The Catholic University of America

MA in Congressional and Presidential Studies (CAPS)


Program Description

The Politics Department of The Catholic University of America (CUA) offers a unique program leading to a Master of Arts degree in Congressional and Presidential Studies (CAPS). The Department also offers a Graduate Certificate in CAPS which requires fewer courses.  Balancing academic analyses and practical experience, the curriculum meets the career and informational needs of congressional staff, interest group representatives, journalists, Executive branch employees, diplomatic staff and others interested in the political and policy processes of the United States government. Those who wish to pursue higher academic degrees will find this program a strong foundation.

With unrivaled access to the Capitol and the federal government, the CAPS Program is designed for the working professional: maximum flexibility for the student combined with a wide range of course offerings. Classes are conducted in the early evening at the Hall of States near Capitol Hill and Union Station.. Small class size facilitates student interchange with each other and with the instructor. The program provides an instructional blend of both highly respected faculty of the Department of Politics with very successful individuals who have a wealth of practical experience in their fields. All have earned doctoral degrees from distinguished American universities. The students, many of whom are already actively involved in congressional and presidential endeavors, are drawn from a wide-range of academic and experiential backgrounds which greatly enhances the learning experience. The CAPS program is semester based (Fall and Spring), and includes summer sessions.


Eligibility for admission to the program is based on having attained a Bachelor's Degree (or equivalent) from an accredited institution and a demonstration of the potential to successfully study at the graduate level. GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores must be received by the university before your application will be considered. Complete application requirements and procedures as well as information on tuition and fees are detailed on the University's Graduate Admissions website.  Applications may be filed on-line and, in accordance with CUA's rolling admission policy, at any time.

Admission is by letter from the Associate Dean, Graduate Programs, School of Arts and Sciences.

Program Requirements

Requirements for successful completion of the MA program are threefold.

I. Course Work

All students are required to complete a minimum of 30 (thirty) semester hours of course work. All course offerings are three credit hours. A minimum of 24 (twenty-four) credits must be in Congressional and Presidential Studies and include the two introductory courses (CPOL 671: The Modern Congress, and CPOL 626: The Modern Presidency). The remaining six hours may be in another area of politics (e.g., in the International Affairs Program), or a relevant field of study. A maximum of two on-campus courses may be taken only with prior approval from the Director of the Capitol Hill Programs Programs.

A maximum number of six (6) credit hours from other accredited universities or colleges may be transferred and count as part of the course work requirement. In order to apply for transfer credit, a student must have successfully completed at least four courses in the Congressional and Presidential Studies program. Application may then be made through the Director of the Capitol Hill Programs, with final approval by the academic dean.

II. Thesis/Seminar Papers

Students are required to complete either a thesis or two seminar level research papers on an approved topic; both options require approval by the Program Director and the instructor.

The thesis is a substantial original research paper prepared under the direction of a member of the faculty; successful completion generally earns 6 (six) credit hours (two sequential three (3) credit seminar courses).

The second option is to complete two research papers of seminar length and quality; these papers are to be completed, approved and signed by a faculty member, and deposited with the Director no later than one month prior to taking the comprehensive exam.

III. Comprehensive Examination

For degree completion, students must pass a comprehensive written examination in the field of Congressional and Presidential studies. Students who have essentially satisfied the course work requirements with at least a B average and have completed the thesis/seminar papers are then eligible to take the comprehensive examinations. Comprehensive examinations are scheduled in the fall and spring semesters.

Graduate Certificate in Congressional and Presidential Studies

The certificate option is available for students who may not be in Washington for an extended time or who are not in a position to commit to the sustained and rigorous study leading to the Master's degree.  Students in the Certifcate program must complete four semester courses or 12 credit hours of graduate study with at least a 3.0 grade point average (two of the four courses must be the introductory courses); there are no further requirements.

Applicants are required to have a Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a GPA of 3.0.  Applicants to the Certificate program are not required to take the Graduate Record Examination.

 Doctor of Philosophy in American Government

Students who have earned a Master of Arts in Congressional and Presidential Studies and have demonstrated the requisite academic aptitude may seek enrollment in the department's program leading to a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in American Government. Parts of the CAPS program are directly transferable; e.g. the 30 (thirty) credit hours earned may be applied as a part of the total 54 (fifty-four) credit hours of course-work required for the PhD.