Graduate Degree Requirements

M.A. Degree Requirements

Most full-time students will be able to complete the M.A. Degree Requirements in four semesters. To complete an M.A. in International Affairs or Political Science, students must fulfill the following requirements:

Complete 30 Graduate Credits

An M.A. in Political Science or International Affairs requires 30 hours of coursework or, in other words, 30 credits. Graduate courses are 3 credits each, so this is the equivalent of 10 courses. There are some restrictions on which courses will fulfill these requirements:

  1. At least 18 credits of the 30 credits must come from graduate-level courses. The other 12 credits may come from upper division undergraduate courses taken for graduate credit, though students are discouraged from taking more than one or two such courses during their time in the program. Students taking an upper-division undergraduate course for graduate credit must meet with the professor and arrange additional readings, writing assignments, and/or face-to-face sessions to justify the awarding of graduate credit. Please note that not all upper-division undergraduate courses are available for graduate credit. The timetable for each semester will indicate those courses that are available for graduate credit. Graduate students will not receive credit for lower division undergraduate courses. If students select the thesis option, up to 6 of their 30 hours may be thesis credits (POSC 6999). In that case, at least 15 the remaining credits must come from graduate-level courses.
  2. Students may complete up to 9 hours of courses outside the political science department. Under special circumstances they may petition the department to complete another 3 hours outside the department. This includes both graduate classes taken in other departments at Marquette and courses taken at other universities. In either case, the courses must be cognate to the major focus of their studies in the department. For example, an International Affairs student specializing in political economy would be encouraged to take a graduate course in international trade, but would not receive credit for a graduate course in American history.

Complete Required Courses

All Political Science and International Affairs graduate students must complete POSC 6101, Contemporary Political Research. This course helps students understand how to conduct and interpret research in their fields.

All Political Science and International Affairs graduate students must complete core seminars in their fields of study. These courses introduce students to the fields of political science and international affairs. International Affairs and Political Science graduate students take somewhat different core seminars. International Affairs students complete the following two core seminars: POSC 6401, Comparative Politics and POSC 6601, International Politics. Political Science students chose three of the following four core seminars: POSC 6201, American Politics; POSC 6401, Comparative Politics; POSC 6601, International Politics; and POSC 6801, Political Philosophy.

These required courses count as part of the 30 hours of credits required for an M.A. in Political Science or International Affairs, and they count toward the required 18 hours of graduate-level courses.

For International Affairs M.A. students, additional courses taken to complete the 30 credit requirement must come from a combination of comparative politics and international politics graduate seminars and their cognate courses.

Pass Written and Oral M.A. Comprehensive Exams

Students usually complete their M.A. Comprehensive Exams during their last semester in the program. This is a demanding endeavor, so students may wish to take a lighter course load during that semester.

The Exam Process

The first step in the process is for the student to submit a written request to the Director of Graduate Studies for permission to sit for the exam. This is usually done sometime between the middle and the end of the semester preceding the semester during which the student will sit for the exams. Before making this request, the student will want to discuss this with his or her academic advisor, and will also want to ask another professor to serve on their M.A. committee. Upon receiving the student's request to sit for exams, the Director of Graduate Studies will ascertain whether or not the student has a reasonable prospect of success in the exams and, if so, will consult with the student regarding the members of the student's M.A. Committee.

The second step in this process is to form the student's M.A. Committee. Two members of the committee may be chosen by the student. The third member of the committee will be chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies. Committees will include faculty from at least two fields.

The third step in this process is for each member of the M.A. committee to produce three sample questions. These should be available to the student by the start of the semester during which they will sit for the exams. Each of the professors will eventually select one of the sample questions for the exam. The student will not know which one until the day of the written portion of the exam.

The Exam Itself

The actual exam is divided includes both a written and an oral portion. The written portion of the exam lasts four and a half hours and is completed without access to books or notes. During this time the student will answer three questions, including one chosen by each of the three professors on the M.A. committee. The oral exam is usually held approximately a week later and lasts up to two hours. During this time the professors on the student's M.A. committee may ask any questions related to the student's course of study, but often choose to focus on the topics covered in the written exam.

Under normal circumstances, students will learn the outcome of the exam immediately following the oral portion of the exam.

Prepare for the Exam

Students are encouraged to consult with their M.A. committee members about how to prepare for their exam throughout this process. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with professors about how to prepare answers to their questions. They may also wish to continue these consultations as they develop answers to the questions. Students may also consult with professors during the interlude between their written and oral exams.

Students who do not pass the M.A. comprehensive exam on the first attempt may sit for the exam again during the subsequent semester.

Write 2 Conference-Quality Research Papers

Prior to receiving their degree, each student must complete two conference-quality research papers. These papers must include substantial original research. They are normally completed to fulfill the requirements of a research seminar. To fulfill this requirement, the student must file a 'Certification of Research Paper' form and a copy of the paper with the department office.

Requirements Resources

Students may wish to download and print the following resources:

Thesis Option (Plan A)

Some students choose the thesis option (Plan A), in which case there are some small adjustments in these requirements.

Thesis Option Requirements

The thesis option places heavy demands on students and is only recommended in special circumstances. Students wishing to pursue this option should consult with their advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. If the project is approved, the Director of Graduate Studies will consult with the student to form a thesis committee. Students selecting this option are allowed to complete up to six credits of POSC 6999, thesis credits. Of the remaining 24 hours of credits they complete, at least 15 must be graduate-level courses.

Additional Information

For more information on these requirements, please see the Graduate Bulletin, or consult with your academic advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies.