Graduate Programs

Degree Programs

The Department of Political Science offers two programs, a freestanding, one-year program leading to the Master of Arts degree in political science and a program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy in political science, which is to be completed in no more than seven years. The graduate programs of the Department of Political Science are offered within the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and provide advanced study and research opportunities primarily for students who intend to pursue careers in research, scholarship, teaching, and public life.

The Four Subfields

The department, like the discipline of political science generally, is organized into four major subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Students select a major and minor field from among these, or they may minor in economics or research methods. All students in the department must fulfill a requirement in statistical, mathematical and analytical methods.

Study in American politics centers on political behavior, rational choice institutionalism, and historical institutionalism. Many American politics students choose research methods as their second field. Students whose major field is comparative politics study theoretical and historical issues such as ethnicity and nationalism, political participation and culture in democratic and authoritarian regimes, transitions and consolidation of newly democratic regimes, and formal approaches to the design and comparison of institutions. International relations students and faculty study almost the entire range of subjects in the field, including non-governmental organizations and other non-state actors, the role of domestic politics, and the international system.  Political theorists work in the areas of normative political philosophy, constitutional issues and constitution-making processes, democratic theory, political psychology, the methodology of political inquiry, and the history of political thought.

Quantitative Methods

The department offers two tracks for graduate study in quantitative methods, one that assumes no specific mathematical background and one that assumes students enter the graduate program with some training in calculus, linear algebra, and methods of proof.

The Applied Statistics Center is involved with many political science projects. Its research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Security Agency, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Energy. The center runs a "playroom" in the department that normally meets two afternoons per week and provides a forum for presenting and discussing work in progress.

The department participates fully in the interdisciplinary M.A. program in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences. This program trains students in the application of quantitative methods to problems in social science as they arise in business, government, and non-profit organizations. The program draws on the diverse strengths of the statistics and social science faculties and other institutions in the New York metropolitan area. It is designed for students who have a strong background in social science or quantitative methods and who are interested in deepening their analytical skills and broading their knowledge of the social sciences.


The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences does not offer fellowships to students in the freestanding M.A. program.  Multi-year doctoral fellowships are awarded upon admission in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success.  Teaching experience is considered to be an important component in doctoral training; doctoral fellowships therefore require some semesters of teaching apprenticeships.  GSAS fellowships are described in further detail here.

Research Centers and Institutes

Political scientists at Columbia regularly participate in the activities of the regional institutes of the School of International and Public Affairs and research centers and institutes such as the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, the Earth Policy Center, the Center for the Study of Human Rights, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and the Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies.

The department is actively involved in the University-wide Columbia Public Policy Consortium, which is an interdisciplinary program that supports graduate teaching and doctoral research in public policy.


Recent graduates of the Ph.D. program have obtained teaching positions at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and abroad and research and staff positions in state and federal government as well as in organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Brookings Institution, the Asia Society, the International Monetary Fund, and the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs

Recent M.A. graduates have applied their training to advance careers in journalism, business, applied research, law, political activism, and civil service. Others have followed the M.A. year with Ph.D. study at Columbia or at another institution.