University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Political Science Major

Political Science majors study political life in the varied contexts in which it occurs—institutions, social movements, power relations, elections, political culture, ideas, and war. The major emphasizes issues central to public life such as democracy, citizenship and participation, inequality, global forces, institutions, and governance. The most significant purpose of the Political Science major is to help educate a reflective and active citizenry capable of sharing power and responsibility in a contemporary democracy. The curriculum supports this goal first by developing students’ skills in comprehending and engaging complex arguments and phenomena. Second, the program emphasizes students’ development of skills in articulating clear, sound, and compelling arguments of their own, based on appropriate evidence, in spoken and written presentation. 

Major Requirements

Student requirements are determined by date of admit or entry into UMass.

Requirements for admit/entry term SUMMER 2023 or later:

Political science majors must complete a minimum of 14 courses totaling at least 45 credits, with a minimum 2.000 GPA, distributed as follow:

1. Three broad survey courses, one from each of the following three categories:

  1. Category 1. American Politics (101), Introduction to Constitutional Law (162), Controversies in Public Policy (181), or U.S. Foreign Policy (255)
  2. Category 2. Comparative Politics (111) or World Politics (121)
  3. Category 3. Introduction to Political Theory (171), American Political Thought (203), Ancient Political Thought (270), Modern Political Thought (271), Democracy and Citizenship (272), or Power (273)

2. Eight courses at 200-level or above, at least four of which must be at 300-level or above. Primary majors will take 377 Junior Year Writing and an Integrative Experience (IE) course as two of these eight courses:

a. The following will count towards this requirement:

  • All classes 200-499 (or above) taken for a grade, except for independent study or practicum coursework ending in 96 or 98, which will count according to the rules below
  • Three or more credits accumulated from any combination of 296, 396, 496 (independent study); 298, 498D (internship practicum); and 398R (research practicum) will be counted as a single course. However, no more than one of the eight required upper-level courses may come from credits accrued from such coursework. (Courses taken P/F may be acceptable here, but only if P/F status is mandatory.)

b. The following will count towards the 4 required 300+ level courses:

  • Any 300-499 (or above) courses taken for a grade, including Junior Year Writing (377) and courses that may be counted for Integrative Experience (IE), but not any course ending in 96 or 98

3. Three courses in Global Knowledge and Skills, totaling at least 9 credits in all, according to one of the following five paths (no double-counting of courses taken to satisfy the first two requirements above):

  1. Global Courses Path: The Political Science major designates certain Political Science courses as Sen. Doc. No. 23-033 fulfilling the 'Global' component. Students take three such 'Global'-designated courses of their choice.
  2. Certificate Path: The Political Science major designates certain global/internationally oriented certificate programs as satisfying 'Global' requirement. Students select one certificate program and complete it for this path.
  3. Departmentally Approved Study Abroad Path: Students complete at least 9 credits for a letter grade (where permitted; up to 3 credits may be P/F if offered as part of a program that includes these as a mandatory P/F component) through an IPO-approved study abroad program. (These need not be political science courses so long as the program is approved by IPO and the political science Director of Undergraduate Advising, in consultation with the Undergraduate Program Director.)
  4. Language Path: Students choose a foreign language and complete a sequence of at least 3 courses in that foreign language. All courses must be in the same language. Students would start at their current level of proficiency. Additionally, courses must cumulate to the extent feasible given existing course offerings: students must progress toward greater proficiency. For the purposes of the Global Education requirement students would not be able to test out using prior foreign language experience. (However, valid college-level foreign language courses taken at other institutions would count for this requirement. Additionally, students officially double-majoring – or minoring – in a foreign language who had achieved the requisite credits would be given credit).
  5. Individualized Global Knowledge and Skills Path: An individualized program of study, comprising three courses (3 or more credits per course) designed by the student and approved in advance by (1) a faculty advisor and (2) the undergraduate program director.


  1. All courses counted toward the major must be taken for a letter grade, with two narrow exceptions – covered under 2(a) and 3(c) above.
  2. At least 6 courses used to satisfy requirements 1 and 2 above must be taken within the Department of Political Science.

Requirements for admit/entry term FALL 2018 - SPRING 2023:

The Department of Political Science requires majors to complete a minimum of 44 credits in Political Science, including the Junior Year Writing and Integrative Experience requirements. All courses counted toward the major must be taken for a letter grade, and no more than 5 transfer courses (or a maximum of 20 credits) may count toward the major. Students must maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA in the Introductory requirements, within the major, as well as overall at the University in order to graduate.

Introductory Requirement
All Political Science majors must complete at least three introductory Political Science courses, with an average grade of C (2.0) or better in the set of courses, as follows (one in each category).

  1. American Politics (101), Introduction to Constitutional Law (162) or Controversies in Public Policy (181)
  2. Comparative Politics (111) or World Politics (121) 
  3. Introduction to Political Theory (171), American Political Thought (203), Ancient Political Thought (270), Modern Political Thought (271), or Power (273)

Upper-Level Requirement
Complete a total of 24 credits of Political Science upper-level courses (200-level or above), at least 12 of which must be 300-level or above.

The Political Science Junior Year Writing course (377) and the Integrative Experience course may be counted among these credits if Political Science is the student's primary major.

Not more than 3 credits can be an independent study course or a graded internship. Honors research, Honors project, and Honors thesis courses (499Y, 499P, 499T) are in addition to the 36 credit requirement for the major and will not count toward the major requirements. POLISCI 499C and 499D, will each count toward the upper-level major requirements.

Global Knowledge & Skills Requirement
Students must complete three courses, or 9 credits, for the Global Knowledge & Skills requirement area, choosing one of the following options. Courses in this requirement area must be taken in addition to work completed above. Global Knowledge & Skills list can be found on the department website (see Course Lists).

  • Option One:  Global Course - 3 courses from the Global Knowledge & Skills list
  • Option Two:  Certificate (select one from departmental list):
    • Five College African Studies
    • Five College International Relations
    • Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies
    • Five College Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies
  • Option Three:  Study Abroad (IPO-approved program, at least 9 credits worth)
  • Option Four:  Language (9 credits, in sequence)
  • Option Five:  Individualized (9 credits, with approval from the Undergraduate Program Director)

How to Declare the Major

Political Science is an unrestricted major which means a student can declare/change at any time after having an informational meeting with an academic advisor. There are no required prerequisite classes or cumulative GPA required to move into the Political Science major. To schedule an informational meeting with an academic advisor, please use Navigate and the following information:

  • Type of Appointment: Advising
  • Available Office/Dept: Z.Explore How to Declare or Change Major


The Political Science Advising Team is always ready to help. Our peer advisors are available by appointment or come in for drop-in hours (no appointment necessary) . To meet with an academic advisor, make an appointment in Navigate.