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Graduate Program

About our Graduate Program

Our graduate program offers a Ph.D. in four fields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. We also offer the option to specialize in a fifth field: Political Methodology.

Our graduate students benefit from rigorous training by faculty who are internationally recognized for their research; a strong program in political science methods; close interaction with faculty members; and multiple opportunities for professional development. Because of our small size, we provide more personalized instruction, support, and mentoring than is typically found at larger institutions. But unlike many small departments around the country, we have chosen not to focus on only one or two fields, or to establish a single methodological orthodoxy. Instead, we have established clusters of expertise that employ diverse methodologies within each of the four major fields.

The Department does not offer a terminal Master's degree. For exceptional Vanderbilt University undergraduate majors in Political Science, the Department participates in the Arts and Sciences 4+1 program.

The Political Science Graduate Program Requirements contains extensive information about the program.


Admission to the graduate program is highly selective. We admit less than 15% of applicants. About 10 students enter the program each year. Click here for more details on the admissions process.

Financial Support

The department is able to provide full financial support to each student admitted into the Ph.D. program. That support consists of a full University Tuition Scholarship as well as one of the following graduate awards: University Fellowship, Graduate Teaching Assistantship, Graduate Research Assistantship, Traineeships, and Teacher Training Award. University Tuition Scholarships are service-free awards that pay all or part of tuition costs. The following graduate awards are normally supplemented by a full University Tuition Scholarship, which usually includes student health insurance coverage: University Fellowships, Graduate Teaching Assistantships, Graduate Research Assistantships, Traineeships, and Teacher Training Awards.The standard 12-month graduate student stipend is $26,000, and several of our admitted students receive Vanderbilt "top-up" awards, increasing their total stipend to upwards of $30,000. Our standard five-year fellowships are structured around opportunities to work as a teaching or research assistant for four years, with one service free year that is devoted to course work or independent research. Many of our students are also successful in obtaining internal and external grants to support pre-dissertation coursework, dissertation research, and/or their general studies.

Professional Development

The graduate program is oriented towards producing scholars and teachers. As research assistants and teaching assistants, students receive mentoring in research and undergraduate instruction. Many actively collaborate with the faculty on joint research. Advanced graduate students may have the opportunity to teach their own classes. In addition to a regular professional development series and a graduate student colloquium series, our graduate students also participate in the department’s many speakers series, workshops, and conferences. Students regularly receive support for travel to professional conferences and summer training institutes.

Our faculty also oversee a number of active and significant research programs, which provide additional opportunities for graduate student training and research. These include the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP); the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI); and the Research on Individuals, Politics & Society (RIPS) lab.


Our Placement Director oversees the placement of our graduate students into their first positions, typically at colleges and universities across the United States and abroad. In recent years, our students have been hired at such institutions as Florida International University, Stony Brook University, Wheaton College, and Sewanee. View more information on Placement.

Looking to hire one of our recent Ph.Ds? Click here.

More Questions?

Check out our FAQ page or contact the Director of Graduate Studies.