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Political Science Advising


Political Science analyzes political systems and processes on the local, state, national, and international levels. The goals of the major include enhancing knowledge of the political world, examining values, sharpening analytical and writing skills, and formulating well-considered views. 

Courses appropriate for prospective majors

The Political Science Department offers no single gateway course as a step toward developing interest within the discipline of political science. Instead, we encourage students to take one of four initial steps toward completing the political science major. Each step lies within one of the four subfields of the discipline: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Philosophy. Introductions to American Politics, International Relations and Political Philosophy are offered at the 100-level. The Comparative Politics introductory step can be taken in Comparative Politics 150 or any 200-level Comparative Politics course. 

Courses that fulfill distribution requirements

Social Sciences (Division II):
POSC 120, American Government
POSC 150, Comparative Politics
POSC 170, International Relations
POSC 180, Political Philosophy

Upper level classes also meet Division II, and some meet other requirements such as U.S. Diversity, Global Diversity, or Writing in the Discipline.

Suggested curricular flow through the major

There is no necessary or preferred “path” through the Political Science major. Many students arrive on campus knowing that Political Science is the major for them. Many other majors discover their interest in politics and government after taking classes or becoming involved in campus activities.

The POSC major is designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the four subfields of Political Science (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Philosophy) and to enable students to tailor the major to their own interests as much as possible. In addition, the major’s flexibility allows students to complete the major while studying off campus and to combine the major with a certificate, a minor, or even a second major.

Completion of the Political Science major requires ten courses.

  • Students must take POSC 120: American Government, POSC 170: International Relations, POSC 180: Political Philosophy, one Comparative Politics course, one methods-designated course, and a senior seminar (listed as POSC 390).
  • The other four courses are chosen by the student.
  • Once students take the 100-level course in a particular subfield they are allowed to take any of the 200-level courses also within that subfield. In other words, students do NOT need to complete all 100-level courses before moving onto 200-level courses.
  • Students fulfilling the methods requirement in POSC may do so by taking POSC 239: Research Methods or any other course listed as "POSC methods designated". 200-level methods designated courses can be found in all subfields of the major. 
  • POSC 390 senior seminars are topics-based. Students wishing to take POSC 390 prior to their senior year must gain permission of the instructor. 
  • Some of our majors pursue an interest in a region of the world (e.g., Latin America, East Asia, Africa, or Western Europe).
  • Some of our majors focus on foreign policy and global politics.
  • Some of our majors concentrate on American politics and political  institutions.

The department offers courses in all of these areas and members of the department specialize in each of these areas.

Anyone considering the Political Science major should feel free to contact members of the department with any questions about the major. The faculty will gladly answer questions and explain the strengths and requirements of the major.


To attempt an honors project in Political Science, a candidate must:

1. Be a declared Political Science major. Normally, a student will write the honors thesis in the spring semester in which the student graduates. A student who plans a mid-year graduation must write the thesis during the previous spring.

2. Enroll in POSC 490 - Senior Thesis during the spring semester of senior year. Permission of the instructor is required for enrollment in this course. The application for class admission will be a 2-3 page proposal and will be due at the end of November of the Fall Semester. GPA will be a factor in whether a student can be awarded honors (normally at least 3.7 in all Political Science coursework and an overall GPA of 3.5 or above), but students interested in writing a thesis who do not have the requisite GPA for honors may still apply to be part of the thesis class.  Gaining admittance to the thesis-writing class does not guarantee honors, but instead, honors will be awarded to the students whose completed theses exhibit extraordinary merit at the end of the spring semester. 

3. Students who enroll in POSC 490 normally should have taken POSC 239 Research Methods, or other suitable coursework to prepare the candidate for pursuing the thesis topic of their choice.

Independent study and independent research

Many majors take courses in independent study, independent research, and student/faculty collaborative research, as well as internships. A major will receive political science credit for one internship (if taken for academic credit) if the subject matter is within the field of political science and if the academic advisor is a full-time member of the Political Science department, a faculty member of a Dickinson overseas program, or a faculty member of an off-campus program with which Dickinson College is affiliated. A major may petition the chair to count an additional internship as a political science course. A major will receive political science credit for all courses of independent study (or research) if supervised by full-time members of the Political Science department. A student may petition the chair to count an independent study supervised by any other individual. If students have any questions about receiving political science credit for internships or independent studies, they should consult the department chair.

Co-curricular activities/programs

Many Political Science majors are involved in co-curricular activities and programs such as Student Senate, College Democrats, College Republicans, Dickinson Votes, and Mock Trial, among others. The department also regularly invites scholars from other colleges and universities to campus  and works with the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues to moderate, host and sponsor events relevant to our majors. 

Opportunities for off-campus study

Majors may apply to spend: (1) their junior year in Bologna, Italy, as students at Dickinson's K. Robert Nilsson Center for European Studies specializing in European and International Studies, or (2) in Washington, D.C. in The Washington Center Program specializing in a wide variety of programs, such as American Government, Justice, Foreign Policy, and International Development. Please see the appropriate coordinator for these and many other off-campus study possibilities.

Additional Remarks

After Dickinson: Many Political Science majors go on to study at leading law schools or graduate schools in the social sciences or business, or to careers in state, national or international government service, domestic and international corporations, and journalism.