Graduate Program

The graduate program aspires to provide students with a comprehensive knowledge of political science, with concentration in a particular subfield. It assumes that a systematic course of study emphasizing theory and methods is required for examining the problems of political life and understanding the phenomena of politics. The program also reflects an effort to combine the most recent developments in the humanities and other social sciences with those in political science.

The major subfield concentrations for the program are:

  1. Comparative Politics: advanced capitalist democracies, development, democratization, political institutions, race and ethnicity, regional and cross-regional studies.
  2. American Politics: political communication and mass behavior, political institutions and organizations, political economy and public policy, law and politics.
  3. Political Theory: history of political thought, contemporary political thought, normative theory, new democratic theory, feminist theory, continental thought, ancient political thought, culture and politics.
  4. International Relations: foreign policy, international organization, international political economy, international relations theory, world systems.
  5. Methods: probability and statistics, linear models, advanced econometrics, game theory, social choice.

Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative

Graduate students are encouraged to participate in the Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative. This initiative is designed to help graduate students at Northwestern foster connections with students and faculty in other programs with whom they have intellectual affinities. Interdisciplinary clusters in effect provide a second intellectual home for incoming and current graduate students. Clusters offer their own discrete courses as well as sponsor a number of activities and events. Graduate students who are interested in the initiative should visit for more information about the various clusters. Prospective students have the opportunity to select on their application form the cluster with which they might like to affiliate. However, graduate students may affiliate with a cluster at any point during their course of study at Northwestern.

Current interdisciplinary clusters are:

Additional Study Opportunities and Resources

1. JD/PhD Program

The combined JD/PhD program is run concurrently between Northwestern's Law School and the Department of Political Science. It is designed for a select number of students wishing to study both law and political science. Potential students must be admitted to both programs. More information on this joint program can be found here.

2. Dual PhD Programs with Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) and École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales


Graduate students in Political Science—particularly in the fields of International Relations, Comparative Politics and Political Theory—are eligible for the innovative dual PhD programs that Northwestern has established with the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales Go here for further information. Proficiency in French is required, but can be acquired with support from the French Interdisicplinary Group.

3. Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching

All graduate students have the opportunity to develop their teaching skills through the series of workshops offered by the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching. The workshops' integration of practical and theoretical approaches provides students with invaluable strategies, skills, and practice as they make or continue their transition from graduate student to teacher. For more information on the Searle Center's programs, please visit their website.

4. Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies (BCICS)

BCICS provides a key forum for encouraging inter-disciplinary research and instruction in international and comparative studies. Drawing on contributions from faculty and students across the university, the Center sponsors a rich variety of events, working groups, research and grants. For updates on the opportunities and resources available through BCICS, please visit their website.

5. Institute for Policy Research (IPR)

The Institute for Policy Research seeks to stimulate and support social science research across a wide range of public policy issues. IPR brings together an inter-disciplinary group of faculty, visiting scholars and research assistants to participate in projects, seminars, conferences, policy briefings and workshops. For the latest information on happenings at IPR, please visit their website.

Interested in Applying or Learning More?

If you are interested in applying to—or just learning more about—the graduate program in Political Science at Northwestern, then please visit our prospective students page.