The graduate program in Government at Cornell prepares students for academic and research careers in political science. All students admitted to the program are expected to earn a doctoral degree. In exceptional circumstances, students who choose to leave the program or who fail to fulfill the requirements for admission to doctoral candidacy may be granted a Master’s degree. Completion of the Ph.D. program normally requires two-to-three years of full-time course work at Cornell and several additional years of dissertation research and writing.
The Ph.D. Program
The Graduate Program is divided into four subfields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. To be admitted to doctoral study, students are required to take a comprehensive written exam in one of these fields. For their second field exam, students choose either to take an exam in a second field or to be examined on a Course of Study of their own design. Constructed around intellectual concerns and research problems of the student’s own choosing, the Course of Study is not to be conceived as a specialization within the student’s major field: rather, it should pursue issues which link several fields of study within political science and related disciplines. Students are expected to complete their field examinations by the end of their third year.
We expect our graduates to possess a broad understanding of the discipline, specialized expertise in one or more areas, and competence in social science methods. First-year students are required to take at least one reading course in three of four fields. During their study at Cornell, students must complete 12 graduate-level courses in Government and related fields. (Up to three courses may be transferred from graduate programs at other institutions.)
Doctoral students must demonstrate competence in either a foreign language or statistics and complete at least three major research papers prior to admission to candidacy. In addition, they are expected to serve as teaching assistants for at least one semester. Experience in undergraduate teaching under the supervision of a faculty member is essential preparation for an academic career and an important component of the graduate program at Cornell. Most Ph.D. students serve as teaching assistants for at least two years.