Political Science

Political Science, the study of how various political systems work, is a Bachelor of Arts degree program. Courses ranging from urban politics and government to international politics are offered. The department also provides many outlets through which students can gain practical knowledge of the field, including visits to Virginia’s state capital and to Washington, D.C., internships in governmental offices, and involvement in major political events, such as the United Nations’ student conference. Political Science is a good background for a career in law, urban planning, teaching, government, and private enterprise; it also lends itself to further study in graduate school.

Students majoring in Political Science who complete all requirements earn the degree of Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science.

36 Total Credit Hours Required

Required Courses (9 credits)

[Prospective majors should enroll in 101 & 102 during their first year]

  • 101 Introduction to Political Science (3)
  • 102 Introduction to International Relations (3)
  • 201 American Government (3)

Required Subfield Courses (12 credits)

One course from each of the four sub-fields of political science (listed below on the page).

Elective Courses (15 credits)

To be chosen from departmental offerings, excluding required courses. Up to 3 credits of PSCI 499 (Internship) can count for major elective credit if student receives approval from the department chair.

Speaking Intensive Requirement

At least one Speaking Intensive course (officially designated as SI) must be among the 36 credits in the major program.

Writing Intensive Requirement

At least one Writing Intensive course (officially designated as WI) must be among the 36 credits in the major program.

Honors Thesis Registration Requirements

Students interested in writing an honors thesis must fill out an independent study form with the registrar, and specify that the project is for honors (PSCI 491H). The form requires the signature of the professor chairing the thesis and the department chair. To be eligible to take 491H, students must have at least a 3.4 GPA in the major, and a 3.4 GPA overall.

Political Science Beyond the Classroom Opportunities

Students interested in fulfilling the general education Beyond the Classroom (experiential learning) requirement using political science courses/opportunities should check out the PS/IA Beyond the Classroom page.

Political Science Sub-Fields

These are the Political Science sub-fields listed below (12 credits required; one course required from each sub-field).

 1. American Government

202       American Public Policy

304       Contemporary American Politics

311       Congress & Political Process

312       American Presidency

313       US Federal Judiciary

332       Metropolitan Problems

334       Political Parties and Elections

363       Mass Media and Politics

370       Gender and Politics

391       Research and Writing in Political Science

422       American Civil Liberties


2. Comparative Government

301       Comparative Government of Western Europe

302       Politics of Soviet Successor States

323      Latin American Politics

350       Politics of Developing Countries

354       Politics of South Asia

355       Politics of Middle East and North Africa

360       Theory and Practice of Revolution

362       Politics of Central and Eastern Europe

366      Government and Politics of China

368      Government and Politics of Japan

372       Gender and Development

444       Latin American Political Movements and Organizations


3. International Relations

315       Alliance Politics

321       Theories of International Relations

324       US-Latin American Relations

351        International Political Economy

356       American Foreign Policy

357      Russian Foreign Policy

361       Problems of Communism

367       East Asia in World Affairs

373       Statecraft

387       Security and Conflict Studies


4. Political Theory

441       History of Political Thought I

442       History of Political Thought II



Special topics courses (PSCI 471)- The department chair will notify majors when one of these courses is available and may allow these courses to fulfill particular sub-field requirements as appropriate.

Online courses- The department chair may designate online courses as appropriate for general and sub-field credit as appropriate.

Study-abroad courses- The department chair may designate political science courses taken during study-abroad programs to fulfill particular sub-field requirements as appropriate.

Special note about credits for online and study-abroad cases- The Department requires students to consult with the department chair about credit for online or study abroad courses before they take these courses. Students may bring the syllabi of these courses to the department chair before taking the courses to determine if they are appropriate for political science credit.

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams- only count as general elective credits, not as PSCI electives or as one of the four sub-field requirements.