PhD Curriculum

-The following is current as of Spring 2013 and is published for information purposes only.  Please see here for the official requirements of graduate programs at Northeastern University.

The Ph.D. degree requires completion of required courses, passing the written and oral components of a comprehensive examination, and the successful defense of a dissertation before a faculty committee.


The PhD in Political Science requires the completion of 48 semester hours (typically sixteen courses) of academic credit. Students who enter the program with a Masters degree from Northeastern or another university may have prior graduate level courses counted toward the degree but all PhD students are required to complete a minimum of 30 semester hours of credit at Northeastern.   All PhD students also must satisfy the course distribution requirements outlined below.

Core Requirements: All doctoral students, regardless of their primary field concentration, must complete the following eight required core courses:

Language proficiency: Students must demonstrate language proficiency as necessary for successful completion of the dissertation. Language courses can be taken at Northeastern with permission of the department, college and World Languages Center before a student reaches candidacy. Language courses do not count as electives.

Elective and Field Requirements: All doctoral students must complete eight elective courses. At least four of these courses should be in the student’s primary field and at least two courses should be in a secondary field. The only field that has a specific required course is the Policy field, which stipulates that all students choosing this as a primary field complete POLS 7203 – Techniques of Policy Analysis.

With written permission, courses directly relevant to the student’s primary field may be taken in other graduate programs within Northeastern University. Under normal circumstances, no more than six semester hours (two courses) may be taken outside the Department. In addition, up to two courses may be taken as “directed study” in particularly specialized areas.

Comprehensive Exams

Following completion of required course work, doctoral students must pass one written and one oral comprehensive examination. During the semester they take the comprehensive exams, students will register for POLS 8960 – Exam Preparation—Doctoral. Registration for this course constitutes full-time status.

Examinations are based on the literature in the field as well as materials derived from completed coursework. The examination process includes both a written and oral component.  For more information on preparing for the exam, including updated reading lists and sample questions, please see our PhD Comprehensive Exam Preparation Guide.

Doctoral Degree Candidacy and the Dissertation

Doctoral degree candidacy is attained only after successful completion of all coursework and the written and oral comprehensive examinations.

A dissertation is required of all students. A student has five years to complete the dissertation once doctoral degree candidacy is attained. Once degree candidacy is attained, registration for must be continuous until graduation requirements have been met.

For each of the first two semesters that a doctoral candidate is working on a dissertation the student must register for POLS 9990 – Dissertation. For each semester beyond the two Dissertation registrations, the student must register for POLS 9996 – Dissertation Continuation until the dissertation is approved by the Graduate School and is submitted to the University library. Students do not have to register for continuation during the summer unless that is when the defense occurs.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory progress in the Ph.D. program is defined as maintaining a grade point average of 3.500. Students who fall below this average in one semester will be placed on probation and they must consult with their academic advisor and the program chair. Students who fall below this average in two consecutive semesters are subject to dismissal from the program.  In addition, PhD candidates are required to make timely progress toward the completion of their dissertations and maintain routine contact with their dissertation committees.