M.A. program overview

Program length: Two semesters, full-time, September to May (please see note below about part-time study)

Degree awarded: Master of Arts in Political Science

Concentrations: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory (for detail about each concentration, see Fields of Study on this site).

Dissertation or thesis: No

Application deadline for Fall 2024 Admission: February 8, 2024

The Master of Arts program is a one-year full-time program designed for students seeking advanced academic training in political science and political science research methods. Students specialize in one of four concentrations--American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory--and master a qualitative and/or quantitative research method of their choosing.

The program aims to prepare students with the theoretical and applied expertise needed to advance in both academic and non-academic professions. For many students, the program functions as a precursor to Ph.D. study. The program attracts students from around the world of diverse backgrounds, ages, and experience levels, and connects them with leading professors in the field.

There are 5 strengths of the program:

  1. Research skills: the program offers the opportunity to train in both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
  2. Writing skills: the program trains students in scholarly writing by requiring that students write at least two long research papers during the year.
  3. Advanced knowledge of state of the art political science: through the proseminar and other PhD level courses, the students learn about recent cutting-edge political science research as well as the literature to which they contribute. Furthermore, several workshops during the week bring to the department presentation of work in progress of faculty from all around the US and the world. Students are encouraged to attend and learn from them as well.
  4. Flexibility: the students can tailor the programs around their research interest. Students are also allowed to take a few courses outside the department to develop an interdisciplinary interest in a topic or interest.
  5. Personalized advising: the students receive individualized attention through both the formal advising channel with the MA Director, MA graduate advisor and sub-field faculty advisors, but also through lunch with faculties, interviews with faculty and other workshops or social events. The cohort is small enough (around 25-26) to allow for this level of attention.

Students in a master’s program in the Graduate School must maintain good academic standing in the degree program, good administrative standing in the Graduate School, and continued good progress toward the degree each semester.

Academic standing

Good academic standing for M.A. students includes but is not limited to:

  1. Maintaining consistent contact with their advisor
  2. Maintaining a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0*
  3. Holding no more than one mark of Incomplete at any given time
  4. Meeting other criteria specified by the department 

Any questions should be directed to the M.A. Program Director.  

*The cumulative GPA is derived from all courses in which a student has registered and received a grade, except when the student takes a course again after receiving an F. In such cases, the F received for the original iteration does not count toward the GPA.

Administrative standing

Students are expected to comply with all applicable administrative policies and procedures of the university, including those of the Columbia LibrariesUniversity Apartment Housing, and the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, as well as the regulations described in Essential Policies for the Columbia Community

Progress and time to the M.A. degree

Students are expected to complete the M.A. in political science in two semesters of full-time study.

M.A. students are advised by two members of the department's faculty: the Director of the M.A. program and another faculty member from the student's research area of interest. Students may consult both advisers for academic planning and support but still must see the M.A. director for guidance regarding departmental requirements and regulations.

Registration in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is a two-part process that consists of 1) registering for courses and 2) registering for a residence category. All students must complete both parts of the registration process.

  • Students must register in each fall and spring semester until all degree requirements have been completed or until the time-to-degree limit has been reached.
  • The M.A. in political science requires the completion of two Residence Units. Students are expected to complete all requirements in two consecutive semesters of study.
  • Enrollment is the completion of the registration process and affords the full rights and privileges of student status.

Students in the M.A. program must complete (within one academic year) a minimum of eight graduate-level political science courses for a total of at least 30 points, including:

  • The M.A. Proseminar (POLS GR5000)
  • Two political science colloquia or seminars (8000- or 9000-level courses) or, with prior approval of the Director of the M.A. program, other graduate political science courses that include the requirement of writing a research paper (approximately longer than 15 pages)
  • Five electives: two elective courses must be taken within the political science department (courses listed as POLS or cross-listed) and three may be taken outside the department in related fields with prior approval of the Director of the M.A. program; fill out a petition form to be sent to the Director of the M.A. program and Graduate Program Coordinator)

Grade requirements:

  • Up to two elective courses not applied toward the research tool requirement can be completed with a grade of P or R.
  • Courses applied toward the colloquia requirement and the Proseminar must be completed for a letter grade.
  • To maintain good academic standing and be eligible to receive the degree, students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.

The M.A. Proseminar (POLS GR5000) introduces students to the main subfields of the discipline by presenting perspectives on key topics in political science. Cutting-edge research conducted by department faculty (and faculty at other universities) is at the center of the course. Students have opportunities to interact and ask questions directly to the authors and to discuss relevant topics with their peers.

Scholarship discussed in prior academic years:

Aytaç, S. Erdem, and Susan C. Stokes. Why Bother?: Rethinking Participation in Elections and Protests. Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Berman, Sheri. Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe: From the Ancien Régime to the Present Day. Oxford University Press, 2019.

Boucher, Anna K., and Justin Gest. Crossroads: Comparative Immigration Regimes in a World of Demographic Change. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Calvo, Ernesto, and Maria Victoria Murillo. Non-policy Politics: Richer Voters, Poorer Voters, and the Diversification of Electoral Strategies. Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Carnegie, Allison. Power Plays: How International Institutions Reshape Coercive Diplomacy. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Corstange, Daniel. The Price of a Vote in the Middle East: Clientelism and Communal Politics in Lebanon and Yemen. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Daly, Sarah Zukerman. Organized Violence after Civil War: The Geography of Recruitment in Latin America. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Dancygier, Rafaela M. Dilemmas of Inclusion: Muslims in European Politics. Princeton University Press, 2017.

Hertel-Fernandez, Alexander. Politics at Work: How Companies Turn Their Workers into Lobbyists. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Levitsky, Steven, and Daniel Ziblatt, How Democracies Die. Crown, 2018.

McClendon, Gwyneth H. Envy in Politics. Princeton University Press, 2018.

McClendon, Gwyneth H., and Rachel Beatty Riedl. From Pews to Politics: Religious Sermons and Political Participation in Africa. Cambridge University Press, 2019.

Pan, Jennifer. Welfare for Autocrats: How Social Assistance in China Cares for Its Rulers. Oxford University Press, USA, 2020.

Peters, Margaret E. Trading Barriers: Immigration and the Remaking of Globalization. Princeton University Press, 2017.

Putnam, Tonya L. Courts without Borders: Law, Politics, and U.S. Extraterritoriality. Cambridge University Press,2016.

Urbinati, Nadia. Democracy Disfigured. Harvard University Press, 2014.Enos, Ryan D. The space between us: Social geography and politics. Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Urbinati, Nadia. Me The People: How Populism Transforms Democracy. Harvard University Press 2019.

Yarhi-Milo, Keren. Who Fights for Reputation: the Psychology of Leaders in International Conflict. Vol. 156. Princeton University Press, 2018.

For the M.A. degree, students must demonstrate command of one research tool selected from the following list:

  • A reading knowledge of a foreign language, demonstrated by passing the proficiency exam offered by the relevant language department, or by placing out of the fourth year on the placement exam offered in departments that do not offer a proficiency exam (for example, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures). Native speakers of a language other than English may offer their native language to satisfy this requirement.
  • An approved two-course sequence in quantitative analysis
  • An approved two-course sequence in formal modeling
  • One course in qualitative methodology in combination with any one of the above quantitative or formal modeling courses numbered 4710 or higher
  • A comparable level of proficiency in a comparable research tool, approved in writing by the M.A. Program Director upon recommendation of the student’s adviser

Courses taken to fulfill the research tool requirement can count toward the eight courses required for the degree.

Two-course sequences for the research tool
Quantitative analysis
  • POLS GU4710 and GU4712 (Principles of Quantitative Political Research 1 and Principles of Quantitative Political Research 2)
  • POLS GU4710 and GU4720 (Principles of Quantitative Political Research 1 and Quantitative Methods 1: Applied Regression and Causal Inference)
  • POLS GU4710 and GU4730 (Principles of Quantitative Political Research 1 and Game Theory and Political Theory)
  • POLS GU4720 and GU4722 (Quantitative Methods 1: Applied Regression and Causal Inference and Quantitative Methods 2: Mathematical Foundations of Statistics and Causal Inference)
  • POLS GU4708 (Investigating Political Phenomena: Experimental Research) and any quantitative Political Science course numbered above 4710
  • POLS GU4762 (Politics in the Lab) and any quantitative Political Science course numbered above 4710
  • POLS GU4762 and POLS GU4708 or POLS GU4724 (Politics in the Lab and Investigating Political Phenomena: Experimental Research or Quantitative Methods 3: Experimental Methods)
  • POLS GU4764 (Design & Analysis of Sample Surveys) and any quantitative Political Science course numbered above 4710
  • POLS GU4724 (Quantitative Methods 3: Experimental Methods and any quantitative Political Science course numbered above 4710
Formal modeling
  • POLS GU4730 and GU4732 (Game Theory and Political Theory and Research Topics in Game Theory)
  • POLS GU4730 (Game Theory and Political Theory) and ECON GR6492 (Games in the Lab)
  • POLS GU4700 and GU4730 (Mathematics and Statistics for Political Science and Game Theory and Political Theory)
Qualitative methodology

A qualitative methodology course may be combined with any quantitative or formal modeling course numbered 4710 or higher:

  • POLS GU4702 (Methods of Inquiry and Research Design)
  • POLS GR4780 (Qualitative & Interpretative Methods in Political Science)
  • SOCI GR6049 (Historical Approaches in the Social Sciences)
  • SOCI GR6091 (Historical Method & Documentary Analysis)
  • Or an alternative approved by the M.A. Director
Foreign language

Languages used to fulfill the requirement are to be chosen in consultation with the adviser from among those encompassing a significant literature in political science, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Certain other languages necessary for the student’s research interests may, upon approval by the student’s adviser and the M.A. Program Director, be offered as a foreign language. English may not be offered as a foreign language.

The free-standing M.A. degree is awarded in May. 

Students must submit an application for the M.A. degree to the university registrar according to the deadline set for the May degree conferral date. 

To receive the degree, students in all M.A. programs are required to hold a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0, and to complete all coursework and receive letter grades replacing all marks of Incomplete (IN) or Credit Pending (CP), whether or not the course is required for the degree.

Deadlines, forms, and instructions for submitting the degree application may be found on the registrar's website.

GSAS Compass helps doctoral and master’s students in the Arts and Sciences to identify, work toward, and achieve their post-graduation career goals.

GSAS Compass offers a variety of career development services tailored to master’s and doctoral students, including career development workshops, employer events, networking opportunities, and one-on-one advising. For current programming, students may follow Columbia GSAS on Twitter and LinkedIn.