Saint Louis University

Master of Arts in Political Science

The study of political science is central to understanding how the world works and what persons and organizations can do to promote social justice.

The Saint Louis University M.A. provides students with:

  • Broad theoretical understanding of the political and social environments that shape possibilities for change,
  • Advanced skills in political and social analysis,
  • Expertise in national politics, public policy and administration, or in comparative and international politics,
  • Ability to analyze questions of ethics and social justice in different cultural and historical contexts, and in a variety of professional and organizational contexts - at local, national, and international levels,
  • Disciplinary preparation for:
    • Professional schools, including law, public policy, public health, business, and journalism,
    • Ph.D. programs in political science and related fields,
  • Enhanced career opportunities

The SLU M.A. will prepare students for employment in government offices, political campaigns, nonprofit civic organizations, overseas teaching, national and international business, news media, and non-governmental organizations. Students in the International Affairs concentration will be prepared for careers in the foreign service, international NGOs, or international organizations like the United Nations or N.A.T.O., among many others.

Recent graduates have found jobs teaching in local colleges, working in government agencies, and serving their community through groups like Teach for America.

More information on careers in government (here)

More information on careers in Non-Governmental Organizations, International Governmental Organization, and Non-Profits (here)

More information on careers in St. Louis (here)

Most applicants have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.4, overall and in political science courses. Students apply to the B.A./M.A program during their junior year. Normally, candidates must have completed 18 hours of undergraduate social science courses, with at least 9 of these hours in political science. 

M.A. Concentrations
The M.A. is a 30 hour program. Students who enter the accelerated B.A./M.A. program take six of these hours (two graduate classes) in their senior year that count toward both the B.A. and M.A. requirements. Students may choose to specialize in American Politics (two different tracks), Public Policy, International Affairs (two tracks), Gender and Politics, or Political Theory.

All students in the Political Science M.A. program must sit for a field exam during their last semester of coursework. The field exams will be scheduled for early each semester. All students must pass the written portion of the exam. An additional oral exam will be required at the discretion of the exam committee.

Field Exams
Field exams will be administered by a chair and two other committee members. The director must be in the student's examination field, and ordinarily the two committee members will be in the same field as well. Students should choose committee members with the advice of the committee chair. If two members of the committee consider that the student has passed the field exam, then a passing grade is warranted.

The field exam will have two parts. During the first 3-hour segment, students will choose one question to answer from a list of questions drawn from key debates in the literature of the student's concentration or track. During the second 3-hour segment, students will choose one question to answer from a list provided by the exam committee.

Students may have access to notes and other sources during the field exam, but they are unlikely to do well on the exam if they rely heavily on those notes during the limited time of the exam. Instead, students should plan from their first courses effective strategies to retain and integrate the information learned in all their classes. Students should be prepared to engage explicitly with the relevant scholarly literature during their field exams.

Preparing for the field exam

M.A. Thesis
Students may choose to write an M.A. Thesis. An M.A. thesis proposes an argument that addresses an important question to the discipline or area of study in question, grounds the argument thoroughly in the literature of this question, articulates what effect or contribution the argument of the thesis has on this literature, and presents supporting evidence. The length of the thesis varies according to the nature of the project, but most theses fall between 40 and 75 pages.

Students who write Master's theses will work closely with a faculty director and a committee of two other faculty members chosen with the director's guidance. The M.A. thesis is a two semester project. Students will complete a thesis proposal in the first semester and the thesis itself during the second semester. Students who are not able to defend their proposal successfully during the first semester will not be allowed to continue to the second semester of thesis work.

The M.A. thesis is only an option for students in good standing, with no incompletes. All students must have permission of the Graduate Committee and the thesis director before registering for M.A. thesis work.

The oral defense of the M.A. thesis will be advertised and open to the public. All three members of the committee must approve the thesis for the student to pass.

Internships are a great way to learn about jobs and make professional connections. Students may complete internships for up to 6 hours of credit as part of the M.A. study. Students will work under the direction of a preceptor at the internship location and a faculty member in the department.

A six-hour graduate internship will involve approximately 200 hours of work of a serious, professional character, central to the work of the agency or institution in which it occurs. In addition to the work at the internship location, the student will write an extensive paper, which may take the form of a well-dended policy recommendation paper, a formal grant proposal, or a professional quality paper, as approved by the faculty member. In any case, the paper will be grounded in relevant academic literature.

Internship locations may be in St. Louis, in Washington DC, or elsewhere. Some paid government internship programs exist, such as with the CIA. If students want to undertake those internships as part of their MA work, they should apply early as it can take more than a year to make it through the application process.

For more information on internships [more].

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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