Top 15 Colleges for Political Science Majors In 2009

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August 13th, 2009 in Rankings

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An education in political science encompasses a wide range of subjects. Sociology, philosophy and law are among those fields directly related to the political science major. Students who chose to major in this discipline will study the relationship of power, governments and society. The Universities ranked among the best in the field of political science have earned this ranking through excellence in teaching, diversity and innovation in research and the development of a comprehensive curriculum which offers a solid foundation in the field and encourages independent growth and exploration.

1. Harvard University

Harvard University’s Government Department is renowned for their program, curriculum and their faculty members alike. The faculty members are leaders in the various fields which comprise the area of political science and come from diverse backgrounds. The course instructors are skilled in teaching and well versed in the political science methodologies and approaches. The core areas of the political science program include American politics, comparative politics, international relations and political theory. Emphasis is also placed on theory, political economy and methodology. Students have the opportunity to pursue a graduate and/or a doctorate degree in the political science discipline at Harvard University. Harvard students benefit from the seminars, research projects and training programs administered by leaders in the political science field from all around the world.

The Department of Government at Harvard University offers students a diverse and flexible program which allows them to tailor their program to correspond with their particular interests. Harvard University encourages students to explore their interests before committing to a major in one particular field. In an effort to promote this process, students are not permitted to elect the major until the second half of the sophomore year. Prior to declaring the major and developing the plan of study, students are able to meet with Concentration advisers (CA), graduate students within the major, to discuss and review the plan and any questions which might arise. Students have the option of selecting a concentrator within the political science major or pursuing political science as a secondary field.

2. University of California Berkeley

The political science program at the University of California at Berkeley explores the central theme of power in human societies and its consequences. All forms of power are explored along with the relationship and influence the exercise or existence of power has with ethics, economics, justice, morality and the affect of such on communities. The University of California successfully endeavors to examine the areas of political science without displaying a preference towards any one school of theory or analysis therefore allowing students to develop their own views on such concepts. The University promotes intellectual exploration and distinction which is successfully evidenced by the UCB faculty members.

The curriculum for the political science major at the University of California Berkeley does not focus on one particular society or type of government. The courses study the politics for societies around the world and in many diverse cultures. Besides fostering diversity in this area, UCB also favors diversity in theory and methodology. Students are offered courses which investigate various schools of thought and methodological approaches. The nine areas of concentration at UCB include American Government and politics, area studies, comparative politics, formal theory and methodology, international relations, political behavior, political theory and philosophy, public law and jurisprudence and public organization, administration, and policy. Independent study and internships are an integral part of the curriculum as are the undergraduate research opportunities.

3. Yale University

Yale University’s political science department has to its credit the honor of claiming some of the greatest political science minds among its faculty. The faculty members are reputed scholars and authorities in the various segments of the political science field and professions. Yale fosters an interdisciplinary approach between the study of political science and many other related fields including economics, ethics, social and health policies and politics. As one of the leading political science research institutions, Yale attracts scholars from around the world. Yale students, both undergraduate and graduate, are afforded the opportunity to attend and participate in conferences, lectures and seminars in the area of political science. These opportunities are open to students of all disciplines as further encouragement to spur intellectual exploration between the various areas of study.

Students considering declaring a major in political science cannot do so upon entry into Yale. The major cannot be declared until at least the sophomore year and are encouraged to first discuss the intention with an advisor and the Director of Undergraduate studies of the political science school. The major can be declared as late as the junior year, though. Students are responsible for constructing their own program of study designed to further develop their interests and meet their career goals with the assistance of their advisor. Research opportunities are offered for students as well as the option to engage in field-work. A senior project is a requirement as is the senior essay.

4. University of Michigan, Anne Arbor

The nationally recognized political science department at the University of Michigan offers a comprehensive exploration of the spectrum of topics relevant to the field. Students majoring in political science will look at the varied areas of public policy and the issues and societal conflict it causes both domestically and internationally. Traditional and modern theories and research are examined and applied to classic political science areas including city government and urban development, international organizations, war, political interactions and legislative and judicial systems. The faculty members of the University are accomplished writers and political advisers with a skill for instigating debate and analytical thought and reason.

The political science program at the University of Michigan provides a comprehensive curriculum with an interdisciplinary approach. Students are encouraged to choose a concentration within the political science major with the assistance of an advisor after completing the requisite introductory courses. Areas to consider include American politics or other various international agencies like the United Nations. Choosing an area of specialization allows students to explore an area of political science in which they have a particular interest. Students are also required to complete six credits in advanced courses in a discipline outside of the political science curriculum to ensure a thorough education. The University also offers students the opportunity to participate in the undergraduate political science association, the political science honor society known as Pi Sigma Alpha and the opportunity to submit articles to the school’s political science journal, The Michigan Journal of Political Science for publication.

5. Stanford University

The political science curriculum at Stanford University is comprised of four divisions within the department. Undergraduates majoring in political science at the University participating in the traditional Bachelor of Arts program have the option of pursuing independent research by applying to the honors program. The honors program is an advanced curriculum which requires students who choose to participate to complete a thesis and additional coursework. The traditional program at Stanford includes 45 political science courses. Students are expected to select a concentration within the political science major and will need to complete at least 15 units within that area. These areas include American politics, comparative politics, international relations and political theory.

6. University of Chicago

The Department of political science at the University of Chicago emphasizes the basics of politics within a nation and between the nations across the globe and develops an understanding of the related concepts and applicable methodologies. The program is designed to provide a foundation which can lead to advanced study in a doctorate program or be a basis for a career in any of the associated disciplines. Political science graduates from the program will be aptly prepared to continue into any areas within the social sciences, law, public policy and even international relations.

The political science curriculum at the University of Chicago obliges students to meet a range of course requirements designed to provide a diverse program. Students have the option of choosing a program of twelve political science courses or ten courses and two specialized courses in which they would complete a BA thesis. Students who do not complete the BA thesis are required to complete a long paper prior to graduation. Courses are divided into four fields: political theory, American politics, international relations and comparative politics from which students must complete courses in at least three. Independent study is also offered along with research options and opportunities.

7. Duke University

The political science department at Duke University explores the practical and theoretical aspects of the field and the impact of power and policy within society. Duke University endeavors to cover the breadth of the political science field. At Duke, the study of political science encompasses all aspects from global political issues and the role of key political figures to the divergence of opinions between controlling forces within a political institution. The objective of the department is to provide students with a foundation of knowledge to develop an understanding of the basic concepts as well as the ability to analyze and recognize key issues and concerns to ensure success in any profession within the field.

The curriculum at Duke University revolves around four subdivisions; American politics, Comparative politics, International Relations and Political Theory. Each investigates a specific segment of political systems, their impact on the individual citizens and the how these political systems affect the relationships between nations. Comparative politics studies the involvement of various segments of the populations and their impact on politics and the development of policies. The undergraduate program includes six concentrations including public law, public policy and the four subdivisions listed above. The political science program at Duke University also offers students the opportunity to participate in internships. Students will benefit vastly from the skilled instruction of the faculty members of the political science department who are respected and noted members of the field.

8. Princeton University

The political science programs at Princeton University boasts one of the largest and most diverse in the world, with a faculty of almost sixty members. The faculty members encompass a wide range of backgrounds and interests from within the political science discipline. Small class sizes and close working relationships between the faculty members and students give this large university small school appeal. The University endeavors to stay abreast of progressive advancements in the field of political science and to produce graduates at the top of the field.

The curriculum in the political science department at Princeton University offers a wide range of courses. More than 50 courses are available for undergraduates in the program from which to select. The Department is divided into four fields within the political science area: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations and Political Theory. The university also offers a number of courses in the area of analytical research methods. Students are required to choose an area for concentration. One option is to elect a concentration in politics with a specialization in either political economy or political theory. After graduation, students can pursue a graduate degree in the program at Princeton.

9. University of California Los Angeles

The political science department at the University of California, LA is one of the oldest and most respected in the country. The areas of political economy and comparative politics are among the most notable of the school’s political science department. The faculty members are respected leaders in the field in both teaching and research. Among the faculty members are six American Academy of Arts and Sciences members and four Guggenheim Fellows. The University places significant emphasis on developing skills in research and analytical reasoning but still encourages ingenuity and individual exploration in the field among their students.

The curriculum at UCLA is organized under several sub-departments. These include American politics, Comparative Politics, Internationals Relations, Methods and models, political theory and Rae, ethnicity and politics. Students intending to major in political science are first required to enroll in the Pre-political science major. Only after successful completion of the lower division requisite political science courses can the students then petition to the undergraduate office for admission to the major. Once in the major, students must select an area for concentration and complete one lower level and four upper level courses in it. Students have the opportunity to participate in political science seminars. The University also offers an honors program to their seniors.

10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT’s political science department initially began as a subsection under the department of economics and social sciences. The program focused mainly on international studies, researching and investigating such interesting areas as American foreign policy and security issues, Communist societies and economic and political development in the third world. The department has evolved and grown into extending the political science study into American politics and comparative and international political economy. The school’s international studies and comparative politics sections have been augmented with the addition of faculty members specializing in foreign countries such as Europe, Japan and the Middle East.

Though MIT is known primarily for their premier science and technology programs, the social science and humanities programs offered at the school are operated and administered with the same level of excellence. The curriculum is unique in that the department interacts and works closely with their other departments in a collaborative effort. The connection combines research and analysis with technology resulting in a cutting progressive education experience. The required courses for the political science major at MIT are from many areas of thought and study: political philosophy or theory, public policy, United States politics and Politics of Foreign Countries. Research and laboratory courses as well as a thesis are requirements and a concentration must be selected. The specialized fields include Security studies, country and Regional Fields, as well as a selection of politics specializations from a number of foreign countries.

11. University of Wisconsin Madison

The political science department at the University of Wisconsin is the oldest in the nation. The program has earned its place as one of the highest ranked political science programs in the nation through research, study and innovation. In addition to their academic distinction, the University earns respect by promoting the idea of contributing to the community through public service. The faculty members have been awarded many honors of distinction and are held in high esteem for their research and cutting edge methodologies. The department practices an interdisciplinary approach in both teaching and their research combining resources of other related departments to further their scholarly efforts.

The political science curriculum at the University of Wisconsin explores the many facets of the field. The main premise of this discipline at the University is the study of power. The school endeavors to provide students with an understanding of the working mechanisms of government and instill critical thinking and analytic skills. The diverse topics covered in this subject at the University include political parties and voting behavior, bureaucracies and administrative procedure, community organizations and urban politics, political socialization and recruitment as well as executive politics and legislative behavior. The curriculum is divided into the areas of political theory/methodology, American government, comparative government and international relations. In order to successfully complete this major, undergraduates must complete a minimum of 30 credits within the major but no more than 40.

12. Columbia University

Columbia University’s political science department is found within Columbia College. The program offers undergraduate students opportunities to participate in conferences, workshops, and lectures. Students at Columbia are also able to submit work to compete for prizes and honors in the field of political science. The university obtains listings for jobs and internships and posts them to help students find and take advantage of such opportunities. The honors program offers extensive research opportunities and requires a thesis.

The curriculum at Columbia University is centered on the four main subfields of political science study: American politics, comparative politics, international relations and political theory. Undergraduates must complete 29 points in political science of which 9 must be in one of the four subfields noted above as a concentration in that area and six in another. A seminar is required in both the junior and senior year. A joint major in economics and political science is also an option and is considered a practical choice for individuals expecting to continue their education in the areas of public policy and international affairs.

13. University of California San Diego

The Political Science department at UCSD is noted as a young department with a reputation of distinction. The University focuses on the connection of politics to key societal issues and the role of politics and power in causing, controlling and solving these problems. The investigation of these integral relationships is believed to be central to understanding how to achieve peace, effect change and develop stability. The political science major at the University studies these concepts and the associated historical and contemporary theories. The school’s focus on theoretical based research and study has resulted in discernible contributions. The casual personal relationships between students and faculty members foster an environment conducive to shared intellectual debate and growth and opportunities to participate in numerous and diverse research projects. With more than 40 faculty members from varied backgrounds, students enjoy the benefit of their diverse experiences, educations and credentials.

The political science program at UCSD offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate degrees. Students have the option of pursuing a general political science undergraduate degree or of selecting a concentration in one of six areas: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, public law and public policy. Undergraduate students are required to complete 16 courses within the political science area. Special topic courses are also sometimes offered and can be applied towards a student’s requirement with permission. Both the graduate and doctorate programs have been ranked among the top in the nation and even internationally. The department of political science offers the students many related activities including lecture series and research projects. The University is also affiliated with research centers with whom they work in conjunction on many projects.

14. Washington University in St. Louis

The political science department at Washington University is recognized for their efforts in theory and methods. The faculty members are respected leaders in their disciplines. The program is divided into several subfields which include American politics, comparative politics, international politics, political and social theory and formal and mathematical approaches to the study of politics. Each of these areas studies the various aspects of politics and policy and the relationship between those in power and between those in power and the public. The subsections use theory and empirical methods to evaluate and investigate the subjects.

The undergraduate, graduate and doctorate programs at Washington University, St. Louis are ranked among the top programs in the nation. The graduate program is geared towards training students for careers in academics and research while the undergraduate degree is intended to provide a foundation for careers in any number of related disciplines. The faculty members are trained and educated in a number of disciplines lending to an interdisciplinary learning experience. The strength of the faculty members in teaching is demonstrated by the number of the graduates who are recruited for positions in a number of the other top ranked political science programs.

15. University of Virginia

The Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia was designed to adhere to the missives of the Universities founder, Thomas Jefferson. The school was founded by Thomas Jefferson with the idea of preparing students for involvement in politics. The focus of the department is on developing an understanding of national and international politics through theoretical and practical exploration of the political theories and institutions. Many different methodologies are studied in an effort to help students identify the strengths and weaknesses of each. The thirty five or so faculty members are committed to research and the advancement of analytical thought.

The political science curriculum at the University of Virginia is organized into four areas. The areas include American politics, comparative politics, international relations and political theory. Students in the department must choose to pursue either a major in government or foreign affairs. The students have the option of applying to the honors or Distinguished majors program. The honors program allows students to complete a number of seminars which allow the students to explore areas of particular interest to them. The distinguished majors program offers an advanced program of study in government of foreign affairs. Admission to the program is contingent on students maintaining a GPA of at least 3.4. This program requires students to complete a seminar and a thesis.

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