Potential Ph.D. students must complete the application form and submit transcripts, GRE test results, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. To be competitive, applicants should ideally have undergraduate GPA’s of 3.5 or better, graduate GPA’s of 3.7 and above, and GRE total scores around 308 (or 1200 old scale) or higher. At least three prior courses in political science are required. Potential applicants may take one or two Politics courses as non-degree students prior to the review of applications.

A student currently enrolled in an M.A. program of the Department of Politics who would like to seek acceptance to the Ph.D program must file an application for a higher degree during the semester in which the student is completing the M.A. comprehensive examination. In addition to materials submitted with the M.A. application, performance in courses and comprehensive examinations will be taken into account. This form is not required of students already admitted to the M.A./Ph.D, who may proceed to the Ph.D. colloquium (see below) after certification of passage of the M.A. comprehensives.

A student currently enrolled in the department must apply in writing for admission to the Ph.D. program during the term in which he or she will complete twenty-four (24) hours of course work toward the master's degree. The student's ability to proceed with doctoral studies will be assessed in a colloquium conducted by a committee of the faculty.

Application for Admission

Applications for admission to the Ph.D. program may be obtained online or by contacting the Office of Graduate Admissions:

Office of Graduate Admissions
The Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20064

Telephone number:

Email Address: 

GRE test results, completed CUA application form, transcripts of all undergraduate work, any graduate work completed and three letters of recommendation (preferably ones commenting on the applicant's academic experience and ability) should be sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions.

Information on Financial Aid for graduate students is available.

Course Requirements

For the doctorate degree, a minimum of fifty-four (54) semester hours of course work is required, including that completed for the master's degree in the Department of Politics or transferred from another university. A 3.0 grade point average or better must be maintained. Two courses -- POL 651 and POL 652 (Political Theory I, II) -- are required of all students. Each student will complete thirty-six (36) semester hours of course work in a field of concentration within the department (including courses in the field of concentration that have been taken toward the M.A.). Students whose field of concentration is World Politics must take POL 606 and POL 607. Students concentrating in American government are required to complete POL 625. Each student also will take twelve (12) semester hours of course work in one of the department's other fields of instruction -- American Government, World Politics, or Political Theory -- as a  minor field.

Independent Study

Doctoral students may take up to nine (9) semester hours in the form of independent studies or directed reading courses. Such coursework must have the approval of the department chair and must be done under the supervision of a faculty member. The student registers for POL 991, POL 992, POL 993, or POL 994.

Colloquia and Transfer of Credits

Students who wish to transfer credit toward the Ph.D. program from another institution must normally take the M.A. comprehensive examination, or a comparable qualifying exam if they currently hold an M.A. This may be taken during the regularly scheduled times for comprehensives in March or October, and not later than the semester in which the student will have completed twenty-four (24) hours at the university. The results of this examination will be one of the measures used to judge the amount of credit to be transferred up to the maximum of twenty-four (24) hours. Following successful completion of the examination, a colloquium will be held with the student in order to identify credits for transfer and plan for fulfillment of the remaining requirements for the Ph.D.  The colloquium for current M.A. students continuing on to the Ph.D. should be completed no later than the semester following the passage of the M.A. comprehensive examination. 

Research Skill Requirements

All Ph.D. students are required by the department to demonstrate (a) basic competence in one research skill and (b) advanced competence in a second research skill. For students in Political Theory, both skills must be in languages, either ancient or modern. For those in World Politics, one skill must be a language, while the other may be either another language or an approved research methodology such as statistics. For those in American Government, any combination of approved methodologies or languages is acceptable.

Basic competence in a foreign or classical language may be demonstrated by examination, by completion of an approved graduate-level language course, or with external or prior documentation of language competency.  Advance competence in a language, signifying an ability to conduct research in the language, is demonstrated by means of a translation examination to be arranged by the student and department, or other documentation of advanced ability.

Other approved research skills include statistics, quantitative data analysis, qualitative methods, archival research, and similar methodologies. These skill requirements may be satisfied by the successful completion of approved courses at Catholic University or documentation or prior or external courses. The department may require or recommend additional research skills if considered necessary for satisfactory completion of the student's program, such as the dissertation.  The anticipated research skills should be discussed at the colloquium.

As further evidence of research competence, two course papers approved by the professors for whom they were written must be submitted prior to sitting for M.A. or minor comprehensive exams.  Four papers are required prior to Ph.D. major comrehensives.  The papers may be drawn from any graduate course (not limited to courses labeled as seminars) or independent study, and should be of sufficient length and depth, with appropriate use of sources and citations, to demonstrate an ability to conduct research appropriate to the student's subfield.  The judgment of adequacy is left to the supervising professors of the papers.

Comprehensive Examination

Doctoral students are required to take an oral qualifying examination in their major field and written comprehensive examinations in both the major and minor fields of concentration (American politics, world politics, or political theory).  The minor comprehensive exam is taken at least one semester before the major comprehensive exam.  All research skills, plus the 54 required course credits, must be completed prior to or during the semester in which the comprehensive exam in the major field is taken.  Orals should be completed two to three weeks prior to the written major exams.  The orals are advisory only, intended to assess the student's readiness and offer guidance for further preparation.

Admission to Candidacy and the Dissertation

A student may be considered for doctoral candidacy only after satisfactory completion of the written major comprehensive examination and other qualifying exams or requirements of the program.

Upon the completion of such requirements, the student must submit a formal application for candidacy.  Following the recommendation of the department faculty in the student's major field and with the approval of the chair and dean, the student will be admitted to candidacy as of the first day of the following semester.  The student can then submit a dissertation topic approved by the student's proposed committee.  This must be done within the first four semesters of candidacy.  The student is permitted a total of ten semesters (including these four) for the completion of the dissertation.  The dissertation must be approved by all committee members, and the student must pass an oral defense, which also incudes two Catholic University professors from outside the department.