The Master of Arts (MA) in Political Science and International Affairs is administered jointly by the Departments of Political Science and International Affairs and is designed as a preparation for the PhD.  The program is designed for students who wish to study politics in its many forms, but who also want to develop the analytic skills necessary to achieve mastery in their areas of study. The degree offers the opportunity to specialize in international relations, comparative politics, American politics, or political theory (including methodology).

The faculty, one of the most productive in the nation, has won numerous awards for research and teaching. The Departments of Political Science and International Affairs boast 40 tenured or tenure-track faculty members who specialize in the fields of American politics, law and courts, political theory, international relations and comparative politics. See “Faculty by Field” below for a full list.

Admission Requirements and Deadlines

Our graduate programs admit for fall semester only.

Applications must be complete and ready for review in the Departmental Graduate Office by February 15th of the year for which you are applying.

December 1st: Application deadline for those wishing to be considered for graduate assistantships.

February 15: Application deadline for ALL Fall 2019 admissions.

Please read and follow these instructions carefully to avoid delay in our handling of your application.  Both the Graduate School and the Department handle each application, and it hinders rather than expedites the process to send incorrect or unnecessary documents to either address.

For further information about graduate programs or for answers to questions about your application, please email the Departmental Graduate Office at polgrad@uga.edu.



For detailed information, please see the Graduate School Admissions Requirements.

1. Online Graduate School Application and fee ($75 domestic / $100 international)

2. One unofficial transcript from each institution of higher education attended, except the University of Georgia. University of Georgia transcripts are on file. You may upload transcripts through the application portal or mail them directly to the UGA Graduate School.

3. Official GRE general test score report. The UGA institutional code for ETS reporting is 5813.  No departmental code is required.

4. International applicants please see additional requirements.

Send these materials to:
Office of Graduate Admissions
The University of Georgia Graduate School
Terrell Hall
210 South Jackson Street
Athens, Georgia 30602
Fax: (706) 425-3095


1. Personal Objective Form

2. Statement of Purpose*

3. Curriculum vitae*

*If you prefer, you may upload and submit your Statement of Purpose and Curriculum vita when you submit your online application through the UGA Graduate School.

4. Three academic letters of recommendation.
The most convenient way for recommenders to submit letters of recommendation is through the online application process. List the names and email addresses of your recommenders on the online application. They will be sent a link to access a secure page where they can submit your recommendation online. If your recommender prefers to send the letter as a hard copy or an email, it should be sent directly to the Departmental Graduate Office.

5. Graduate Assistantship Application, if desired.

6. PhD and Fast Track PhD applicants only: Submit a copy of an original research paper as a writing sample.

Send these materials to:
Graduate Office
Attn: Megan Morgan
180D Baldwin Hall
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602
Fax: (706) 542-4421

Departmental application materials can also be emailed as attachments to polgrad@uga.edu.

For more information about the statement of purpose and letters of recommendation, see FAQs below.

Scholarship/Assistantship Opportunities

The Graduate Program in Political Science and International Affairs is able to offer a number of graduate assistantships to qualified applicants. Graduate assistantships include a full tuition waiver (students are still expected to pay fees), stipend, and a work commitment as either a teaching or research assistant.

You must apply for all assistantships through the Departmental Graduate Office.  Do not contact the Graduate School about financial support. Most graduate assistantships come from departmental funding sources (SPIA Assistantships). Students who receive support from the Graduate School must be nominated by their department and go through a competitive process.

To apply, fill out the Graduate Assistantship Application and submit with the rest of your program application.  All applicants who submit an assistantship application will be considered for funding.

Applicants whose files are complete by December 1st are guaranteed consideration for the first round of awards. Students not receiving support during the first round are eligible in subsequent rounds if funding is still available. Awards follow the following timetable:

Exceptionally well-qualified applicants are nominated for a limited number of Graduate School Assistantships

Early March
Winners of Graduate School Assistantships are notified.

The first round of SPIA graduate assistantships are awarded to students.

If there are SPIA graduate assistantships available after the first round, a second round of offers is made.

Awarding of SPIA assistantships continues until all funds are exhausted.

We are also able to nominate a limited number of applicants for a Regent’s Out of State Tuition Waiver (ROOSTW), which waives the out of state portion of a student’s tuition. Out-of-state and international applicants are automatically considered for these waivers when they apply to the program.


The Master of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs is a two-year degree program. Students may choose to complete one of two program tracks:

1)      MA Thesis Program of Study: The MA Thesis program of study requires students to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours of coursework: 6 graduate seminars (18 credits) , a three-course methodology sequence (9 credits), and 3 credits of master’s thesis work.  A master’s thesis must be successfully defended to complete the degree. Please see the degree timetable for Master of Arts (MA) in Political Science and International Affairs, Thesis for more detailed information.

2)      MA Non-Thesis Program of Study: The MA Non-Thesis program of study must contain a minimum of 33 hours of graduate coursework. In addition, students choosing the non-thesis option are required to complete one of the following two options: 1) Take and pass the general field component of the PhD comprehensive exam in the student’s area of concentration or 2) Orally present and defend an article-length seminar paper before a two person faculty committee. Please see the degree timetable for Master of Arts (MA) in Political Science and International Affairs, Non-Thesis for more detailed information.


Fields of Study

For purpose of graduate instruction in Political Science and International Affairs, the curriculum is divided into fields.

Four major fields are currently available within our program.

MA students have broad latitude in choosing courses and do not have to select a major or minor field, although most do identify with a field of study or department.


American Politics

A large proportion of research in political science draws its data from the American context.

Students majoring or minoring in American Politics are required to take a core seminar: POLS 6100, Pre-Seminar in American Politics. Additional courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s major professor and advisory committee.

Comparative Politics

Using the comparative method, students working in this field examine such phenomena as behavioral patterns and systems, governmental institutions and structures, policy processes and outcomes, and political goals and strategies. These phenomena are considered both within and across national systems. Nation-states are taken as the primary, but not exclusive, units of analysis.

Students majoring or minoring in Comparative Politics are required to take a core seminar: INTL 6300, Comparative Analysis and Method. Additional courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s major professor and advisory committee.

International Relations

The field of International Relations focuses on the important agents and structures of international politics. These include nation-states, intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. Studies in this field examine the preferences and strategies of these actors, as well as the nature of the economic, military, political, and social interactions among them.

Students majoring or minoring in International Relations are required to take the core seminar: INTL 6200, Pre-Seminar in International Relations. In addition, at least one course is recommended from each of the following subfields: International Cooperation, International Conflict, International Political Economy, and Foreign Policy. Additional courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s major professor and advisory committee.

Political Theory

This field encompasses both normative political philosophy and empirically oriented theory. Its leading questions concern the ends or purposes of political action, the nature of a good or just political order, the proper relationship of individuals to their political communities, and the appropriate criteria for evaluating and designing voting systems. Empirically oriented theory seeks to explain regularities in politics such as how and when political actors come into conflict or behave cooperatively.

There is no pre-seminar in this field, but rather a series of distinct courses. A major in Political Theory involves a combination of the three subfields below. A minor in Political Theory is built around the first two subfields. There is no major in Formal Theory, but a distinct minor is available. Students in Political Theory often take related courses in other departments, such as Philosophy and Economics.

History of Political Philosophy. In this subfield, it will be the student’s responsibility to become familiar with the most influential works of major political philosophers from Plato to Rawls, and to understand the importance of these works in the development of political thought. Attention is given to the distinctive ways that problems are resolved and concepts defined during the history of political philosophy.

Normative Theory. In this subfield, students address fundamental issues of justice, fairness, political legitimacy, and individual rights. Study in this subfield develops the student’s ability to assess the standard approaches and positions associated with leading political philosophers.

Formal Political Theory. Students will be expected to understand formal political theory, particularly rational choice theory, and applications that contemporary political scientists have developed to explain political behavior and to account for individual decisions and collective outcomes. Rational choice theory in general, social choice theory, game theory, and political economy are among the approaches that are relevant to this subfield.


Faculty by Field
Double Dawgs

The Double Dawgs program was created to give ambitious and motivated students a competitive advantage in today’s knowledge economy. By earning both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years or less, students can save time and money while positioning themselves for success after graduation. SPIA offers seven different Double Dawgs programs. For more general information about the Double Dawgs program, click here. For SPIA-specific programmatic information, click here.

Undergraduates must be in a position to basically finish their undergraduate coursework at the end of their second year at UGA, but withholding a few hours of their undergraduate requirements. Then they will begin taking graduate courses in the fall semester of their third year following the timetable that all MA students utilize. At the end of their fourth year, they are expected to finish their undergraduate courses and their master’s thesis and graduate with two degrees. Students interested in this program should contact Paul Welch and the Graduate Coordinator in the Department of Political Science (Dr. Michael Lynch) or the Department of International Affairs (Dr. K Chad Clay).

Please see the MA degree timetable and MA Non-Thesis degree timetable for more detailed information.

“Pursuing a master’s degree through SPIA’s AB/MA program is by far the best decision I have made in my academic career. I have no doubt that I would not be in the position that I am today without having completed the program during my junior and senior years at UGA. It provided me with a skill set that has been valuable in my current PhD program, and would no doubt have been useful no matter what I decided to do after graduating from UGA. Not only that, the AB/MA program allowed me to build relationships with professors that are stronger than would have been possible as just an undergraduate. Although undergraduates may work as a research assistant on a topic of a professor’s choosing, I was able to coauthor work with a professor on a topic that was of our mutual interest. My endorsement of SPIA’s AB/MA program could not be stronger. I recommend it to any undergraduate considering future graduate work not only in political science or international affairs, but any field.” – STEPHEN PETTIGREW, AB/MA 2011

As a student who has always felt a little above the curve, the AB/MA program has challenged me to take control of my own studies and investigate the questions in the academic world that are important to me. While I have learned more in this program than I did in any of the other classes I have taken in college, the greatest part of the program is the bonds you create by working closely with faculty and other graduate students. I would recommend this program to anyone who’s looking for a challenge and wants to dive deeper into the subjects that are interesting to her or him.” – ERIN KRINSKY, AB/MA 2009


If you have a question that is not answered below, please contact the Departmental Graduate Office at polgrad@uga.edu or (706) 542-2948.

  • How Do I Know Whether to Apply for the MA or the PhD?

Students who will have been awarded a master’s degree in political science, international affairs, or a related field by the fall in which they plan to enroll should apply directly to the PhD program. Those who will have completed a bachelor’s degree should apply for the MA program, unless they qualify to apply for the Fast Track PhD (see PhD program page for more details), in which case they can apply for either.Those who will have completed professional degrees (J.D., M.B.A., M.Ed., etc) should apply to the PhD program. If there is any concern about your qualifications given the nature of the professional degree, the Graduate Committee may require you to complete the MA before applying to the PhD program.

  • Are there minimum requirements for GPA, GRE, etc?

Our program conducts holistic application review and considers the applicant’s entire application when considering offers of admission. As such, there are no minimum requirements set by the program. However, the Graduate School at the University of Georgia has the following minimum requirements:

The minimum undergraduate GPA standard for admission to the Graduate School at the University of Georgia for applicants who do not have a prior graduate degree is 3.0.

The GRE is required and cannot be waived, but the Graduate School does not set a minimum score.

The minimum TOEFL score for admission to the Graduate School at the University of Georgia is 80, with no subscore lower than 20.  It is highly recommended that international applicants have a combined score of at least 90.

The minimum IELTS score for admission to the Graduate School at the University of Georgia is 6.5 overall band score with no lower than 6.0 on any band.

  • What should I include in my statement of purpose?

We are most concerned with your academic background, intellectual interests and professional plans. Please do not include material that is not relevant to your academic background or interest.

  • What kind of recommendation letters should I include in my application?

We require letters from professors who have taught you. Their letters should describe your academic work in detail so that the Graduate Committee can be assured that you can complete a rigorous graduate program. If you have done significant independent research, such as a thesis, the committee normally expects a letter from the professor who supervised that work.Letters from elected officials or “personal” references tend to be less valuable in determining your academic capability.  Letters from work supervisors are of little value unless your job entailed research.  In addition, letters from counselors, student affairs officers, and other non-faculty personnel on your campus generally provide little useful information for the committee.For those applicants who have been out of the academic setting for some time, getting letters from prior instructors can be difficult, but should be pursued nonetheless.  In this instance, the committee will grant some flexibility, but once again, references must be able to address your academic and related abilities to some degree.

  • How are admissions decisions made?

The six-member Graduate Committee considers your entire application file:  previous academic record, GRE scores, personal statement, CV, and recommendations. There are no “automatic” acceptance or refusal factors.The committee’s main concern is the likelihood that you will do well, not only in the graduate program you are applying for, but as a scholar and teacher once that degree is in hand. We also consider whether your interests are a good “fit” for the faculty, courses, and research centers available in the School of Public and International Affairs.

  • When will I hear whether I’ve been accepted for admission?

Once your file is complete, it will be considered at the next Graduate Committee meeting. The committee will discuss and vote on your application and then send its recommendation to the Graduate School, which makes the official decision on your application. The Graduate School normally contacts you 1-2 weeks after the Departmental recommendation is submitted.

  • Can I attend the program on a part-time basis?

Although our graduate programs are not designed for part-time students, it is possible for students to take less than a full course load (three courses per semester), thus extending their time in the program.

  • Are graduate courses offered online or off campus?

All graduate courses are held on the UGA campus in Athens, GA.  No online or distance learning options are available.

  • Are classes offered in the evenings or on weekends for working professionals?

The graduate course schedule is not created for working students. Depending on the semester, there may be a course or two offered on a weekday evening, but this is not guaranteed. There are no courses offered on weekends.

  • What is the cost of tuition?

As of Fall 2018, the current cost of graduate study per credit hour is $363 (in-state) and $1,029 (out-of-state). Fees are currently assessed at $1,139 per semester. 9 credits (3 courses) is considered a full-time course load for graduate students. A full-time student would thus pay $4,406 (in-state) or $10,400 (out-of-state) per semester. More information about current tuition rates can be found on the Bursar’s website.

Current Students

Download the PDF version of this timeline


Friday, August 24
Final date to 1) apply for graduation on Athena and 2) submit your program of study form and advisory committee form to the Graduate School.

Wednesday, October 3
Final date to submit a complete draft of your thesis to your major professor.  You and your major professor then have two weeks to make any needed revisions before a final copy is distributed to the committee.  We assume that you have been working with your major professor and your committee all along, but by this time you should have put together a complete draft.

Wednesday, October 17
Final date to distribute the final copy of your thesis to your committee members.  Your committee has two weeks to read your thesis before deciding whether or not you are ready to defend.  The committee may also request changes before the defense takes place. Although a defense time and date will be reserved soon after distribution, please be aware that this might be canceled or rescheduled if your committee does not approve your thesis for a defense.

Monday, November 5
Final date to electronically submit one complete copy of your thesis for a format check on the Graduate school website.

Wednesday, November 14
Absolute last day the Graduate Advisor will schedule a defense. The committee may request changes before final approval.

Wednesday, November 28
Final date to submit the Defense Approval Form and final copy of your thesis to the Graduate School for a May graduation.  This means all suggested changes have been made and your major professor has given final approval of these changes.


Master’s Thesis Checklist
Download the PDF version of this checklist

The Semester Before Your Defense

1. Choose your major professor.  You’ll need to have chosen a major professor before you can be cleared to register for POLS 7300 (Master’s Thesis) for the next semester.  When you have been cleared by the Graduate Advisor, be sure to register for at least 3 credits of POLS 7300.

2. Choose your thesis advisory committee in consultation with your major professor. Notify the Graduate Advisor of the names, roles, and email addresses of your thesis committee. The Graduate Advisor will submit this form online to the Graduate School.

3. Fill out a Worksheet for MA Program of Study.

4. Schedule an appointment with the Graduate Advisor.  During this meeting you will: 1) review your program of study worksheet and 2) complete your Program of Study for Master of Arts.

5. Start researching and writing your thesis!  Next semester, you will be required to allow your major professor two weeks to work with you on a complete draft, your committee two weeks to read the final thesis, and the Graduate Advisor will need a window of time in which to schedule the defense before the Graduate School deadline, which means you will not have the entire semester to finish your thesis.  To avoid a last-minute rush, start writing now.

The Semester in Which You Defend Your Thesis

1. Apply for graduation on Athena.  The deadline to do so comes shortly after the beginning of the semester. You can find this semester’s Graduate School deadlines here.

2. Follow departmental deadlines for distributing and defending your thesis.  The Graduate Advisor will have sent these dates out shortly after the midpoint of the previous semester.

3. Submit an electronic copy of your thesis to the Graduate School for a format check.  For format check information and submission guidelines see this page.  To find this semester’s submission deadline, please see the Graduate School deadlines.

4. When your major professor has approved your thesis for distribution to the committee, bring three hard copies directly to the Graduate Advisor’s Office. You will then be able to officially distribute your thesis. If you would prefer a different method of distribution, please speak to your major professor and committee. PDF copies of your thesis are acceptable if one or more committee members specifically request them. The Graduate Advisor will schedule a thesis defense no less than two weeks after the official distribution date.

5. At the defense, you may be asked by your committee to make changes to your thesis before final approval.  You will need to make these changes and submit them to your major professor, who will need to sign off on them before the Graduate School deadline.  You will also need to submit a final electronic copy of your thesis to the Graduate School by this date.  Again, see the Graduate School deadlines for your specific semester.


Assistantship Application for Current Students

POLS 9200 Approval Form

Worksheet for MA Program of Study


Master's Thesis

MA students are required to write and defend a thesis in order to graduate.

Written under the direction of the student’s major professor, the thesis must show independent judgment in examining a problem from primary sources.

Current students please see the Master’s Thesis Checklist for detailed procedures.

When should I start working on my thesis?

Most master’s degree students begin working on their thesis ideas at the end of their first year of graduate school.  Usually, by this point, you have written several research designs and perhaps one full research paper on your own. You have been exposed to at least four substantive courses and two methods courses.

During that first graduate school summer, students should begin thinking about a potential research question that they would like to pursue.  At this point, it would be helpful to talk to a professor in the area. If your idea has merit, then the next step would be to identify a thesis chair.

And remember, the best students go beyond their coursework, reading beyond their assignments and attending lectures outside of class.  This will help you as you begin focusing on your own research ideas.

What is the process for putting together a thesis committee?

The identification of the advisory committee (three faculty members with one serving as chair) usually takes place at the start of the second year.  Most of the time, your committee is determined by the nature of your research.  The chair’s expertise should be generally related to your subject matter.  Often students will ask additional committee members based on some other need – expertise in the fields you will be utilizing, grounding in theory, further expertise in the area, etc.

The person that you designate as your chair will help guide you in this matter as well.  Most of the time, but this can vary, your committee chair works to direct your thesis without a great deal of input from the other members of your committee.  At times, other members may be involved during the research process, but most of the time, your additional members see your drafts only after they have been approved by your committee chair.  Once you have identified the three members of your thesis committee, you must submit an Advisory Committee Form to the Graduate School.  Information about this form and the Graduate School deadlines for receiving this form will be sent out with plenty of advance notice.

Are there any rules about format?

Students are required to submit a draft of your thesis to the Graduate School for a format check.  The deadline for this submission is about 2/3 of the way through your defense semester, which means you submit your thesis for a format check likely before you defend.  You then submit a final version after you defend and make any changes your committee suggests.

Graduate School Format Check Information

How do I defend my thesis?

The graduate program and the Graduate School impose several deadlines.  For example, there is a deadline upon which a student must get their complete draft to their major professor.  The professor has two weeks to review and make suggestions for revision.  After that, if approved by the chair, the draft goes to the other members, and they are given two weeks to decide if the thesis will make it to the defense stage.  At this point, students work with the Graduate Advisor to schedule a defense time.

Deadlines are important.  Consequences of not following deadlines usually mean some expense to you.  Remember that if you do not meet your deadlines, you will then need to carry over to the next semester.  That means paying additional tuition and fees.

At the defense, usually, students will make a short presentation and then take questions from their committee.  Students may pass or fail at this juncture.  Usually, even upon passing, students may be asked to revise their thesis before being given official permission to submit to the Graduate School for final acceptance.