Political Science, PhD

The Graduate Program in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania reflects the methodological diversity of the discipline. The department has significant strengths in each of the four major subfields in the discipline: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory.

Courses in each of the four substantive fields clarify important intellectual and conceptual issues and help students learn how to formulate an original research project. Courses in both quantitative and qualitative research methods provide students with cutting-edge tools they can use to conduct their research.

The Ph.D. program includes course work, a teaching requirement, a second-year paper, a preliminary examination, and the preparation and defense of a dissertation. Candidates completing the Ph.D. degree typically pursue careers in academia, government service, and the private sector.

View the University’s Academic Requirements for PhD Degrees.

Required Courses

A total of 15 course units are required for graduation.

Research Skills Requirement

  • PSCI 692 Advanced Statistical Analysis or a comparable course with the approval of the graduate group chairperson

Two Exam Fields

  • Students must select 2 exam fields from among the 4 major subfields of the discipline (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory). They must take at least 3 classes in each of those fields prior to their qualifying exam.

Third Thematic Field

  • All students must complete a third field by taking three classes around a unifying substantive theme.

Students may select the remaining 5 courses in consultation with their advisor and/or the graduate group chairperson.


The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2018 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.