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Frequently Asked Questions

  • I have already done some graduate work.  Is it possible to transfer credits?

Many of our graduate students have come to Penn State after some graduate work in other departments.  Students who have earned a master’s degree in political science from an accredited university may request to transfer up to 30 credits towards the 60 credits required for the Ph.D.  The successful transfer requires approval of the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with relevant faculty.  Applications to transfer credits usually occur as students begin their studies at Penn State.

  • What sorts of financial support and aid are available?

We believe strongly in the importance of and quality of our graduate students.  As a result, we award full assistantships to all of the students we admit. This funding package includes a stipend and a tuition waiver. We also have a strong record of providing summer support.  For students with outstanding qualifications and/or achievements, fellowships and additional funds may be available.  Funding for Ph.D. students is normally guaranteed for 5 years contingent on their making adequate progress (i.e., completing program requirements in a timely fashion, and maintaining a high GPA).  In addition, we provide support for attending summer programs, travel to conference, and additional research expenses.  For more information about many of these programs, click here.

  • I was a sociology, econometrics, statistics, French, etc...major. Can I apply? Is an undergraduate degree in political science required?

Our programs are interdisciplinary; you can apply with any major. Most of our students have undergraduate degrees in political science, international affairs, economics, or sociology.

  • What do graduate students do over the summer?

During the summer months, students often gain additional training or work on faculty grants and projects.  As part of our standard aid package, we provide tuition and at least partial support for attending one summer program.  Our students have studied at the ICPSR Summer Program in Quantiative Methods of Social Research participated in Empirical Implication of Theoretical Models workshops (EITM), attended summer schools at the Sante Fe Institute and attended participated in language programs at Middlebury and other CIC institutions.

  • Do you have a master's program?

We do not offer a terminal MA degree. All of our students earn an MA degree as they fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D.

  • Will I get the opportunity to teach as a graduate student?

We encourage our graduate students to get the experience they need to become strong academics.  As a result, we award graduate assistantships to all of the students we admit, which allows them to either assist in research projects or serve as teaching assistants.  After students complete their Ph.D. comprehensive exams, we also provide opportunities for our graduate students to teach their own courses, either during the regular academic year or for additional compensation during the summer.  We also help students become excellent instructors by providing instruction in college teaching.  Students receive some training in the Department of Political Science’s own required professionalization seminar and additional training is available through the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence’s Course in College Teaching. The Department of Political Science also has several special assistantships within the department designed to enhance your teaching opportunities.

  • What do I need to do to apply for the program?

To apply for admission and funding we require a statement of your goals and research interests, three letters of recommendations, transcripts from the colleges and universities you attended, scores from the GRE General Test, three letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and scores from the TOEFL (if you are an international student). More information on the application process can be found here

  • Can I start the Ph.D. program in the spring semester?

Graduate students begin their study with a 3 course required sequence and with seminars designed to provide an overview of the discipline in their area.  Because these begin in the fall semester, all incoming students must start in the fall.

  • May I visit the department?

We encourage you to visit our department.  To schedule a visit please contact the Graduate Director. Students living in the continental United States who are admitted into the program are reimbursed for a visit during our annual recruitment weekend or at another time.

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