Staff Writers picture
Staff Writers
Updated May 21, 2021

Are you ready to find your fit?

Political Science has proven to be an ever-relevant and ever-changing field, built off of aspects of many disciplines and culminating in providing a critical lens in examining the world. Students who pursue a Master's degree in Political Science may come from a variety of different academic backgrounds, but they all have the same goal.

Political Science graduate students are not only passionate about the real-life, aspects of the field, but eager to go in-depth on the theory, empirical methods, and research tools behind it. This can lead to exciting careers in public policy, international relations, education, law, and more. Many students elect to continue onto Doctor of Philosophy programs and then remain in academia or advanced research. 

Options for Master of Arts degree in Political Science are plentiful, as the field has been a necessary form of analysis for the last few centuries. Universities have designed their Political Science graduate programs to prepare students with knowledge covering the entire breadth of the field, but with room for specialization. Graduates are also equipped with an understanding of research methods and the skills necessary to become leaders in the field. 

As many MA programs are explicitly designed as Ph.D. preparation, it's important to take note of those programs who do not admit students for terminal masters (there are a few listed in our ranking). Regardless of whether or not students opt for doctoral programs, earning a Master's degree in Political Science is an important and bold step towards understanding the world with the knowledge and tools to influence it. 

Selection Criteria

Best Value Schools publishes college degree rankings with the belief of how one's higher education should be, both, affordable and an investment of continued value for the students who pursue them. The staff of BVS collects data from reputable sources in order to calculate Net Price and the short and long-term value of every ranked degree. Collected data is simplified into weighted categories before scoring and then scaled through a BVS Score up to 100. The weighted categories are:

  • Degree Investment Return (25%)
  • Student & Alumni Evaluation (25%)
  • Cost Value (25%)
  • Matriculation (10%) 
  • Academic Success (15%) 

No matter what degree you decide on, we hope our research and support has made the selection process easier. There are numerous resources BVS utilizes to collect information on degrees, and we encourage you to check them out for yourself!

Here are the 35 Best Master's Degrees in Political Science!
#1 Stanford University Stanford, CA
#2 Duke University Durham, NC
#3 Columbia University New York, NY
#4 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
#5 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
#6 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
#7 Texas A & M University-College Station College Station, TX
#8 University of Iowa Iowa City, IA
#9 University of California-Riverside Riverside, CA
#10 Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ

Featured Online Programs

Figuring out where to apply? These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online degrees. Consider one of these accredited programs, and discover their value today.

  1. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA



    The Master of Arts in Political Science from Stanford University is not a terminal degree; students are only admitted as doctoral candidates and will earn the MA in combination with the Ph.D., whether the Ph.D. is from Political Science or another field from Stanford. Similarly, Ph.D. candidates set on Political Science may elect to complete an MA in a related field instead. The MA in Political Science curriculum is made up of 45 credits and no required thesis. The offered concentration areas are International Relations, Comparative Politics, American Politics, Political Theory, and Political Methodology. Electives will vary based on the selected field, as will the core courses.

  2. Duke University

    Durham, NC



    The Master of Arts in Political Science from Duke University prepares students for competitive Ph.D. programs. Students select two fields of concentrations, Political Behavior & Identities, Political Economy, and Security, Peace & Conflict. Admission is competitive, with only seven to ten students admitted each year. The 30-credit program allows for a thesis, but it's not required. Students have the option of graduating with a required foreign language competency, or one course in statistics or formal theory. The curriculum is centered not only around advanced knowledge in the empirical field but quantitative methods of research and theory.

  3. Columbia University

    New York, NY



    Columbia University's Master of Arts in Political Science program gives students advanced training and knowledge the breadth of the discipline in combination with the tools necessary for research. The curriculum is made up of at least five courses in the Political Science department, and students are further expected to become experts in at least one of the major research tools: quantitative methods, formal modeling, and more. Graduates are prepared for both Ph.D. programs and employment upon graduation. Students are encouraged to select a concentration area, with options in American Politics, Comparative Politics, or International Relations.

  4. University of Wisconsin-Madison

    Madison, WI



    The Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin is only available to students accepted to the Doctor of Philosophy program at UW. Once admitted, students earn their master's degree through work en route to the Ph.D. The MA consists of at least 30 credits and requires courses in Empirical Methods of Political Inquiry and Statistical Methodology. These courses and selected electives are designed to prepare students in a variety of diverse subfields in the discourse, research methods, theory and historical context, and ethics of the field. As the program is designed en route to the Ph.D., there is no formal examination or thesis required.

  5. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Champaign, IL



    The Master of Arts in Political Science program from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is only open to those enrolled in the Ph.D. program. The 32-credit program requires both maintenance of at least a 3.0 GPA and a master's paper, whether or not that paper is fulfilled by a thesis or research project. The graduate program is highly selective. The small cohort size ensures that students benefit from individualized support of the faculty. All students receive financial aid and often participate in published research projects. Core coursework covers tools of inquiry, research methods, and the breadth of theory. Concentration areas, where electives may be drawn from, are offered in American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Methodology, or Political Theory.

  6. Michigan State University

    East Lansing, MI



    Michigan State University's Master of Arts in Political Science is a 30-credit program that does not require or accommodate a thesis. Rather, students complete two substantial research papers prior to graduation. Students have the option of completing a majority of their coursework in Political Science, but some credits may be fulfilled by coursework in exterior yet related disciplines. The curriculum is designed specifically to prepare students for doctoral studies, also offered by Michigan State. In the combination of the MA and Ph.D. in Political Science from Michigan State, students are prepared with skills in research, teaching, and professionalization. They graduate equipped with foundational and advanced knowledge of all aspects of the field.

  7. Texas A & M University-College Station

    College Station, TX



    Texas A&M University designed their Master of Arts in Political Science program to prepare students with a broad understanding of the breadth of political science, focusing on research and creativity. Students have the option of completing a thesis, and if they opt out will take a comprehensive examination and complete 36 credits of coursework rather than 30. The curriculum provides opportunities to study Political Science alongside faculty who are interdisciplinarily trained, in topics such as Women's and Gender Studies or International Studies. Core courses cover the foundations of the field such as Quantitative Political Analysis, Conceptualization and Theory in Political Analysis, and Research Methods.

  8. University of Iowa

    Iowa City, IA



    The Master of Arts in Political Science from The University of Iowa designed their program for those dedicated to earning a Ph.D. from UI, and only applicants with that intention are typically admitted. The 30-credit program does not require a thesis, but students must maintain a GPA of at least 3.25. After the first year of the program, students are evaluated for their research and writing skills. If they've proven to be adequate, they'll proceed into the doctoral program. Core courses prepare students in research methodologies, theoretical, and formal mathematical models. Electives cover topics like Comparative Politics, The Presidency, Problems in America, Problems in Political Theory, and more.

  9. University of California-Riverside

    Riverside, CA



    The Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of California at Riverside is grounded in preparing students with the skills and tools necessary to not just analyze and work with established research, but conduct original projects themselves. The course of study is designed to benefit those in pursuit of a doctoral degree, as some of the course offerings are joint with UC Riverside's Ph.D. program. Students will select a subfield to focus on, which they will be tested on prior to graduation: Comparative Politics, International Relations, American Politics, Mass Political Behavior, and Political Theory. Some students may elect to complete a master's thesis as well.

  10. Arizona State University-Tempe

    Tempe, AZ



    The Master of Arts in Political Science from Arizona State University is dedicated to providing students with the opportunity for supportive and stimulating mentorship. Recent incoming cohorts have been less than five students, which has allowed faculty to be readily available and attentive in guiding students through original research and individualized study. The curriculum is focused on a strong foundation in methodologies, theory, and practical aspects of the discourse in preparation for research. Course topics include Ancient Political Theory, International Relations, Comparative Politics, Polimetrics, and more, depending on which focus area is chosen. The offered focus areas are American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory.

Get prepared for your next steps

Use articles and resources to uncover answers to common questions, get guidance on your goals, and learn about applying to schools.

Discover a program that is right for you.

Explore different options for you based on your degree interests.