Graduate Program

Political Science Graduate Program Admissions and Requirements


The Department of Political Science, under the leadership of statesman Ralph J. Bunche, began offering Master of Arts degrees in 1940 and doctoral degrees in 1967. Since the Department awarded its first Doctor of Philosophy degree to Hanes Walton, more than 250 doctorates have been earned.

The study of Political Science at Howard University transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries found at most other institutions of higher learning. For eight decades Howard political scientists have defined and refined the conceptual boundaries of the emergent field of scholarship known as Black Politics. Ralph Bunche pioneered the nascent scholarly discipline in an atmosphere at best indifferent to the significance of systematic study of statesociety relations of those of African descent. Hanes Walton, Jr., Robert C. Smith, Paula McClain, and Ronald Walters, by contrast, made outstanding scholarly contributions to political science during an era marked by greater openness to intellectual inquiry focused on Black political thought and behavior.

Currently the Departments Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Arts programs exist alongside a vibrant undergraduate program comprising four areas of concentrations: Black Politics; International Relations; American Government, Politics, and Policy; and Comparative Politics. The Departments teaching and research examine the political challenges and opportunities facing African Americans and other historically underrepresented communities; complexities of domestic and international governance; the rich insights derived from empirically grounded comparative analysis of state and non-state political phenomena; and local, state, and national politics and policy.


Admission to the graduate program in Political Science is only available in the fall semester.

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor of Philosophy students must complete 72 hours of course work beyond the baccalaureate degree, comprehensive examinations in two major fields, and successfully defend a dissertation which reflects rigorous scholarship and original research. Students must also complete coursework in two major and one minor areas. Students must complete four courses in each major field. The minor concentration area requires the completion of three courses. Program students must also complete three research tools and the required political theory courses.

Master of Arts Students

Master of Arts students complete 36 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate degree, a comprehensive examination in their major field, and either a thesis or non-thesis option paper which reflects rigorous scholarship and original research. Master’s students must select one major and one minor course area. Students must take four courses in their major field. Students must take three courses in the minor field. Program students must also complete two research tools and the required political theory courses.

Comprehensive Examinations

All graduate students must pass comprehensive examinations in their major fields. Examinations are administered each October and February. M.A. students have one comprehensive examinations; Ph.D. students must take two. The examinations are administered in two parts. Part one is a take-home written examination. Part two is an oral examination administered by at least three field faculty members. Students must pass both portions of the examination. 

Applicants for the comprehensive examinations must be in residence during the semester in which they take the examination and have a cumulative grade point of 3.00 or higher.

See our Graduate Program Bulletin for more program information.