Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements

The Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. degree is intended to prepare students for careers as college and university faculty members.  The path to the Ph.D. begins with a good deal of structure in the first year.  Over time, however, students’ programs of study become more individualized as they assume greater responsibility for their own education.  Successful completion of the Ph.D. reflects the ability to develop and undertake significant research projects independently, as well as to design and teach college level courses.

Ph.D. Requirements

  • Complete all requirements for M.A. degree, plus  30 additional credit hours, including:
    • Fifth course in a major subfield
    • Third course in a minor subfield
    • Three courses in a second minor subfield(maybe outside political science and/or developed and defined by the student)
  • Written qualifying examinations
  • Oral comprehensive examination
  • Doctoral dissertation

The Master of Arts

For most students, the M.A. is the first step toward the Ph.D.  Course work leads to an intermediate level of research expertise that is reflected in the M.A. essay, a brief but high-quality contribution to scholarly debates in political science.

We view the M.A. essay as a student’s first piece of original, professional-quality research.  In many cases, the findings of the M.A. essay are reported to political scientists at national and regional conferences.  We also encourage students to publish their M.A. essays as journal articles.

M.A. Requirements

  • 30 credit hours (most seminars are 3 credits), including:
    • Three core methodology classes
    • Political analysis
    • Introductory statistics
    • Multivariate statistics
  • Four courses in a major subfield
  • Two courses in a minor subfield
  • M.A. Essay

Requirements Summary

Master of Art
Doctor of Philosophy**
Total Credits
— In Major Field
— In First Minor
— In Second Minor
Minimum at 500 Level
Maximum Independent Study
Maximum Transfer Credits
Required Proseminars (PLSC 540, 550, 560, 580)
Major and Minor Field
Major Field and First and Second Minor Fields
Required Methods Courses
PLSC 501, 502, & 503
PLSC 501, 502, & 503
Qualifying Exam
Assessment to admit into the PhD program
(Fall of 2nd year)
Written Qualifying Examination
(January or May of 3rd Year)
Major Field and First Minor Field
Research Prospectus
1-2 Page MA Essay Outline
Approved by Advisor
(November of Second Year)
5-10 Page Dissertation Prospectus
(same semester as written qualifying/comprehensive exam)
Oral Comprehensive Exam
Defense of MA Essay
(April of Second year)
Defense of Written Qualifying Exam
3rd Field Portfolio and Prospectus
MA Essay
Dissertation Proposal and
Doctoral Dissertation