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Degree Requirements


Students must complete 30 credits (10 courses) and a capstone experience to earn a master's degree in political science. All students must complete the required Scope and Methods course (PSC 7000), which outlines some basic concepts, theories, and methods that used in political science research.  Additionally, each student must complete one course in American Government, one course in Comparative Politics OR International Relations, and one course in Political Theory/Philosophy.  The remaining six courses can be drawn from any sub-field of political science (i.e. American Government, Comparative Politics, International Relations or Political Theory/Philosophy).

Students may take up to six graduate-level credits (normally, two courses) from other departments that will count toward the political science M.A. degree.  Many of our students have taken one or two graduate courses in history, philosophy, public administration, statistics or religious studies as part of their political science M.A.  We encourage students who are interested in working in public policy or policy research to take at least one course in statistics, although this is not a requirement for the political science M.A. degree.  Students who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D in any social science discipline should also take at least one course in statistics.

Beyond these general guidelines, the political science graduate program will help each student to customize a plan of study that is best suited his or her interests and career aspirations.  The graduate director works with students to plan their course selection in accordance with their career goals.

Students will find that Villanova's diverse faculty members offer a variety of philosophical, pedagogical and theoretical approaches to the study of politics, and boast a wide range of scholarly interests.

All M.A. students are required to pass a written qualifying exam in the semester of their fifth course.  The qualifying exam enable us to assess each student’s ability to integrate material from two or more courses, and to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of key concepts, theories and methodological approaches used in political science research.  Each student must answer one general question, and one additional question in American Government, Comparative Politics or International Relations.  Students should provide a written essay of approximately 10 double-spaced pages for each answer.  For further information, please click here to access the pool of questions for the qualifying exams.

All students must complete one of two capstone experiences in their final year of study.  Students may (1) complete ten courses and pass a written comprehensive exam after completing their course work, or (2) complete eight courses and write an M.A. thesis.

Capstone Options

Thesis Option:

The thesis option is open to students who maintain a GPA of 3.3 or higher through their fifth graduate course.  Students who would like to complete an M.A. thesis should enroll in PSC 9078 (Thesis Research Problems) after their fifth course.  The main goal of PSC 9078 is to assist students in developing a thesis question and completing a thesis proposal. Students who successfully complete PSC 9078 may enroll in PSC 9079 Thesis Direction to complete their thesis during their fourth semester of full time graduate study.  After submitting their M.A. thesis, students are required to pass an oral examination/defense of their thesis.

Students will be awarded a total of six credits for preparing and completing their M.A. thesis.  Consequently, students who complete an M.A. thesis are only required to take eight substantive M.A. courses (or 24 credits).

Written Exam Option

Students who do not write an M.A. thesis are required to complete ten courses (for 30 credits) and pass a written comprehensive written exam after completing their coursework.  The written comprehensive exam follows the same format as the qualifying exams that students take after their fifth course. Consequently, each student must answer ONE general question, and ONE additional question in American Government, Comparative Politics or International Relations.  A written essay of approximately 10 double-spaced pages is required for each answer.  The comprehensive exam questions are drawn from the same pool as the qualifying exam questions, although students are expected to integrate more of their coursework into their comprehensive exams.

Course Load

Full-time students are expected to take enroll in nine credits (three courses) per semester during their first year.  This enables full-time students to comfortably meet all of their degree requirements within two years.  Students can complete their work more rapidly by taking advantage of summer courses.  This is an attractive option for some students, but there is no requirement to enroll in summer courses

Part-time students are welcome and are encouraged to apply.  We aim to provide a flexible framework that accommodates full-time students, as well as working professionals who complete their degrees one course at a time!

Abigail Minor
Senior Administrative Assistant
Department of Political Science
Villanova University
Villanova, PA 19085-1699
Phone: 610.519.4710
Fax: 610.519.7487