Graduate School Info

Many students are interested in going on to pursue a graduate degree, either a masters degree or a Ph.D. Use available resources to learn about grad school options, preparing for graduate school, and life in grad school.

What You Will Find on This Page

  1. Deciding to Go to Graduate School
  2. What Kinds of Graduate Programs Are There?
  3. Finding and Selecting Programs
  4. Paying for Graduate School

1. Deciding to Go to Graduate School

Whether you go to graduate school or not should depend entirely on your interests and career goals. If you really enjoyed your Political Science and International Relations classes and did well in them, and your overall GPA is good, give it serious consideration. A graduate degree is essential for an academic career, and can also be a valuable preparation for careers in government, think tanks, advocacy, and non-profit or non-governmental organization.

"So, You Want to Get a Ph.D. in Political Science"

2. What Kinds of Programs Are There?

You can pursue either a terminal Masters degree or a Ph.D. in Political Science (any sub-field), International Relations, Public Policy, and Public Policy and Management.

A terminal Masters program will typically take about two years, and will give you a broad skill set that you can use to work in a variety of applied settings. Terminal programs tend to have a specific focus and prepare students for professional careers in the area—they are for people who want to work at a high level in international relations or public administration or political polling and so on.

A doctoral (Ph.D.) program is harder to get into and typically takes 5-7 years to complete. It will give you a solid grounding in the theories of the discipline as well as specialized knowledge in your research field, and prepare you for an academic career of university teaching and research.

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MTSU - Department of Political Science | Master of Arts in International Affairs

Our Masters is a terminal program where you can specialize in either Security and Peace Studies or Development and Globalization. It gives students the analytic, research, and practical tools for a career in government, international and foreign
policy organizations, multinational businesses and development organizations dealing with risk analysis, poverty alleviation, environmental organizations, human rights, homeland security, and the military.  Brochure |   Poster

One to Two Year Career-Oriented Masters and Certificate Programs

Often, people think their main options as Political Science and International Relations majors are to go to law school or pursue a Ph.D., but there are many options for people who want to work as practitioners in the field.

Many schools offer 1 or 2 year specialized, career-oriented programs; you can complete one of these programs to enter the field at a higher level, or get an entry-level job in the area and then complete a program to advance and move up. These programs are much more targeted, practitioner-oriented, and shorter than law school or a Ph.D.

The links below give you an idea of the range of career areas you can move into. Each page has links to career-oriented masters and certificate programs in the area.

These lists of programs are not meant to be comprehensive, i.e., they do not include all available programs. Rather, they are intended to show that there are a lot of options in each of these career areas, and to provide a starting place for looking into available programs. If you are interested in these types of careers and programs, TALK TO YOUR ADVISER. 

3. Finding and Selecting Programs

Graduate school is entirely about developing an area of specialization, so you first need to know what you want to do. What specific area/research question in political science or international relations do you wish to develop expertise? Talk to your academic advisor and professors, read, and think—these are the essential starting points in finding a good program.

Once you know what type of specialization you want, your concern should be individual faculty members in the sub-field that interests you. Are they first-rate scholars in your area of interest? Can you put together an excellent thesis committee from among the faculty that covers all four of these issue areas? Do they have a reputation for being attentive to, helping, and co-authoring with their graduate students? Beyond the subfield, you should be somewhat interested in the overall reputation of the department, but you should have little interest in the overall reputation of the university, as all but one or two of your courses will be in your chosen program or department. It is far better as a graduate student to go to a stellar department at a mid-level university than to go to a mid-level department in an otherwise stellar university. Look for a department or program whose comparative advantages fit your interests.


This is a quick online grad school search program, to get you started. Once you get a
list of potential programs, go to each program individually and read extensively about the program, faculty members and their research areas, and how well they place their grads.


A Unique Program for Seniors Interested in Pursuing an International Career

Tufts University-Fletcher School / Map Your Future Program

The Fletcher School at Tufts University's offers the Map Your Future program to students currently in their final year of undergraduate study. Students who apply via Map Your Future may be admitted to a future class, giving them both a guaranteed offer of admission and the opportunity to pursue the professional and international experience, as well as career exploration, that are vital to their success in the Fletcher classroom.

Map Your Future applicants select one of Fletcher's two-year master's degree programs -- the Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (interdisciplinary program in international affairs), or the Master of International Business (hybrid international affairs and business program) -- and enroll after completing two to three years of professional work experience in a Fletcher-approved position. This highly selective program is intended for those with excellent academic credentials and preparation, a clear professional focus, foreign language proficiency, and a demonstrated track record of success to date.

See their Frequently Asked Questions about Map Your Future programs.

4. Paying for Graduate School

Grad school is expensive, but you won't (shouldn't, really) pay for it. Graduate schools only accept a limited number of applicants, so if they accept you it's because they want you to come, and they will put together a financial package to make it possible. Most go to grad school with an assistantship, which covers tuition and fees and offers a monthly stipend to live on in return for work as a teaching or research assistant.

Aim to attend the best program you can get into in your area of interest where they will pay you.

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