Political Science (M.S.) Graduate Program

Degree Requirements

The master’s degree is designed as a two-year degree, whether a student pursues the Ph.D.-preparation track or the professional track. Students need not commit to a particular track upon entry into the program. Both tracks follow a similar course of study during the first year in the program, which includes a 1-credit orientation, three required courses on theory and research in political science, a choice of two seminars in the primary subfields of political science, and two additional political science electives. During the second year, professional track students may substitute up to 8 credits of Internship for required or elective courses taken by students in the Ph.D.-preparation track.


Coursework, including credit for work on the master’s thesis (see below), is distributed as follows:

Year 1 Coursework

Fall Winter Spring
PS 590 Introduction to Graduate School (1 credit) PS 594 Research Design for Politics and Policy (4 credits) PS 591 Testing Theories in Political Science (4 credits)
PS 511 Advanced Overview of Political Science (4 credits) PS 500-level Field Seminar or Political Science Elective (4 credits) PS 500-level Field Seminar or Political Science Elective (4 credits)
PS 500-level Field Seminar or Political Science Elective (4 credits) PS 500-level Political Science Elective (4 credits) PS 503 Thesis (1 credit)

Year 2 Coursework

Fall Winter Spring
PS 588 Political Science Professionalization or PS 504 Internship (2 credits) PS 589 How to Teach and Present Social Science or PS 504 Internship (2 credits) PS 500-level Political Science Elective or PS 504 Internship (4 credits)
PS 500-level Political Science Elective(4 credits) PS 500-level Field Seminar or Political Science Elective (4 credits) PS 503 Thesis (2 credits)
PS 503 Thesis (3 credits) PS 503 Thesis (3 credits)  

The total credits hours for the degree program is 54 credits. Graduate students may use no more than 2 online courses to satisfy their degree requirements unless suspended due to extenuating circumstances. Check with your advisor or the Program Coordinator. 

The following courses qualify as Field Seminars:

PS 520 Seminar on American Political Institutions

PS 530 Proseminar in International Relations

PS 569 Comparative Political Institutions

PS 507 Normative Foundations of Governance

Male student studying on apartment balcony

Upcoming Course Offerings

Check here for the latest course offerings to find out which terms your courses are taught in. 

What's the difference between the two different tracks?

Ph.D. Preparation Track - The Ph.D. track is a course of study specially designed to prepare students to succeed as doctoral students in the discipline’s most competitive Ph.D. programs. Two courses taken during the student’s second year, in particular, are designed to introduce students to the academic profession of political science, key aspects of which involve college teaching and the dissemination of scholarly research.

Students in the Ph.D. track are not committing to doctoral studies or academic careers. Some may be certain that his is the path for them, while others are simply curious to know what an academic career in political science is all about.

Professional Track - This track is for students less interested in academic careers and more interested in pursuing professional careers in such fields as law, public policy, legislative affairs, and the foreign service. Students work closely with their advisors to plan out a series of electives and internships that will provide skillsets best suited to their professional goals.

Students in the Professional track are not precluded from taking courses designed for the Ph.D. track.

For further clarification, don't hesitate to contact the Program Coordinator, Dr. David Kinsella or refer to the Graduate Student Handbook.

What would an Internship (PS 504) look like? 

Internships (PS 504), which allow students to acquire practical experience, are available for students in the professional track. The Department’s internship program has a long history of placing interns in local and state government, the Oregon delegation to Washington, nonprofit organizations, and election campaigns.


The final requirement for the master’s degree is, of course, the master's thesis—an investigation demonstrating mastery of a topic in political science and the capacity to formulate an original argument, effectively communicated to an audience of one's peers. The faculty expect that a student’s thesis will put on display a high level of resourceful-ness, productivity, and mature perception of the political science discipline.

The thesis topic is chosen during the Spring term of the first year in consultation with the student's thesis advisor, who supervises the drafting of a thesis prospectus. By the end of the term, the student presents the thesis prospectus to the advisor and one other faculty member, at which time the student either receives approval to move forward with the-sis research or is directed to revise the prospectus for approval during the Fall term of the second year. Thesis advisors work with students to establish criteria for an acceptable thesis prospectus, but generally this is a synopsis of the literature relevant to a particular topic, the contribution the student intends to make to our understanding of that topic, and the methodology to be employed.

All research involving human subjects, including research involving surveys and questionnaires, must have Human Research Protection Program (HRPP) approval. The student should allow a minimum of six weeks for the approval process. A student cannot have a thesis committee appointed until HRPP approval is granted.

The completed thesis is defended during the Spring term of the second year in an oral presentation laying out the purpose, implementation, and findings of the project, and making a case for its contribution to political science scholarship. The successfully defended thesis must follow specific formatting guidelines and is submitted electronically to the Graduate School.

While working on the thesis, students enroll in Thesis credits (PS 503). There is no upper limit on the number of thesis credits a student may take, but only 9 of those credits will apply to the degree requirements. You must be enrolled for at least one thesis credit during the term in which you expect to defend your master’s thesis or paper.

For further details regarding the thesis committee, deadlines, procedures, and forms, read the Graduate Student Handbook.

Ready to apply?

We are excited to help you launch your career goals! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to Dr. David Kinsella.

Interested in learning more about internships?

We have a robust internship program that could launch your political career in Oregon.