Program Overview

Program Overview

What are the unit and course requirements in order to complete the program?

The following courses are required, for a total of 30 units:

  • POSC 500 (3 units)
  • POSC 525 (3 units)
  • POSC 550 (3 units)
  • Three of the following: POSC 640, POSC 642, POSC 600, POSC 610 (9 units)
  • Two of the following: POSC 605, POSC 615, POSC 644, POSC 646 (6 units)
  • One elective graduate course (selected in consulation with Graduate Coordinator) (3 units)
  • One of the following: POSC 697 or POSC 698 (3 units)

*Students may not repeat graduate-level courses. *Students may take 500, 525 and 550 in any sequence, but must take each of these required courses when they are offered.

How do the major and the minor function?

All students will select a Major in either Law, Politics, and Policy (LPP) or Global Politics

In the Major field, students will take

  • 2 Field Seminars (LPP = 640 & 642 or Global = 600 & 610)
  • 1 Special Topics Seminar in the field (LPP = 644 or 646; Global = 605 or 615)

All students will select a Minor in LPP, Global, or Theory

For either the LPP or the Global Minor, students will take:

  • 1 Field Seminar (LPP = 640 or 642; Global = 600 or 610)
  • 1 Special Topics Seminar in the field (LPP =  644 or 646; Global 605 or 615)

For the Theory Minor, students will take:

  • POSC 525
  • 1 Elective selected in consultation with Graduate Coordinator

What is the difference between the Comprehensive Examination and the Thesis?

Students choose one of the following:

a. Comprehensive Examination (697) The exams will take place on two separate days, and will include questions from the student’s major and minor sub-fields. Major (In LPP or Global): 6 hour exam (maximum), 60% of total grade Minor (In LPP, Global, or Theory): 4 hour exam (maximum), 40% of total grade b. Thesis (698): Students planning to write a master’s thesis must obtain the consent of three tenured or tenure-track political science faculty members (normally specialists in the area of their proposed thesis) to supervise the thesis. The faculty member who will serve as the primary advisor for the thesis will chair the student’s graduate committee. The topic and research design are determined by the student in consultation with the student’s thesis committee.

When are the comprehensive exams held each semester?

The two parts of the comprehensive examination must be taken in successive weeks of the same semester.  The test dates are announced by the Department of Political Science at the beginning of the semester.  They are usually scheduled during the twelfth and thirteenth weeks of the fall and spring semesters.

What grade to I need to get in order to pass the exams?

Student must pass each examination with 3.0 (B) grade or better.

What happens if I fail to achieve a grade of 3.0 (B) or better in each exam?

Students must pass each examination with a B grade or better. If this does not happen, students are allowed one additional attempt at passing each exam. If one exam is passed on the first attempt, but the second is not, only the failed exam needs to be re-taken. If an exam is not passed on the second attempt, the student is not able to receive her/his MA degree, and is disqualified from the program.

When and how should I decide between the comprehensive exams or the thesis?

The student, in consultation the graduate coordinator, determines whether they will take the comprehensive examinations or write a thesis.  This decision should be made as soon as feasible since it has implications for the planning of the student’s graduate program. Most students opt for the comprehensive exams. Students wishing to pursue a thesis must first secure the approval of a thesis committee comprised of three tenured or tenure-track political science faculty members, as well as the approval of the graduate coordinator.

When and how do I advance to candidacy?

Students must be advanced to candidacy at least one semester or summer session prior to graduation.

In order to advance to candidacy, students must fulfill the following requirements:

  • (a) Remove, where they exist, all undergraduate deficiencies.
  • (b) Earn at least a 3.0 (B) average in: (i) all 500- and 600-level graduate seminars; and (ii) all course work taken as a graduate student at this university as well as in transfer credits used to satisfy degree requirements.
  • (c) Meet with the members of their graduate committee to receive the committee members’ signed approval for advancement.
  • (d) Submit to the graduate coordinator the names of the members of the graduate committee, and the major and minor fields in which comprehensive examinations will be taken, or the thesis will be written. The faculty member from the student’s major will serve as the committee chair.
  • (e) International students ONLY: check to see if you need to complete and pass the Writing Proficiency Examination (

It is the responsibility of the student, in consultation with the graduate coordinator, to make sure that the official program meets all department and university requirements for advancement to candidacy.  The graduate coordinator will forward the program to the Dean of Graduate Studies.  The dean’s office will notify the student of his/her official advancement to candidacy. An approved graduate student program may not be altered without the approval of the student’s academic advisor and the graduate coordinator.  The Dean of Graduate Studies must also approve the proposed changes. It is very important that a student advance to candidacy for the M.A. degree as soon as feasible.  Prior to having advanced to candidacy, students are subject to any new CSULB Catalog requirements that may go into effect while enrolled.  Only students who have been advanced to candidacy may enroll in the thesis course (POSC 698) or take the comprehensive examinations (POSC 697).

What is the role of my graduate committee?

Students are expected to choose their graduate committee after having taken a minimum of 12 units and a maximum of 21 units. Students cannot advance to candidacy without having first chosen their committee. In considering the composition of their graduate committees, students should select faculty members with whom they’ve worked and/or with whom they expect to work. Students should also consult with the graduate coordinator. Only tenured or tenure-track faculty in Political Science may serve on a student’s graduate committee. Students planning to write a master’s thesis must obtain the consent of three faculty members (normally specialists in the area of their proposed thesis) to supervise the thesis. The faculty member who will serve as the primary advisor for the thesis will chair the student’s graduate committee. Students planning to take comprehensive examinations (rather than write a thesis) must obtain the consent of one faculty member from their major and one faculty member from their minor.  These two committee members will serve on the graduate committee, determining both the scope of the examinations and the requisite preparation for them. A list of political science faculty members and their areas of specialization is included at the end of the MA handbook.

Can I change my planned course of study, and if so, how?

The graduate coordinator must be consulted whenever there are additions or changes to the student’s course of study. After advancement to candidacy, any changes in the formal program of study require the completion of a “Change of Program” form, approved by the graduate coordinator and the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Do I need to be enrolled in the university in the semester in which I graduate?

Yes. University regulations require that students maintain continuous enrollment in the program in order to use university facilities or consult with the faculty.  However, students who have been advanced to candidacy, but are preparing for exams or writing a thesis, may limit their enrollment to one semester per calendar year provided that they secure an educational leave for the semester in which they are not enrolled.  Students who fail to maintain continuous enrollment or secure an approved leave must reapply for admission to the university and are subject to the catalog requirements in effect when they are readmitted.  GS 700 is available for students who have completed their required course work and wish to maintain continuous enrollment. Students must also be enrolled in the university in the semester in which they graduate.

What do I need to do prior to taking my comprehensive examinations?

  • Advance to candidacy.
  • Take and pass with a grade of B or better POSC 500, POSC 525, and POSC 550.
  • Complete (or be in the process of completing) at least 27 of the required 30 units for the M.A. degree.
  • Enroll in Political Science 697 (Directed Research).
  • Notify committee members, the graduate coordinator, and the office staff of your intention to take the exams at the beginning of the semester in which you plan to take the exams.

When should I file to graduate?

Students will file to graduate after they advance to candidacy.  Students can apply for graduation via MyCSULB Student Center. Deadlines to file online are March 1 (graduating fall semester) and October 15 (graduating spring semester). You must advance and file to graduate one semester before you take your exams. For more information on filing to graduate, please visit the Student Records website.

When do I walk in the commencement ceremony?

Commencement is held once per year in the spring. Students graduating either the prior fall or the following fall are eligible to participate. For more information on commencement, please visit the CSULB Commencement Website.

What is a “Graduate Assistant,” and how do I apply to become one?

The department awards a number of graduate assistantships each semester.  The appointments are made for one semester; the department can renew the appointment for a maximum of four semesters.  The responsibilities of graduate assistants typically include assisting faculty in evaluating the written work of students enrolled in Political Science 100 (Introduction to American Government) and maintaining office hours to advise and assist students.  A typical appointment involves 10 hours of work per week.  Students wishing to apply for a graduate assistantship should contact Ty Yim for information:; 562-985-4704. The deadlines for applying for an assistantship will be announced each semester.

Once I begin the program, how long do I have to finish it?

A full-time student can complete the program in two years. All requirements of the degree program must be completed within seven years.

If I want to take some time off from the program and return later, what should I do?

Take an Educational Leave. Students who have been advanced to candidacy for the master’s degree, and who complete no courses at the university within a calendar year, and who have not taken an approved Educational Leave, will be withdrawn from the program.  A student who breaks continuous attendance in this manner must reapply for readmission to the university and to the political science department.

Can I transfer in units from another graduate program?

A maximum of six semester units of credit for course work can be transferred into the master’s degree program at CSULB.  All transferred work that is applied to the master’s program must have been completed at the graduate level at an accredited institution.  Correspondence courses may not be applied to satisfy master’s degree requirements.  Extension course work may be used if that work can be properly evaluated and the course is itself acceptable as graduate work for an appropriate graduate degree on the campus where taught.  Normally transfer credit is used to meet elective requirements and may not be used to fulfill the minimum unit requirement in the 500 or 600 level series, which must be completed at CSULB.  Grades earned at another institution may not be used to offset grade point deficiencies in courses taken at this university.

Do I need to maintain a certain GPA in order to remain in the program and to graduate?

Yes. A candidate for the master’s degree must maintain a 3.0 (B) average in: (i) all 500- and 600-level graduate seminars; and (ii) all course work taken as a graduate student at this university as well as in transfer credits used to satisfy degree requirements.

If my GPA goes below a 3.0, what can I do?

Only grades earned at CSULB can offset a deficiency in the grade point average.  Students may not use grades of A in directed graduate study (599 or 590) or in undergraduate courses taken for graduate credit to offset grades of C or lower in graduate seminars. No course for which a grade lower than 2.0 (C) has been received may be applied toward the fulfillment of master’s degree requirement, but a grade of D or F is computed in the grade point average. 

Probation and disqualification

A candidate for the master’s degree must maintain a 3.0 (B) average in all graduate seminars. If a student’s GPA falls below this level, they are placed on probation. In order to regain good standing in the program, the student will need to raise her/his GPA to a 3.0 or higher in a timely fashion. Failure to do so will result in disqualification.

A graduate student may be placed on probation or disqualified from the program for a variety of other reasons, such as repeated failure to progress toward the stated degree objectives, failure to comply with academic requirements in a timely manner, and behavior contrary to the standards of the profession. Please see university policy on probation and disqualification for further details. 

Where can I find information about job possibilities once I graduate?

The following sites contain links to advice and information about careers for students of political science.  Many links contain searchable databases of current job openings.

General career information for political science:

Career Development Center

Career Development Center Website


Federal government jobs

Fed. Government jobs For Students

State of California jobs

Advocacy and interest group

The American Political Science Association’s Student Website


Idealist’s free guide for first time job seekers/ recent college graduates: