The Catholic University of America

Doctor of Philosophy Program


A student currently enrolled in the department must apply in writing for admission to the Ph.D. program during the term in which he or she will complete twenty-four (24) hours of course work toward the master's degree. The student's ability to proceed with doctoral studies will be assessed in a colloquium conducted by a committee of the faculty.

Transfer Students

Students who wish to transfer credit toward the Ph.D. program from another institution must normally take the M.A. comprehensive examination. This may be taken at any of the regularly scheduled times for comprehensives but should not ordinarily be later than the semester in which the student will have completed twenty-four (24) hours at the university. The results of this examination will be one of the measures used to judge the amount of credit to be transferred up to the maximum of twenty-four (24) hours. Following successful completion of the examination, a colloquium will be held with the student in order to review all the requirements for the degree.

Course Requirements

For the doctor's degree a minimum of fifty-four (54) semester hours of course work is required, including that completed for the master's degree in the Department of Politics or transferred from another university. Two courses-POL 651 and POL 652 (Political Theory I, II)-are required of all students. Each student will complete thirty-six (36) semester hours of course work in a field of concentration within the department (including courses in the field of concentration that have been taken toward the M.A.). Students whose field of concentration is world politics must take POL 606 and POL 607. Students concentrating in American government are required to complete POL 625.

Each student also will take twelve (12) semester hours of course work in a minor field, which is normally one of the department's other fields of instruction: American, world, or theory. Alternatively, other minor fields can be pursued with departmental approval.

Independent Study

Doctoral students may be permitted to take up to nine (9) semester hours in the form of an independent study or a directed reading. Such course work must have the approval of the department chair and must be done under the supervision of a faculty member. The student registers for POL 991, POL 992, POL 993, or POL 994.

Research Skill Requirements

All Ph.D. students are required by the department to demonstrate (a) basic competence in one research skill and (b) advanced competence in a second research skill. For students in political theory, both skills must be in languages, either ancient or modern. For those in world politics, one skill must be a language, while the other may be either another language or an approved research methodology such as statistics. For those in American government, any combination of approved methodologies or languages is acceptable.

For the acceptable means of demonstrating basic competence in a foreign language, which may be a classical language, students should consult the "General Requirements for Graduate Study" in the Graduate Studies Announcements. Advance competence in a language, meaning ability to conduct research in the language, is demonstrated by means of an additional examination to be arranged by the department.

Other approved research skills include statistics, quantitative data analysis, and similar methodologies. Satisfying departmental requirements for these skills usually is accomplished by successful completion of approved courses at Catholic University. The department maintains a list of courses that can be used to demonstrate either basic or advanced competence.

The department may approve course work done prior to graduate study in the department as demonstrating completion of the research skill requirement.

The department may require additional research skills if this is considered necessary for satisfactory completion of the student's program.

Comprehensive Examination

Doctoral students are required to take an oral qualifying examination in their major field and written comprehensive examinations in both their major field of concentration and their minor field. The major and minor comprehensive examinations are ordinarily taken in different semesters; however, the oral and written examinations in the major field are given in the same semester. At the time the comprehensive examination in the major field is taken, all research skill requirements must have been fulfilled.

Admission to Candidacy

A student may be considered for doctoral candidacy only after satisfactory completion of the written comprehensive examination and other qualifying examinations or requirements of the program.

Upon the completion of such requirements, the student should submit a formal application for candidacy which is available from the department. Upon the recommendation of the faculty members of the department or program and with the approval of the chair and/or dean, the student will be admitted to candidacy as of the first day of the following semester and then is permitted to submit a dissertation topic.

Application for Admission

Applications for admission to the M.A. program may be obtained online, or by contacting the Office of Graduate Admissions:

Office of Graduate Admissions
The Catholic University of America
620 Michigan Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20064
Telephone number:

GRE test results, completed CUA application form, transcripts of all undergraduate work, any graduate work completed and three letters of recommendation (preferably ones commenting on the applicant's academic experience and ability) should be sent to the Office of Graduate Admissions.

Information on Financial Aid for graduate students is available.