What is political science?

Political science is the study of politics and power from domestic, international, and comparative perspectives. It entails understanding political ideas, ideologies, institutions, policies, processes, and behavior, as well as groups, classes, government, diplomacy, law, strategy, and war. A background in political science is valuable for citizenship and political action, as well as for future careers in government, law, business, media, or public service.

The political science department provides undergraduate students with an opportunity to learn about politics from a variety of different perspectives. Classes are offered in the four major subfields of the discipline (American politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory), but many courses cut across subfields. 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.

Why major in political science?

Northwestern students major in Political Science for many reasons, including:

  • Rigor and flexibility (the major enables you to become an expert in a particular area of study and choose from a wide range of electives)
  • Attractive career paths (e.g., law, government service, business, policy analysis, teaching, consulting)
  • Acquire strong analytical skills (learn to critically evaluate problems and solutions; develop skills in research, writing, and argumentation; acquire quantitative skills and become familiar with multiple methodologies; earn skill-based certificates of achievement in foreign language and/or quantitative skills)
  • Research opportunities (conduct independent and collaborative research with faculty)
  • Return on investment (among political science departments, Northwestern ranked seventh best in the country for its “return on investment” for college majors)

Read interview with Professor Daniel Galvin, recipient of the E. LeRoy Hall Award for Excellence in Teaching, on the importance of studying politics: "Political Science with a Purpose"