Ph.D. in Political Science

Ph.D. program contact

Program Director: Associate Professor Ian Hartshorn, Ph.D.
Phone: (775) 682-7846
Political Science Graduate Handbook

Application deadlines

Fall application & assistantship deadline: January 15

The Department does not offer application fee waivers.

Important updates

The Department of Political Science is only accepting open Ph.D. applications in the following subfields for Fall 2023 enrollment: comparative politics, international relations, and American politics.  

For students interested in the Koebele Policy Lab Position, visit the lab site to view details. When applying in Target X, choose the option “Public Policy for the Koebele Lab Position," following all directions. Questions on this funded position can be directed to Dr. Koebele at

GRE updates

The Graduate Committee is suspending GRE requirements for MPAs applying to start in the following semesters: Spring 2023, Fall 2023, and Spring 2024.

The GRE requirement is suspended for PhDs/MAs applying to start in the Fall 2023 semester. The Graduate Committee will reconvene to reconsider this policy no later than Summer 2023 for admissions to later semesters.


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 makes clear contributions of original scholarship. The degree is awarded 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, in public administration and public policy as well as for careers in the private or public sector requiring sophisticated analytical, writing, oral presentation and methodological skills
  • Engage in advanced research involving issues of politics and public policy

Admissions 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. A departmental selection committee makes the admission decisions.

Minimum requirements

  • Undergraduate Degree (B.A./B.S.)
  • GPA: Minimum overall GPA of 3.25 or higher (on a 4.0‐point scale) for all prior coursework at the undergraduate level.
  • 18 previously-completed credit hours (six courses) in social science courses (broadly defined)
  • GRE Scores (Please note: GRE /GMAT requirement waived for those applying to Fall 2022): GRE scores must be from an examination taken in the previous five years. The GRE scores are required by the department and the Graduate School and cannot be waived. The department is willing to accept GMAT scores in substitution.

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.

To apply

Application materials need to be mailed to the Graduate School. Please check the Graduate School website for deadlines. The following documents must be submitted to the Graduate School, University of Nevada, Reno:

  • Undergraduate and graduate transcripts
  • GRE/GMAT scores (Please note: GRE /GMAT requirement waived for those applying to Spring and Fall 2023)
  • TOEFL scores (if applicable)
  • Three letters of recommendation of which at least one is from a professor with whom you have taken and completed coursework.
  • Statement of purpose: this one-to-two page statement should be 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 is at the top of the each page.

Apply to the program today


The Ph.D. degree requires 72 credits beyond the B.A. degree. Please see the Graduate School's webpages for program of study requirements and the General Catalog. Six credits are required for comprehensive examinations.

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 Ph.D. program requires all students to fulfill the following minimum course requirements:

Scope and methods: 12 credits

At the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies, students with prior graduate-level training that covers the material in these courses may have some of these courses waived. Pending on approval by the Director of Graduate Studies, students may also take one or two method courses from other departments/programs to substitute some of these courses. Students still must meet minimum credit hour requirements.

First field: 12 credits

To be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor/committee chair.

Second field: 9 credits

To be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor/committee chair

Field seminars and/or electives: 9 credits

To be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor/committee chair

Dissertation: 24 dissertation credit

Comprehensive examinations: 6 credits

Typically three credits in the fall and three credits in the spring. Also see Ph.D. comprehensive examinations in the graduate program handbook.

For the most updated course offerings, please check the University General Catalog. You should also discuss courses with your advisor and/or Director of Graduate Studies.

Graduate grades and grade point average standing

Students must maintain a 3.0 grade-point average (GPA) to maintain 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 Political Science Department. In graduate studies, generally grades below a "B" are considered failing by the faculty and are frowned upon. In addition to satisfying minimum requirements of continuous enrolment by the Graduate School, all funded students must satisfy departmental expectations to receive continuous funding (see Financial aid and graduate assistantship in the graduate program handbook).