Program Overview 

Our program is organized into the traditional major subfields of political science (including American politics, public policy/administration, international relations and comparative politics).  Beyond that, we focus on a number of research cores on the cutting edge of political science research including race and ethnic politics, voting behavior, political movements, civil wars, American political institutions, and conflict management.  We offer comprehensive methodological training in quantitative techniques, formal modeling and game theory, and qualitative techniques (such as interviews and archival research).  Students are trained in state-of-the-art methodologies such as experiments, spatial econometrics, and techniques to collect and analyze big data (including automated data collection and text analysis).   We are looking for promising students to help us answer important research questions with the most advanced techniques.  

At Mizzou, we provide opportunities for collaborative research projects with faculty members who are experts in their area.  Our vibrant program  features professors who publish their research in top academic journals and university presses, edit leading journals in the discipline, and teach classes on advanced techniques at international methods institutes.  The result is that our PhD students consistently publish in top academic journals while in graduate school.  Nationally, it is somewhat rare to see students graduate with multiple publications, both solo and co-authored with faculty members; at Mizzou, it is the norm.   

Coursework in our program consists of small seminars, allowing for intensive study of political science concepts and research, close interaction with faculty, and individual attention to student progress. Advised by graduate faculty, students at MU are encouraged to become active scholars capable of conducting independent analysis and research of political and social phenomena. 

Mizzou Political Science maintains a low graduate student to faculty ratio, a commitment to student success, and a high rate of retention and graduation. 



The COVID pandemic has been extremely hard on students, especially for students from the developing world, rural backgrounds, or from groups that are underrepresented in academia.  The significant disruptions caused by lockdowns, health issues, and local ordinances mean that it may be difficult to prepare for the GRE exam, or even travel to the testing facility.  In the interests of fairness, we have removed this requirement for applicants for the Fall 2024 admissions cycle.  We hope that this small step makes it easier for a diverse group of students to reach their goals at Mizzou.  

We don’t have minimum scores for the GRE.  As for the GRE averages, the above figure shows admitted students from a previous application cycle (circled) across quantitative and verbal percentiles (50th, 75th and 95th percentiles).  As you can see, higher GRE scores improve your chances of being admitted.  At the same time, it is not a perfect relationship.  Unlike other top schools, we prefer to take a comprehensive or holistic approach to evaluating applicants.  

Keep in mind that we have waived the GRE requirement for applicants for Fall 2023, so it your choice as to whether to provide GRE scores or not. 

The Truman School strives to be a diverse and inclusive environment where students are encouraged to pursue their research interests in vibrant intellectual community.  As such, we take a holistic approach to admissions.  This means that we look for students with unique backgrounds, exceptional academic performance, research interests that overlap those of our faculty, strong letters of recommendation, and experience conducting political science research.  Exceptional performance in one area could certainly compensate for less experience in another. 

More specifically, the best personal statements are those that a) describe your post-PhD employment goals, b) lay out your skills and tools—such as experience with data analysis, statistical software, language skills, and conducting independent research—that will help you succeed in graduate school, and c) show why Mizzou’s graduate program appeals to you—this includes noting how your research interests overlap with those of our faculty. 

No, there is no need to secure a professor’s approval before noting in the personal statement that you would like to work with them.  If you would like to chat with a particular professor, contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Laron Williams, and he would be happy to establish the connection and get the conversation going. 

While having an MA helps demonstrate that you are familiar with the intellectual demands of graduate school, it is not a requirement for admission.  In fact, the majority of our PhD students choose to begin the program immediately after graduating from their undergraduate institution.  In short, we welcome applicants from all backgrounds: applying straight from undergrad, after pursuing an MA, and mid-career applicants. 

All Ph.D. students have graduate assistantships and receive a tuition waiver and a health insurance subsidy.  Remaining expenses include course fees which—depending on the number of credit hours—typically do not exceed $1,000 a semester.  

Our graduate student stipends are highly competitive (over $18,000) and quite generous when one factors in the low cost-of-living of Columbia (example).  Historically, our students have won multiple university fellowships that provide additional funding (often $11,000-16,000). 

The Truman School is also unique in guaranteeing funding for the five years it takes students to complete their PhD requirements, rather than make acquiring funding a competition between students.  We have found that our approach reduces student anxiety about their economic situation.  When students don’t compete with each other for their funding, they are free to build lasting friendships and connections.      

Graduate assistants typically work 20 hours a week as either a teaching assistant or a research assistant.  Graduate students in RA positions are paired with faculty members with similar research interests, so promising research assistantships often evolve into full-fledged co-authored projects.  Teaching assistant duties vary according to the class, sometimes involving mostly grading while other times involving leading discussion sections. We also have opportunities for students interested in applied policy research to work as an RA with the Institute of Public Policy.   

Students are allocated to either TA or RA positions based on a mixture of departmental need and the strengths and preferences of students.  

Most of our PhD alumni work in academia as professors, so a critical part of the graduate training at Mizzou revolves around teaching.  The ideal sequence is for students to serve as teaching assistants in substantive courses for a few semesters and then become lab instructors.  As a lab instructor, TAs build teaching experience by providing one-on-one and small group instruction to a lab.  We also encourage students to pursue guest lecturing opportunities so that they can strengthen their teaching skills.  Moreover, our students have taken advantage of the additional training offered by the Teaching for Learning Center and the Minor in College Teaching

Advanced graduate students are allowed to take the reins and teach their own independent courses.  The goal is for our graduates to have a diverse teaching portfolio of classes so that they can hit the ground running in their first post-graduation academic job.    

Yes!  The professors in the Truman School believe that a critical part of training graduate students is collaborating with them on research projects.  So much of the research process can only be learned by getting your hands dirty, brainstorming with coauthors, and writing on interests that you share with faculty.  Graduate education is certainly less rewarding if you don’t have these experiences.  

These collaborative opportunities arise organically, and often come out of a research assistantship position or as the result of a research paper for a graduate course.  The result is that the vast majority of students go on the academic job market with multiple publications—often with faculty and other graduate students as coauthors—which places them in a stronger competitive position than their peers.  Nationally, it is somewhat rare for graduate students to have multiple publications; at Mizzou, it’s the norm. 

We expect our students to produce high-quality, innovative political science research, so we provide the funds that help them along the way.  We group these funds into three categories: 

  1. All students receive funding to attend and present at academic conferences.  Academic conferences are a great way to network with others who share your passions, stay current on cutting-edge research, and receive feedback on your own research projects.  We encourage students to begin attending smaller or regional conferences early on so that they are comfortable with presenting research at national conferences later on in the program.  

  1. For some students, their research and teaching interests require additional training.  This could include immersive language training in other countries or classes on advanced methodological topics.  For example, in the past few years, we have funded students to receive additional training on Political Psychology, qualitative methods, and a variety of quantitative methods at American and international summer schools.  

  1. During the research process, students often discover that their project requires data that has never been collected before.  Whether the data comes from fieldwork in other countries, through experiments, or surveys, we are happy to provide small grants to get the ball rolling. 

Students choose to spend their summers in a variety of ways, whether it is taking a course or two, doing fieldwork or original data collection, gaining language training in an immersive environment, or attending summer schools in methodologies.  These decisions are made by the student in consultation with their advisor and committee. 

Departmental assistantships are based on 10-month appointments (you can spread payments over 12 months), but there are limited opportunities for 1- to 2-month summer research assistantships.  Any student with a departmental assistantship receives a tuition waiver for summer classes. 

Full-time PhD students take three classes a week and each class meets for 2.5 hours once a week.  We make sure that these graduate courses don’t conflict with the undergraduate courses related to your teaching assistantship.  

Students select a primary and a secondary field out of American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations and Public Policy/Public Administration.  Students must take four classes from their primary field, three from their secondary field, and four methods classes.  Besides that, we encourage students to take classes outside of their two fields and outside of the Truman School.  For more information on these courses—as well as available syllabi—click here

Here is a rough outline of the 2.5 years of coursework. 

Year 1 

Methods Core I, Primary Core, Secondary Core 

Methods Core II, Substantive (Primary), Substantive (Secondary) 

Year 2 

Methods, Substantive (Primary), Elective from outside TSGPA 

Methods, Substantive (Primary), Substantive (Secondary) 

Year 3 

Methods, Core, Substantive (Primary) 

Comprehensive Examinations and Dissertation Proposal Defense 

Year 4 

Dissertation Research 

Dissertation Research 

Year 5 

Dissertation Research and Job Market 


Core Courses: each field has a broad seminar that introduces the fundamental topics and big questions in that field: Public Policy, Introduction to International Relations, and Introduction to Comparative Politics.  American Politics offers two core courses: American Political Behavior and American Political Institutions. 

Methods Courses: each PhD student must take at least 13 hours of advanced methods courses.  The two core courses include Introductory Statistics for Political Science (and its 1-hour lab) in the Fall of Year 1, and Linear Models in Politics in the Spring of Year 2.  After that, students can take two other 3-hour courses on topics including Maximum Likelihood Estimation, Time Series Analysis, Formal Models, and Qualitative Research Methods.  Students are also encouraged to pursue methods training from other departments at Mizzou and at summer methods schools. 

Substantive Courses: each field offers at least one substantive course per semester on an important topic in that field.  Click on this link to see the substantive courses we’ve offered in the last few years.   

Elective: students are free to take classes outside of the Truman School at Mizzou.  Oftentimes students will want to gain expertise or learn some methodological skill that is found outside of political science.  In the past, students have taken courses in Black Studies, Statistics, Economics, Philosophy, Communications, and Sociology, to name a few. 

Comprehensive Examinations: in the Spring of Year 3, students take comprehensive examinations in both their primary and secondary fields.  The examinations take place over two days (one for each field) and assess whether students understand the foundational research on big questions in their field.  After passing comprehensive examinations, students start writing their dissertation proposal. 

The Graduate Association of Political Scientists (GAPS) is the student organization for graduate students involved in political science degree programs.  It hosts monthly meetings with informational sessions, seminars on health and wellness, professional development activities, and social activities. 

GAPS also runs the Truman School’s mentoring program, which connects all first-year students with an advanced student in the program with similar research interests.  The mentors provide advice and guidance about how to navigate the PhD program.  We have found that this eases the transition to full-time graduate student and improves student retention. 

Since we recruit students from diverse backgrounds, there is considerable variance in students’ previous academic experiences.  To help the transition from undergraduate education (or full-time employment) to a PhD program, we provide a comprehensive professional development program.  The goal is to train students on all the tools and skills they’ll need to make the most out of the PhD program.  The professional development program is made up of three main components: 

  • Boot camp:  This 3-hour graduate class (POLS 9010: Research Design and Analysis) is offered immediately prior to the start of the fall semester and is required for all first-year PhD students.  The primary objective of the course is to make sure that all students have the necessary skills to succeed in the first year of the program, regardless of their prior training or academic experiences.  The class provides a strong foundation in mathematics, statistics and probability theory so that students have the knowledge required for the methods sequence.  Other topics covered include professionalization, writing for a political science audience, the typesetting program LaTeX, and an introduction to Stata.  

  • Methods workshops: 3-4 times a semester the Truman School offers a 2- or 3-hour methods workshop for graduate students.  The workshops focus on a topic that is not covered in our graduate methods sequence, but is useful for students wanting to produce high-quality research.  While these classes are typically taught by Mizzou faculty, we are happy to give advanced graduate students the opportunity to teach their peers in their area of expertise.  Over the last four years there have been almost 30 different workshops, ranging from Race and Ethnicity to Python, to Text Analysis and Network Analysis. 

  • Mini-conferences: Presenting at academic conferences is a critical part of success in graduate school.  Of course, some people might be stressed at the thought of finishing their paper, producing their presentation, and presenting it in front of strangers.  We get it, as we were students at one point too.  To help our students become more comfortable with academic conferences, we host a number of mini-conferences through the year.  These mini-conferences typically take place about a month before a major political science conference and they give students the opportunity to practice presenting and receive feedback before they attend the conference.  We have found that presenting the project in a low-stress environment not only improves the overall research quality, but also puts students in the best chance to succeed. 


Degree Options 

Doctoral students identify a primary and a secondary field among four areas of study offered in the Political Science: 

  • American Politics 

  • Comparative Politics 

  • International Relations 

  • Public Policy and Administration 

The PhD program of study consists of 45 hours of graduate course work, including: 

  • 12 hours in a primary field of study 

  • 9 hours in a secondary field of study 

  • 13 hours in methodology 

Up to 24 hours of courses from a student's master's program may be counted toward the doctoral degree, at the discretion of the student's doctoral committee. The doctoral degree requires a minimum of 72 hours of course credit including reading and research hours. 

Students typically take comprehensive exams in the spring of the third year. After passing the comprehensive examination, students work on independent research and a dissertation under the advisement of a doctoral committee. 

PhD Placement 

Our assistance to students doesn’t end when the student gets their PhD.  Each student pursuing a job on the academic job market goes through the placement program, where we review job market materials, discuss strategy, and offer interview prep.  We also offer seminars on how to succeed in non-academic careers, and have placed recent graduates in all levels of government, think tanks, and the private sector. 

The Truman School is extremely proud of its recent placement efforts (see below). In addition to placing students in tenure-track professor positions in research-dominated universities, we have an excellent track record in students gaining employment at small state universities and liberal arts colleges.  Professors in the latter type of universities can engage in their teaching passions while still having the opportunity to conduct research. 

Tenure-track Assistant Professor: 

--Hanna Brant: State University of New York—Geneseo 

--Cody Drolc: University of South Carolina 

--Jordan Butcher: Arkansas State University 

--Murat Yildirim: University of Stavanger (Norway) 

--Kate Perry: Georgia Southern University 

--Brandon Beomseob Park: University of Reading (UK) 

--Adriana Boersner-Herrera: University of South Carolina—Aiken 

--Edward Goldring: University of York (UK) 

Post-Doctoral Fellowships: 

--Yuko Sato: University of Gothenburg 

--Aaron Kushner: Arizona State University 

--Dongjin Kwak: Korea University 

--Myunghee Lee: University of Copenhagen