Duke University Political Science

The Joint Master’s Degree


The joint JD-MA degree (hereinafter JDMA) is open to law students who enter the J.D. program in the summer of their First Year and who on their application for law school admission signal an intention to pursue the joint JDMA program. In exceptional cases, a law student who applies in a timely manner, in accordance with application deadlines fixed by the Graduate School and the Department, for admission to the program during his or her first year may be considered for entry. Once enrolled in the joint JDMA program and having never withdrawn from it, a student must satisfy all the requirements of both programs in order to receive any degree at Commencement.

Although admission to this program does not require a Graduate Records Examination score, it does require favorable action by the DGS of the Department of Political Science. Law students admitted to the joint program in common with all other M.A. candidates are not eligible for departmental financial assistance. Once admitted, JDMA students (a) are expected to participate fully in the Department’s August Orientation program for entering graduate students, and (b) must submit by May 1 of his or her first year a brief essay of not more than 500 words indicating the relevance of the courses selected to his or her study of the law together with a complete proposed course of study subject to later revision).

The joint JD-MA degree (hereinafter JDMA) program in political science is designed as a terminal degree program for which continuous Graduate School registration must be maintained. Continuous registration requires actually registering for at least one (1) graduate credit for each semester of residence, e.g., Continuation. The normal policies of the Law School and Graduate School regarding leaves of absence, of course, apply.

The Political Science side of this joint degree consists of obtaining an M.A. (Masters Degree) in political science. The rules for this are available on the web at http://polisci.duke.edu/graduate/m-a-program.

In short, a Master’s degree requires 30 hours of credit, including 24 hours of graded coursework, and a final, oral examination of the student’s master’s project.

The course work typically consists of  a total of eight (8) graded courses (24 graduate credits) in Political Science, and two (2) research credits (6 graduate credits) in Political Science for which one (1) or two (2) graded graduate courses may be substituted. Four (4) of the graded graduate courses (12 graduate credits) are permitted by the School of Law to reduce from 84 to 72 the number of Law credits needed to satisfy the requirements of the JD degree. Of the eight (8) Political Science courses, all must be at the graduate level and numbered 201 – 399, unless two (2) such courses are deemed by the Director of Graduate Studies (hereinafter DGS), or by a designated faculty member, to be skill courses in which case they may be numbered below 201 in Political Science or below 200 in other Arts and Sciences departments.

Four (4) of the eight (8) courses must be seminars. Four (4) must constitute the student’s primary field and cluster in one of the six major sub-fields of political science (Political Institutions, Political Behavior and Identities, Political Economy, Peace, Security and Conflict, Political Methodology, or Normative Political Theory and Political Philosophy; two (2) graduate courses that constitute a secondary field must cluster in another sub-field of the discipline; at least two (2) electives may be selected from among graduate courses offered in any of the sub-fields.

The eight (8) graduate courses taken to satisfy the requirements of the M.A. degree will ordinarily originate in the Political Science Department, but related elective graduate courses may originate in another Arts and Sciences department. However, they may not originate in a professional school (Law, Fuqua, Medical, etc.) unless the course is cross-listed with an Arts and Sciences department. Law courses not cross-listed with an Arts & Sciences department can never count toward both the J.D. and the M.A. degrees.

Skill courses, including not more than two (2) of those numbered below the graduate (200) level, or demonstrated proficiency in statistics, social science methodology, and/or foreign languages are not required of students in this joint degree program, but one or more may be deemed important and even essential to success in the program.

The DGS must approve all Political Science graduate courses chosen and/or substitutions (i.e., courses originating in, or cross-listed with, related Arts & Sciences departments or programs) as well as any other exceptions to the stipulated course of study noted above. All course changes must be made prior to the end of the Arts & Sciences Drop/Add period for the relevant semester.

Masters, Thesis Option. The M.A. thesis should demonstrate the student's ability to collect, interpret, and analyze pertinent material on a research problem. Ideally, the M.A. thesis will be a journal-style paper of approximately 30 to 50 pages. Students may choose to expand upon a seminar paper that is completed during the first three semesters of coursework to fulfill the thesis requirement. Students are required to pass an oral examination of the M.A. thesis. The thesis must be submitted in an approved form to the Graduate School on or before April 15 for a May degree, ten days before the final day of the second summer term for a September degree, ten days before the final day of the fall semester for a December degree, and at least one week before the scheduled date of the final examination.

A three-member faculty committee, including at least two (2) members of the Political Science Department, must conduct the oral examination on the Master’s Thesis. It is the responsibility of the student to obtain in a timely manner the explicit consent of each faculty member to serve on his or her Master’s Committee.

Masters, Non-Thesis Option. In the non-thesis option, the student submits two research papers which were originally written in political science graduate seminars. The student’s committee will then hold an oral exam in which the student defends these papers. If a student pursues this option, he or she will still be required to complete 30 units of degree credit, but instead of taking 6 units of research the student will take two three-unit courses beyond the eight described above.

Students who are pursuing only the M.A. degree are not eligible for departmental financial assistance.

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