The Politics Department offers M.A. and Ph.D. degrees with concentrations in the political science fields of Comparative Politics, International Relations, American Politics, Political Theory. Two joint degree programs are also available: the Master of Arts/Doctor of Jurisprudence (M.A./J.D.), and the Master of Arts/Master of Business Administration (M.A./M.B.A.)
Admission to the M.A. and Ph.D. programs is handled through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences admissions website. In addition to the materials listed on the Graduate School’s Requirements page, the Politics Department requires that you submit a writing sample (more information on the writing sample below).
The application deadline for the Politics Department is December 15. For more general deadlines, see the Graduate School’s Deadlines page.
A single application is used to determine both admissions and funding decisions. All admitted Ph.D. students receive competitive 5-year funding packages. For more information on funding see the Graduate School’s Funding page.
Applicants with relevant interests may also apply for the Graduate School’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships. Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellows are admitted to a PhD program in a specific discipline and affiliate with a faculty research cluster that provides additional training and mentoring across disciplines. Applicants who wish to be considered will have the opportunity to upload an additional statement of interest within the PhD program application interface. Please note that expressing interest in a research cluster does not increase an applicant’s competitiveness for admission to a Ph.D. program. More information about the IDF program is available here.
In evaluating applications, we do not utilize a strict formula; we seek to understand each applicant holistically. Nonetheless, it may be helpful to know that most successful applicants to our program have a GPA of 3.3 or above. Foreign applicants whose native language is not English and who have not received their undergraduate degree from a college or university where the primary language of instruction is not English must take the TOEFL and attain a score of 100 or above. We weigh the GRE less heavily than other factors, though very high scores will help your application.
On the application form it is essential that you enter the appropriate degree program in which you wish to enroll. If you do not plan to continue on toward a Ph.D. in our Department, please choose M.A. Foreign Affairs or M.A. Government. If you do plan to go on for the Ph.D., please select Ph.D. Foreign Affairs (for International Relations or Comparative Politics) or Ph.D. Government (for American Politics and Political Theory). If you do not already have an M.A. in political science, you will obtain one in the course of working toward the Ph.D. Please note that while you will have to select either Foreign Affairs or Government on your application, this distinction is purely bureaucratic. Your selection has no practical bearing on which subfields you can study or what classes you can take. Students can and do switch between subfields after enrolling in our program.
Your writing sample is the most important part of your application. Please upload what you think is your best piece of analytic writing of approximately 20 pages in length. If you have written a senior thesis, honors project, or MA thesis, please submit that.
Your personal statement should focus on what you are interested in studying in graduate school. Try to draw your reader into what you see as interesting and important questions. To the extent possible, articulate your future research agenda. You might also explain aspects of your preparation that are not apparent in other aspects of your application, and tell us who on our faculty you would like to work with. The origins of your interest in studying politics are only relevant insofar as they help to explain the substance of your current research interests. It’s okay if you don’t know exactly what you want to study—figuring out what you want to study is part of the point of going to graduate school.
Please note that international students face strict immigration and visa requirements and slow processing of visas. Please consult the International Student and Scholars Program for visa requirements and other information. Do not delay in seeking the appropriate visa.
GRE scores are required. If you feel that you cannot safely take the GRE, then you may submit alternative evidence of your abilities. For students looking to do quantitative research, this might include grades on undergraduate courses in economics, math, or other quantitative fields, a recommendation letter from a professor who can speak to your quantitative skills, a recommendation letter from a boss or supervisor if you are employed in a job where you use quantitative skills, and/or SAT test scores.
We have an entering class of approximately 10 funded Ph.D. students per year. The standard funding package is as follows:
- Annual living support of $24,000, renewable for 5 years
- Waivers for tuition and enrollment fees
- Health insurance provided
- Opportunities for 6th year funding
- Graduate Teaching Assistantship during 2nd-4th years of graduate study, and one semester of the 5th year (with some opportunities for Research Assistantships instead)
Limited merit-based financial aid is available for students whose intended terminal degree is the M.A.
See our resources and policies for graduate students who are parents here.
If after reviewing the above information and exploring our website you have additional questions, please feel free to email the Director of Graduate Studies, Professor Phil Potter, or the Graduate Assistant, Sharon Marsh.
Where can I find the official academic requirements for the University?
The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements. These publications may be found at http://records.ureg.virginia.edu/index.php.