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Graduate Course of Study


Master's students concentrate their coursework in two of four fields of political science: American politics, international relations, comparative politics, political theory. Coursework also prepares students for their two comprehensive field examinations. The degree requires 50 credits of coursework distributed as follows:

  • PS 593 - Philosophy of SocialScience (4 credits)
  • Five courses in each of two fields of concentration (40 credits), including
    • a minimum of two seminar courses
    • a maximum of one course outside the discipline of political science
    • PS 595 - Research Methods for Political Science (for the M.S. degree)
  • PS 503 - Thesis (6 credits)

In order to count toward fulfillment of master's degree requirements, courses must be passed with a grade of B- or above. Course descriptions are included in the PSU Bulletin (see pp. 349-352). Students may keep track of the master’s degree requirements and progress toward fulfilling them on with the program of study worksheet.

M.A. students must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language. Those who have not had at least two years of college-level instruction in a foreign language must pass an examination in one foreign language, administered by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. More information about the language proficiency requirement is available from the Office of Graduate Studies.

Field Exams

Field exams are taken in both fields of concentration. Each tests the student's comprehension of that field, as encompassed by the student’s coursework, including Reading and Conference courses and courses for which transfer credits were granted. Field exams have taken two forms: a 4-hour closed-book exam and a 24-hour take-home exam. The exact format of the exam is left to the discretion of the faculty comprising the subfield. The student's field advisors provide information about the format of the exam, the material it will cover, and the expectations for satisfactory performance.

Students are encouraged to take their field exams toward the end of the term in which they will complete their coursework for the degree, or very soon thereafter (usually fall or winter term of the second year).


The final requirement for the degree is the master's thesis—an original investigation that demonstrates mastery of a topic in political science and the ability to communicate this understanding to an audience of one's peers. The thesis topic is chosen in consultation with the student's thesis advisors, political science faculty members who are in the best position to guide the student's research and writing. The thesis is defended in an oral presentation that lays out the purpose, implementation, and findings of the project, and makes a case for its contribution to political science scholarship.