Here are answers to questions that prospective graduate students frequently ask.

Eligibility and Application

  • Is a master's degree required for admission into the doctoral program?
  • You do not need a master's degree to be accepted into our doctoral program. A bachelor's degree is sufficient, as long as you meet the other admission requirements.
  • Is the GRE exam a prerequisite for admission?
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are required, and the Graduate Admissions Committee will not be able to view an applicant’s file if the GRE scores are missing. While the Admissions Committee takes GRE scores seriously, the GRE is only one part of our holistic review process that takes into account many factors, including letters of recommendation, the applicant’s statement of purpose and writing sample, and evidence of skill in research.
  • Do you require the subject test for the GRE?
  • No, only the general test is required.
  • What scores do I need on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) for admission?
  • Most of our admitted applicants score above the 85th percentile on the verbal and above the 75th percentile on the quantitative portion of the GRE.
  • How long do GRE scores remain valid?
  • If your GRE scores are less than five years old, they are still acceptable. If your GRE scores are five years old, or older, you must retake the GRE. We will NOT waive the requirement for submitting GRE scores.
  • What grade point average is required for acceptance?
  • The UC Davis Graduate Division requires a minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4-point scale. However, the average GPA of our admitted students is 3.6.
  • I do not wish to pursue a Ph.D. degree; I want to earn only a master’s degree. Should I apply?
  • Unfortunately, no. We do not offer a standalone master's program. Our program is exclusively designed for students who wish to pursue doctoral studies.
  • I already have an M.A. degree in political science from another institution. Will that help reduce the time required for me to earn a Ph.D. degree in your program?
  • Our program is uniquely designed to train students to become first-class scholars and teachers of political science. Our coursework plan is part of our training for admitted students and cannot be waived or transferred with degrees from other institutions.
  • What is the deadline for applying for admission?
  • The application deadline for students is December 1.  For applications submitted by December 1 but missing components (e.g., GRE scores, letters of recommendation), we encourage applicants to get their materials in as soon as possible. Usually, the review committee begins considering application materials in mid December/early January, and incomplete applications will not be given any consideration.
  • Where should I send my transcripts?
  • After you have been admitted and have submitted your intent to register, UC Davis will require official transcripts from each college-level institution you have attended. You should upload scanned copies of your transcripts after you have submitted your online application. The uploaded transcripts can be unofficial copies. The UC Davis Office of Graduate Studies offers more details about transcript submission.
  • I cannot obtain my transcripts before the December 1 deadline; can the deadline be extended?
  • Applications may be reviewed in mid December/early January, but they are not given funding priority. Please plan accordingly and order your transcripts with ample time to upload them to your application.
  • From whom should I seek the letters of recommendation?
  • The letters of recommendation should be from persons who can evaluate your scholarly potential. We suggest obtaining letters from faculty members with whom you have studied or worked. You must submit the letters electronically through the online application system. Paper copies will not be accepted. 


  • How many applications do you usually receive each year?
  • We receive 100 to 150 applications each year. However, we generally admit less than 20 percent of our applicants.
  • Are applicants who already have an M.A. degree favored for admission over applicants who don't?
  • No. What matters is how well the prospective student's application materials meet the admission requirements, and how well the applicant's research interests and goals fit the strengths and goals of the department. All applications are reviewed comprehensively.
  • If I initially decline an offer to enroll, can I change my mind later and accept?
  • We are not able to re-offer admission to a student who declines an offer; if you decline an offer of admission, you may re-apply next year or in a subsequent year.
  • Can I transfer credits from another university?
  • Unfortunately, no. Our program is uniquely designed to train students to become first-class scholars and teachers of political science. Our coursework plan is part of our training for admitted students, and cannot be waived or transferred with coursework from other institutions.

The Program and Curriculum

  • What cohort size can I anticipate?
  • Cohort sizes in the department usually range from 7 to 9 enrollees.
  • What kind of math or statistics is required?
  • Political science is a diverse and ever-changing field. Much contemporary research in the discipline uses advanced statistical techniques and mathematical modeling tools to study various political phenomena. To prepare our students to be both careful readers and active creators of this research, the program is structured to give all students high level training in quantitative methodologies. The program’s coursework in methodology is designed to be accessible for any entering graduate student, regardless of whether they took any undergraduate-level math or statistics courses. However, since these methodologies require some rudimentary background knowledge of mathematics, the Department also offers an online "math camp" combined with a week-long in-person “quant camp” to incoming first-year students every summer in order to ease the transition into these courses. These camps cover several topics that will help students succeed in our program, such as linear algebra and the basics of programming in R.
  • How much time is required to obtain a doctoral degree?
  • Graduate students typically take five to six years to complete the qualifications for a Ph.D. degree.
  • Can I declare an emphasis?
  • Our program requires students to be specialized in two of these five broad fields of interest: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Methodology, and Political Theory. At the beginning of their third year, students are tested in their chosen fields with a comprehensive examination to verify they have a deep and substantive knowledge of their fields.
  • Does the department have a time limit for completion of the dissertation?
  • Graduate students typically take two or three years to complete their dissertation research and writing following advancement to candidacy. A student who has not completed dissertation work within three years of passing qualifying examinations, however, may be in jeopardy of losing financial support from the program.

Student Support Resources

  • What types of financial aid are available to graduate students at UC Davis?
  • The department generally offers funding to all admitted students (both US and non-US residents) through a combination of employment and fellowships (see "on-campus academic employment" below). Various grants and fellowships also are available through the UC Davis Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. We encourage students to contact the Political Science Department's graduate program coordinator for answers to further questions regarding funding.
  • What on-campus academic employment opportunities are available?
  • Students in the Department of Political Science usually are offered a paying position as a teaching assistant. A limited number of graduate research assistant positions also are available depending on faculty needs. Upon advancing to candidacy, students who have demonstrated excellence in teaching may be offered the opportunity to instruct their own class.
  • Whom do I contact if I have a question about residency?
  • If you have any questions about residency status contact the Office of the Registrar.

International Students

  • I am an international applicant; do I need to submit TOEFL scores?
  • The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam is required if English is not your native language, unless you have received or will be receiving an undergraduate degree from a university at which the primary language of instruction (through the entire school) is English. The minimum TOEFL iBT (internet-based test) score for admission is 80. Applicants may need to satisfy additional minimum requirements to serve as a teaching assistant. TOEFL scores expire after two years.
  • What are the Institution Codes for GRE and the TOEFL?
  • The UC Davis Institution Code for both GRE and TOEFL is 4834.
  • What are the language proficiency requirements to be employed as a teaching assistant?
  • Per the Office of Graduate Studies, all graduate students who have not earned a prior undergraduate degree from an institution at which English was the sole language of instruction must meet one or more of the following requirements:
    • · minimum score of 26 on the Speaking subset of the TOEFL iBT
      · minimum score of 7 on the Speaking subset of the IELTS
      · achieving a minimum score of 50 on the SPEAK (internal UC Davis exam)
      · achieving a "pass" on the TOEP (internal UC Davis exam)
      Download and review the language proficiency requirements for teaching assistant positions.