About the Majors

Political Science is a social science concerned with the description and analysis of political, and especially governmental, institutions and processes.  Increasingly, the emphasis is being placed on how governments deal with specific policy problems, such as war and peace, poverty, crime, education, energy, pollution, or intergroup relations, and on the factors that affect these problems.  The study of political science provides one with the concepts, theories and methods necessary to analyze these policy problems scientifically.  Because of the complexities of modern legislation and current political changes, political science is considered an essential component of a broad education for today’s world.

The Michigan State Political Science Department offers four majors, each with different academic programs and requirements.

At Michigan State, Political Science has been divided into the following subfields: American politics, international politics, comparative politics, public administration and public policy, and political thought.  Each of these has its own particular educational and career implications. You can select courses from any of these areas throughout your program; we hope you take advantage and tailor your education to your specific preferences and interests.

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General Political Science

Students wanting to enter politics, journalism, business or teaching, and students wanting to pursue graduate studies in political science or who want to prepare for employment in international agencies concerned with foreign affairs normally choose the General Political Science program. The flexibility of this program makes it a logical choice for those who wish to sample a wide variety of courses within the political science discipline.

The undergraduate major in political science is designed to provide students not only with a broad education in political and other social sciences but also with the analytical skills essential in many professions. The wide range of career opportunities open to political science graduates includes administrative positions in local, state, and federal government, or in public and private agencies; work with citizen’s action groups and voluntary organizations; employment in the foreign service and various governmental and private international agencies; and careers as teachers and policy analysts. Because additional training beyond the bachelor’s degree is necessary for some careers, many students in political science plan to attend law or graduate school.


The prelaw major is designed to introduce students to the study of law and the judicial process and at the same time to provide an orientation to the law which is more general than that of most law schools. Students who elect this program may plan careers in (1) government and large businesses, (2) law firms, (3) individual or partnership practice of civil law, (4) trial practice, including criminal law, and (5) teaching. Since very few law schools provide information about the political, economic, societal and psychological environment in which the law exists, this background must generally be acquired prior to or after law school. The prelaw major is intended to give students the analytical skills and substantive background in those courses which will most likely contribute to their development.

This program is highly recommended for political science students who want to enter law school or to prepare for paralegal careers. It is designed to introduce students to the study of law and judicial process and also provides a general orientation for law school. This program is also ideal for those seeking careers in intelligence or law enforcement.

Public Policy

The Public Policy major is designed to prepare students for careers in public service, advocacy, and analysis. It aims at a broad understanding of the goals and problems of public policy, the political process that leads to policy development, and the implementation and evaluation of public policy. The major is valuable preparation for those who intend to engage in research for public agencies, non-profits, or voluntary associations interested in the problems of government. A master’s degree program concentrating in public policy is also available for advanced work in preparation for an executive career in these fields.

World Politics

The World Politics major is designed to educate students about governments and political systems of many different nations and the interactions among them. It will prepare students for careers in international affairs in the public, private, and non-profit spheres. The program allows students to study the regions of the world that most interest them but also provides broad coverage of international relations and comparative politics.