The Interdepartmental Major in Political Science and Philosophy creates an exciting space for students who are interested in examining politics through a theoretical lens. Within the major, students explore the distribution of power in groups, parties, institutions, governments, and international organizations. They question commonly held political values and assumptions, and they think about where power should lie and about the meaning of good citizenship and the moral life.
With the help of faculty from the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy, students plunge into questions concerning political theory, American politics, comparative politics, ethics, epistemology, and the history of philosophy. A wide variety of courses in either field is available each term, and since the major is very flexible, students can choose freely among them.
The Interdepartmental Major in Political Science and Philosophy is ideal for students who appreciate the hard knowledge of the social sciences as well as the reflective aspects of the meditative life. Unlike the major in Political Science, this interdepartmental major asks students to not only acquaint themselves with the knowledge and methods of political science, but to also contextualize them within the wider scope of general human knowledge.
Creativity, rigor, and independent thinking are encouraged. Students become experts at evaluating arguments and at writing clearly and persuasively. The major is ideal for students interested in law school or graduate studies.
Students in the interdepartmental Political Science and Philosophy major usually start their studies with 100- or 200-level coursework in both areas. Through these courses, you will gain foundational knowledge and analytical skills necessary to do well in advanced coursework on political theory, value theory, epistemology, and other relevant fields.
Two introductory classes often are of particular interest to students in this major: POLS-Y 105 Introduction to Political Theory and PHIL-P 145 Liberty & Justice: A Philosophical Introduction.
Majors must take either PHIL-P 150 Elementary Logic or PHIL-P 250 Introductory Symbolic Logic. It is recommended that students opting for PHIL-P 250 enroll in it after completing their IUB GenEd mathematical modeling course. While PHIL-P 250 is the more challenging course, it provides the stronger foundation in logic and better prepares you for advanced level philosophy coursework. Speak with your academic advisor to determine which class best helps you to meet your needs and academic goals.
Tracks and concentrations
Although a variety of course clusters exist in both Political Science and Philosophy, students who pursue an interdepartmental major in both fields focus on the concentrations of political theory, value theory, history of philosophy, metaphysics, and epistemology.You can explore the philosophical and empirical dimensions of politics.
The major places a heavy emphasis on logic and political theory, but students are encouraged to be creative in choosing the remainder of their courses. A sampling of possible course topics includes American political controversies, philosophy of mind, constitutional law, environmental ethics, and metaphysics.
Upper level coursework
Courses at the 300 and 400 levels give students the opportunity to refine the skills they've been developing in 100- and 200-level courses. Upper-level coursework in Political Science includes a course in American politics, a course in comparative politics or international relations, and two courses in political theory. Students also take a capstone seminar in Political Science, on the topic of their choice. This gives you the opportunity to work closely with faculty in conducting research and enhancing your writing skills.
Upper-level coursework in Philosophy includes a course in ethics and value theory, a course in the history of philosophy, and a course in metaphysics and epistemology. Most 400-level courses in philosophy are small seminars intended to provide a capstone experience in which students work closely with a faculty member.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
Interdepartmental majors frequently add a second major in Computer Science, English, Economics, History, Mathematics, Psychological and Brain Sciences, or Religious Studies. Common minors include Business, Creative Writing, Cognitive Science, French, German, Nonprofit Management, Psychological and Brain Sciences, or Sociology.
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing an Interdepartmental Major in Political Science and Philosophy, you have the opportunity to work with some of the most prominent political scientists and philosophers in the country. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
You can get involved in research as early as your freshman year. Many incoming freshmen apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker.
As your interests develop, you may want to take earn POLS-X 490 or PHIL-X 490 independent readings credits with a Political Science faculty or Philosophy faculty member. This will allow you to explore a topic of choice in great detail and under direct supervision. Speak with an advisor or your instructor about this possibility.
PHIL-X 471: Undergraduate Teaching Assistantships in Philosophy also offers select students the opportunity to assist faculty in research or in the teaching of introductory courses. Contact the advisor for more information. Teaching internships in political science fall under course number POLS-X 471. They offer students the opportunity to participate in planning courses, lecturing, and leading classroom discussions.
Eligible students can participate in the Interdepartmental Honors Program in Political Science and Philosophy. The program allows students to work closely with faculty in conducting research and composing an honors thesis. The honors program has two requirements:
- An honors thesis
- One of the following pairs of courses: PHIL-P 498 Colloquium and PHIL-P 499 or POLS-Y 499 Colloquium and POLS-Y 499
The choice of the pair depends on whether the student's honors director is a philosophy or political science faculty member. The thesis will be judged by an honors committee that consists of members from both departments. Interested students should talk to faculty about starting an honors thesis.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
The Department of Political Science offers a number of scholarships and awards yearly. The director of undergraduate studies and the academic advisors select winners on the basis of academic performance and other criteria specific to each award. Students receive notifications about the scholarships as the application deadline nears.
The Department of Philosophy annually offers the Dona Roberts Biddle Memorial Scholarship (contact the academic advisor in Philosophy for more information) and also encourages interdepartmental majors to apply for prestigious scholarships such as the Ayodele Jegede Scholarship. When appropriate, the Philosophy department also nominates interdepartmental majors for the Palmer-Brandon Prize.
Interdepartmental majors may also apply to receive departmental funds to cover costs to the following yearly conferences:
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their freshman year.
Philosophy majors can do internships in almost any field or career and receive Philosophy credit through PHIL-X 473. To receive credit through PHIL-X 473, you must have a philosophy faculty member supervising the internship experience, and you must write a reflective paper discussing ways in which philosophical issues arose in relation to the internship or ways in which you drew upon skills developed by studying philosophy. Since philosophy concerns foundational issues relating to just about any field of human life, these connections are readily made. Below are some examples of internships a philosophy student might undertake:
- With a political campaign, state or federal legislator, state legislative caucus
- With a law firm, public defender, judge, or prosecutor’s office
- With a business, focusing upon problem-solving, communications, or research and analysis
- With a non-profit, focusing upon problem-solving, communications, or research and analysis
- With municipal government
- With a local social services agency
- With an organization providing medical care to those in need
The faculty supervisor will assist the student in identifying philosophical themes and appropriate philosophical readings relating to the internship experience.
Learn more about internship options, including the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you'll find many resources for both domestic and international internships. Students interning in political science may arrange to receive credit in the department for their internship.
Students pursuing the degree routinely find internships through the Indiana House Democratic and Indiana House Republican internship programs, the IU POLS D.C. Internship Program, and local political parties. Students also obtain internships by contacting service agencies, businesses, and other groups that interest them.
Foreign language study
As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 60 languages.
Below is a sampling of foreign language resources
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships
- Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Although the Interdepartmental Major in Political Science and Philosophy does not require students to study abroad, many students choose to do so, since overseas work is an important part of an undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world.
Students frequently refine their foreign language skills and complete major coursework in a variety of different locations, including:
- Australian National University, Canberra
- Vienna - IES, Austria
- Copenhagen - DIS, Denmark
- London School of Economics, England
- University of Oxford - St. Anne's in Oxford, England
- Paris-IES, France
- University of Freiberg, Germany
- University of Bologna, Italy
- University of Madrid, Spain
- Koc University - Istanbul, Turkey
The College of Arts + Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with political science and philosophy faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.
Student groups are a great way to connect with peers who share the same interests and to make connections between coursework and co-curricular activities. Groups relevant to students majoring in political science and philosophy can include:
- Indiana University Journal of Undergraduate Research
- Philosophy Club
- Political Science club (contact Political Science academic advisor for more information)
- IU Outdoor Adventures
- IU Student Government
Explore BeINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
Majors are encouraged to become involved as citizens. Apart from seeking internships and jobs, majors often volunteer for a favorite candidate, organization, or cause. Numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement exist, including the organizations below:
- Bridges: Children, Languages, World
- IU Corps
- Monroe County History Center
- VITAL - Volunteers in Tutoring Adult Learners
- Women Writing for (a) Change Bloomington
Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations.
Qualified students are encouraged to join Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honors society, and The American Philosophical Association, the premier organization for U.S. philosophers and philosophy students.
- Build your skills
Through the major
The Interdepartmental Major in Political Science and Philosophy provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:
- Critical thinking: the ability to analyze the validity and soundness of arguments
- Analytical writing: the ability to support an argument with clear and cogent writing
- Knowledge of key political science concepts: an understanding of the key concepts used to discuss American politics, public policy, comparative politics, and political theory
- Knowledge of central philosophical topics: Basic understanding of the fundamental issue of moral and political philosophy, and epistemology and metaphysics
- Research skills: the ability to develop researchable questions, identify and locate relevant evidence, and use appropriate analysis to interpret data
- Strong reading skills: the ability to read complex texts closely and identify their main arguments or positions, and to then evaluate those arguments and positions
- Communication skills: the ability to communicate and discuss key concepts in both political science and philosophy with both experts and non-specialists
Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree
Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:
- Question critically
- Think logically
- Communicate clearly
- Act creatively
- Live ethically
These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, they provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.
Skills desired by employers
Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.
The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:
- Problem-solving skills
- Ability to work in a team
- Written and verbal communication skills
- Leadership skills
- Strong work ethic
- Analytical and quantitative skills
- Ability to take Initiative
- Being detail oriented
- Demonstrating adaptability
- Technical skills relevant to the field
- Interpersonal skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational ability
As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.
- Launch your career
Plan your search
The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social medianetworking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume, ask for letters of recommendation from faculty and workplace supervisors, and prepare for job interviews, too.
Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.
Maximize your career preparation with a career course. Interdepartmental Political Science and Philosophy majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Social and Historical Studies provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!
The job market
Students with the Interdepartmental Political Science and Philosophy degree take their education in many directions, whether moving directly into a career or going on to graduate or professional studies.
Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: federal and state government, military or civil service, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, the cooperative job sector, education, research and policy think tanks, and business.
Students with this major can become researchers, policy advisors, educators, businesspersons, security personnel, lawyers, public administrators, journalists, or aid workers, among many other options.
Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center’s First Destinations survey!
Need more ideas? The Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics offers career information about hundreds of occupations.
Talk with Political Science and Philosophy faculty, both academic advisors, career coach and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
After graduation, a short-term experience or internships can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career advisor and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit your educational experience and career goals:
- AmeriCorps VISTA
- City Year Chicago
- Indianapolis Teaching Fellows
- Peace Corps
- Teach for America
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund your education. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profits, and government organizations.
Resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:
- Fulbright Scholar Program
- IU Fellowships and Awards
- Smithsonian Fellowships
- Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.
This major will also prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as history, politics, religious studies, and international studies.
With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other professional programs.
Students who pursue graduate studies have gone on to careers in government, non-governmental organizations, law, and media.
Here are examples of graduate programs offered at Indiana University:
- Maurer School of Law
- Ph.D. Program in Philosophy
- Ph.D. Program in Political Science
- School of Education
- O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
The College of Arts + Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.
Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts +Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.
Is it for you?
The Interdepartmental Major in Political Science and Philosophy attracts students from a variety of backgrounds. They typically possess some of the following qualities:
- Intellectual curiosity and imagination
- Well-developed analytical and verbal skills
- Curiosity about Congress, the courts, elections, state and local government, wars, and international negotiations
- Concern about injustice, women's rights, and other social issues
- Strong reading and writing skills
- Interest in how systems work and how small moveable pieces fit into larger entities
For additional information about the major, please contact the political science advisor or the philosophy advisor. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.
- Department website
- Advisor email address