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Graduate Program in Political Science



The preparation of the next generation of scholars in the field of political science is a key part of the Political Science Department faculty's commitment to research and advancing the understanding of politics. The doctoral program reflects the distinctive strengths of the department’s cross-cutting intellectual orientations (encompassing the themes of power and inequality, identities and allegiances, agency and structure, and borders and flows), realized in faculty and PhD student research and teaching. The Johns Hopkins University Political Science Department is known for its strength in theory and in innovative and trans-disciplinary approaches to uncovering new knowledge, and the program of doctoral study draws on these strengths to provide rigorous training. Our program is designed for highly qualified, intellectually curious and creative graduate students who can benefit by learning from and contributing to this community of scholars. Doctoral students develop in-depth knowledge of a major field and a minor field (or two major fields), chosen from American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Law and Politics, and Political Theory. In addition, doctoral students may complete a certificate in Comparative Racial Politics. Students have opportunities to work closely with faculty and to pursue independent research, and faculty and doctoral students benefit from strong connections with colleagues in other social science and humanities disciplines and opportunities to collaborate with them. The department and Krieger School of Arts and Sciences provide opportunities for developing teaching and other career-related skills. The Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus and Baltimore provide an attractive setting and vibrant neighborhood.


Doctoral students in the department of political science major and minor in the following fields: American politics, law and politics, comparative, international relations, and political theory.


The department admits approximately 10 to 12 new graduate students each year, selecting them from the approximately 200 applications that it receives annually. The deadline for application for admission to graduate study and the award of financial assistance is January 15 (most years). Decisions are made exclusively in late February or early March and announced by March 15. A B.A., B.S., or their equivalent, and results of the Graduate Record Examination are required for application. Students whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL examinations or provide other evidence of fluency in English (such as a degree from an institution in which the language of instruction is English.) A broad background in the liberal arts and sciences is preferred. Further information can be found at

Online Graduate Application

All applications should be submitted online.

Financial Support

The department ordinarily provides financial aid to all students admitted to the graduate program unless they hold fellowships from sources outside the university. Departmental fellowships cover full tuition and an annual stipend. Assuming satisfactory progress toward the Ph.D., students can normally expect to receive funding for five years. All students receiving financial aid are expected to serve as teaching assistants for one semester of each academic year.

Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree

The requirements for the Ph.D. are divided between those that must be satisfied by all candidates for that degree and those particular to the student's major and minor fields.

Department-wide Requirements

All candidates for the Ph.D. must satisfy the following requirements:

Course Requirements

A minimum of 12 semester courses at the 600-level with a grade of B or better.

Foreign Language Requirement

All students must demonstrate successful completion of four semesters of college-level foreign language instruction or its equivalent, or pass a translation test administered by an appropriate faculty member. This requirement is waived for foreign students who are native speakers of a language other than English.

Comprehensive Examination Requirement

Students are required, at a minimum, to take comprehensive exams in one major field and one minor fields. Students may also elect to take two major exams or a major exam and two minor exams (one of which may be outside the Department of Political Science).  Faculty in the field write and evaluate the exams and determine the format.  Major field comprehensive exams take place over two days (8 hours per day); minor field exams take place over one day.  The fields within the department are: American Politics, Law and Politics, Political Theory, Comparative Politics and International Relations.

Students choosing a second minor outside the Political Science Department must devise a coherent program of study in that discipline, in consultation with their Political Science faculty advisor and with faculty from the other department.  Students choosing an external minor must complete a minimum of three courses at the 600 level in the external minor's discipline, earning a grade of B or better.  They must also pass a comprehensive examination prepared and evaluated in consultation with faculty of the Department of Political Science, by the instructors in those courses.


The dissertation is the capstone of doctoral education, and it must be a substantial work of independent scholarship that contributes to knowledge in the student's field of study.  Preparation of the dissertation will be supervised and must be approved by two members of the faculty, at least one of whom (the dissertation director) must be a member of the Department of Political Science.


The final examination of the dissertation will take the form of a defense conducted under the rules of the Graduate Board of The Johns Hopkins University.

Field-specific Requirements

Field-specific basic expectations, procedures, and requirements are stated below. These are implemented, interpreted, and adjusted in the light of the intellectual orientations and objectives of individual students. It is of great importance that students work closely with their advisors and with the faculty in their major and minor fields in constructing and pursuing their programs of study.

American Politics

Students majoring and minoring in American Politics will work with at least two faculty members to develop a plan of study that includes recommended course work and other preparation needed to pass a comprehensive exam. Students completing a major are expected to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge sufficient for framing a dissertation in the relevant disciplinary literature and teaching undergraduate courses in the field; students who pursue a minor may focus more narrowly on an area of study in which they demonstrate fluency. These may include, but are not limited to, the following areas of faculty interest:

  • American Political Institutions (Congress, Courts, and the Executive)
  • Urban Politics
  • American Political Development
  • Race and Politics
  • Political Behavior and Public Opinion
  • Public Policy
  • American Political Thought
  • Political Parties and Elections

In addition, students majoring in the field are strongly encouraged to take AS.190.602 Introduction to Quantitative Political Science as part of their course of study.

Comparative Politics

All students majoring and minoring in Comparative Politics will become conversant with major substantive and methodological debates in the field, and be able to comment on the key theoretical literature in several of those debates. They will normally also develop knowledge of at least one world region. Students majoring or minoring in Comparative Politics are required to take AS.190.625 Theories of Comparative Politics and at least one seminar in quantitative or qualitative methods.  We expect all students to master the material covered in these courses, as well as others with more specialized topics.

Students will take a comprehensive exam that will test their ability to engage with several areas of theoretical debate in Comparative Politics, and their ability to use comparative examples to support their arguments. Students may focus on (but are not limited to):

  • Civil Society
  • Institutional Theories
  • Transnational Relations, Social Movements, and Contentious Politics
  • Political Parties, Interest Groups, Representation, and Political Behavior
  • Comparative Political Economy
  • Comparative Racial Politics, Nationalism, and Migration and Citizenship
  • The Political Economy of Development
  • Economic and Political Transitions
  • Ideas and Politics

Within the spirit of this division of the overall field, students may propose alternative delineations of thematic subfields.

Students working in specific thematic and substantive subfields within Comparative Politics will be required to demonstrate competence in methodologies and bodies of theory judged by the faculty to be necessary for quality research and teaching in those subfields.

International Relations

All students majoring or minoring in International Relations will be required to have deep knowledge of the scholarship relevant to their area of research and to be conversant with the major theoretical, substantive, and methodological themes and debates of the field.  It is strongly recommended that students take As 190.676 Field Survey of International Relations and a methods/epistemology course chosen in consultation with their faculty advisors.  Students majoring in International Relations will take an examination covering two subfields.  The first subfield must be International Politics. The other subfield is to be determined in consultation with faculty teaching International Relations.  Choices include but are not restricted to:

  • International Law and Diplomacy
  • International Relations Theory
  • International Security Studies
  • Global Political Economy

Students minoring in International Relations will take a comprehensive examination in International Politics.

Political Theory

Students majoring in Political Theory will take a comprehensive examination covering the following two subfields:

  • Contemporary Political Theory
  • History of Political Thought

Each student preparing for a major comprehensive exam will propose six or seven thinkers in the history of thought, six or seven recent or contemporary thinkers, and three or four issue areas. Examination questions are composed in light of the theorists and issues articulated in the exam prospectus.

The minor comprehensive exam in political theory asks the student to select half the number of thinkers required for the major exam and three issue areas.

Preparation for these examinations will be arranged in consultation with relevant faculty.

Students majoring in political theory will also take at least one minor field from American Politics, Law and Politics, Comparative Politics, or International Relations.

Law and Politics

Law and Politics focuses on American constitutional thought, judicial politics, law and society, and philosophy of law. Students learn not only about the history and context of American constitutional developments but also about the operation of the judicial branch of government in the past and the present. Studying how courts and judges do their work, students also consider how that work has changed over time. Students explore how legislation as well as court decisions reflect and influence a society’s policies, politics, and moral commitments. In addition, they examine how social movements, interest groups, and professional networks help to shape law’s content and implementation. Students may major or minor in Law and Politics. In either case, students work closely with at least two members of the faculty to develop a plan of study regarding coursework and additional reading to prepare them for comprehensive exams. Majors are expected to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge in the field sufficient for framing a dissertation and for teaching undergraduate courses; minors may focus more narrowly on a particular area of study.

Certificate in Comparative Racial Politics

The graduate certificate program in Comparative Racial Politics is designed to help train graduate students who are developing empirically based and/or theoretically informed scholarship on citizenship, racism and immigration in contemporary societies, whether in a single national society or cross-spatially. There are two required courses: Comparative Racial Politics, and Qualitative Methods. In addition the student must take two electives from this (preliminary) list:

  • Nationalism
  • Comparative Citizenship and Immigration
  • Politics
  • Topics in Black Political Thought
  • Race and Political Theory
  • Civil Society
  • States, Regimes and Governmentality
  • American Political Development
  • Political Economy of Development

For more information, contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Renée Marlin-Bennett, at:

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