department of political science
An undergraduate major in Political Science provides a foundation for careers in politics, public administration, international service, law, business, and journalism, as well as a foundation for graduate work and teaching in the social sciences.
Note: The University will be converting from a course-based system to a credit-based system, beginning with the Class of 2014. Therefore, for students in the Class of 2014 and beyond, special information on course requirements is included in (parentheses).
- The Political Science major at Boston College consists of ten courses (30 credits)
- two introductory courses (six credits)
- four sub-field courses (12 credits)
- four electives (12 credits)
- The normal introductory sequence is a two-semester course entitled Fundamentals of Politics (I and II) (six credits).
- Following this sequence, students are required to take eight more courses (24 credits), with at least one course (three credits) in each of the four sub-fields of political science (American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory).
The Fundamentals sequence is not like the introductory courses in other majors, such as economics or the natural sciences. That is, it does not present a single curriculum which all students are expected to know before moving on to higher-level courses. Rather, the Fundamentals course is designed to introduce the student to the study of politics in a variety of ways, and each faculty member who teaches Fundamentals has his or her own particular style of doing so.
There is, however, some common ground. Fundamentals I, usually taught in the Fall, is devoted principally to a study of some of the classic texts in political theory, while Fundamentals II, usually taught in the Spring, takes as its focus an understanding of the modern state and modern politics, using the United States as a central example, but teaching American politics from a comparative perspective. Classroom discussion is central to the way Fundamentals is taught and is encouraged by the diverse and seriously provocative works read in class (e.g., Plato and Aristotle, but also more modern authors, such as Tocqueville), and by the small size of the classes.
We generally limit the enrollment in the Fundamentals courses to no more than 35 students. That is small enough to foster not only conversation, but close associations among students and with faculty that often endure. The Fundamentals courses are all taught by regular, full-time faculty and by adjunct faculty.
Students go directly from Fundamentals into upper-level electives. The courses taken beyond Fundamentals do not have to be taken in any particular order, and the course numbers (PO 300-399 for American politics, PO 400-499 for comparative politics, and so forth) do not indicate a preferred sequence or level of difficulty. There is a considerable variety in these elective offerings, because each faculty member has a rotating set of courses and teaches four or five of these each year.
There are approximately 100 courses open to undergraduates over a four-year period. Many of these courses are seminars, some of them open to graduate students as well as to advanced undergraduates. The seminars meet for two and one-half hours once a week and are usually limited to 15 members, providing much more opportunity for sustained and intense analysis of texts and problems than there is in a conventional lecture/discussion format.
The amount of work required in all of our courses is generally high. Clarity of thought and writing are two sides of the same skill, and for this reason we urge all Fundamentals students to purchase and use the Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers, which we hope will be helpful to them throughout their years at Boston College. In addition, most courses encourage classroom discussion on a regular basis, so that students may be graded on their participation in class as well as on their writing and exams.