Do you like to explore controversial issues? Are you interested in the politics of the U.S. and other countries? Do you enjoy examining the dynamics of influence, leadership, and civic engagement? If so, the major offered by the nationally ranked Department of Political Science, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences, may be a good choice for you.
The Political Science B.A. provides opportunities to become more engaged as a citizen and prepare for jobs in government, business, politics, consulting, and research. It can also prepare you for graduate study in political science, public policy, law, and other social sciences.
Students of political science explore many dimensions of political life. In your courses, you can cover topics from voting and political psychology to racial and ethnic politics; from wars and revolutions to the politics of Europe and the Middle East; from constitutional law to the politics of food. As a major, you study why people participate in political activity, why they often do not participate, and what difference individuals and groups can make in relation to major issues.
The department also offers four undergraduate minors for students majoring in other subjects: an interdepartmental minor in Political Science and Economics, the standard minor in Political Science, plus minors in International Relations and World Political Systems.
Meet with one of the Political Science advisors for more information about all of these options.
Your starting point in the degree is to choose a couple of 100 or 200 level courses. The 100 level classes are introductions to the discipline and its major subfields. 200 level classes examine broad political issues with the aim of building your basic analytical skills.
Tracks and concentrations
In your Political Science courses you can explore both the philosophical and the empirical dimensions of politics. Courses in Political Science address issues ranging from the specific--gun control, same-sex marriage, the environment--to broader concepts of power, conflict, peace, citizenship, representation, and justice.
There are no official tracks or concentrations in the Political Science major. Instead, the emphasis is on giving you the flexibility to choose your own course of study.
To develop a breadth of understanding, students are required to take least one course in each area of study at the 300 or 400 level:
- American politics or public policy, law, and administration
- Comparative politics or international relations
- Political theory and methodology
The remaining coursework can be used to build an unofficial concentration around one of these three subfields. The Political Science advisors will help you select the best courses to suit your interests.
Upper level coursework
Taking at least one upper level class in each subject area gives you an understanding of major subfields in political science. You develop greater expertise in areas of interest through your elective courses.
All Political Science majors are required to take a Senior Seminar. This capstone experience allows you to do research under the guidance of a faculty member, synthesize knowledge and skills gained in earlier coursework, discuss your work in a small-class setting, and further hone your writing and presentation skills.
Most students take POLS-Y 490 as their Senior Seminar, but other options are available. Speak with one of the Political Science academic advisors for all your options.
You also have the opportunity to take POLS-X 476, where you can participate in experiments, simulations, or moot court sessions. Contact a Political Science advisor for more information.
You can apply to participate in Political Simulations such as Model United Nations and Foreign Policy Decision-making. Students participate in simulations of international organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union or the Organization of American States. For additional information contact a Political Science advisor.
Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates
With the help of your Political Science academic advisors, you may develop your other academic interests through completing additional majors, minors, or certificates. Political Science majors frequently add a second major in a foreign language, such as Russian, Chinese, or Spanish.
Public policy minors are available through the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
The College offers a number of certificate programs, including:
- Enhance your major
Working with faculty
When pursuing a Political Science degree, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in many fields. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of readings and assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.
As your interests develop, you might want to study a topic in greater detail or start work on an honors thesis. Talk with your academic advisor or your instructors about enrolling in an undergraduate readings course under the guidance of a faculty member.
Teaching internships fall under POLS-X 471 Practicum. This experience gives you the opportunity to participate in planning a course, lecturing, and/or leading classroom discussions. Talk with a faculty member with whom you have studied, asking to intern for a course you passed with a high grade. There is a practicum form to use for the application process.
If you are excited about independent research, in-depth writing, and want to work on a faculty-sponsored research project over several semesters, you can apply to the departmental Honors Program. Interested students should meet with a Political Science advisor for details as early as the sophomore year.
Undergraduate scholarships and awards
The Department of Political Science offers a number of scholarships and awards. The department select winners on the basis of academic performance and criteria specific to each award. Qualified students receive notifications about the application process and eligibility requirements.
Political Science majors may also apply to be nominated to attend the following conferences, receiving funds to help cover related expenses:
- Naval Academy Foreign Affairs, held in the spring of each year in Annapolis, Maryland. Watch for emails in early January announcing the competition.
- Student Conference on U.S. Affairs, held in November of each year at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Watch for emails in early October announcing the competition.
Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferrable 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.
The Political Science department offers the opportunity to engage in experiential learning by giving credit for undergraduate internships connected to academic work in the department. Learn more about the possibility of receiving credit by taking POLS-X 477 Field Experience in Political Science through your academic advisor or the Political Science department.
The new IU Internship in Politics, Opportunity, Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship (IU POLS DC) is a semester-long residential internship program in Washington, D.C.
Political Science majors routinely find internships through the Indiana House Democratic and Indiana Senate Republican internship programs, the Washington Leadership Program, and with local political parties.
You can also contact social service agencies, businesses, or other groups that interest you. Many students begin exploring internships opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as freshman year.
Previous Political Science students have found internships related to their studies with the following organizations:
- Barnes and Thornburg, LLP
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- Carl Lamb and Associates
- Cato Institute
- Eli Lilly
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee
- U.S. Department of State
Learn more about internships, including the possibility of receiving credit, through Walter Center for Career Achievement, where you can find many resources for both domestic and international internships.
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.
Here is a partial list of foreign language resources available to students at IU Bloomington:
- Arabic Flagship Program
- Center for Language Technology
- Chinese Flagship Program
- Foreign Language and Areas Studies Fellowships
- IU Language Workshop
- Language Tables
- Project GO
- Russian Flagship Program
Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly interconnected world. Students pursuing Political Science have studied abroad in many places -- from Canberra, Australia to Seville, Spain.
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 faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.
Becoming a member of a student group is a good way to make connections between your coursework and co-curricular activities. Both the Undergraduate Advisory Board (UGAB) and the Political Science Club are Political Science-affiliated organizations; majors are encouraged to join both of them.
The Undergraduate Advisory Board works with faculty to conduct research and plan departmental events. Students must apply and be selected to participate. The Political Science Club is open to any student interested in political science. The club hosts a variety of events, including lunches and presentations with faculty. Contact a Political Science advisor for more information.
Other student groups around campus may also be of interest to you. Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.
There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement, allowing you to give back to the local community while developing useful job skills. The organizations below can help you connect with others from the university and beyond:
- Boys and Girls Club
- Bloomington Worldwide Friendship
- Habitat for Humanity
- IU Corps
- South Central Community Action Program (Head Start)
- United Way
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. Students join to receive recognition for academic excellence, to attend national conferences, and to compete for best paper awards.
- Build your skills
Through the major
The Political Science major 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: analyze the validity of an argument's assumptions, distinguish normative from empirical arguments, and evaluate arguments using multiple perspectives
- Oral and written communication: demonstrate an ability to write clearly and logically, create and deliver oral presentations, and provide feedback on other people's work
- Understand and apply political science concepts: analyze and interpret political and social problems through major political and social science concepts, theories, and models
- Research skills: develop researchable questions, identify and locate relevant evidence, use appropriate qualitative and quantitative analytical skills to conduct and interpret research
- Global diversity: explain why different types of political systems exist around the world and how these differences affect the political behavior at the individual and national levels; differentiate between macro and micro-levels of political behavior and among local, national, regional, and global behavior
- Communication, citizenship and leadership: understand differences in political views, identify opportunities for civic and political engagement, take part in dialogues in which differing views are expressed and negotiated in the interest of democratic governance
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 key 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 media networking 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.
You might want to take a career course to help you maximize your time at IUB. Political Science majors should consider taking POLS-X 299 Careers for Political Sciences Majors. In this course you'll explore your career interests and skills, and find out how to use on-campus opportunities to gain career-relevant experience.You'll also hear from a series of IUB Political Science alumni. They'll describe how the undergraduate Political Science degree has helped them in their careers.
Another option is ASCS-Q296: College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. This course will teach you how to successfully market the qualifications developed through your liberal arts education, achieve career-related goals, and plan for life-long career development.
The job market
Students with a Political Science B.A. degree take their education in many directions. Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: education, federal and state government, research and policy think tanks, non-profit or foreign aid organizations, international banking, politics, international affairs, media, business, and the military.
Graduates with the Political Science B.A. have become researchers, information analysts, policy advisors, educators, businesspersons, security agents, FBI agents, entrepreneurs, congressional aides, lobbyists, union representatives, reporters, human resources specialists, journalists and aid workers.
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.
Post-graduate short-term experiences
A post-graduate short-term experience might be part of the job launch experience for some students in the major. The organizations listed below include both domestic and international opportunities:
Fellowships for post-graduate study
Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.
Resources for fellowship opportunities include:
- Boren Awards for International Studies
- Cultural Vistas Professional Fellowships
- Fulbright Programs
- Institute of International Education
- USAID Payne International Development Fellowship
- Rhodes Scholarships
- The Harry S. Truman Scholarship
- Woodrow Wilson National Fellowships
Graduate and professional study
When applying to graduate or professional schools, you will 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.
A Political Science B.A. can prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as law, public policy, European studies, foreign languages, public affairs, non-profit management, international relations, and business.
High-achieving undergraduate Political Science majors may be able to earn a joint B.A. degree and a J.D. degree from Indiana University in six years, rather than the usual seven. See the departmental website. During their third year, eligible students can apply for admission to the law school’s J.D. program. You can learn more about this accelerated program from the Political Science academic advisors.
Students who pursue graduate studies in Political Science have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, the military and intelligence communities, the United Nations, World Bank, non-governmental organizations, media, business and entrepreneurship.
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 programs in the health professions.
If you are interested in further education, you might consider these Indiana University graduate and professional programs:
- Political Science
- Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies
- Maurer School of Law
- Transition to Teaching
- Joint Ph.D. in Public Policy and Political Science
The Political Science department regularly hosts events for alumni. Check the department's undergraduate Facebook page for updates. The Department posts information about alumni in the newsletter and Alumni News.
The IU College of Arts + Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the IU 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?
Political Science attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically possess some of the following qualities:
- Enjoy high school government and history classes
- Participate in Model United Nations, mock elections, service activities, or extra-curricular activities of all types
- Concern about injustice, women's rights, and other social issues
- Interest in the politics of the United States, China, India, Russia, the Middle East, and other regions and nations
- Intellectual curiosity and imagination
- Desire to gain expertise while working with others
- Curious about how decisions are made in Congress, the courts, elections, state and local government, wars, and international negotiations
- Want to find internships that will broaden their experience and lead to career opportunities
- Department website
- Advisor email address