Political Science, Master of Arts

Department of Politics and International Affairs

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

We designed this Master's degree to provide you with broad training suitable for pursuing doctoral work or a career in government, teaching, or the private sector. You choose your primary field of study from one of these three areas: American Politics and Public Administration, Comparative Politics and International Relations, or Public Policy.
The MA in Political Science is available in two forms: Non-thesis and Thesis.

  • To receive a master’s degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses from one or more subject areas, consisting of at least 30 units of graduate-level courses. Many master’s degree programs require more than 30 units.

    You must additionally complete:

    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s). This may include a thesis.
    • All graduate work with a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0.
    • All work toward the master's degree must be completed within six consecutive years. The six years begins with the semester and year of admission to the program.

    Read the full policy here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 36
Thesis Thesis may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Comprehensive Exam Comprehensive Exam may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Research Individualized research may be required by chosen emphasis or offered as an option.
Progression Plan Link View Program of Study

Purpose Statement

The Master of Arts in Political Science degree provides students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to understand and participate in the political systems of the United States and the world.  This degree provides a broad perspective on experiences, international and domestic, from both theory and practice.
This degree builds a strong foundation in the advanced knowledge of the political world, and enables students to be able to use key concepts and analytical approaches from Public Policy, American Politics, Public Administration, Comparative Politics and International relations.
Building upon this fundamental knowledge, our curriculum ensures that students can define, design, and implement effective scholarly research projects in political science.  In addition, they will be able to make clear and effective demonstrations of their work in writing and in public presentations, including scholarly presentations to academics at professional political science conferences.  Students will also leave this program ready to work in government, non-academic research institutions, and governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Our goal is to train students to be active, engaged, and informed participants in the global system who can not only understand the world around them but also shape and influence it. 

Student Learning Outcomes

All students in the MA Political Science program will achieve the following learning objectives:

  • Conceptual and Analytical:  Students should have an advanced knowledge of the political world, including contemporary political thought, and public policies, and be able to use key concepts and analytical approaches from political science.
    • Identify and use salient political science concepts and analytical method to evaluate current public policies, political actors’ behavior, political events, and institutional arrangements within a diverse world.
    • Evaluate the strengths and limitations of a variety of significant analytical approaches used in political science.
    • Analyze, synthesize and evaluate the interconnectedness and interdependence of the human experience on a global scale.
    • Engage in original research making a contribution to the larger field.
  • Inquiry and Research:  Students will define, design, and implement effective research projects in political science.
    • Devise an advanced research design.
    • Test hypotheses with basic empirical data.
    • Write findings in scholarly publishable-quality original research papers.
  • Communication: Students should be able to make clear and effective demonstrations of their work in writing and in public presentations.
    • Students will demonstrate advanced writing skills and be able to summarize and explain scholarly political science articles.
    • Analyze and critique the material read /discussed.
    • Suggest and discuss alternative possibilities and outcomes.
    • Speak in public settings, including oral defense of thesis (thesis option) or an oral exam (non-thesis option).
    • Demonstrate an ability to apply the discussion to policy and “real world” applications.
    • Students will be able to communicate at an advanced level with other academics in the field of political science, including presenting their own research work at academic conferences.
  • Professional and Citizenship: Students should know, understand, and be able to meet the expectations of professionalism and citizenship.
    • Demonstrate professional behavior in terms of demeanor, personal presentation, ethics, and
    • civic participation in experiential learning, classrooms settings and at professional conferences.
    • Acquire the skills and knowledge base to understand the importance of and options for environmental sustainability and its tenuous relationship to economic development in local and global terms.
    • Critically reflect upon the nature and consequences of diversity (e.g. race, gender, class, ethnicity, religion, culture, nation), and develop an understanding of how this diversity both alters and is altered in a world characterized by increasing global interaction.


Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • A bachelor’s degree in a closely related discipline
    • Cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above or  6 units of subsequent coursework at the graduate level with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • A writing sample
    • A personal statement or essay
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
Master's Requirements
  • This Master’s degree requires 36 units distributed as follows:

    • Politics and International Affairs Core Coursework: 9 units
    • Select primary coursework from the following specialization areas: 9 units
      • American Politics/Public Administration
      • Comparative Politics/International Relations
    • Select secondary coursework from Social Movements, Environment, Development and Diversity foci areas: 6 units
    • Select Thesis or Non-Thesis: 12 units

    Take the following 36 units:

    Politics and International Affairs core courses (9 units)

  • Specialization Area (9 units):

    Select primary coursework from one of the following areas:
    *Topics course selected in consultation with your advisor. 

    Secondary Coursework (6 units)
    • Select secondary coursework from Social Movements, Environment, Development and Diversity foci areas (6 units):
      • At least one additional POS course as approved by your advisor
      • Electives as approved by your advisor

  • The Master of Arts in Political Science is available in two forms: Non-thesis and Thesis. (Select One)

    • Non-Thesis:
      • POS 597 (3 units)
      • Additional POS courses or electives related to primary or secondary coursework (9 units)
      • A final oral exam with satisfactory performance
    • Thesis:
      • POS 699, for the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved thesis. Please note that you may end up taking more units of thesis credit than the 6 units you can count toward your degree because you must enroll for it each term while you work on your thesis. (6 units)
      • Additional POS courses or electives related to your primary or secondary coursework (6 units)
  • Please note that you choose all courses in consultation with your plan advisor.

    You may count up to two 400-level courses toward this academic plan if they haven't previously been counted toward a bachelor's degree.

Additional Information
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.