Program Requirements

Program requirements and timeline 

The Prospectus and Dissertation 

Teaching (Years 3 and 4) 

Facilities and New Haven 

Program Requirements FAQs

    Program requirements and timeline

    The Ph.D. program is structured so that students can focus on classes and research in their first two years in the program, complete their dissertation prospectus and begin dissertation research in year three (usually while gaining teaching experience), and continue to conduct and write-up dissertation research in later years. To assist students in planning their time in the program, the Department has produced these checklists, which focus attention on meeting formal Department requirements and making the best use of time in graduate school.

    The formal requirements of the Ph.D. program are described in the following paragraphs. More detailed policies and procedures concerning the Prospectus and Dissertation and Teaching appear below. Additionally, when students first arrive on campus, they will choose an advisor from the faculty of the Department. The advisor assists the student in planning his or her course work, preparing for field exams, and laying the groundwork for the dissertation. As such, students should meet regularly (at least once per semester) with their advisor. Students may later work with this advisor on their dissertation, but there is no requirement that they do so. Students may change advisors as they wish, but they are expected to alert both the faculty and the DGS/Program Registrar to any changes in their advisor. The DGS can assist students in choosing an advisor.

    (Program requirements are reprinted from the Graduate Bulletin.)

    Overall program requirements:

    Students are required to pass sixteen term courses by the end of their fourth term in the program, to receive a grade of Honors in at least two Political Science courses, and to maintain an overall High Pass or above average (for purposes of calculating this average, Honors=3, High Pass=2, Pass=1, and Fail=0). The High Pass average must also be met for graduate courses listed in the Political Science department. To remain in good standing throughout their time in the Ph.D. program, students are expected to actively participate in classes and workshops, produce high quality written work, and demonstrate regular progress toward completion of the dissertation. The department regularly offers about sixty term courses for graduate students each year. Courses are conducted as seminars and typically have small enrollments. Four of the courses required for the degree may be in departments other than Political Science (two of these can be advanced language courses with the approval of the director of graduate studies [DGS]).  At most three graduate courses can be transferred for work done outside of Yale, or six for work done at Yale. For more information on transferring credit, see here. (Program Requirements FAQs)

    Each student must demonstrate elementary reading competence in one foreign language. Such competence is usually demonstrated by taking, or having completed, two years of undergraduate course work or by examination. Alternatively, the language requirement can be satisfied by successfully completing two terms of formal theory or two terms of statistical methods at the graduate level (beyond the introductory course in statistical methods offered in the department).

    Courses are offered in five substantive fields—political theory, international relations, comparative politics, American politics, and political economy—and three methods fields: quantitative empirical methods, qualitative and archival methods, and formal theory. Courses taken must include one each in at least three of the department’s substantive fields. Courses cannot be counted in more than one field. Each student must demonstrate competence in three fields (two of which must be substantive fields) before the start of the fifth term. Competence can be demonstrated either by passing the comprehensive examination in the field or by course work, provided that each student takes at least two comprehensive exams. The fields of formal theory and quantitative empirical methods offer certification only through examination. For fields to be certified by course work, students are required to satisfactorily complete three courses in the field, where courses in the field are determined by the faculty and the DGS, including one in which a research paper is written and presented. The paper must be submitted to review by the instructor of the course for which the paper was written. The department offers exams twice a year, in late August and in early January. Students are expected to pass their comprehensive examinations by the end of August of their second year. Each examination is based on a reading list compiled by the faculty within the field and updated each year. Each list offers an introduction and framework for study in the field and preparation for the examination. A committee of faculty within the field grades the exams as Distinguished, Satisfactory, or Unsatisfactory.

    Students who successfully complete the Ph.D. in Political Science will often join the faculties of colleges and universities. For that reason, learning what is involved in teaching and gaining teaching experience are also essential components of graduate education. The department normally expects students to devote themselves exclusively to course work and comprehensive examinations in their first two years in the Ph.D. program. Students in Political Science typically teach in their third and fourth years.

    During each year in residence, graduate students are expected to participate actively and regularly in one or more of the many research workshops run by the department. Students beyond their fourth term are required to enroll in at least one of the workshops for credit, and all workshops are graded on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory basis. All students are expected to present a research paper of their own at one of these workshops before the end of their fourth year. Workshop participation does not count toward the requirement of sixteen term courses.

    Prior to registration for the second year:

    (1) Students must have taken and passed at least seven courses, including the required Introduction to the Study of Politics, and maintained an overall High Pass average. At least five of these courses must be graduate courses in Political Science. While only seven courses are required, students are normally expected to complete eight courses in the first year to be on track to complete sixteen courses by the end of the second year. (2) Students are strongly encouraged to complete at least one field certification prior to the beginning of their second year. (3) Students are strongly encouraged to attend one of the subfield weekly workshops. (Note that these workshops do not count toward the required number of completed courses.)

    Prior to registration for the third year:

    (1) Students must have taken at least sixteen term courses and have received a grade of at least Pass in each of them, including the two-term required Research and Writing course for second-year students. Research and Writing is devoted to the preparation of a manuscript based on original research on a topic of the student’s choice and will count as two of the sixteen credits needed to advance to candidacy. (2) Students must have received a grade of Honors in at least two Political Science courses and maintained an overall High Pass average. (3) Students must have completed certification in three fields by the end of their second year. (For purposes of fulfilling this requirement, students registered for the August exams are assumed to have passed those exams when determining eligibility for enrollment in the third year.) At the discretion of the DGS, students who fail an exam may be granted a one-term extension (to January of the third year) for obtaining certification. (4) Students are strongly encouraged to attend one of the required subfield weekly workshops. (Note that these workshops do not count toward the required number of completed courses.)

    Admission to candidacy:

    Students must be admitted to candidacy prior to registration for the fourth year of study. Students are recommended to the Graduate School for admission to candidacy by the Department of Political Science after having completed departmental requirements listed above and the Graduate School’s prospectus requirement. As part of admission to candidacy, a student must have a prospectus approved by a dissertation director and two other members of the faculty. This must occur no later than May 1 of the student’s third year of study.

    Submitting the dissertation:

    A student’s dissertation research is guided by a committee of no fewer than three faculty members, at least two of whom must be members of the Yale Department of Political Science. One of the committee members is designated as chair. When a dissertation is completed, the student will select two members to write written reports on the final dissertation, at least one of whom must be a member of the Yale Department of Political Science. The DGS will also appoint one additional member of the department to write an additional evaluation.

    Master’s Degrees:

    M.A. (en route to the Ph.D.) The M.A. degree is awarded upon completion of a full year of course work in the program (i.e., at least eight term courses) with an average of High Pass or better. The courses must include at least six listed in the Political Science department and one each in at least three of the department’s substantive fields. A graduate-level course in statistical analysis is also required for the M.A. degree. Language requirements are the same as for the Ph.D. degree.

    M.Phil. The academic requirements for the M.Phil. degree are the same as for the Ph.D. degree except for the completion of the prospectus and dissertation.

    The Prospectus and Dissertation

    In order to receive the Ph.D., students must complete all program requirements, including a dissertation that is evaluated favorably by the Department as a whole in a faculty vote. The Prospectus, which is the final step prior to the dissertation for the Ph.D. degree, is a proposed plan for a dissertation.  Once a student has completed all program requirements apart from the dissertation, he or she submits a prospectus and if that prospectus is approved, the student “advances to candidacy” for the Ph.D. degree. Students must advance to candidacy no later than May 1 of the student’s third year of study.

    The Prospectus

    Students should take the time to become familiar with the Graduate School’s rules and procedures governing the prospectus. The prospectus must be approved by the student’s adviser and two other readers. (One of these readers may be a faculty member without an appointment in the Department, either in another department at Yale or at another university.) 

    As the Graduate School’s rules make clear, a prospectus is a proposed plan for a dissertation. Like all plans, few will survive fully intact. Nonetheless, the key task for the student in producing the prospectus is to develop a topic fully enough that the faculty members reviewing it can assess the desirability and feasibility of the proposed topic. As such, a prospectus should: (1) Identify the topic and provide an explanation of its importance; (2) Specify a proposed scholarly contribution (empirical or theoretical), which will involve explaining how the dissertation relates to prior work; (3) Discuss the method and plan of inquiry (a research design and proposed plan of empirical or theoretical inquiry); and (4) Outline both chapter/paper divisions and a timeline for completion.

    Please note that while the faculty understand that a prospectus is a plan for research that need not address or resolve all theoretical or empirical issues in the proposed study, it is not uncommon for faculty to require to at least some preliminary direct research on a topic before approving the prospectus. For this reason, it is essential that students identify and begin working with their committee early in their third year so that they can meet their committee’s standards for signing off on a proposed line of study.

    To submit a prospectus for approval, the student should send a copy of the prospectus to the three person committee and both Colleen Amaro and the DGS. Committee members can indicate their approval via email. Alternatively, each committee member can submit a signed letter indicating their approval to the DGS, c/o Colleen Amaro. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure committee members have approved the prospectus and to provide a copy of the prospectus to the DGS’s office.

    The Dissertation

    The Graduate School’s policies and procedures concerning dissertations appear here

    A dissertation may be submitted for review after being approved by the dissertation advisor and committee. In consultation with the student, two members of the committee, at least one of whom is a faculty member in the Department, will be selected to write reader reports. Additionally, the DGS will appoint a third outside reader (not a member of the committee). The student and the committee may recommend third readers, but the choice remains with the DGS. If all reader reports are positive, the Department will then consider the dissertation for approval by a faculty vote. In the event that the Department does not recommend the awarding of the degree, only one reevaluation by the Department will be permitted.

    Teaching (Years 3 and 4)

    (For information about teaching by non-Ph.D. students, please see this page.)

    Commensurate with the Department’s goal of preparing the next generation of scholars and teachers, both learning what is involved in teaching and gaining teaching experience are essential components of graduate education. For that reason, Political Science Ph.D. students are expected to devote part of their time in years three and four in the program to gaining experience as teachers. (Students who receive full outside fellowship support may be exempt from this requirement.) Students will serve as Teaching Fellows, working with a faculty member in teaching one of their courses. Depending on the course, student responsibilities will include writing and grading exams and other assignments, leading discussion and lab sections, and holding regular office hours. Details about the expectations for serving as a Teaching Fellow are availableon the Teaching Fellow Appointment Page.

    The Department expects students to devote themselves exclusively to course work, research, and comprehensive examinations in their first two years in the Ph.D. program. Consequently, students may not teach prior to their third year in the Ph.D. program. Students may also not teach while receiving a University Dissertation Fellowship. Students preferences for teaching will be solicited each semester, and first preference in assignment as a Teaching Fellow is giving to students in their teaching years (normally years three and four in the Ph.D. program). 

    In pursuit of this key mission in producing strong teachers, Yale’s Graduate Teaching Center provides workshops to support becoming an excellent teacher. One key opportunity is the Certificate of College Teaching Preparation, which includes workshops to develop teaching skills, observation of others in the practice of teaching, and being observed in the classroom. Students who receive the Certificate will have a teaching portfolio to include when going on the academic market.

    Facilities and New Haven


    The Department is located in Rosenkranz Hall, which adjoins both the MacMillan Center and the Institution for Policy and Studies. Faculty have offices either in Rosenkranz or those allied research centers. Graduate students have access to shared offices and private lockers in Rosenkranz Hall, which also houses private meeting rooms and a computer lab. Nearby are the other social science departments, the School of Management, the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and the Center for Science and Social Science Information (formerly known as the Social Sciences Library).

    New Haven

    The Graduate School maintains a series of webpages about student life at Yale, and the University has extensive information about the City. Most students in the Department live within walking distance of the Department, usually downtown or in the East Rock Neighborhood. Others live in nearby suburbs, usually within biking distance or a short car ride away. New Haven is also accessible via train to New York City (Metro North Railroad) and Boston (Amtrak), although most students live in New Haven during the first years in the program. Admitted students will receive a copy of “A Graduate Student’s Guide to Political Science at Yale,” which includes extensive information about where to live, finding apartments, and other key logistical issues. 

    Rev. 2018-03-19