Program Requirements

For a detailed description of the program please read our 2022 Political Science Graduate Student Handbook. This handbook covers topics such as:

  • Ph.D. Program Rules and Degree Requirements
  • Optional Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Emphases
  • M.A. /Ph.D. Admission and Degree Requirements
  • Tuition, Fees, and Residency
  • Financial Aid and Employment
  • Housing

Continuing students wishing to review details of the pre-2018-19 program requirements should consult the 2015 Political Science Graduate Student Handbook.



Forms & Petitions

Qualifying field form
Field paper form
Field paper grade form
Prospectus Defense Form

Committee Nomination Form
Qualifying Exam Report Form
Report On Doctoral Degree Final Defense
Committee Change Form

More Forms on Graduate Division Website

Note: The following program requirements are new and will take effect for the class starting in Fall of 2018.

Field Requirements
Students must qualify in two fields. The first field is chosen from among American Politics, International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Political Theory. Students must take four courses in the first field and pass a written qualifying examination.  The second field is chosen from among American Politics, International Relations, Comparative Politics, Political Theory, Environmental Politics, and Identity Politics. In special cases, the second field may be selected by petition from other options. Students must take four courses in the second field.  Requirements vary by field regarding qualifying by examination or by preparing a written field paper.  Both fields must be completed, by two exams or an exam and a field paper, before the start of the third year. 

Breadth Requirement
Students must take four substantive seminars outside their first and second fields.  These may all be in a third field or may be spread across fields beyond the first and second. 

Quantitative Methods Training
In their first year, students take three seminars on quantitative methods in political science. Students whose first field is Political Theory may opt out of this requirement in favor of additional training in political theory. 
Research Seminar
Students must complete two quarters of Research Seminar, which is designed to guide students in preparation of a publishable-quality research paper on a topic of their choosing. 
Comprehensive Exams
Past comprehensive exams are available for students to use when preparing for their own exams. Log in to the Fileshare "Resources for Grad Students."  Reading lists are also available for some qualifying fields.  These are updated periodically and are intended as starting points for students’ exam preparation. Students preparing for exams should consult carefully with faculty in their field for recent literature and for advice about how best to use these lists in combination with course syllabi. American Politics Reading ListComparative Politics Core Reading List; Environmental Politics Reading ListInternational Relations Reading List;  Political Theory Reading List
Prospectus Defense
The final step in qualifying as a doctoral candidate is completion of a dissertation prospectus, which is defended in an oral examination focusing on the proposed dissertation.  All other requirements must be completed before the prospectus defense. Students are expected to complete the prospectus defense before the start of their fourth year.  Passing the defense of the prospectus leads to advancement to candidacy. 
Doctoral Dissertation
Students are expected to begin their dissertation by the start of their fourth year and to complete the work in about two years.  It is essential that the doctoral student maintain close contact with all members of the dissertation committee throughout the process.
For questions about requirements or forms, please contact the Graduate Program Advisor. Additionally, students are strongly encouraged to consult the UCSB Graduate Policies and Procedures Handbook for more detailed information on university rules and requirements, as well as necessary forms.   
As part of accreditation by the Western Association of Colleges and Schools, all departments at UCSB ennumerate and assess Program Learning Outcomes.