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Graduate Program Admission Requirements

The Ph.D. program is designed for those with a career objective of conducting original research, whether in higher education or more applied settings.

Minimum Admission Requirements

You must have:

  • A bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) from an accredited institution. This degree must represent the completion of a program equivalent in the distribution of academic subject matter and scholarship achievement comparable to that offered by the University of California.
  • A minimum 3.20 GPA for the last two years of undergraduate or graduate coursework. Admission may be justified if you have a GPA between 3.0 and 3.19, if you have a high GRE score and/or strong academic letters of recommendation. If your GPA is below 3.0, you are ineligible.
  • The GRE is not required for application to the Ph.D. program. It is optional. However, we will still be looking for evidence of applicants’ ability to succeed in quantitative methods courses. This could be demonstrated by coursework, by writing samples, or in some other way. If you do not have other evidence of your preparation to study quantitative methods, taking the GRE might still be a good idea.
  • TOEFL scores (international students only). Scores up to two years old may be used. 213 is the minimum TOEFL score on computer administration, 550 is the minimum TOEFL score on paper and pencil administration, and 80 is the minimum for the Internet-based exam (iBT). The TOEFL requirement if you successfully completed a graduate degree where the language of instruction was English. If you want language training prior to applying, you may want to consider the options offered at UCR Extension.
  • Three academic letters of recommendation from faculty in your current program of study (written in English).


  • Admission to our program is competitive. Satisfying minimal standards does not guarantee admission.
  • Admission decisions are based on many factors including your degree, grades, statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, test scores, and relevant experience. Your goals must also connect to faculty research interests.


  • Do I need find a supervisor in the department before applying?  No, but you might want to look at our faculty and consider who might fill that role.  You do, of course, benefit from having a supervisor who shares your general interests within political science but we are also more likely to admit applicants that would benefit from the expertise in the department.  
  • Do I need a master’s degree to apply to the PhD program? What if I didn’t major in political science?  No and no.  You can apply to start our PhD program straight after completing your bachelor's degree.  You receive a master's degree after completing the MA requirements.  You do not need to have majored in political science and many of our student have not.  You may, however, want to familiarize yourself with some political science research before applying in order to be able to articulate your research interests in your application.
  • How do we evaluate statements of purpose?  Our PhD program trains students to conduct high quality original research.  Thus, we look for evidence of interest in and motivation to do research as well as prior experience with research.  So, tell us about what you are interested in studying, your experience doing research, and any particular skills that you have that may make you a good researcher. One of the main reasons we are interested in research experience is that we look for evidence of an understanding of what conducting research involves.  There are, of course, other ways of acquiring that understanding, e.g., by reading articles in political science journals.  You can also get that across in the discussion of your research interests, i.e., rather than just offering a research question, you could discuss how you might go about addressing it.  Finally, we want to get a sense of understanding for why you are applying to UCR.  Does the department have particular strengths you are interested in?  Are there particular faculty that you want to work with?
  • I am still in working on my undergraduate degree but I am planning to go to graduate school for political science.  How should I be preparing?   First, you can look for opportunities to get some research experience.  Not only does it help with your application, it also gives you chance to find out whether it is something you like to do.  Talk to your professors to see if they have projects that you can assist with and consider writing a senior thesis.  Second, obtain skills that will be useful in your PhD study.  Any good PhD program will, e.g., require you take courses in research design and research methods.  Thus, you might want to seek out undergraduate courses on these topics as well as courses in math, statistics, game theory, logic, and programming.  Having some preparation in some (or all) of these areas will make your life a lot easier.
  • I see that writing samples are optional.  Should I submit one?  We recommend submitting one if you are planning on studying political theory.  If you are planning on specializing in other fields, it is less important but generally there is no harm in submitting a writing sample.  A writing sample is useful if it offers information that is not apparent in your statement of interest.  Thus, if it, for example, demonstrates your research skills, whether in terms of theoretical development, research design, or analysis (statistical or otherwise) it would be useful.  On the other hand, if your writing sample is an overview of a literature that contains little in terms of your own argument, it will probably not make a difference one way or the other. 

Application Deadlines

We begin accepting applications during the second week of September for the following fall quarter.

The application deadline for admission and fellowship consideration (Ph.D. program only) is January 5.

Applications are still accepted until September 1 (June 1 for international applicants); however, applications received after the January 5 deadline run the risk of less funding and fewer fellowship options.

How to Apply

To complete your application, you will need:

  • A statement of purpose
  • A statement of personal history
  • GRE scores
  • Three academic letters of recommendation (from people familiar with your academic work)
  • TOEFL scores (only international applicants)
  • Official transcripts from all academic institutions attended

If you are ready to apply, please complete the official UCR Graduate School Application. This serves as the official application to UC Riverside’s Political Science Department’s Graduate Program.

Get Help

For general questions about the program and admissions, contact Director of Graduate Admissions Paul D'Anieri at paul.danieri@ucr.edu.

For help with the application process or the status of your application, contact the UCR Graduate Division at graddiv@ucr.edu.

Our faculty members are happy to answer any questions about the program and their subfields.