M.A. Political Science

With over 80 years of storied excellence, Duke’s Department of Political Science has produced expert, global leadership on the most important political issues of the last century.  Built around an international Duke faculty, the MA program in political science offers the perfect launch to a career in political discourse.  

Our MA students work alongside our Ph.D. students in seminar courses and receive the same access to faculty mentorship. Dedicated experts in the department provide our MA students guidance on the thesis-writing process.  Seminar courses unpack leading approaches to analytic and methodological standards in political analysis. As a result, we have a strong track record of helping to place students into Ph.D. programs. In recent years our MAs have achieved entry into Ph.D. programs such as NYU, Princeton, Emory, Chicago, Maryland, Penn State, and of course, Duke itself. In addition, our program is both flexible and rigorous, and the skills we cultivate translate well to careers in the public sector (foreign service, state department, federal administration) and the private sector (mostly NGOs and companies with international outreach).

Students in the graduate master's program in political science will pursue coursework in two fields of the discipline, selected from the following: Normative Political Theory & Philosophy; Political Behavior & Identities; Political Institutions; Political Economy; Political Methodology; and Peace, Security & Conflict. NOTE: Students who are pursuing only the M.A. degree are not eligible for departmental financial assistance.

Program Options

  1. Thesis option: 24 graded course credits, 2 courses (6 credits ) ungraded research, and master's thesis
  2. Non-thesis option: 30 graded course credits, and 2 original research papers

Course Requirements

  • A minimum of 30 credits
  • A minimum of eight graded one-semester courses of 3 units each. At least five of the eight courses must be offered by the Department of Political Science, and only two of the courses can be undergraduate courses.
    • Three of the eight courses (four for the JDMA) must cluster in one of the political science major fields
    • Two of the eight courses must cluster in a second major field or a theme field
  • Foreign language competency or one course in either statistics or formal theory. (NOTE: this is recommended but not required for students in the joint JD/MA degree program.)
  • Three full terms of tuition must be paid (e.g. Fall, Spring and Summer I/II, or Fall, Spring, Fall). The enrollment cap is 12 units of graduate credit per semester.

Thesis Option

In the thesis option, 24 graded course credits are required in addition to six ungraded research credits. The ungraded research hours should be spent preparing the Master of Arts proposal and the thesis itself. Three of the ungraded credits will be completed as part of an ungraded seminar in the fall of the second year on how to write a major research paper.

The M.A. thesis should demonstrate your 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 30-50 pages. You may choose to expand upon a seminar paper that is completed during the first three semesters of coursework to fulfill the thesis requirement. You are required to pass an oral examination of your thesis in order to earn your degree.

Your thesis must be formatted according to guidelines set by the Graduate School. The timeline for submission and defense is as follows:

  • On or before April 15 for a May degree.
  • Ten (10) days before the final day of the second summer term for a September degree.
  • Ten (10) days before the final day of the fall semester for a December degree.
  • 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 their Master’s Committee.

Non-thesis Option

In the non-thesis option, you are required to complete 30 graded course credits. You must submit two research papers originally written in political science seminars. Your committee will then hold an oral exam in which you defend the papers. You must pass the oral examination in order to earn your degree.