General Graduate Program Details

Thesis or Creative Component?

You can choose to complete a thesis or a creative component. A thesis is supervised original research that is done with a faculty committee and is great preparation for continuing on to pursue a Ph.D. “Creative component” is a broad term to describe several different types of research projects. A creative component is normally shorter than a thesis (20-30 pages) and can be supervised either by a single faculty member or a committee. A creative component could be a survey or case study related to your current employment, or a report briefing decisions makers on the trade-offs involved in different policy choices. You can work on something that fits your interests and is more practical (and less theoretical) than a thesis.


We are proud to be one of the few political science departments in the country to offer some of our Master’s students funding. We offer quarter-time and half-time teaching assistant positions in which a student is a teaching assistant for one or two courses and receives a $4,600 or $9,200 per semester stipend plus a 25% or 50% tuition reduction.

Students can also get similar funding working as research assistants for our faculty. All graduate assistants automatically qualify for the in-state tuition rate. Assistantships awards are competitive and based on merit. Typically, to be considered for an assistantship you must be an M.A. student in political science and reside in Ames during the fall and spring semesters.

Preparing for a Ph.D.

The academic job market is competitive and so is admission into quality Ph.D. programs. Some students who have the ability to succeed on this path are not ready to start right after their undergraduate program. Sometimes they may have had lower grades that do not reflect their true potential, or they need to increase their quantitative skills or get more research experience. We work with students on this track to help them maximize the chances of a good Ph.D. program placement after graduation.

Admission and Funding Standards

We do not have a required minimum for either the GRE or for grades. We prefer a GPA over 3.0 and solid GRE scores (with higher numbers for students seeking assistantships), but we also know those numbers may only tell part of the story and look at each application holistically. If you are not sure whether you would be competitive for admission or funding, you can contact the Director of Graduate Education and provide your basic information (Previous institutions and grades, GRE scores, TOEFL scores if applicable) and you can get a general sense whether admission or funding is unlikely, possible, or likely.

Complete the Information Request For to learn more about graduate study at Iowa State.