Capitol building, Washington D.C.

Political Science

Political Science is an academic discipline concerned with the study of politics, government, and state. It deals with the practice and theory of politics, as well as the analysis of political behavior and political systems. Political science originated approximately 2500 years ago with the works of Aristotle and Plato. It is usually divided into 5 distinct sub-disciplines: comparative politics, public law, political theory, international relations, and public administration.

Program Information

Princeton University has one of the biggest undergraduate programs in the country for the study of political science. The Department of Politics offers about 50 courses a year to undergraduates. The Department organizes the undergraduate degree into four fields: Comparative Politics, Political Theory, American Politics, and International Relations. To declare a Politics concentration, you must be a sophomore, and have completed two prerequisite Politics courses. Concentrators are required to fulfill specific requirements to complete their degree. For example, by the end of senior year, all concentrators must complete at least 8 departmental courses and must have taken at least 3 courses in their primary field and 2 in a second field. Stanford University also has one of the best political science programs in the country. Stanford’s political science program provides students with a solid grasp of the American political system as well as other political systems within the context of international conflicts, global forces, ideological systems and social movements. Students must complete 70 units, 45 of which will complete the breadth requirements. One 5 unit Methods course is required, and the remaining 20 units must be completed through other political science courses. Students must also declare one primary concentration and one secondary concentration from the following four concentrations: International Relations, Justice, American National Government and Politics, and Comparing Political Systems. A minimum grade of C is required for courses to count towards the major.

political science student

Pros & Cons

Political science majors can work in a number of private and public sector fields, ranging from state administration or activism to political analysis or journalism. It can lead to a very exciting profession. Your political science degree could result in employment as an intelligence officer or analyst for the CIA or FBI. There are a number of regional, state, and federal government careers available to you as a political science major. If you have global interests, you could find an exciting profession in the world arena, such as a consulate under the commission of the U.S. Foreign Service or as a Foreign Service Officer. There are some disadvantages to a political science degree, however. The coursework can be challenging, and learning about politics can be dull at times. If you want to have a career in a university or research setting, you need at least a master’s degree, which means more schooling and more tuition money. According to the BLS, employment growth for political sciences is relatively slow compared to other occupations (this is because the government is expected to downsize political scientist employment).

Graduate School & Career

Here are just some of the many career options for political science majors:

  • Legislative Assistant – help with constituent matters, handle numerous office tasks, and study proposed legislation
  • Policy Analyst – use qualitative and quantitative analysis and research methods to study issues of public concern and come up with policy alternatives to help address the problem; most policy analysts for work government agencies, state legislatures, policy research organizations or members of Congress
  • Journalist – comment on events in the news, which often involves government actions; since political science programs tend to emphasize effective, persuasive writing, journalism can be a natural career choice for political science majors
  • Educator – many political science majors pursue careers in education, although this requires additional schooling (teacher’s college, master’s or Ph.D. degree)