Rutgers' program in political science is directed primarily toward the Ph.D. The Ph.D. is a research and scholarship degree. Exceptional applicants are admitted to this program directly upon completion of the B.A. Others enter after completion of M.A. work at another institution. Students take their qualifying doctoral examinations after the equivalent of two years of full-time study. Writing a doctoral dissertation then requires about three additional years. The typical total time for the Ph.D. degree is five or six years from the time of first enrollment, with a maximum of seven years. Extensions in completion of the dissertation are allowed only under exceptional circumstances.

The Rutgers Graduate Program in political science is divided into five major areas or fields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Public Law, and Women and Politics. In addition, three other fields, Race, Ethnicity and Politics, Research Methodology, and Political Theory are available as minor areas of study. For the Ph.D., preparation in one major field and two minor fields is necessary.

Students will select a major area of study from among the five major concentrations in political science and complete required course work in that area. 

  • To qualify in the major field a student must pass a written exam and an oral exam.
  • In addition to the major field, a Ph.D. student must complete work in two minor fields.
  • To qualify in the first minor field (to be selected from the eight fields listed above), a candidate must pass a written minor field exam.
  • To qualify in the second minor field, a candidate must complete a series of at least three related courses with an average of better than B+ (3.5+ ). Individual fields may establish more detailed requirements.
  • For the second minor, courses may be taken from either: (a) the existing seven fields or (b) areas not generally available within the department. Courses selected under option "b" must be approved in writing by the field chair in the student's major field and then submitted for approval to the director of graduate studies.
  • Whatever group of courses is chosen to constitute the second minor field, those courses should be justified in terms of the following general criteria:  (1) the coherence of the proposed course of study, (2) the relevance of the course work to the research and/or teaching of the student, and (3) the relevance of the course work to the student's future job placement, recognizing that most of our students will be asked to teach a broad range of courses within a political science department. 
  • Students who select Research Methodology as their first minor are required to select one of the five substantive/major fields within political science as their second minor. Students with a first minor of Research Methodology may not take a second minor that is outside of the department.
  • Ph.D. students are required to complete 48 credits of course work; coursework required for their major and minor field exams must be completed prior to taking exams. Students will distribute their course work among their chosen fields, meeting the requirements of those fields as set forth below.
  • PhD students can take 500 level courses (UNMA courses) for electives but must have permission in writing from the relevant field chair and DGS to count for major or minor credits.
  • In addition, a student must complete a "significant" research paper, also called the “Second Year Paper,” generally in the major field.
  • All second-year students are required to participate in the Emerging Scholars Research Conference, at which they present a publishable research paper, i.e., Second Year Papers.
  • Students are expected to pass their qualifying exams (major and minor) by the end of their third year in the program. Students who have not done so are not in good standing and risk losing any subsequent funding and risk losing any subsequent funding and will receive an official warning letter from the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • All examinations must be successfully completed before the formal appointment of the student's dissertation committee.
  • Candidates who have successfully passed all exams must submit a dissertation prospectus, organize their dissertation committee of four faculty, and defend their prospectus, through a formal, oral presentation before the committee is required (forms are available at the graduate office), by the end of the fall of their fourth year and to be considered All But Dissertation (ABD).
  • Students who miss this deadline will be issued an official warning letter from the Director of Graduate Studies stating that you are not in good standing and risk losing any subsequent funding.
  • To be considered ABD students must successfully pass their comprehensive exams as well as defend their dissertation proposal/prospectus. Please note that you for certain SGS-level funding. ABD status may be considered after only passing your comprehensive exams. Students who were admitted during COVID (2020 and 2021) will be grandfathered into the previous policy and considered ABD only after passing their comprehensive exams.
  • Dissertation committee: In addition to the chair, two members of the committee must be associate or full members of the Rutgers Department of Political Science graduate faculty (a list of faculty can be found at, please search by associate or member only). Students must also include an outside reader from another department within the university or from another institution at the time they form their committee.
  • Retired faculty and faculty who have left Rutgers for another university can still serve for up to 4 years on committees as internal members. If it is passed the four years and they would like to serve, they can as the external member. For example, a faculty who has left Rutgers on July 1, 2023, can serve as an internal member until June 30, 2027.
  • Please note that a faculty who has left Rutgers and is under the 4-year mark should be used as an internal member only after which (after the four years) they can be asked to be an external member.
  • Ph.D. students also are required to register for 24 hours of research credits, usually with their dissertation advisor. While usually these credits should not be undertaken until after passing qualifying exams, under some circumstances it may be advantageous to take some of these credits in an earlier year. Students must consult their advisor and the director of graduate studies before doing so.
  • Students must remain enrolled with at least one research credit every semester until they defend and submit their dissertations to the School of Graduate Studies.