Ph.D. in Political Science

Focusing in on politics and the global stage

The strength of the Ph.D. program in political science lies in its small size and the diversity of its faculty. Students accepted into the doctoral program are expected to have a major and minor field in the areas the department offers as specializations, which include:

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Public Administration
  • Public Policy

The program requires major and minor comprehensive exams in students' selected fields.

Within this context, the university confers the Ph.D. degree for work of distinction in which the student displays decided contributions of original scholarship, and only in recognition of marked ability and achievement.  The Political Science doctoral program is specifically designed to allow students to:

  • Develop research skills through the advanced study of research design and methodology, political processes and problems, and policy issues
  • Prepare for careers in research and teaching institutions of higher education, public administration and public policy
  • Support University‐based research involving issues of politics and public policy

For more information, refer to the Ph.D. program handbook.

Application Process

Admission to the doctoral program is competitive; a limited number of applicants are accepted each year. To be considered, all application must be complete and submitted through the University's Graduate School.

Application Deadlines

A departmental selection committee makes the admission decisions in three cycles.

  • Fall admission with funding consideration: The application deadline is Feb. 15 for admission with funding consideration in the following fall semester. Please download the Graduate Assistantship application.
  • Regular fall admission deadline (with no request for funding): April 15
  • Spring admission: The application deadline is Nov. 1 for admission the following spring semester. (Assistantship offers generally are not made for the spring admission cycle.)

Minimum Requirements

  • Undergraduate Degree (B.A./B.S.)
  • Minimum 3.25 overall GPA (for all prior coursework, both graduate and undergraduate)
  • GRE Scores: Verbal and Quantitative scores should be a minimum of 160, though some exceptions are made for students based on upon their skill set and other qualifications (or GMAT equivalent)
  • 18 credit hours (six courses) of coursework in the social sciences

Please note that these are minimum requirements; meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission to the program. Students are admitted on an increasingly competitive basis. We take into consideration a student's overall record, as well as the department's ability to accommodate a student's research/teaching interest.
Application materials need to be mailed to the Graduate School-please check the Graduate School website for deadlines:

To Apply

The following documents must be submitted to the Graduate School, University of Nevada, Reno:

  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • GRE/GMAT scores
  • Three letters of recommendation of which a minimum of two are from professors with whom you have taken and completed coursework.
  • Statement of Purpose: This one-to-two page statement should be 500 words, double-spaced and printed in a standard font. In this statement you should discuss your career and educational goals and how those goals fit into the research specializations of the department. Please make sure your name at the top of the each page.


The Ph.D. degree requires 75 credits beyond the B.A. degree. Of these credits, 30 must be at the 700-level. Of the 30 credits of 700-level course work, three credits are required for comprehensive examination.

As a significant portion of students in the Ph.D. program are working professionals, a large number of seminars, particularly in the areas of public administration, policy and methodology, are offered in the evenings or on weekends.

Whether a student pursues the degree part-time or full-time, students must complete all requirements for the degree within the Graduate School's eight-year limit. The course requirements that follow are the minimum standards established by the department. Students may take courses beyond the minimum in preparation for comprehensive exams and their dissertation research.

The PhD program requires all students to fulfill the following minimum course requirements:
Scope and Methods: 12 credits

  • PSC 780 - Research in Political Science (Must be taken in the first semester)
  • PSC 781 - Political Science as a Discipline
  • PSC 782 - Advanced Research Methods in Political Science (Must be taken in the second semester)
  • PSC 784 - Qualitative Research Methods in Political Science

At the discretion of the graduate director, students with prior graduate level training that covers the material in these courses may have some of these courses waived.

Major Field: 15 credits

To be selected in consultation with your advisor/committee chair.

Minor Field: Nine credits

To be selected in consultation with your advisor/committee chair.

Field Seminars and/or Electives: Nine credits

To be selected in consultation with your advisor/committee chair.

Comprehensive Exam: Three credits (two credits for the major field, one for the minor field)

Students must pass a comprehensive exam in each of their fields of concentration (major and minor). Students must register for two comprehensive exam credits when they schedule their major field examination and one comprehensive examination credit when they schedule their minor field examination.

Completion of a Dissertation Prospectus: Students are required to write and defend a dissertation prospectus (a research plan for the dissertation) to their dissertation committee, which may accept or reject the prospectus or require revisions to the prospectus. The prospectus will be defended after the completion of comprehensive examinations. Students should arrange a prospectus defense in consultation with their committee chairs. This document is crucial for students because it is the plan of research that the committee believes will produce a successful and defensible dissertation.

Dissertation: 24 credits

Each student must complete 24 hours of dissertation credits. Students may not register for dissertation credits until s/he has passed both comprehensive exams and been Advanced to Candidacy.

Credits at the 700‐level: 30 credits

All students must take 30 credits of 700‐level courses.

Graduate Grades and Grade-Point Average Standing: Students must maintain a 3.0 grade-point average (GPA) to maintain standing graduate standing with the Graduate School. If a student's GPA falls below a 3.0, the Graduate School will give the student one semester to increase their GPA to a 3.00 level. If the student fails to do so, the Graduate School will dismiss them from graduate studies at the university; this decision is not made by the Department of Political Science. In graduate studies, generally grades below a "B" are considered failing by the faculty and are frowned upon. These grades can seriously affect your progress and will certainly affect a student's ability to maintain departmental level funding. While the Graduate School uses 3.00 as their minimum threshold, the Political Science Department may terminate a student's program if s/he receives six or more credits of B‐ or lower grades, or three credits of C or below grades.

Related Degrees and Programs

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