  If a student fails a second attempt at a major or minor field examination, the student will be deemed to have made unsatisfactory progress in the program, and the department will recommend dismissal to Graduate Education.

Major Field:

Each student takes the major field comprehensive examination when the major field committee has concluded that the student is satisfactorily prepared to teach on the graduate level in the field.

  1. The major field examination is a written examination and, assuming satisfactory performance on the written portion, an oral examination.
  2. The written examination will be a twelve-hour, open-book examination distributed to the examining students by email and returned through the same medium to the examining committee.
  3. Oral examinations will be scheduled within two weeks of the delivery of a successful written examination.
  4. Both the written and oral components must be evaluated as passing in order for the student to pass the major comprehensive examination.

Second Field:

The second field examination is a written comprehensive examination conducted in the same manner as the major field examination, but taking six hours.  The exam is scheduled when the minor field committee has concluded that the student is satisfactorily prepared to teach on the undergraduate level in the field.  Exam committees are composed in the same fashion as for 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 18 registered credits during the year plus satisfactory completion of assigned duties.

Waivers to the residency requirement will be granted upon acceptance of a doctoral student’s petition by the department chair, graduate coordinator, and the student’s 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 scope and methods requirements, comprehensive examination and dissertation prospectus defense, 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 through MyUAlbany during the final registration semester.