What makes CIR different?

CIR’s distinctive strength is giving students exposure to the world-class faculty and cutting-edge research while providing skills and experience appropriate for both doctoral study and professional careers in international relations. CIR students take most of their courses with doctoral students and write serious Masters theses that require original research. This sustained, hands-on research experience distinguishes CIR from many other programs. At the same time, CIR students have access to UChicago’s extensive array of professional development resources, on-campus research and policy institutes and programs, and overseas centers. CIR students use this experience to pursue futures ranging from doctoral studies in top departments to working in the US government to exploring careers in NGOs and the private sector.

Most MA programs I am familiar with take two years to complete. Can I really accomplish very much in a one-year program?

The University operates on the quarter system, and full-time CIR students register for three courses per quarter, completing the nine-course requirement for the CIR MA degree between late September and mid-June. The workload in many Chicago quarter courses is equivalent to what is assigned for a semester elsewhere. In addition, a continuous stream of non-credit graduate workshops, lecture series, and departmental seminars add opportunities for intellectual growth throughout the year.

How many students actually complete the CIR degree in one year? And what is the overall graduation rate?

All students complete their nine course registrations by the end of spring quarter. These days, over 95% of our students complete all of their work for those courses in the three quarters, between late September and mid-June.

In a typical year, 35% complete the MA thesis by the end of Spring Quarter. The rest commonly finish and submit their theses for graduation that following Summer Quarter. This is an unusually strong record of student completion, particularly at Chicago standards of performance. It testifies to the care with which CIR makes admissions decisions and the continuous support the program provides its matriculants.

What is the difference between your January 4 and April 1 deadlines?

Applications received by January 4 are read first and represent your best opportunity for admission. Nevertheless, we continue to accept applications (with full consideration for funding) until April 1 as long as scarce space in our next incoming cohort of students remains. As such, we encourage anyone applying after January 4 to submit their materials as soon as they are able.

When will I find out if I was admitted?

Applicants who applied for our January 4 deadline will be notified in early March. Persons applying after January 4 for our April 1 deadline will be notified once all materials are received and the file has been reviewed by our faculty committee.

Does the Committee on International Relations offer a PhD degree?

No, CIR does not offer a PhD; CIR only offers one program, the Master of Arts in International Relations. It does provide an established intellectual “stepping stone” into a wide array of world-class doctoral programs, however.

I am trying to choose between MA and PhD programs in international relations. What are the main differences?

The CIR program is a good entry point for students who consider entering a top-quality PhD program but are still unsure if they want to commit to prolonged graduate study (usually 5 - 7 years). The program is especially valuable because it offers a more "academic" curriculum than most schools. Here students take regular graduate courses with graduate faculty alongside PhD candidates. As a result, students can explore their interest in a research-oriented doctoral program while strengthening their academic credentials for further study.

The PhD in political science (with an IR focus) is essentially a degree aimed at teaching and research. It is sometimes used for consulting or specialized work in government or business. Graduates from the University of Chicago Department of Political Science take up teaching positions at other highly ranked schools such as Yale or Cornell, or they go to work for think tanks like RAND, government agencies like the State Department, or international business. The focus of a PhD program, however, is usually on academic jobs and scholarly research. Generally speaking, a university teaching job requires a PhD, and top graduate programs focus on producing such teachers.

Is everyone on the PhD track?

Not at all. Many come into our program with significant work experience, and many aspire to use their UChicago analytic training to further their careers in government, public policy analysis, or private industry after they graduate. The unique advantage of CIR, relative to other M.A. programs in international political affairs, is that it provides a peerless pathway into doctoral studies without requiring you to prematurely commit yourself to the academic vocation before you’ve had the opportunity to give it try.

Although around 65% of CIR students enter the program intent on continued PhD study, by the end of the year only around 25% decide that they want to pursue further graduate study in IR. Thus, although CIR produces more doctoral candidates per capita than most Masters-level programs, a clear majority of our students ultimately choose to end on a professional track. We consider both outcomes a success, and provide programming to support each of them.

CIR has dedicated career development staff, UChicagoGRAD assists graduate students in succeeding in professional careers outside of academia, and both CIR and the Institute of Politics provide funded internships and funding for internships that students find. This commitment to providing doctoral-level education to students combined with world-class professional career opportunities is a distinctive strength of CIR.

When do I have to decide which track is right for me?

We support all students equally and train everyone the same. Students are not differently “tracked” in their course selections or in their MA thesis. The same world-class research and writing skills that make our graduates impressive to PhD selection committees also make them enormously competitive for a wide array of professional careers involving the analysis of complex problems. There is no particular reason to decide on either over the course of your one-year program. Indeed, some CIR students ultimately decide to return to academia only after a year or two in the professional world, so the possibility remains very much open even beyond your time in Hyde Park.

What resources are available on campus to CIR students?

The University of Chicago has numerous institutes, programs, and centers focused on international relations, broadly conceived. Students interested in security and conflict issues can take advantage of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats and the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts. The Institute of Politics is a hub for applied expertise on politics, and provides extensive opportunities for meeting practitioners, advice on career development, and funding for internships. The Paulson Institute and Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation offer insights and expertise on the global economy, environment, and urbanization. The Pozen Family Center for Human Rights and Center for International Social Science Research link social science research with international affairs. UChicago has centers and programs dedicated to South Asia, East Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, among others. UChicago’s global centers in Beijing, Hong Kong, Paris, and Delhi all provide access and information for students interested in pursuing internships or future study/careers overseas.

And, of course, MA students can take full advantage of courses in the Division of the Social Sciences, ranging from a new program in Computational Social Science to classic seminars on enduring questions of politics and international affairs. CIR students also often take courses outside of SSD, especially in the Harris School, the Law School, and Division of the Humanities.

What joint degree options are available?

There are numerous joint and dual degree opportunities for CIR students, which can provide a distinctive profile and skill set for a variety of future paths. You can find out more about these options here. We strongly encourage you to contact us if you are interested in further details.

Is it possible to begin the program in winter, spring, or summer quarters?

No, the University has only one admissions selection season, and this is for fall quarter. The university's cycle runs autumn to spring. MA thesis workshops are taught in winter and spring. Students complete their theses in either spring or summer quarter.

The University does offer some optional summer courses that may be of interest to incoming students, including a number of “math camps” supporting those who are considering courses in quantitative data analysis. These are all outside of our formal requirements, but very popular with our students. These math camps are free, and ultimately appear on your UChicago transcript.

May I pursue the CIR degree part-time?

No, the program requires a full-time commitment, but only for one year (which amounts to nine months of classes). There are next to no graduate courses offered in the evenings, or summer quarter, and part-time students would thus be almost impossible to support. More importantly, part-time students are not eligible to apply for or to receive University financial aid.

Who are the CIR preceptors?

The preceptors are University doctoral candidates in the final stages of completing their dissertations. They are handpicked for their demonstrated excellence in teaching and advising, their knowledge of faculty and department courses, their multidisciplinary interests, their sociable and supportive natures, and their engagements in worlds beyond the University. The preceptors complement the Chair, the senior academic staff, and our administrative front office in all aspects of student advising and support.

You are assigned to a preceptor on the basis of your disciplinary and research interests, and you move through the CIR year in the company of a “preceptor group” of about 15-20 students with broadly related interests. Your preceptor group serves as your discussion section for the Perspectives course in the autumn, and it will become your MA proposal workshop in January and beyond.

Tell me more about the CIR curriculum.

Every CIR student takes Perspectives, our two core seminars in security and political economy, and seven further graduate courses of their choice at the university. Although most of these courses must be taken within the bounds of the Social Sciences Division, our students have the option of taking up to two approved graduate-level courses from across the University of Chicago more widely, such as in our Law School, the Booth School of Business, and the Harris School for Public Policy, among others. Approximately 85% of the University’s graduate courses are open to CIR students.

Finally, every student is required to write an independent thesis project of around 35-45 pages, which serves as the intellectual capstone for their CIR training.

What are the CIR Core seminars all about?

The University of Chicago is famous for its tradition of general education undergraduate core courses. Our core seminars carry this ethos to the graduate level. It is the first mission of our cores to provide all students with the fundamental conceptual vocabularies and analytic standards they will need to function as graduate students in the study of international politics. Our core seminars are also where our students get to know one another, to establish levels of challenge and expectation, before they transition to more individualized programs of study.

Who supervises my MA Thesis?

Your primary adviser may be any University of Chicago faculty member you can interest in your project, no matter whether that person teaches in the Social Sciences or in one of our professional schools. As long as that sponsor holds a PhD, and a faculty position at the University, they would qualify as an appropriate research mentor.

Your CIR preceptor also evaluates your paper, after organizing your MA proposal-writing workshop in January and meeting regularly with you to assist in the development, drafting, and execution of your project. The CIR Core seminars are also designed with an eye to honing the skills needed to successfully conduct top-notch thesis research.

What are the costs for tuition and expenses?

For specific information regarding tuition and fees, including cost of living estimates, please visit Admissions and Financial Aid for the Division of the Social Sciences. Please keep in mind that CIR provides extensive financial aid, so these figures are not typical for many of our students.

If I don’t get my thesis done by the end of spring quarter, do I have to keep paying tuition to the University until it’s finished?

No. You have nine courses required for your degree (three per quarter on a full-time basis) and after that you pay no further tuition. Our CIR faculty and staff remain available to you for thesis supervision and evaluation, until your degree is ultimately completed.

What type of financial aid is available?

CIR offers merit-based tuition scholarships on a highly competitive basis at the time of admission. 

Can I work on-campus?

It is common for CIR students to work on campus. Given the intense academic demands of our program, we recommend starting with 5 hours per week before seeing if you can (maybe) handle around 10 as an upper limit. Beyond that, it’s nearly impossible to commit yourself properly to your graduate studies.

Many students work as Research Assistants (RA) for individual faculty. The Department Administrators (not the Chairs) are your best initial contacts, to see if they know of faculty with particular needs. You could also try reaching out to individual professors, but most will want to meet you in person before making the decision to hire. Your best strategy is to start with the unique linguistic, methodological, or fieldwork experiences you’ve had. Then start identifying those faculty who may have special need of those skills, for their current research or projected teaching.

I am interested in a PhD at some point in the future. Will my CIR coursework transfer to a PhD program elsewhere?

That depends on the university and department in question. Students should contact individual departments with this question. In the past, some CIR students who applied to PhD programs at the University of Chicago and elsewhere have had most of their CIR coursework transfer over to the PhD program.

If for whatever reason it is impossible for me to matriculate in CIR next fall, may I defer my admission?

CIR does not defer admission to the program. Students may "reactivate" their application the following year. There is a high likelihood of being admitted again. The procedure is as follows: students should decline their offer of admissions for next autumn, while indicating by letter to the Dean of Students Office their intention to "reactivate" (the trigger-word) their application for the following year. This will keep the student file available and current, allowing students to supplement it for the next admissions cycle with a new statement of purpose and any other new supporting materials they care to supply.