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POLITICAL SCIENCE MASTER OF ARTS DEGREE California State University, Long Beach Department of Political Science SSPA-257 1250 Bellflower Boulevard Long Beach, California 90840-4605 PHONE (562) 985-4704 FAX (562) 985-4979  


Welcome to political science at CSULB.  This handbook is designed to give both the prospective and the already enrolled graduate student a better understanding of the nature of our program, the requirements for the master’s degree, and some special features of the department and its faculty. Please keep in mind that because individuals working towards the master’s degree in political science are responsible for meeting the degree requirements of both the university and the department, graduate students should familiarize themselves with the CSULB Catalog as well as with the contents of this handbook.  


The master’s degree in political science has two objectives: (1) to prepare students pursuing careers in teaching, law, government service, foreign service, service in the private sector, political reporting and electoral politics; and (2) to provide a firm foundation in political science for students going on to advanced study and research.  Our program is designed to meet both objectives. Education at the master’s level requires more intensive study and training than typically occurs at the undergraduate level.  Master’s students at CSULB develop a more extensive knowledge of the discipline, specialize in three of the four areas into which the department’s graduate course offerings are divided, learn to analyze problems in the theory and practice of government, and develop advanced research skills.  


Entering graduate students can obtain general information about the graduate program in political science from the department’s graduate coordinator and are strongly encouraged to do so.  But students are also expected to develop working relationships with other faculty members, find an academic advisor, and put together their thesis or examination committee.  Students are urged to begin this process early in their graduate careers (See “Planning the Program”).   ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS                       Students seeking admission to the master’s degree program in political science should have a record of superior achievement as an undergraduate and demonstrate the potential for success in political science at the graduate level. 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 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 also 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.


  •       Course Requirements

The student’s graduate course program in political science must include 27 units distributed as follows: 1.   Required courses in scope and research methods           6 units a. POSC 500 – Foundations and Scope of Political Science b. POSC 550 – Research Methods in Political Science 2.   600-level seminar requirement                                                                       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 varies by semester, students are encouraged to repeat one or more of these seminars. Students choosing the comprehensive examination option (see below) 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 (see below).

Comprehensive Examination or Thesis Requirement Students must complete one of the following requirements.   3 units

  • 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.
  • 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 697 or POSC 698 only after advancing to candidacy.


ADMISSION TO THE M.A. PROGRAM IN POLITICAL SCIENCE 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 Amelia Marquez at (or) 562-985-4704). The prospective student should enter as degree objective Master of Arts in Political Science (Code POSCMA01). 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. 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. The deadline to apply for fall admission is February 15. Please contact department to confirm all deadlines.


Choosing a Graduate Committee

The graduate coordinator serves as the general advisor for all entering and continuing graduate students.  In addition, each graduate student must choose a two-member graduate committee to oversee his or her progress through the program and to administer the 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.

Students planning to write a master’s thesis must obtain the consent of two 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 this handbook.  

Formulating the Program

The student’s graduate program must include POSC 500 and POSC 550.  In addition, students must concentrate in two fields of political science, chosen from the following: American Government and Law; Political Theory; International Politics; and Comparative Politics.  Students must formulate their program in consultation with the graduate coordinator.  At least six units (two courses) are to be taken in each of the student’s two fields.  An additional three units (one course) in a 600-level graduate seminar in a third field also must be taken (for breadth). The graduate coordinator and the student’s graduate committee will assist each student in composing his/her program, but it is the responsibility of the student to see that the program meets all of the department and the university requirements. The student should meet with the graduate coordinator at least once each semester to plan his/her work for the following semester until the student’s graduate committee is formed. Subsequently, students can consult with the graduate coordinator and/or their graduate committees.  

Changes to the Graduate Program

The graduate coordinator must be consulted whenever there are additions or changes to the student’s course of study. After advancement to candidacy (see below), 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.  

Choosing the Comprehensive Exam or the Thesis Requirement

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.   ADVANCEMENT TO CANDIDACY 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). Students must be advanced to candidacy at least one semester or summer session prior to graduation.  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. 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. Again, while help is available, remember that 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.   PREPARING FOR AND TAKING THE COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION A student is eligible to take the comprehensive examinations when she or he has:

  • Been advanced to candidacy.
  • Taken and passed with a grade of B or better POSC 500 and    POSC 550.
  • Completed (or is in the process of completing) at least 27 of the required 30 units for the M.A. degree.
  • Enrolled in Political Science 697 (Directed Research) for a total of three units.  Students may not register in POSC 697 unless they have been advanced to candidacy.  A student’s final grade in this course will be based on his/her performance on the comprehensive examination.

The comprehensive examination tests the candidate’s knowledge and mastery of his/her areas of specialization in the discipline.  The examination has two parts: one for each of two areas the candidate selects as his/her examination areas.  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. 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. 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.  Students should notify their committee members, the graduate coordinator, and the office staff of their intention to take the exams at the beginning of the semester in which they plan to take the exams.  Student must pass each examination with 3.0 (B) grade or better.  


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.

The Three Unit Requirement for POSC 698

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.  

Acceptance of the Thesis

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.  

Form and Style of Thesis Writing

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.  


Filing 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.  

Graduate Assistantships

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.  


The current general requirements of the university governing the master’s degree program are outlined at length in the CSULB Catalog.  A few of the more commonly encountered regulations are explained below.

The Seven Year Rule

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.  

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.   Continuous Attendance Requirement 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.  

The Transfer of Credit from Other Programs and Institutions

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.   Grade Point Average Requirements 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. 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.  

Student Course Load

The normal academic load for full-time graduate students is 9 “graduate level” units or a total of 12 graduate and undergraduate units combined per semester.  A candidate who wishes to exceed this unit load should discuss the matter with his or her advisor.  The maximum load for graduate students working toward a master’s degree is 16 units per semester.  Students who are employed full-time should not exceed 6 units per semester.  See the CSULB Catalog for details on how to compute graduate level units. For the summer sessions, the maximum load is one unit per week of attendance unless advanced approval for additional units has been obtained from the Graduate Dean’s Office.   SPECIAL FEATURES OF THE DEPARTMENTOF POLITICAL SCIENCE

Political Science Graduate Student Association (PSGSA)

The Political Science Graduate Student Association works to foster a sense of community among political science students and faculty, sponsors special programs including guest speakers, promotes political science scholarship, and represents students on Political Science Department committees.  

Pi Sigma Alpha

Delta Omicron is the local chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national honor society in political science.  Membership is by invitation, based on grade point average or other achievements.  It is open to juniors, seniors, graduate students, faculty, and others professionally interested in the field of public service and the study of political science.  The local chapter sponsors a variety of programs to promote interest and scholarship in political science.  An annual awards banquet is held each spring at which new members are initiated into the organization and presented with their life-time membership certificate.  

Outstanding Graduate Student Award

Each year the department selects one graduate student from among those about to receive their master’s degree as the outstanding graduate student in political science. The award is presented at the department awards banquet in the spring.  

Graduate Dean’s List of University Scholars and Artists

Each year, departments nominate their most promising students for inclusion on the Graduate Dean’s List of University Scholars and Artists.  The College of Liberal Arts Awards Committee makes the final determination.  

College of Liberal Arts Best Thesis Award

The College Academic Awards Committee selects an awardee for Best Thesis among the nominees proposed by the various departments of the College.  One award is presented at each graduation ceremony.  


CAPUTI, MaryPolitical Thought; Feminist Theory B.A., Cornell University M.A., University of Chicago Ph.D., Cornell University
DENNIS, ChristopherAmerican Politics; Methodology B.A., California State University, Long Beach., California State University, Long Beach Ph.D., University of Georgia
GEORGE, Larry N.International Relations; Political Economy B.A., University of California, Irvine M.A., Princeton University Ph.D., Princeton University
GOLDSTEIN, Cora Comparative Politics (Europe) B.A., University of California, Berkeley M.A., University of Chicago Ph.D., University of Chicago
HAAS, Liesl – Comparative Politics (Latin America) B.A., University of Notre Dame M.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Ph.D., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
HAESLY, Richard – Comparative Politics (Europe) B.A.,  University of Illinois M.A., Duke University Ph.D.,  University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
LEITER, William M. Constitutional Law; American Government; State and Local Government; B.A., University of Massachusetts M.A., University of Chicago Ph.D., University of Chicago
MARTINEZ, LarryInternational Politics B.A.,  University of California, Santa Barbara M.A., University of California, Santa Barbara Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara
NOBLE, CharlesAmerican Politics; Public Policy B.A., Cornell University M.A., University of California, Los Angeles Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
RASMUSSEN, AMY CABRERA – American Politics; Race and Ethnicity; Health B.A., California State University, Long Beach M.A., California State University, Long Beach Ph.D., Yale University
RIPOSA, GerryAmerican Politics; Urban Politics & Policy; Public Policy B.A., Old Dominion University Ph.D., University of California, Riverside
SCHMIDT, Ronald J. – American Politics; Political Theory B.A., University of California, Berkeley M.A., University of California, Berkeley Ph.D., University of California, Riverside
STEINER, BarryInternational Relations; American Foreign Policy B.A., University of Southern California Ph.D., Columbia University
WALLSTEN, KEVINAmerican Politics; Mass Media; Research Methods B.A., University of California, Irvine M.A., University of California, Berkeley Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
WHITEHEAD, JASON – Public Law; Political Theory B.A., California State University, Long Beach M.A., California State University, Long Beach Ph.D., University of Southern California J.D., Willamette University
WIDESTROM, AMY – American Politics; Political Behavior; Urban Policy B.A., Oberlin College M.A., Syracuse University Ph.D., Syracuse University
WRIGHT, TeresaComparative Politics (East Asia; China); Democratization; Protest B.A., Santa Clara University M.A., University of California, Berkeley Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley  

500. Foundations and Scope of Political Science  (3 units) Approaches applied to the conceptual analysis of political phenomena.  Substantive models of social and political order and change as well as methodological arguments about the nature of explanation in political science.
550. Research Methods in Political Science (3 units)  Methods of empirical research in political science including the formulation of hypotheses, problems, and standards of measurement and observation, methods of data collection, research design and logic of data analysis.
590. Advanced Study (3 units) Study under the supervision of a faculty member.  Student must fulfill requirements of a selected upper division course plus additional work appropriate to graduate study as determined by the instructor.  May be repeated for a maximum of 6 units with different topics.
599. Graduate Studies (3 units) Individual graduate level study and research of special topics under the supervision of a faculty member.  Maybe repeated for maximum of six.
600. Seminar in International Politics (3 units) Seminar is designed to examine in depth various aspects of International Politics,  such as the role of power, multiple dimensions of national interest, collective security, world peace, nationalism, and imperialism.  Different themes selected for a given seminar become the subject of discussion and exchange of ideas in every session.  May be repeated for a maximum of six units.
610. Seminar in Comparative Government (3 units) Intensive study of the political institutions and policies of selected foreign governments.  Emphasis on political parties and contemporary governmental policy.  May be repeated for a maximum of six units.
620. Seminar in Political Theory ( 3 units) Analytical and critical examination of the major concepts of political theory.  May be repeated for a maximum of 6 units.
640. Seminar in American Government and Public Law (3 units) Intensive Study of topics and problems in American government including issues in constitutional law and the judicial process. May be repeated for a maximum of six units.
645. Seminar in Policy Formulation and Implementation (3 units)  Analysis of the policy making process and the political environment that shapes its activities, content, implementation, and impacts, Domestic and international policies will be integrated in the course to illustrate the structures, forces, and dynamics influencing the process.
670. Seminar on Special Topics in Political Science (3 units) Research, discussion, and critical evaluation of selected topics and problems of current interest in political science.  May be repeated for a maximum of 6 units with different topics.
697. Directed Research (1-6 units) Individual research or intensive study under the guidance of a faculty member.  Three units required of non-thesis students who have been advanced to candidacy for the master’s degree in political science. A maximum of three units may be earned by students with credit in POSC 698.  May be repeated for a maximum of six units.
698. Thesis (1-4 units)  Planning, preparation and completion of the thesis for the master’s degree.
CSULB, in compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI and Title VII), Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, sex, handicap or age in any of its policies, procedures or practices; nor does CSULB discriminate on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation.  This nondiscrimination policy covers all CSULB programs and activities, including employment. In addition to meeting fully its obligations of nondiscrimination under federal and state law, CSULB is committed to creating a community in which a diverse population can live and work in an atmosphere of tolerance, civility and respect for the rights and sensibilities of each individual, without regard to economic status, ethnic background, political views, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics or beliefs.