What is the difference among the four fields in Political Science?

American Politics: Investigates our national, state, and local political systems, including their political cultures, institutions, processes, and policies.  Advanced courses permit focused study of specific elements, such as Congress, the presidency, political parties, voting and public opinion, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, urban politics, public administration, and constitutional law.

International Relations: Offers an understanding of the global political system and relations between nations.  Advanced courses allow more thematic approaches, such as regional analysis, policymaking, international development, international organizations and law, international conflict, and international political economy.  The field also has a strong tradition in normative issues such as human rights and humanitarian concerns.

Comparative Politics: Compares political institutions or practices around the world.  This field involves both area studies as well as the comparative study of topics such as party systems, representation, democratization, public policy, and development.  Courses are available on the politics of Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Russia, East Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Political Theory: Introduces students to the varied interpretations of the nature of political community and of the state. These include classical, medieval, and modern theorists, as well as themes such as community, representation, liberty, and equality.  The department also encourages students to study the problems of method which arise in the wide ranging discipline of political science.

Is there a minor in Political Science?  


Do students combine the Political Science major with other majors?

The idea of a double major appeals to many Notre Dame students. Your decision should be based in part on strategic considerations: Are some courses available only to majors? Will a formal major in another department offer unique opportunities? However, if you have an interest in two areas, you can simply major in one and take some electives in the other. This will allow you to use your electives to explore your other interests and complement your major with courses that will build skills and deepen your understanding of the subjects  that interest you. Double majors do not  provide an advantage when applying for a job or graduate school.

 How should I decide whether to take an introductory course or an  intermediate level course? 

Most students should take the introductory courses in their two main fields of interest. This gives you a good foundation for upper-level courses and will take care of their prerequisites. If you are less interested in one or two of the other fields, you may want to look at more appealing intermediate level courses that will satisfy the breadth requirement. There may be exceptions to this general approach, however, so we encourage you to talk to an advisor about what would be best for you.

All students have their own particular interests and needs, but here are some suggestions:

  • The introductory courses will prepare you for upper-level courses. You can start with your interests, but also keep in mind that some upper-level courses require prerequisite introductory courses.
  • You do not need to take all four introductory courses before you take any upper- level course. If you have taken one or more of the introductory courses, think about taking one additional introductory course, but also taking an intermediate-level course as well.
  • Think about your major and your interests when you are selecting courses outside the major. For example, choose a history course that overlaps with an area of interest within the major.

The key to making your major work for you is to integrate the resources available to you into a package that will help you reach your goals. Be sure to seek advice from faculty and your advisors, as well as other students.

Can I specialize? Do I have to specialize?

Political Science majors often specialize informally in one of the following sub-fields, although there is no requirement to do so, and there is no formal distinction between a student who studies American politics, for example, and one who studies International Relations. You may find that courses in different sub-fields will complement one another.

How do I declare the Political Science major?

Come to the department office in 217 O'Shaughnessy and see Josh Kaplan or Carolina Arroyo during drop-in advising hours. They will go over the requirements and procedures, answer any questions you have and help you plan your program.

Does the department accept AP credit toward the major?


Does the department accept transfer credit toward the major?

Yes. The department normally accepts up to 9 credits from off-site programs.This include all courses taken at any study abroad program and transfer credits from other schools.

  Do any internships count for the Political Science major?

No. Credits for internships, whether in study abroad programs, in the Washington, D.C. program, in the summer, or during the academic year, never count toward the major.

 Should I take economics and statistics?

These courses will introduce you to tools that will allow you to do analytical work that would otherwise be impossible. Furthermore, political science and policy studies draw on the language of microeconomics. Macroeconomics is an important foundation for the study of international political economy.

Most Master's programs in public policy or international studies expect to see both Principles of Macroeconomics and Principles of Microeconomics on your transcript.

Can I study abroad?

Yes, many of our majors spend either a semester or year of study abroad.

To prepare for study abroad, take courses here that will help you make the most of the opportunity. For example, take Comparative Politics and Latin American Politics before going to Chile, to learn more about that country and prepare for the courses you will take there. Talk to your advisors here to help you choose the best courses abroad.

  • We encourage you to take courses that will complement, rather than duplicate, courses you can take here. For example, why go to Rome to study American Politics?
  • Think about how you can use your experience to inform your studies once you come back. You may be able to use your experience abroad as the springboard for a senior thesis, or simply to appreciate your courses better.
  • It is important to plan ahead. Will you miss any deadlines for fellowships, scholarships, or special programs while you are away? Find out how you will register for your Notre Dame courses while abroad.

Any potential Political Science majors going abroad for their sophomore year should talk to an advisor in the department before they go in order to plan for their year and for when they return.

Can I study in Washington, D.C.?

Yes. The Notre Dame Washington Program offers students the opportunity to live, learn, and intern in our nation's capitol.