PhD Programs in International Studies

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in International Studies could qualify you for college-level teaching and research positions. Get information about the classes and steps needed to earn this degree.

How Can I Earn a Ph.D. in International Studies?

Ph.D. programs in international studies require you to perform extensive, specialized research and take advanced math, theory, history and political courses. Core courses may include international politics, economics and history, with topics in environmental policies and ethnic conflict as other class options.

To meet graduation requirements, you'll likely have to satisfy the foreign language requirement. You can either pass a series of foreign language classes or complete a translation test. Native speakers of a foreign country don't have to meet the foreign language requirement. The Ph.D. programs often take about four years to complete and usually aren't available online. Most programs require you to select at least one area of specialty, such as U.S. foreign policy, conflict resolution, regional studies or transnationalism.

Program Requirements Core courses in international politics and history; foreign language proficiency; students need to select specialization area
Dissertation Requirements Choose and research a specific topic with guidance from a faculty committee
Funding Various sources, including scholarships from graduate programs
Prerequisites Bachelor's or master's degree, GRE scores, letters of recommendation
Median Salary (2018) $117,570 (for all political scientists)  
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 3% growth (for all political scientists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

How Do I Complete the Dissertation?

The research specialization you choose often forms the basis of your dissertation. The steps may vary per school, but, typically, the dissertation process begins after passing comprehensive examinations in the core content and your area of interest. You'll then submit a research prospectus, which proposes your dissertation topic. Some schools require Ph.D. candidates to form a dissertation committee of faculty members to help guide your research and hone your topic. In this case, all members of the committee must agree on the prospectus before you can continue the process.

Once the proposal is submitted and approved, you'll conduct the research and work on a draft. After it's completed, you'll defend your dissertation orally. This is often done in front of your committee. The length of a dissertation varies by program but may be approximately 300 pages.

Will I Receive Funding?

While some schools offer full scholarships and living stipends to accepted international relations Ph.D. candidates, other programs won't be able to fund your entire education. Also, in most cases you'll need to apply for grants and seek outside funding for your research. The school you attend may have more information on institutions, foundations and other sources of grant money.

How Do I Qualify?

To gain acceptance into a Ph.D. in International Studies program, you'll have to submit your previous college transcripts and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores. Some schools also require a lengthy academic paper submission; many students submit their master's degree thesis. You'll also have to submit letters of recommendation and a resume.