Political Science, Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Politics and International Affairs

College of Social and Behavioral Sciences

This doctoral plan prepares students for a career in higher education, research, or public service in a choice of emphasis. This plan requires the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved dissertation.

  • To receive a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (PhD) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses, from one or more disciplines, ranging from at least 60 - 109 units of graduate-level courses. Most plans require research, a dissertation, and comprehensive exams. All plans have residency requirements regarding time spent on the Flagstaff campus engaged in full-time study.

    The full policy can be viewed here.

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

  • Fulfill Northern Arizona's residency requirements
  • Qualifying Paper Exam required

Minimum Units for Completion 63
Additional Admission Requirements Required
Dissertation Dissertation is required.
Oral Defense Oral Defense is required.
Research Individualized research is required.

Core Objectives
1.  Conceptual and Analytical:  Students should have an expert 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.

  • 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.
  • Develop a disciplinary emphasis as well as a foci in environment, development or diversity politics to an expert level of knowledge.
2.  Inquiry and Research:  Students will engage in original research and write a scholarly dissertation.
  • Devise an expert research design.
  • Gather original data.
  • Analyze the data and explain the research findings.
  • Write the findings in a scholarly publishable-quality original dissertation that evaluates the effectiveness of the project and the implications of the findings and contributes to the field.
3.  Communication:  Students should be able to make clear and effective demonstrations of their work in writing and in public presentations.
  • Students will demonstrate expert 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.
  • Students will defend their dissertation at an oral defense that presents the project, summarizes the findings, and analyzes the implications as well as effectiveness of the project.
  • Students will be able to communicate at an expert level with other academics in the field of political science, including presenting their own research work at academic conferences.
4.  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
    • GRE® revised General Test
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • A writing sample
    • A personal statement or essay
    • Resume or curriculum vitae
Doctoral Requirements
  • Take the following 63 units:

    Select primary coursework from the following specialization areas (15 units):
    American Politics (15 units)
    Select five courses from:Public Administration (15 units)
    Select five courses from:International Relations (15 units)
    Select five courses from:Comparative Politics (15 units)
    Select five courses from:In consultation with your advisor, select additional (secondary) coursework relevant to your research interests.  The following areas are suggested (12 units):
    • Diversity
    • Development
    • Environment
    The remaining 24 units to complete  degree requirements needed to:
    • Complete your language and/or research requirements.
    • Complete qualifying exam papers.
    • Ensure adequate preparation for your dissertation research, and the professional development/ prospectus course.
    • POS 799 for the research, writing, and oral defense of an approved dissertation.
    You may count only 15-18 units of dissertation credit toward your degree. However, you may end up taking more units, since you must enroll for it each term during which you work on your dissertation.


  • 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.