The Ph.D. in politics offers concentrations in political theory, world politics, and American government. Class sizes are small, generally under 10 students per course, and feature traditional seminar-style environments and close working relationships with politics department faculty. Our doctoral students achieve breadth of training with a minor as well as a major field and a required course sequence in political theory.

They deepen their expertise through seminar papers, a range of specialized elective classes, the opportunity for independent study courses with individual professors, and especially through the dissertation — a rigorous culminating research project under the supervision of our faculty. A limited number of merit scholarships and teaching assistantships are available on a competitive basis for highly qualified students.

Coursework and examinations are designed to be completed in three years of full-time study (three courses in each of six semesters, concurrent with comprehensive examinations at multiple stages).  Students with prior master's degrees, or who take a more ambitious course load, are often able to meet these requirements more quickly.  Students have the option to pursue coursework part-time (one or two classes per semester); our classes are generally scheduled in the evenings to facilitate this.  As an independent work of serious scholarship, the doctoral dissertation also requires a significant time commitment.  Overall, our median Ph.D. total time to degree (including time working toward the M.A., if obtained in our department) is under seven years, which is very competitive with the national average in the field.

Graduates of our doctoral program have pursued a range of careers not only as scholars and teachers but also in other areas of higher education and in policy analysis, politics and advocacy, and government service. Several of our graduate alumni have gone on to publish scholarly books:  recent and forthcoming volumes analyze such themes as polarization in the U.S. Senate, human rights in Turkey, counterterrorism policy in Europe, the political thought of Peter Viereck, and the imagination of Ronald Reagan.


  • A student currently enrolled in the department must apply in writing for admission to the Ph.D. program during the term in which he or she will complete 24 hours of coursework toward the master's degree. The student's ability to proceed with doctoral studies will be assessed in a colloquium conducted by a committee of the faculty.
  • Students who wish to transfer credit toward the Ph.D. program from another institution must normally take the M.A. comprehensive examination. This may be taken at any of the regularly scheduled times for comprehensives but should not ordinarily be later than the semester in which the student will have completed 24 hours at the university. The results of this examination will be one of the measures used to judge the amount of credit to be transferred up to the maximum of 24 hours. Following successful completion of the examination, a colloquium will be held with the student in order to review all the requirements for the degree.


  • A minimum of 54 semester hours of coursework is required, including that completed for the master's degree in the Department of Politics or transferred from another university. Two courses — POL 651 and POL 652 (Political Theory I, II) — are required of all students.
  • Each student will take 36 semester hours of coursework in a field of concentration within the department (including courses in the field of concentration that have been taken toward the M.A.). Students whose field of concentration is world politics must take POL 606 and POL 607. Students concentrating in American government are required to complete POL 625.
  • Each student also will take 12 semester hours of coursework in a minor field, which is normally one of the department's other fields of instruction: American, world, or theory. Alternatively, other minor fields can be pursued with departmental approval.
  • Doctoral students may be permitted to take up to nine semester hours in the form of an independent study or a directed reading. Such course work must have the approval of the department chair and must be done under the supervision of a faculty member. The student registers for POL 991, POL 992, POL 993, or POL 994.
  • All Ph.D. students are required by the department to demonstrate (a) basic competence in one research skill and (b) advanced competence in a second research skill. For students in political theory, both skills must be in languages, either ancient or modern. For those in world politics, one skill must be a language, while the other may be either another language or an approved research methodology such as statistics. For those in American government, any combination of approved methodologies or languages is acceptable.

    For the acceptable means of demonstrating basic competence in a foreign language, which may be a classical language, students should consult the "General Requirements for Graduate Study" in the Graduate Studies Announcements. Advance competence in a language, meaning ability to conduct research in the language, is demonstrated by means of an additional examination to be arranged by the department.

    Other approved research skills include statistics, quantitative data analysis, and similar methodologies. Satisfying departmental requirements for these skills usually is accomplished by successful completion of approved courses at Catholic University. The department maintains a list of courses that can be used to demonstrate either basic or advanced competence.

    The department may approve course work done prior to graduate study in the department as demonstrating completion of the research skill requirement.

    The department may require additional research skills if this is considered necessary for satisfactory completion of the student's program.
  • Doctoral students are required to take an oral qualifying examination in their major field and written comprehensive examinations in both their major field of concentration and their minor field. The major and minor comprehensive examinations are ordinarily taken in different semesters; however, the oral and written examinations in the major field are given in the same semester. At the time the comprehensive examination in the major field is taken, all research skill requirements must have been fulfilled.