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Should you major in political science?

Updated: Feb 22

Deciding what you want to study in college can be tough. That’s why we’re kickstarting a new series in which we examine popular college majors and answer some pressing questions. Today, we’re tackling political science! 

As Columbia University puts it, political science is “an academic discipline that seeks to understand the exercise of power in a variety of settings.” Does that sound thrilling? Boring? Confusing? Either way, read on to see if polisci is the right fit for you! 

“I hate politics. I probably shouldn’t study political science, right?”

Let’s unpack that. Do you hate politics because you’re uninterested in the institutions and ideas involved? If so, this major won’t be for you. Or do you hate politics because you don’t like seeing people fight over it? If so, don’t let that necessarily stop you from studying polisci. You’ll encounter a few heated discussions in class, but there’s so much more to the major than just debating controversies.

“I’m more of a numbers person. Will this be a good fit?”

Be prepared to read and write. A lot. But the major can also be quite quantitative, whether that means running regression analyses or surveying public opinion. Helpful technical skills include: statistics, R, SQL, and more.

“What kind of classes will I take?”

This varies by school, but you’ll likely get a glimpse of comparative politics, American politics, public policy, and other foundational courses before narrowing in on your specific area of study. For example, one of my friends was intrigued by the concept of power, so she took a lot of classes on authoritarian states like Russia and China. Here are some sample classes*. Do they sound interesting to you?

  • “Free Speech and the First Amendment Tradition”

  • “Who Gets Elected and Why”

  • “International Politics of the Middle East”

  • “Feminist Political Thought”

  • “Business, Government, and Public Policy”

  • “Human Rights”

*These are real polisci classes offered at the University of Pennsylvania where I attend, but you’ll see similar courses wherever you end up!

“What else will I learn?”

As a polisci student, you’ll probably dabble in many fields. Political science is not a silo: it influences and is influenced by other fields of study.

  • Data science/statistics

  • Economics

  • Legal studies