Overview of PhD Program

The Rochester Approach

The Department of Political Science offers a program of study leading to the degree of doctor of philosophy that is designed to train scholars who will contribute to the future development of political science through careers in teaching and research. The department is regularly ranked among the top political science departments in the country. In its most recent report, the National Research Council ranked the Rochester department's graduate program 6th in the country. Controlling for size, a 2001 study in PS: Political Science & Politics concluded that Rochester ranked 1st in the country in the productivity of its PhD alumni, as measured by publications in leading journals. In 2007, PS ranked Rochester fourth both with respect to graduate placement and citations of graduates' research.  In 2017, US News ranked the Rochester PhD program 17th overall, 14th in international relations, and 4th in the nation in political methodology.  Out of 25 political scientists elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences during 2013-18, six received their PhDs from Rochester.

Cover of brochure for PhD program, link goes to PDF of full brochure.Rochester is the birthplace of a distinctive approach to studying politics that emphasizes the application and development of formal modeling and statistical methods. A cursory examination of the discipline's leading journals--the American Political Science Review and the American Journal of Political Science--demonstrates how the field was revolutionized by this approach. It is no exaggeration to say that the discipline of political science has been reshaped in the last generation by Rochester faculty and graduates.  Students who are interested in obtaining their PhD in Political Science at Rochester can find detailed information about the department and PhD training in the program brochure.

The PhD Program

The PhD program at Rochester is unique. It is the most rigorous training program available within a department of political science anywhere in the world. Unlike the traditional program, which is organized as a smorgasbord of offerings, the core of the Rochester program is a focused course of training that covers all of the technical tools of contemporary political science. Each student receives training in one or more substantive areas, including American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political philosophy, but every one of them attains a degree of sophistication in formal theory and statistical methods that is rarely achieved by graduates of more traditional programs.

The doctoral program requires at least four, and usually five, years of full-time study. For most PhD students, the first year of study is spent completing courses in the required technical sequences and exploring substantive areas. The second year is spent in advanced seminars leading to the second-year paper, the first programmatic step into independent research.  The third year is marked by the comprehensive literature review, which signifies expertise in a field of political science; participation in the graduate research seminar, in which students engage with faculty in the development of research projects; the completion and presentation of the third-year paper; and the defense of the dissertation prospectus and entry into PhD candidacy.  The program is structured with the goal that students conduct independent, publishable research by the time of candidacy.  The remainder of the program is focused on completion of the doctoral dissertation and publication of research. 

Financial Support and Resources

All PhD students in good standing are guaranteed a stipend and full support for tuition for five years of study. Additionally, funding is available to do joint empirical work with faculty through the PEPR grant program sponsored by the Wallis Institute of Political Economy. Students have office space in Harkness Hall, with graduate offices interspersed among faculty offices. In addition, graduate students are eligible to receive support for summers through Charles E. Lanni Research Fellowships, which provide an opportunity to work closely with a faculty member on a research project. In addition, faculty members often hire students as research assistants independently of these programs.

PhD Placement

The Rochester program has produced many of this generation's intellectual leaders. In recent years Rochester graduates have joined faculties at a wide range of institutions, including Brown, Caltech, Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, NYU, Princeton, Rice, Stanford, Ohio State, UCLA, UCSD, UNC, Vanderbilt, Washington University, and Yale University, as well as other universities and colleges throughout the world.

The Faculty

The success of the Rochester program has come from the internationally esteemed faculty and their accessibility to their graduate students. Classes and seminars are small, and students work closely with the relevant faculty throughout their graduate training.