Graduate Student Questions to Ask

Asking the right questions provides valuable information for education and career decisions. The following Graduate Student Questions are a suggested starting-point for inquiring students who would like to know more about the goals of a doctoral program, including how they prepare students for careers, and what they do to facilitate job placement and professional development.

APSA provides these questions, along with the Job Candidate Questions, in an effort to enhance the training and professional development of doctoral students and faculty. These programs encourage political science departments to consider the issues facing individuals in the discipline who are on or preparing for the job market. The programs also provide students and new faculty a means to obtain valuable information to enhance their educational and professional experiences.

For more information contact grad@apsanet.org.

Data on Graduate Recruitment and Admissions and Placement
  1. What data does the department have on the number of applications, admissions and placement of doctoral students in their programs? (Note: you can find some additional information on this question here.)

  2. What is the placement experience of the department? Is there a professional development program?

  3. What is the actual availability of faculty of different specialties in specific departments?

  4. What is the average time to degree?

  5. What are the funding options available for graduate study in the department? How long is funding usually provided, and how much?

  6. What is the nature and quality of faculty involvement with students as evidenced by which faculty members have chaired dissertations, published joint articles, etc.?

  7. Does the department have an explicit methodological focus? Are there any divisive departmental cleavages on disciplinary issues, such as views toward "science," behavioralism, quantitative/qualitative methods, formal modeling, rational choice or other political science perspectives?

  8. Are there any departmental or institutional resources for students with spouses, children or significant others?

  9. How does the department assess student progress?

  10. What is the climate for women and other minorities in a department, its university, and the local community?

  11. How accurate, and regularly maintained, is the department’s course catalogue?

Preparation for Professional Employment
  1. Who advises students on curricular and career issues and how is it done?

  2. How does the department prepare students to assume teaching responsibilities as teaching assistants and as teachers after graduation

  3. How does the department prepare students to pursue scholarly interests leading to professional presentations and publications?

  4. How does the department inform students about professional ethics and responsibilities as teachers, researchers, and members of a scholarly profession?

  5. Does the university have a teaching and learning center for doctoral students and faculty? If so, how does the department use it to enhance professional preparation for professional employment?

  6. How does the department assist in preparing students to enter the job market?

  7. Does the department make any special efforts to prepare graduate students for professional employment outside of the standard faculty roles in political science departments, such as:

  • Interdisciplinary programs

  • Professional schools

  • Community colleges or other educational institutions

  • Research or administrative positions in think tanks, business, government or non-profit organizations?