The doctoral program in political science is nationally recognized as a leader in the discipline, with outstanding research faculty in each of the major subfields and a reputation for outstanding graduate training.

Graduate study in political science emphasizes the Doctor of Philosophy program. The department usually offers the master's degree only as a preliminary step toward the Ph.D.

The Doctor of Philosophy program in political science requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit. Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.40.

The program is designed to prepare students for research, teaching, and scholarly endeavor in academic settings and private or governmental institutions. It produces graduates who are deeply committed to the study of politics, familiar with fundamental knowledge about political processes, well trained in methods and techniques for careful investigation of basic and applied research questions, and determined to make contributions to the discipline of political science and to society.

The department usually admits seven to ten Ph.D. students each year, so students work closely with faculty members, often collaborating on research and publication. Graduate students know one another and enjoy supportive, congenial working conditions.

Six fields of study are available: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, formal theory, and for those who wish to go beyond the basic methodology training, research methods. Each student chooses three fields of study for qualifying examinations.

Students choosing political theory as a field should be familiar with core texts in the history of political thought. For those who lack that knowledge, the requirement can be met by enrolling in a 3000-level course on political theory. They should consult with the political theory faculty to select a course that fits their interests and program of study in political theory.

Doctoral study usually lasts four to five years. The first-year curriculum for all students consists of core courses equally divided between substance and methodology. Emphasis is on basic research methods, including quantitative methods, that political scientists must understand thoroughly. Special attention is given to research design, collection of observations, and data analysis and interpretation.

The second and third years of study are spent in small seminars with focused, substantive topics. Papers written for these seminars might be submitted to journals or read at professional meetings. Students must complete their qualifying examinations by the end of the third year. They take their comprehensive examination (oral defense of the dissertation proposal) by the middle of the first semester of their fourth year.

The fourth and fifth years are spent on dissertation research and writing. Students who do basic research and gather data abroad often require an additional year to complete the dissertation.

The following courses are required during the first and second years of graduate study.

First Year, Fall Semester
POLI:5000Introduction to Political Analysis4
POLI:5001Introductory Methodology4
A 5000-level field seminar (see "Field Seminars" below)4
First Year, Second Semester
POLI:5003Intermediate Methodology4
Two 5000-level field seminars (see "Field Seminars" below)8
Second Year
POLI:7003Advanced Methodology4

Field Seminars

The 5000-level field seminars are as follows.

POLI:5100American Politics4
POLI:5400Comparative Politics4
POLI:5500International Politics4
POLI:5700Introduction to Formal Models in Political Science4

Students must complete the appropriate 5000-level course before enrolling in a 7000-level course. In unusual circumstances and with the permission of the instructor teaching the higher-level course, a student may enroll in that course and the 5000-level course at the same time.

Graduate students are expected to take at least 12 s.h. of coursework per semester through their second year of graduate study. Typically, this is in regularly scheduled courses rather than readings courses. During the third year, students are expected to take a minimum of 12 s.h. of regularly scheduled coursework; readings courses should be limited to the second semester of the third year. Students may take up to 12 s.h. in readings courses (not counting coursework accumulated in summer terms, when readings courses are often all that is available).

Core Graduate Courses

POLI:5000Introduction to Political Analysis4
POLI:5001Introductory Methodology3-4
POLI:5100American Politics4
POLI:5300Political Theory4
POLI:5400Comparative Politics4
POLI:5500International Politics4
POLI:5700Introduction to Formal Models in Political Science4
POLI:6635Crossing Borders Seminar2-3

Advanced Graduate Courses

POLI:5003Intermediate Methodology4
POLI:5111American Public Policy3
POLI:5117Bureaucratic Politics and Public Administration3
POLI:5200American State Politics3
POLI:7002Topics Methodology4
POLI:7003Advanced Methodology4
POLI:7100Modeling American Politics4
POLI:7150Problems in American Politics4
POLI:7202Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior4
POLI:7270Responsible Research in Political Science1
POLI:7409Democratization and Authoritarianism4
POLI:7423Comparative Parties and Elections4
POLI:7450Problems of Comparative Politics4
POLI:7500Foreign Policy4
POLI:7502International Institutions and Cooperation4
POLI:7503International Conflict and Cooperation4
POLI:7550Problems in International Politics4
POLI:7701Dynamic Models of International Politics2-4
POLI:7900Readings Tutorialarr.
POLI:7901Research Tutorialarr.
POLI:7910Ph.D. Dissertationarr.

Quantitative Methods

All doctoral students must demonstrate at least minimal competence in quantitative methods. Students must earn at least a B grade in POLI:5001 Introductory Methodology, POLI:5003 Intermediate Methodology, and POLI:7003 Advanced Methodology. Students who do not meet this requirement must take a substitute course selected by faculty members who teach the quantitative methods courses.

Postcomprehensive Registration

Graduate College regulations require that students be registered at the University of Iowa each semester after passing the comprehensive examination until their degree is awarded, and that this registration accurately reflects the amount and type of work undertaken, the use of University facilities, and the amount of consultation with the faculty. After passing their comprehensive examination, students working on their dissertation research should register in POLI:7910 Ph.D. Dissertation. No more than 30 s.h. are granted for dissertation preparation.

The Guide to Doctoral Study, available from the Department of Political Science and on its website, provides a comprehensive statement of departmental requirements.

Because the number of positions available in the Ph.D. program is limited, the competition for admission is keen. However, applicants who did not major in political science or who are not acquainted with quantitative research methods are not at a disadvantage.

The deadline for application and consideration for assistantships and fellowships is January 7.

Admission requirements include a baccalaureate degree, an undergraduate g.p.a. of at least 3.30 on a four-point scale (or its equivalent for international applicants), and three letters of recommendation from persons who can comment upon the applicant's academic ability and motivation. For applicants who have pursued graduate work elsewhere, a graduate g.p.a. of at least 3.50 is required. 

Applicants whose first language is not English must submit official test scores to verify English proficiency. Applicants can verify English proficiency by submitting official test scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website.

Students may only enter the program in the fall semester.

The Doctor of Philosophy program in political science is designed to prepare students for careers in research and teaching. All students receive a thorough grounding in research methods. It is this grounding that permits teachers to be critical consumers of the research they read and permits researchers to undertake significant theoretical and empirical work.

Because the faculty and the graduate student body is not large, there is ample opportunity to collaborate with individual faculty members in research endeavors. In addition, students spend some time as apprentice teachers in large undergraduate classes.

Ph.D. graduates secure employment in a wide variety of academic and nonacademic settings. In particular, they work in highly ranked research universities and teaching colleges throughout the United States and the world. Over the last decade, almost all graduates seeking academic positions found jobs.

Iowa graduates use their training to build distinguished research records that allow them to move to some of the nation’s top institutions.