The Department of Political Science offers graduate programs of study in political science with concentrations in five fields: American politics; comparative politics; international relations; political theory; and public administration and public policy.

The master’s program is designed to provide students with a basic grounding in the scope and methodology of the discipline, while at the same time allowing maximum flexibility in developing a program of study that will meet students’ career objectives. It is recommended that students preparing themselves for PhD work emphasize empirical theory, quantitative skills and strategies and techniques of conducting research. Students may select coursework to help them prepare for such career fields as governmental service, public and private education, community service, and private industry. In developing an appropriate and coherent program of study, each graduate student works closely with the major professor and committee of advisors.

The Department accommodates the master’s student who attends part time by scheduling sufficient graduate-level courses in the late afternoons and evenings to enable the student to earn a master’s degree through part-time attendance.

In the PhD program the departmental emphasis is on conceptual and quantitative work. The Department requires that the student be broadly trained and accordingly encourages each student to take advantage of offerings in related disciplines to strengthen expertise in political change. The graduate of the program is qualified for a career in university teaching, in government service or in the private sector where the analytical skills and knowledge of the social scientist are required. Graduate degrees are conferred on the basis of a level of achievement which is acquired by independent reading and research as well as by taking courses. They are never conferred solely on the basis of prescribed courses and residency requirements.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


An applicant must meet Graduate School requirements plus these departmental requirements to be considered for admission to the program:

  1. Evidence of a high standard of achievement in bachelors or previous graduate work.

  2. Three letters of recommendation from people familiar with the applicant’s scholastic ability and achievements.

  3. Personal statement of research interests and how UWM’s Political Science Department will help you meet your career and educational goals.

  4. Writing sample.

Submission of GRE scores is encouraged (official or unofficial), but not required.

Credits and Courses

Minimum degree requirement is 54 graduate credits beyond the bachelor’s degree, 27 of which must be earned in residence at UWM at the doctoral level.

Distribution Requirement

To ensure broad exposure to the discipline, students must take a minimum of three courses outside of their prelim fields, at least two of which must be in a single field. Courses used to satisfy this requirement must be taken from the departmental offerings in the four substantive fields described below. Courses that bridge two or more fields of study cannot be used to satisfy this requirement if one of those fields falls within a student’s prelim areas.

All courses taken to satisfy the distribution requirement must be political science courses numbered 700 or above.

Core Research Requirements

Attainment of the PhD denotes a high level of competence in research skills relevant to the discipline of political science. Thus, all students must complete the core departmental research seminars. Since skills learned in these courses are important elements in dealing successfully with subject matter presented in other seminars, students should enroll in these seminars immediately upon entering the graduate program.

Research Methodology12
Scope and Methods of Political Science
Techniques of Political Science Research
Advanced Techniques of Political Science Research
Seminar in Advanced Political Science Methodology 1
Courses in two prelim fields32
Distribution Requirement9
Minimum three courses outside prelim fields (At least two in a single field)
POL SCI 990Research and Thesis1-3
Total Credits54-56

Students using a course from outside the Department of Political Science to satisfy this requirement may enroll on a “Credit/No Credit” basis, where the grade of “Credit” demonstrates satisfactory completion of the requirement. Upon successful petition to the departmental Graduate Committee, a student may gain exemption from this requirement, based on coursework completed in the five years prior to entering the graduate program. Students who receive this exemption must still complete at least 27 credits in residence. Credits earned to meet the research requirement may count toward the 54 credits of work required for the PhD if they carry graduate credit and are taken for a grade.

In some cases, competence in foreign language skills is necessary for significant disciplinary research. Students may fulfill the research requirements beyond the above seminars through demonstration of a reading knowledge of one foreign language. Competence is established through examination, by an appropriate UWM language department. The student must perform at a level equivalent to six semesters of college-level work in the language.

Additional Requirements

Major Professor as Advisor

The student must have a major professor to advise and supervise the student’s studies as specified in Graduate School regulations. The incoming student is advised by the Director of Graduate Studies; as that student develops specialized interests within the discipline, the student selects a major professor from within that area of specialization.

Areas of Concentration

In consultation with the major professor students plan a program of studies through which a high level of competence is gained in two substantive fields (hereafter referred to as “major” or “prelim” fields). The department offers four fields of study:

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Political Theory

Competence in these fields is demonstrated by a written and oral preliminary examination. In addition to the fields listed above, students may petition the graduate committee to be examined in an alternative field. This must be a coherent field that is not covered by one of the existing prelim areas.

Evaluation of Student Progress

The Department annually evaluates the progress of each student, in order to identify areas of strength and weakness as an aid to the student and the student’s major professor in planning the program of study. This evaluation is also used to determine whether or not the student should be encouraged to pursue further graduate work.


The student must meet minimum Graduate School residence requirements.

Doctoral Preliminary Examination

The student must pass a doctoral written and oral preliminary examination covering both of their fields of study. The preliminary exam is taken during the semester following the completion of coursework.


The candidate, working under the supervision of the major professor and the candidate’s dissertation committee, must write an acceptable dissertation. A dissertation prospectus must be written during the last semester of coursework and will be defended at the end of the following semester as part of the preliminary examination. Guidelines for preparation of the dissertation are available from the Graduate School.

Dissertation Defense

The candidate must, as a final step toward the degree, pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation. The candidate who does not successfully defend a thesis within five years of admission to candidacy may be required to take another comprehensive preliminary examination and be readmitted to candidacy.

Time Limit

All degree requirements must be completed within ten years from the date of initial enrollment in the doctoral program.