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.
For questions pertaining to enrollment, please review our Frequently Asked Questions.
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"
How I chose to major in Political Science
Personal stories from recent graduates on why they chose to major in Political Science.
Kate Schlough, class of 2018
I chose to major in Political Science because it incorporated all of my interests in one - elements of history, writing, and social science. In terms of classes, the selection and ability to formulate your own concentration is unparalleled. Most importantly, I found that a degree in Poli Sci can lead to so many different career possibilities, anything from law to foreign service to nonprofit work. Since I know what I'm interested in but not necessarily the exact career to which I want to apply my interests, Political Science offers the maximum number of open doors in the future. If you have any questions or are seeking advice about the major or the department, please don't hesitate to send me an email.
Julianna Astarita, class of 2017
Like many freshmen, I came to Northwestern undecided about what I wanted to study, but I only took a few classes in the political science department before I could tell that it was right for me. I chose political science because it isn’t just about studying the past but also about understanding what’s happening in the present and what might happen in the future. One of the best things about taking political science classes is being able to apply what you’ve learned to current events, and feeling as though you better understand how the world works because of the classes you take here. I feel like no matter what path I take after graduation, political science will always be relevant and the skills I’ve gained will always serve me well. If you have any questions about the department or what it’s like to be a political science major or need any advice, please feel free to reach out! I’d be more than happy to talk.
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