What is Political Science?
Political Science involves the study of government, politics, and the laws, rules, and values that affect the nature of political authority. OK, but what is it really about? Well you learn about how governments operate, both in the US and around the world. You learn how governments come to pursue certain policies, how government policies affect people, and how people can influence governments. Thus you learn how and why things change in this political realm.
Political Science courses are divided into 6 sub fields:
American Government: The study of US government, political institutions, and behavior
Public Administration: The study of how government bureaucracies work to carry out laws and policies
Comparative Politics: The study of governments in different countries and regions of the world
International Relations: The study of global political institutions, how states interact, and global policy problems.
Public Law: The study of the US constitution, US law, the legal system, and legal theories underpinning them.
Political Theory: The study of the major theories and ideologies of politics from antiquity to the present time.
Requirements for a Political Science Major:
A Political Science Major requires 33 hours of political science coursework (usually 11 courses)
Three of these classes (9 hours) are introductory level:
* POLS 110 Intro to American Government
* POLS 290 Intro to Political Inquiry (ideally taken in the sophomore year)
* ONE MORE 100-level class--Take EITHER POLS 171 Intro to Comparative Politics OR POLS 172 Intro to International Relations (only one will count towards the required 33 hours)
The other 8 classes (24 hours) must be 300 or 400 level courses.
We want you to have some breadth, so we ask that you take at least one course in 3 of the 6 areas listed (American Government, Comparative Government, International Relations, Political Theory, Public Administration, and Public Law). We also want you to have some depth of knowledge within one area, so we ask that you take at least 3 courses within one of those areas.
It is my experience that almost nobody has a problem satisfying these breadth and depth requirements. Key Mistakes to Avoid:
Requirements for a Political Science Minor:
A Political Science minor requires 21 hours of coursework (usually 7 courses)
* POLS at 100-200 level (6 hours)
* POLS at 300-400 level (15 hours)
No more than nine hours of POLS 496 will count toward the minor.
What can I do with a major in Political Science?
The B. A. in political science provides students with a broad understanding of government, politics, and public and international affairs. It strengthens writing, speaking, and critical thinking skills that are essential for most careers. For specific career links see Links header above. Possibilities after the BA degree in Political Science include:
- Working for government
- Law school or Graduate School
- Working for a think tank
- Peace Corps
- Public and International Affairs
- Working for interest groups
- Private sector work
- and many others . . .
Thoughts on Graduate and Professional School
Many of our political science majors go on for advanced degrees in Law, Public Administration, Business, and Political Science. This provides them with more applied training and a degree which allows them to advance further in their chosen field. Master of Public Administration (MPA)The MPA degree is designed to provide professional education to students who wish to prepare themselves for administrative careers and leadership positions in government. While the majority of graduates may take positions in local, state, and national governments, the degree program can also lead to service in other organizations associated with governmental affairs, such as private foundations, nonprofit service agencies, political interest groups, and other community institutions. Graduates have also taken positions in the private sector. The MPA usually takes 2 years to complete, and most programs include an internship requirement. For more information on BGSU's MPA degree, see our MPA homepage.
Law programs generally take 3 years of school beyond the B. A. Admission to law school is usually based on your grades (GPA), and your score on the LSAT test which is usually taken in the senior year before applying to law schools. Undergraduate courses that develop writing, speaking and critical thinking/problem solving will help you to succeed on the LSAT and in law school. One can major or minor in any field and still gain admission into law school. Our department offers several courses in the public law area (constitutional law, administrative law, constitutional law advocacy) which provide students with a basic understanding of the major cases and legal concepts are covered in law school. For this reason, many pre-law students choose to major or minor in political science. Other useful majors or minors include English, Philosophy, Legal Studies Economics Business (especially for those interested in corporate law) Telecommunications or Interpersonal Communications and Sociology.
Master of Arts/Ph.D. in Political Science
Advanced degrees in the general area of Politics have many different names depending on the school. Most Masters programs take 2 years, though some one year programs are available. The degree titles might be Masters in Public Policy, Masters in Public Affairs, Masters in Political Management, Masters in International Affairs, Masters in Government, or Masters in Political Science. The MA is a general political science degree, often with a specialty in one of the core areas of political science. The Ph.D. typically leads to a career as a professor or professional researcher. The Ph.D. typically takes between 6-7 years to complete and includes coursework, comprehensive exams and the completion of a book length dissertation. Students who are uncertain about whether they want to pursue this degree may opt to enter a Masters degree program in political science and then transfer (or continue at the same institution) for the Ph.D. If this career is appealing to you, we recommend that you talk personally with as many political science faculty members as possible in order to learn about the field and decide which schools to apply to.