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 more detail on each concentration, see Fields of Study on this site.)

Dissertation or thesis: No

Application deadline: March 15, 2019

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 choose to specialize in one of four concentrations, American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory, and master a qualitative or quantitative research method of their choosing.

The program aims to prepare students with 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.

Please click here to read current student profiles or to learn about the department's faculty.

Note regarding part-time study:

Part-time enrollment is available only under exceptional circumstances, based on a combination of need (e.g., full-time employment in a relevant sector at the time of application) and previous academic achievements (top five percent of applicants). The intention to enroll as a part-time student must be clearly stated in the application and cannot be requested after a decision has been made (starting Fall 2020). International students are advised to check eligibility for part-time study with the International Students and Scholars Office at Columbia University since certain visa types require full-time study. Please note that the structure of the M.A. program does not facilitate part-time enrollment because the majority of courses, including the required Proseminar, are scheduled throughout the day.

To apply for the Fall 2019 semester, please begin here.

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

Department standards

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
  • Three additional political science courses, ideally courses relating to the student's chosen concentration
  • Two additional political science courses or, with prior approval of the Director of the M.A. program, courses offered by another department that relate closely to political science

One of the two sets of courses in the non-colloquium section of the requirement must be completed with an average grade of B+ or better.

The other set of courses in the non-colloquium section of the requirement may include up to two courses completed for R credit;

Courses offered in fulfillment of the research tools requirement must be completed for letter grades.

The M.A. Proseminar (POLS GR5000) introduces students to the main subfields of the discipline by presenting perspectives on one key topic in political science.  In Fall 2019, the course focused on the topic of democracy, a concept that has been at the center of the political discourse for a long time, both in democratic and non-democratic regimes. Throughout the course, both theoretical and empirical debates centering on the study of democracy were explored.

Although the specific topic of the proseminar may change from year to year, the goal and structure of the course remains the same: to contribute to the students' understanding of an important topic in political science by investigating it through the lens of the different subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. By doing so, students will learn the technical language, important concepts, and characteristic methodological approaches of each subfield.

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 in satisfaction of this requirement
  • An approved two-course sequence in quantitative analysis with an average grade of B or better
  • An approved two-course sequence in formal modeling with an average grade of B or better
  • One course in qualitative methodology in combination with any one of the above quantitative or formal modeling courses numbered 4710 or higher with an average grade of B or better
  • 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 (Quantitative Political Research and Analysis of Political Data)
  • POLS GU4710 and GU4714 (Quantitative Political Research and Multivariate Political Analysis)
  • POLS GU4710 and GU4730 (Quantitative Political Research and Game Theory & Political Theory)
  • POLS GU4714 and GU4790 (Multivariate Political Research and Advanced Topics in Quantitative Research)
  • POLS GU4764 (Design & Analysis of Sample Surveys) and any above 4000-level quantitative courses 
  • POLS GU4768 (Experimental Research) and any above 4000-level quantitative courses 
Formal modeling
  • POLS GU4700 and GU4730 (Math Methods for Political Science and Game Theory & Political Theory)
  • POLS GU4730 and GU4732 (Game Theory & Political Theory and Research Topics in Game Theory)
Qualitative methodology

A qualitative methodology course may be combined with any quantitative or formal modeling course numbered 4710 or higher with an average grade of B or better.

  • POLS GU4702 (Methods of Inquiry and Research Design)
  • POLS GR4780 (Qualitative & Interpretative Methods in Political Science)
  • SOC GR6091 (Historical Method & Documentary Analysis)
  • Or an alternative approved by the Director of Graduate Studies
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.