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Major and Minor

The Department of Political Science offers a major, which requires twelve courses, and a minor, which requires six. The sections below provide more information on the political science curriculum, and requirements for the major and minor.

If you are ready to declare a political science major or minor, visit the How to Declare page to see the instructions for declaring a major or minor.

Political Science Curriculum

Gateway courses

Students generally begin the major with our 200-level introductory courses, described in more depth here. We call these “gateway courses” because they provide an ideal entry point to each of the four major subfields of political science: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. We also offer a fifth gateway course, Introduction to Law in the Political Arena, which is a great fit for anyone who is interested in the judicial system or considering a career in law.

Not all of our 300-level courses require 200-levels as a prerequisite. However, 200-levels provide a foundation for 300-level courses and preparation for subsequent advanced coursework.

Methodology courses

The political science major requires one class in political science methods. Whereas gateway course prepare students with foundational knowledge in the study of politics, methodology courses train students to think about how we gain that knowledge in the first place. Taking a methods course will help give you the analytical tools you need to do your own political science research. It will also help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of all of the research that you study in other political science classes.

Planning your course of study

Students planning to major in political science are advised to complete their 200-level gateway courses and at least one 300-level course in political science by the end of sophomore year.

Majors should complete their methodology requirement by the end of junior year and before taking the Poli Sci 395 research seminar. Students should plan to take Poli Sci 395 in junior year or early in senior year. Those who plan to pursue honors should take Poli Sci 395 in junior year.

While some students choose most of their courses from within one or two subfields, most take a wide variety of courses that span different areas.

Concentrations are not required, but majors are encouraged to consult with department advisers to design individualized programs of study. For example, students have designed concentrations around themes such as race, ethnicity, and politics; global transformation; representation and law; social and economic inequalities; terrorism and national security; and citizenship studies.

Major Requirements

The Political Science major requires twelve units:

Notes and restrictions

300-level courses

AP Credit

Receiving a 5 on an AP exam (either American Government or Comparative Politics) can place students out of the equivalent 200-level course, but does not reduce the total number of courses (12) required to complete the major. Thus, instead of taking POLI_SCI 220 or POLI_SCI 250, the student must take an additional 300-level course. Students receiving 5’s on the AP exams in both American Government and Comparative Politics may place out of both equivalent 200-level courses and thus need to take two additional 300-level courses. Students wishing to use their AP credit in this fashion must place this request by emailing the Director of Undergraduate Studies after they have taken a 300-level class. In that email, please include your student ID number, expected graduation term/year, and specify which 300-level class you have already taken that you would like to substitute for the 200-level gateway course. That information is necessary for the Registrar to make this change on your Degree Progress report.

Study abroad

A maximum of two courses per quarter taken while studying abroad may count toward the Political Science major. More courses may be accepted toward the major for longer study abroad programs. Visit the study abroad page for more information on study abroad policies.

P/N Grades

Courses taken P/N cannot be counted toward the major, with the exception of courses taken during the Spring 2020 quarter. Courses completed with a grade of P in Spring 2020 will count toward the major requirements.

Questions should be directed to the Director of Undergraduate Studies  regarding major requirements for students who entered Northwestern prior to Fall 2014.

Minor Requirements

The minor offers a student the opportunity to complete an abbreviated yet coherent plan of study in Political Science. It is also designed to enable students to enrich their studies in various ways, especially by complementing a major in another field by adding a Political Science perspective on key subjects, and by preparing for certain careers (for example, law, public service, business, or teaching) by taking courses in Political Science that address relevant topics. The minor is structured to permit students to explore a variety of courses across subfields in political science or to concentrate their studies in one of them. Prospective minors are encouraged to consult with an undergraduate advisor to develop a program of study tailored to their needs.

Minor requirements (6 units):

Notes and restrictions

300-level courses

AP Credit

Receiving a 5 on an AP exam (either American Government or Comparative Politics) can place students out of the equivalent 200-level course, but does not reduce the total number of courses (6) required to complete the minor. Thus, instead of taking POLI_SCI 220 or POLI_SCI 250, the student must take an additional 300-level course. Students receiving 5’s on the AP exams in both American Government and Comparative Politics can place out of both equivalent 200-level courses and thus need to take two additional 300-level courses. Students wishing to use their AP credit in this fashion must place this request by emailing the Director of Undergraduate Studies after they have taken a 300-level class. In that email, please include your student ID number, expected graduation term/year, and specify which 300-level class you have already taken that you would like to substitute for the 200-level gateway course. That information is necessary for the Registrar to make this change on your Degree Progress report.

Study abroad

At most one course from study abroad may count toward the minor. Visit the study abroad page for more information on study abroad policies.

P/N Grades

Courses taken P/N cannot be counted toward the minor, with the exception of courses taken during the Spring 2020 quarter. Courses completed with a grade of P in Spring 2020 will count toward the minor requirements.

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