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Frequently Asked Questions About The Political Science Master’s Program


What requirements do I need to meet in order to be considered for admission?         

Minimum prerequisites for admission are:

(1) a bachelor’s degree with a major in political science or a bachelor’s degree with 24 upper division units in political science comparable to those required for a major in political science at CSULB;

(2) a 3.0 (“B”) GPA in political science courses taken as an undergraduate;

(3) three academic letters of recommendation;

(4) a statement of purpose.

Students who have not majored in political science and do not have 24 units of upper division political science work are encouraged to consult with the graduate coordinator in order to make up their coursework deficiencies.

The graduate committee will consider applications from students who do not meet the department’s minimum GPA requirements. In these cases, it is essential that applicants provide those materials that they believe best demonstrate their potential for advanced work in the discipline. Such materials may include samples of written work and a statement of relevant professional activity. Students in this situation are urged to contact the graduate coordinator for further advice.

Do I need to take the GRE in order to be considered for admission?


How do I apply?

To apply, you must submit an application to both the university (available on-line at and the department. Click on this link for a copy of the department application that you can print out and submit (it must be mailed in). If you have any questions, please contact Kristin Taylor at (or) 562-985-4704). The prospective student should enter as degree objective Master of Arts in Political Science (Code POSCMA01).

A graduate student in another program at CSULB who wishes to change his/her graduate degree objective to the M.A. in Political Science needs to reapply to CSULB as a political science graduate student.


When is the application deadline?

The deadline to apply for fall admission is February 15. Please contact the department to confirm all deadlines.


Do you accept applications for spring admission?

Generally speaking, the department accepts applications for only the fall semester. In rare cases where a student has an exceptional undergraduate record but is deficient in political science units, applications for conditional spring semester admission may be considered. Students falling in this category should consult with the graduate coordinator before applying.


What are the unit and course requirements in order to complete the program?

The student must complete 30 units, distributed as follows:

1.   Required courses in scope and research methods (6 units)

POSC 500 – Foundations and Scope of Political Science

POSC 550 – Research Methods in Political Science

2.   600-level seminar requirements (12 units)

These twelve additional units should be distributed among three  areas. These seminar courses include:

POSC 600 – Seminar in International Politics

POSC 610 – Seminar in Comparative Politics

POSC 620 – Seminar in Political Theory

POSC 640 – Seminar in American Government and Public Law

Because the specific topic and instructor in these seminars vary by semester, students are encouraged to repeat one or more of these seminars. Students choosing the comprehensive examination option are encouraged to repeat the graduate seminar in each of their chosen examination subfields.

3.   Electives (9  units)

Under normal circumstances, electives will be comprised of additional graduate seminars in POSC. With the approval of the Graduate Coordinator, electives may include a maximum of six units of some combination of the following: POSC 590; POSC 599; POSC 695 (3 units only); graduate coursework taken outside of POSC.

In all cases, electives must be chosen in consultation with the graduate coordinator and/or the student’s graduate committee.

4. Comprehensive Examination or Thesis (3 units)

Students choose one of the following:

a.Comprehensive Examination:  Students take examinations in the two subfield areas in which they have specialized.  They earn three units of credit in POSC 697 (Directed Research) upon successful completion of both examinations. Students may enroll in POSC 697 only after advancing to candidacy.

b. Thesis:  Students submit a master’s level research project to their committee. The topic and research design are determined by the student in consultation with the student’s thesis committee. Three units of credit in POSC 698 (Thesis) will be granted upon the successful completion of the thesis. Students may enroll in POSC 698 only after advancing to candidacy.

When and how should I decide between the comprehensive exams or the thesis?

The student, in consultation with his/her graduate committee and the graduate coordinator, determines whether he/she will take the comprehensive examinations or write a thesis.  This decision should be made as soon as feasible since it has implications for the planning of the student’s graduate program.

When and how do I advance to candidacy?

Students must be advanced to candidacy at least one semester or summer session prior to graduation.

In order to advance to candidacy, students must fulfill the following requirements:

(a)    Remove, where they exist, all undergraduate deficiencies.

(b)   Earn at least a 3.0 (B) average in: (i) all 500- and 600-level graduate seminars; and (ii) all course work taken as a graduate student at this university as well as in transfer credits used to satisfy degree requirements.

(c)   Meet with the members of their graduate committee to receive the committee members’ signed approval for advancement.

(d)   Submit to the graduate coordinator the names of the members of the graduate committee, including the committee chairperson, as well as the fields in which comprehensive examinations will be taken, or the thesis will be written.

(e) Submit evidence of having passed the Writing Proficiency Examination.

It is the responsibility of the student, in consultation with the graduate coordinator, to make sure that the official program meets all department and university requirements for advancement to candidacy.  The graduate coordinator will forward the program to the Dean of Graduate Studies.  The dean’s office will notify the student of his/her official advancement to candidacy.  An approved graduate student program may not be altered without the approval of the student’s academic advisor and the graduate coordinator.  The Dean of Graduate Studies must also approve the proposed changes.

It is very important that a student advance to candidacy for the M.A. degree as soon as feasible.  Prior to having advanced to candidacy, students are subject to any new CSULB Catalog requirements that may go into effect while enrolled.  Only students who have been advanced to candidacy may enroll in the thesis course (POSC 698) or take the comprehensive examinations (POSC 697).

What is the role of my graduate committee?

Each graduate student must choose a two-member graduate committee to administer the comprehensive exams or supervise the thesis. Students are expected to choose their graduate committee after having taken a minimum of 12 units and a maximum of 21 units. Students cannot advance to candidacy without having first chosen their committee. In considering the composition of their graduate committees, students should select faculty members with whom they’ve worked and/or with whom they expect to work. Students should also consult with the graduate coordinator. Only tenured or tenure-track faculty in Political Science may serve on a student’s graduate committee.

Students planning to write a master’s thesis must obtain the consent of three faculty members (normally specialists in the area of their proposed thesis) to supervise the thesis. The faculty member who will serve as the primary advisor for the thesis will chair the student’s graduate committee.

Students planning to take comprehensive examinations (rather than write a thesis) must obtain the consent of faculty members drawn from the two areas of specialization in which they wish to be examined.  These two committee members will serve on the graduate committee, determining both the scope of the subfield examinations and the requisite preparation for them. A list of political science faculty members and their areas of specialization is included at the end of the MA handbook.

Can I change my planned course of study, and if so, how?

The graduate coordinator must be consulted whenever there are additions or changes to the student’s course of study. After advancement to candidacy, any changes in the formal program of study require the completion of a “Change of Program” form, approved by the graduate coordinator and the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Do I need to be enrolled in the university in the semester in which I graduate?

Yes. University regulations require that students maintain continuous enrollment in the program in order to use university facilities or consult with the faculty.  However, students who have been advanced to candidacy, but are preparing for exams or writing a thesis, may limit their enrollment to one semester per calendar year provided that they secure an educational leave for the semester in which they are not enrolled.  Students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment or secure an approved leave must reapply for admission to the university and are subject to the catalog requirements in effect when they are readmitted.  GS 700 is available for students who have completed their required course work and wish to maintain continuous enrollment. Students must also be enrolled in the university in the semester in which they graduate.

What do I need to do prior to taking my comprehensive examinations?

–Advance to candidacy.

–Take and pass with a grade of B or better POSC 500 and POSC 550.

–Complete (or be in the process of completing) at least 27 of the required 30 units for the M.A. degree.

–Enroll in Political Science 697 (Directed Research) for a total of three units.

–Notify committee members, the graduate coordinator, and the office staff of your intention to take the exams at the beginning of the semester in which you plan to take the exams.

–Ordinarily, in order to qualify for the comprehensive examinations, students must have completed the graduate seminar in each of their chosen sub-fields as well as at least one additional course (preferably a repetition of the graduate seminar) in each field. Upper division courses taken for graduate credit and directed readings may be used to fill out the student’s subfield requirements but cannot substitute for the graduate seminar in the subfield in question.

What is tested in the comprehensive exams?

The comprehensive examinations test the candidate’s knowledge and mastery of his/her areas of specialization in the discipline. A student takes one exam in each of the two areas the candidate selects as his/her examination areas.

The committee member from each subfield determines the scope and content of that subfield examination.  The committee member will provide the student with a reading list and/or other guidance in advance of the testing date.  It is in the student’s interest to seek such guidance and information from the committee members as early as feasible.

When are the exams held each semester?

The two parts of the comprehensive examination must be taken in successive weeks of the same semester.  The test dates are announced by the Department of Political Science at the beginning of the semester.  They are usually scheduled during the twelfth and thirteenth weeks of the fall and spring semesters.

What grade to I need to get in order to pass the exams?

Student must pass each examination with 3.0 (B) grade or better.

What happens if I fail to achieve a grade of 3.0 or better in each exam?

Students are allowed one additional attempt at passing each exam. If one exam is passed on the first attempt, but the second is not, only the failed exam needs to be re-taken.

What is required if I choose the thesis option?

A student who decides to write a thesis is responsible for proposing the topic and an appropriate methodology to the chair of his/her graduate committee. Once the proposal has been approved by the student’s graduate committee, the student can begin his/her thesis.  Students writing a thesis should enroll in POSC 698 (Thesis).  Students may not register for this course unless they have been advanced to candidacy.

Students must enroll for a total of three units of POSC 698.  Students may register for all three units in one semester, or take fewer units in consecutive semesters until the 3 units have been fulfilled (the number of 698 units taken per semester will depend on how many units the student wishes to carry in any given semester, and whether the student plans to complete all thesis requirements within one semester).  The final grade for POSC 698 will be assigned when all thesis requirements have been met.

The thesis must be accepted by the members of the student’s graduate committee, cleared by the university’s thesis reviewer, and received by the Dean of Graduate Studies before the final grade for the thesis will be officially recorded in POSC 698.   Deadlines for submitting the thesis to the library usually fall several weeks prior to the end of the semester or summer session in which the student expects to receive the degree.  Students should check with the thesis reviewer (located in the University Library) for the deadline dates for submission of the thesis.

The thesis must be written and organized in accordance with the CSULB Regulations for Format of Thesis, available free of charge from the thesis reviewer, as well as the latest edition of Kate L. Turabian’s Form and Style in Thesis Writing, available at the Forty-Niner Bookstore.

When should I file to graduate?

Students should file a Request to Graduate form early in the semester preceding the one in which they expect to complete the degree requirements.  These are available from the Office of Admissions and Records.

What is a “Graduate Assistant,” and how do I apply to become one?

The department awards a number of graduate assistantships each semester.  The appointments are made for one semester; the department can renew the appointment for a maximum of four semesters.  The responsibilities of graduate assistants typically include assisting faculty in evaluating the written work of students enrolled in Political Science 100 (Introduction to American Government) and maintaining office hours to advise and assist students.  A full-time appointment involves 20 hours of work per week; a half-time appointment involves 10 hours of work per week.  The type of appointment will depend on budgetary considerations and department needs.  Students wishing to apply for an assistantship should send a letter expressing their interest, a resume, and three letters of recommendation to the department chair.  The deadlines for applying for an assistantship will be announced each semester.

Once I begin the program, how long do I have to finish it?

The graduate degree program of not less than 30 semester units may contain no courses completed more than seven years prior to the time of expected graduation.  This means that all requirements of the degree program must be completed within seven years.

What is Graduate Studies 700?

Students who have completed all course work and who have been enrolled in Political Science 697 or 698 for the maximum number of units in those courses and who have still not completed the comprehensive examination or thesis requirement may fulfill the continuous attendance requirement by registering in Graduate Studies 700.  This course is available only as a credit/no credit course and does not require class attendance; unit credits cannot be applied to the student’s degree program.  Students pay for one unit of credit.  A student may not normally register for GS 700 in three consecutive semesters.  Forms for the GS 700 series must be obtained from the University Extension Office.

If I want to take some time off from the program and return later, what should I do?

Take an Educational Leave. Students who have been advanced to candidacy for the master’s degree, and who complete no courses at the university within a calendar year, and who have not taken an approved Educational Leave, will be withdrawn from the program.  A student who breaks continuous attendance in this manner must reapply for readmission to the university.

Can I transfer in units from another graduate program?

A maximum of six semester units of credit for course work can be transferred into the master’s degree program at CSULB.  All transferred work that is applied to the master’s program must have been completed at the graduate level at an accredited institution.  Correspondence courses may not be applied to satisfy master’s degree requirements.  Extension course work may be used if that work can be properly evaluated and the course is itself acceptable as graduate work for an appropriate graduate degree on the campus where taught.  Normally transfer credit is used to meet elective requirements and may not be used to fulfill the minimum unit requirement in the 500 or 600 level series, which must be completed at CSULB.  Grades earned at another institution may not be used to offset grade point deficiencies in courses taken at this university.

Do I need to maintain a certain GPA in order to remain in the program and to graduate?

Yes. A candidate for the master’s degree must earn a 3.0 (B) average in: (i) all 500- and 600-level graduate seminars; and (ii) all course work taken as a graduate student at this university as well as in transfer credits used to satisfy degree requirements.

If my GPA goes below a 3.0, what can I do?

Only grades earned at CSULB can offset a deficiency in the grade point average.  Students may not use grades of A in directed graduate study (599 or 590) or in undergraduate courses taken for graduate credit to offset grades of C or lower in graduate seminars. No course for which a grade lower than 2.0 (C) has been received may be applied toward the fulfillment of master’s degree requirement, but a grade of D or F is computed in the grade point average.  A student may be dropped from the master’s program if his or her overall grade point average falls below the B level at any time.