Major Spotlight: What is a Political Science Major?
Politics affects the air we breathe, the schools we attend, the jobs we do, the communities we live in, and the taxes we pay. If you choose this major, you’ll learn the principles at work behind the decisions that affect every aspect of our lives.
Whether they're conservative or liberal, cynical or idealistic, one common characteristic among political science and government majors is their addiction to politics. If active engagement in the political system is for you, a political science major is a great way to get started.
Political science and government majors study the systems people set up to organize their societies, from neighborhoods to nations.
Are You Ready To...?
- Write a senior thesis (long research paper) on, for example, environmental regulation during the Reagan era or the birth control policy in China
- Join a political science club or campus political organization
- Campaign for a local or national candidate
- Make valuable contacts in class and through internships and volunteer work
- Study the political ideas of everyone from Plato to bell hooks
- Write papers on current topics, such as homeland security or the public financing of new stadiums
It Helps To Be...
Able to argue your point. There are many controversial topics in political science, and students can often get into heated discussions. Start sharpening your debating skills now.
- Does the department, or the professors in it, have a particular political leaning? Is it compatible with your views?
- Will you be able to specialize in an area such as international relations or political economy?
- Does the program require you to minor in a related field, such as economics or sociology?
- Will you have the chance to write a senior thesis or complete another capstone project?
- Will the department help you find internships in such places as government offices and public policy organizations?
- Does the program offer a semester in Washington, D.C.?
- Will you have the chance to study politics abroad?
Did You Know?
Knowing a foreign language can be very useful in political science, whether you interview Cuban refugees in Spanish or read Karl Marx’s Das Capital in the original German.
In your junior or senior year, you may take a seminar taught by a team of professors. For example, in a course on women’s rights, a professor of gender studies might team up with a professor of U.S. politics. In this class, you’d explore a range of theories on how gender and power are related. Seminars are usually small, leading to lively discussion. Expect to take on a major research project.