Graduate FAQ

This page offers short answers to the most common questions about our graduate programs. Students are strongly encouraged to read through these questions and answers, as well as more detailed information about graduate studies on other portions of the Department of Political Science Web page.


When is the admissions deadline?

The Political Science (POSC) and International Affairs (INAF) graduate programs use a rolling admissions approach. Applications are therefore accepted up to a month before the start of the semester in which the student wishes to begin the program. That said, space considerations limit our ability to guarantee even top applicants a spot in the program if they apply after the financial aid deadline. Students desiring to begin the program in the fall are, therefore, strongly encouraged to apply for admission by the financial aid deadline of February 15.

Can I apply to begin the program in the Spring term? What about the Summer?

Both are possible. Although beginning the program in the spring semester is unusual, a small number of students each year apply to begin their program in the spring semester. If students plan to take a graduate course in the summer prior to starting their full-time studies in the Fall term, they should apply for summer admission.

Should I submit my application directly to the Department of Political Science?

No. Applicants must use the Graduate School's online application system. All supplementary application materials that cannot be uploaded through the online system should be sent to the Graduate School Admissions Office rather than the Department of Political Science.

Do you require applicants to have work and/or overseas experience?

No, work or study/research experience abroad is not required to apply to the program. Many of our students have had such experiences, however, and the committee that reviews applications certainly takes work, research, and service experiences into account. Other things equal, they are viewed favorably in admissions decisions.

I have low GRE scores or a low undergraduate GPA. Am I going to be automatically denied admission?

No. Low scores do not automatically disqualify you from admission. The committee that reviews applications will carefully read all the information in the application file. Weaknesses in one component of the application can be compensated for by strengths in another. Because average GPA scores vary greatly from one university to the next, however, your GRE scores will be particularly considered. Applicants are welcome to contact the Director of Graduate Studies by email to discuss the likelihood of admission.

What is the Program’s GRE code?

The university’s institutional GRE code is R1448. The relevant GRE program codes are 1901 for International Affairs and 1902 for Political Science.

If I have a J.D., can I submit my LSAT score instead of the GRE scores?

Yes. You can also submit LSAT scores if you are applying to our M.A.-J.D. program.

Are international students required to take the TOEFL exam? What kind of score should they have?

International students who did not receive a Bachelor’s degree from an American college or university are required to take the TOEFL exam. Because of the large amount of reading, writing, and classroom discussion in our program, strong English language skills are crucial to a student's success. As a result, admitted international students typically score at least 100 on the iBT TOEFL exam. If you received a Bachelor’s degree from an American college or university, you do not need to submit a TOEFL score. Applicants who attended a college or university outside the United States but where English was the language of instruction should contact the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the possibilities for a waiver of the TOEFL requirement.

Am I required to submit a statement of purpose and a writing sample?

A statement of purpose is required. The admissions committee reads these statements carefully, so applicants are encouraged to craft a polished statement that highlights strengths (particularly those that may not jump out at the committee while reading through the application file) and addresses any conspicuous weaknesses. Students should, first and foremost, use the statement of purpose to state their case for admission. A writing sample is not required, although a number of our applicants do submit one. If you submit a writing sample, it should ideally demonstrate your research abilities. Shorter analytical pieces are also possible.

What portion of your applicants are admitted?

Given our commitment to maintaining a small program that provides a great deal of individual attention to our students, we set the bar high on admissions decisions. Even with the strong applicant pool that we typically have each year, it is not unusual for fewer than half of our applicants for fall admission to be accepted into the program.

Can I defer admission?

A student admitted into the program can defer the admission for one year. The student should inform both the program’s Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Admissions Office of this decision. Deferrals for more than a year are rare, must be justified by the applicant, and must be approved by the program and the graduate school.

What is your application fee?

The application fee is $50.

Where can I get more information on admissions procedures?

For more information on admissions procedures, see our department's page on "Application Procedures and Deadlines."

Our Students

What are the characteristics of the students you admit?

It is hard to generalize, since the members of the committee reviewing applications to our graduate programs read each application carefully. As a result, weaknesses in some areas can be countered by strengths in other areas. Though we do consider all parts of the application, successful applicants will generally have very good GRE scores, strong undergraduate GPAs from good universities, and very strong letters of recommendation. Incoming students typically average above the 70th percentile across the three sections of the GRE exam. Admitted students also often have completed significant service activities domestically or abroad, though this is not a requirement for admission. Students are encouraged to highlight such activities in their statements of purpose.

Is an undergraduate degree in political science or international affairs required or preferable for admission and financial aid?

We are interested first and foremost in good students. Applicants are thus not required to have majored in either political science or international affairs. Other things being equal, applicants with a strong background in their proposed field of study are preferred over those who lack such a background. However, a large number of our students, including many who received financial aid, had not taken a great deal of political science as undergraduates.

How many graduate students are in your two M.A. programs?

Combined, the three programs we oversee have around 35-40 students. We aim for an incoming class of 15-20 students each fall. This allows us to keep the number of students per course small (often averaging under 10 students per graduate course) and allows for a great deal of interaction with professors in the Department of Political Science.

Do you have part-time students?

Though the majority of our graduate students are full-time students, there are also a number of students who, often because of working full time, take only one or two courses per semester.

What kind of jobs are your students interested in getting after receiving their M.A. degree?

Graduates of our M.A. programs follow diverse career paths. Our students generally fall into one of three categories. The first group is seeking further scholarly training and preparation prior to applying to leading law schools or top Ph.D. programs. We have become an elite program for training students seeking admission into top Ph.D. programs. We have a very good record of placing students into Ph.D. programs who would not have been admitted into such programs prior to entering our program. Some of our recent graduates, for example, have been admitted into Political Science Ph.D. programs at Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, McGill, Michigan State, MIT, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Syracuse, Texas, UC-Irvine, UC-San Diego, Washington University, Wisconsin, and Yale. A second group of M.A. students seeks employment in government service. Some of these students have taken jobs in national, state, and local government. Others have become active in electoral politics, while still others have successfully pursued work for international organizations. The third group of students desires to work in the private sector, in fields where an advanced understanding of politics and policy-making is beneficial. Such jobs include -- but are not limited to -- analysts for research institutes and “think tanks,” advocates for particular interest groups or causes, and teachers at private and/or preparatory schools. A list of recent Political Science M.A. and International Affairs M.A. student employment positions or Ph.D./Law School programs is available here.

Our Program

How long does it take to complete the degree requirements for the M.A. degree?

Typically, students complete the degree requirements in four semesters. Because our courses are each three credits, successful completion of ten courses is required. Students normally take three courses each of their first three semesters and one course plus their comprehensive exams in their fourth semester. The work involved in preparing for comprehensive exams is the equivalent of at least an additional course.

What are your degree requirements?

Requirements include 30 credits of graduate coursework, two conference-quality research papers, and successful completion of written and oral comprehensive exams.

Can I transfer graduate credits from another university?

A graduate student can normally transfer six credit hours of graduate course work completed at another university. In rare cases, the transfer of more than six credits (up to a maximum of nine) may be allowed. A transfer request will be reviewed by the Director of Graduate Studies, taking into account the rigor of the individual courses and the general strength of the graduate program the student attended. The recommendation of the Director of Graduate Studies will then be reviewed by the Graduate School, which makes the final decision about transfer credits.

Do you engage in assessment of your graduate programs?

External reviews of the Department of Political Science include a thorough evaluation of the graduate programs. Such evaluations have been very positive and have praised the department for running rigorous programs that prepare students for government work, positions in the non-governmental sector, and study in top Ph.D. programs. In addition, the graduate programs participate in Marquette University's assessment process and produce annual program assessment reports. These reports assess the programs' performance on three outcomes: (1) demonstrate knowledge of the central concepts and the central theories in their fields of study in political science appropriate for entry into a political science Ph.D. program or politics-related occupation; (2) construct a research project on a research question in the student's fields of study; and (3) write papers reporting research findings in an appropriately professional manner.

Do you offer a Ph.D. program?

No. At this time, the Political Science and International Affairs programs only offer M.A. degrees. Because of the quality of the faculty and the design of the M.A. program, we have been encouraged by external reviewers of the Department of Political Science to establish a Ph.D. program. The department continues to discuss this possibility, but it appears unlikely at the present time. As a result, unlike some other top master's programs run by departments with Ph.D. programs, our M.A. students have our complete attention at the graduate level.

What joint degree programs do you offer?

In conjunction with the Law School, students can pursue a joint M.A.-J.D. degree in Political Science or in International Affairs. Additional joint degree programs are available with the College of Communications (leading to two M.A. degrees, one in each field) and the College of Business Administration (leading to an M.A. and an M.B.A.). In all of these cases, students can earn the two degrees in one year less time than if they had pursued each degree separately. For more information, see pages on Joint M.A.-J.D. and/or Joint M.A. degrees with the Colleges of Communication and Business.

What is the difference between being a research assistant (RA) and being a teaching assistant (TA)?

As an M.A.-only program, we do not offer teaching assistantships to our graduate students or have them teach discussion sections. Some graduate students who hold an assistantship, however, are given the opportunity to serve as a grader in a section of an undergraduate course. Outside of these grading activities by some of our graduate assistants, research assistants are typically called upon to assist professors with their current research projects. Typical assignments include, but are not limited to: data entry, retrieval, and analysis; literature searches; proofreading; and editing.

Why Marquette?

What is your department’s philosophy?

Our department respects the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to political science. Our faculty employ a variety of methodological approaches and types of data in their research and hold varied positions on questions of political ideology. That said, the graduate programs are theoretically and empirically rigorous. There is a general emphasis in the graduate programs on the importance of the use of theory in research and on conducting empirical research according to accepted methodologies. Unlike some Master’s programs, we do not provide students with a descriptive education covering the nuts-and-bolts of daily government work. Students are instead encouraged to develop their capacities to think critically about political outcomes and social relations and enhance their abilities to conduct research on the causal factors that affect such political and social processes.

What are your faculty like?

When you study political science or international affairs at Marquette, you are learning at a top university from a distinguished faculty. Without exception, the political science faculty have received their academic training at elite educational institutions, and many have international reputations in their fields. The faculty’s areas of specialization cover all the fields and most subfields of political science. Along with our strong orientation to scholarship and research, the faculty members share a commitment to teaching. The department generally ranks near or at the top in student teaching evaluations among the numerous departments in Marquette’s College of Arts and Sciences. See also our faculty list, which includes links to individual faculty home pages.

Do graduate students work with faculty on their research?

Graduate research assistants work with one of more members of the Department of Political Science, providing support for their research. Increasingly, faculty and graduate students are working together as co-authors on conference papers and journal article manuscripts.

If I am interested in getting a Ph.D. in political science, why should I receive an M.A. from Marquette first?

Many Ph.D. programs now require an M.A. degree from applicants. But even for those students considering Ph.D. programs that do not require an M.A., our programs have particular advantages. Our M.A. programs are designed very much like the first two years of a Ph.D. program. There are core seminars and research seminars, a research methods requirement, and written and oral comprehensive exams. This design, combined with the strength of our faculty, means that our students get into much better programs than they would have before receiving an M.A. from us. In addition, they are much better prepared for the coursework portion of their Ph.D. program. Many students in top Ph.D. struggle making the transition to Ph.D. studies, particularly in their first year in the program. Our students, many of whom end up in top Ph.D. programs, generally do not experience such challenges.

I’m interested in going into government or non-governmental organization work. Do your students have internship options in these areas?

Yes. A number of our students intern in local, state, or national political offices, as well as at organizations in Milwaukee and Chicago. They also have opportunities to participate in the Les Aspin Center summer program in Washington, D.C., which includes an internship in a congressional or other federal government office.

How expensive is it to live in Milwaukee?

When considering costs of graduate school, students must take into account living expenses. Milwaukee is very affordable. Our graduate students often live in studio apartments on the edge of campus for $600-700/month. Other students share apartments and pay as little as $400/month in rent.

Where can I get more information on housing in the Milwaukee area?

Information about graduate housing is available on the University Apartments Web site. In addition, students are encouraged to visit the Off-Campus Hosing Office Web page. The university publishes a Tenant Guide each year with descriptions of houses and apartments available for rent on or near campus. Students can also search for apartments on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Web site.

Financial Aid

What are my chances of getting a research assistantship?

Research Assistant (RA) positions are very competitive. In a typical year, only a few RA positions are available to incoming students. If you are interested in being considered for an RAship, you may contact the Director of Graduate Studies directly to discuss your credential and the likelihood of receiving one. You must also remember to meet the February 15 application deadline.

Are RA positions awarded to foreign students?

Yes. Fellowships are awarded on the basis of the student's academic record and research experience, the number of available RA positions, and the particular research assistance needs of the faculty. A large number of our RAs over the last several years have been foreign students.

What percentage of the students in your programs receive financial aid?

As mentioned above, our program has only a small number of research assistant (RA) positions to offer each year. In addition to these awards, a number of our students receive partial tuition scholarships or other forms of financial support. That said, more than half of our students receive some form of financial aid from our program or from the university. Still others helped defray costs through working part time or through student loans.

Can I defer a financial aid offer?

Because the pool of applicants and the amount of financial aid differs from year to year, financial aid offers cannot be guaranteed for students who defer admission. However, that applicant will be considered for financial aid for the following year along with other new applicants who meet the financial aid deadline.

If I do not enter with a financial aid offer, am I likely to receive funding later on?

A number of students who begin the program without financial aid receive some support in their second year. This aid is given on a merit basis as a reward for performance in classes during the first year in the program.

Where can I get additional information about financial aid at Marquette?

The Graduate School has a Web page devoted to financial aid available. More information is also available on our department's financial aid page.

Additional Questions

Students with specific questions not addressed on this page are welcome to contact the Director of Graduate Studies for the Political Science and International Affairs programs, Dr. Julia Azari at In addition, students are encouraged to browse through the Graduate School Web page.