Graduate Programs in Politics
Our Ph.D. program is designed primarily for students who wish to teach and do research in a college or university setting. However, many of our graduates go on to successful careers in other areas, including government, think tanks, NGOs, and polling firms. Our Ph.D. Plus program helps prepare them for careers outside of the academy. Students in the Ph.D. program who do not yet have an M.A. in Politics receive their M.A. degree along the way, typically at the end of their second year.
Ph.D. students concentrate their studies in one of the four main subfields of Political Science: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. Ph.D. applicants with relevant interdisciplinary interests may also apply for the Graduate School’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships. More information in the FAQs below.
Our 2-year M.A. program is fully integrated with our Ph.D. program. Our students go on to careers in government, consulting, thinktanks, and foundations. The program is also ideal for students who are considering getting a Ph.D. in Politics and who wish to gain more exposure to the discipline or improve their credentials before applying. M.A. students receive career advice and those who decide to pursue the Ph.D. receive guidance in the application process.
We offer two joint degree programs: the Master of Arts/Doctor of Jurisprudence (M.A./J.D.) and the Master of Arts/Master of Business Administration (M.A./M.B.A.). Interested students should contact the Director of Graduate Studies.
How to Apply
Apply for the Ph.D. degree
Deadline: December 15
Admission to the Ph.D. program is handled through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences website. In addition to the materials listed on the Graduate School’s Requirements page, the Politics Department requires a writing sample. More information on the writing sample and other parts of the application can be found in the FAQs below.
Apply for the M.A. degree
Deadline: Priority review of applications and admission decisions begins on January 15. We accept applications through May 1.
Admission to the M.A. program is handled through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences website. In addition to the materials listed on the Graduate School’s Requirements page, the Politics Department requires that you submit a writing sample. More information on the writing sample and other parts of the application can be found in the FAQs below.
The Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs offers application fee waivers to US citizens and US permanent residents who demonstrate a financial hardship, current or former members of the United States Armed Forces, or those who have participated in specified organizations and training programs. Check here for more information and to see if you are eligible.
A single application is used to determine both admissions and funding decisions. All admitted Ph.D. students receive competitive 5-year funding packages. For more information on funding see the Graduate School’s Funding page.
For the 2022-23 academic year, the standard funding package for admitted Ph.D. students includes:
- Annual living support of $26,000, renewable for 5 years
- Waivers for tuition and enrollment fees
- Health insurance
- Opportunities for 6th year funding
Ph.D. students typically serve as Graduate Teaching Assistants during 2nd through 4th years of graduate study, and one semester of the 5th year. Numerous awards, internal and external, provide opportunities for to convert teaching semesters into research assistantships.
Limited merit-based financial aid is available for students whose intended terminal degree is the M.A.
I am interested in applying for the Politics M.A. or Ph.D. program. Can I visit and do a tour?
Unfortunately, due to the volume of applicants we cannot give tours to prospective graduate students. However, admitted Ph.D. students are invited for an expenses-paid Visit Day in the spring. You can take a virtual online tour of the University, or follow one of the UVa Library’s topical virtual walking tours, including ones focused on the library system, the history of enslaved African Americans at UVA, the history of women’s education at UVA, and others. If you are in Charlottesville, you are also welcome to take an in-person tour of the college organized by the undergraduate admissions office.
Should I email the professor(s) I want to work with to see if they are accepting students?
You are welcome to email professors with whom you might want to work to introduce yourself and discuss common interests, but this is not required. Like most Politics graduate programs in the U.S., we do not admit students to work with a specific faculty member. Rather, students are admitted into our program. While students usually have some sense of which professors share their current interests when they start graduate school, students can and do change advisors as their interests develop.
What are the minimum criteria for admission?
In evaluating applications, we seek to understand each applicant holistically and therefore avoid strict cut-offs. Nonetheless, it may be helpful to know that most successful applicants to our program have an undergraduate GPA of 3.5 or above. Foreign applicants whose native language is not English and who have received their undergraduate degree from a college or university where the primary language of instruction is not English must take the TOEFL and attain a score of 100 or above. We weigh the GRE less heavily than other factors, though very high scores will help your application.
What is the difference between Foreign Affairs and Government? Which box should I check?
If you are applying to the Ph.D. program and wish to study Comparative Politics or International Relations, you should select Ph.D. Foreign Affairs. If you are applying to the M.A. program (and do not plan to go on and pursue the Ph.D.), but wish to study these topics, select M.A. Foreign Affairs.
If you are applying to the Ph.D. program and wish to study American Politics or Political Theory, you should select Ph.D. Government. If you are applying to the M.A. program (and do not plan to go on and pursue the Ph.D.), but wish to study these topics, select M.A. Government.
While you must select either Foreign Affairs or Government on your application, this distinction is purely administrative. Your selection has no practical bearing on which subfields you can study or which classes you can take. Students can and do switch between subfields after enrolling in our program.
What should I submit as my writing sample?
Include your best piece of analytic writing of approximately 20 pages in length. Alternatively, if you have written a senior thesis, honors project, or M.A. thesis, please submit that (even if it is longer than 20 pages).
Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?
Letters from professors who have taught you in class or advised your undergraduate thesis are strongly preferred. If you have an M.A. degree, at least one letter should be from a professor who taught you in that program or advised your M.A. thesis.
What should my research statement contain?
Your statement should focus on the topics and questions you want to study in graduate school. Try to draw your reader into what you see as interesting and important questions. To the extent possible, articulate your future research agenda. You might also explain aspects of your preparation that are not apparent in other parts of your application and tell us who on our faculty you would like to work with. The origins of your interest in studying politics are only relevant insofar as they help to explain the substance of your current research interests.
Is the GRE required?
Where can I find additional information for international applicants?
Obtaining the appropriate visa in a timely fashion can be challenging; prospective international student can reach out to the International Student and Scholars Program to learn more about visa requirements and other information.
How can I pursue interdisciplinary research?
Ph.D. applicants with relevant interests may also apply for the Graduate School’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowships. Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellows are admitted to a Ph.D. program in a specific discipline and affiliate with a faculty research cluster that provides additional training and mentoring across disciplines. Applicants who wish to be considered will have the opportunity to upload an additional statement of interest within the Ph.D. program application. Expressing interest in a research cluster does not increase an applicant’s competitiveness for admission to a Ph.D. program.
What is the typical timeline for Ph.D. students?
Most students complete the Ph.D. in five (or sometimes six) years. A typical trajectory for students in our Ph.D. program is as follows:
Years 1 and 2
- Take small classes
- Attend research colloquia designed to introduce students to the academic study of politics and the research process
Years 2 and 3
- Write M.A. paper in major field
- Take comprehensive exams in major and minor fields
- Develop and defend dissertation prospectus
Years 4 and 5
- Research and write dissertation
Years 5 (and possibly 6)
- Defend dissertation and graduate
Students who have earned an M.A. in Politics elsewhere before beginning our program sometimes spend less time taking classes. We allow up to two semesters’ worth of transfer credits. Throughout the process, students receive one-on-one mentoring from their advisor(s), and in-depth training and support as they learn how to apply for and present at academic conferences, publish articles, and apply for jobs. Ph.D. students typically serve as Graduate Teaching Assistants during years two through four of graduate study, and one semester of year five.
What is the typical timeline for M.A. students?
The Politics M.A. is a two-year program. A typical trajectory in our M.A. program is as follows:
Years 1 and 2
- Take small classes.
- Attend research colloquia designed to introduce students to the academic study of politics and the research and writing process.
- Write M.A. paper in major field.
Throughout the process, students receive one-on-one mentoring from their advisor(s).
How many student do you typically admit?
Each year we typically admit 10-12 Ph.D. students and 2-4 M.A. students.
Can I earn the Ph.D. in less time if I already have an M.A. degree in Politics or a related field?
You can take fewer classes and possibly finish the Ph.D. in less time. However, we will encourage you not to rush.
Do you have part-time or online options?
Where can I find the official academic requirements for the University?
The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. The Undergraduate Record and Graduate Record represent the official repository for academic program requirements.
Where can I find a list of classes that are regularly offered?
Recent course offerings can be found here. The site is unofficial, but accurate. Graduate courses are those at the 7000 and 8000 levels.
Where can I find additional information for graduate students who are parents?
See our resources and policies for graduate students who are parents here.
What is it like to live in Charlottesville?
It’s great! Here are some links with more information:
- Student perspectives on life in Charlottesville
- Charlottesville Pride Community Network
- Black Graduate and Professional Students Association
- Latinx Graduate Student Alliance
- Resources for trans and gender-diverse students
- Information about housing (including housing for graduate students with families)
Who do I contact if I have questions that are not answered here or on the website?
Department leadership are listed here. For questions about the admissions process, contact the Director of Graduate Admissions. For questions about the graduate program, contact the Director of Graduate Studies. For administrative or procedural questions, contact the Graduate/Undergraduate Assistant.