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Political Science

The Study of Political Science

Political science is the study of governments and their interactions with one another. It investigates the effects of groups, individuals, and institutions on the government, as well as the effect of the government on these same actors. Many in political science examine the politics of the United States, looking at issues such as the Constitution, the relation between the federal government and local governments, or particular policies including welfare and education. Others study similar issues but in different countries. Still others focus on relations between countries, examining issues of war, cooperation, and trade, among others.

Internships. The department strongly recommends students combine their classroom learning with related professional experience. Opportunities include internships through American University's Washington Semester Program in Washington, D.C., and the Drew University United Nations Semester. The university also participates in other off-campus study-internship programs, such as the Washington Center and Lutheran College programs in Washington, D.C. The department also works with students to develop individual internships. These have included opportunities with state and national legislators, district attorneys, Legal Services, and justices. Further information on other internships is available in the Active Learning section.

Off-Campus Study. All students are encouraged to study off campus, whether they choose to study abroad or participate in an internship. Recently, students have studied in Australia, Austria, and the United Kingdom, among other locations. Others have participated in university-sponsored field opportunities in China and Costa Rica. A number of students intern, combining academics with practical experience. American University's Washington Semester Program has a number of fields in which students may specialize, including American government, foreign policy, conflict resolution, and justice. Further information on off-campus study is available in the Active Learning section.

Secondary Teaching Certification. Majors interested in social studies or citizenship education teaching certification take 40 hours in political science, including the required courses. Instead of eight hours in one subfield, they take one additional four-hour course in each of three subfields: American Government and Politics; Comparative Government and Politics; and International Politics. The remaining courses are electives within the major. Students must also take cognate courses in related disciplines and meet additional Department of Education requirements. There are also additional Department of Education requirements. Student teaching serves as an internship.

Interdisciplinary options. Political science majors can easily complete a minor in other departments. Others opt to take a second major. Many choose a related field, such as a foreign language, economics, sociology, or business. A legal studies minor is a popular choice for those considering a career in the law. International studies, also an interdisciplinary program, is another option as a minor or second major.

Honors. The departmental honors program encourages and commends outstanding academic work in political science. To graduate with departmental honors, political science majors must:

  • have and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.5 in the department and 3.25 overall,
  • request admission to the program at the beginning of their senior seminar, and
  • complete, and publicly present and defend, an honors-quality project in the spring of their senior year.

Pi Sigma Alpha. Students who satisfy membership requirements may be invited to join the campus chapter of this national honor society in political science.



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