Major Requirements

Majoring in Political Science requires the completion of 9 courses. These courses are grouped into four distinct categories as follows:

  • 100 Level Courses - Introductions:
    These courses emphasize writing, critical reading, and analytical interpretation and introduce students to the study of politics from a variety of perspectives. The department recommends that these courses be taken in the first and second year, or immediately following the declaration of the major. These courses may be offered in either lecture or seminar format.  FYSE courses taught by members of our department can also count toward introductory courses.
  • 200 Level Courses - Surveys:
    These courses survey broad topics in the study of politics. They engage students in the study of different institutions, countries, regions, theories, and modes of political thought. They focus on such key phenomena as power, justice, order, conflict, mobilization, and development. These courses may be offered in either lecture or seminar formats.
  • 300 Level Courses - Research Seminars:
    Research Seminars in politics allow students to deepen their own inquiries into politics. They encourage students to develop research skills through the examination of debates and topics in politics. Students should take at least one of these courses in their second or third year to facilitate subsequent work in the Department’s thesis program. These courses have prerequisites, limited enrollment, and may have a substantial writing requirement.
  • 400 Level Courses - Specialized Seminars:
    Specialized seminars might include in-depth investigations into specialized or conceptually complex issues, these courses may utilize new pedagogical approaches, may require more engaged forms of writing than lower-level courses, and may allow students to design and implement research in novel settings. These courses have prerequisites and limited enrollment.  When offered POSC 410, Senior Honors Seminar does not fulfill our 400 level requirement and does not replace Senior Tutorial courses (POSC 498/499). While special topics and senior tutorial courses for thesis students (POSC 498/499) also have 400 numbers, these courses cannot count towards the 400-level requirements.

Requirements

Prior to declaring a major in Political Science, students should have completed the following:

  • At least 2 courses in Political Science, one of which should be at the 100 level.
  • Majors in Political Science must take 9 courses: Of the 9 courses, students must take a minimum of 6 within the Political Science department at Amherst College, at least one from each of the four levels (but no more than two 100 level courses will be counted toward the major). The level requirements must be fulfilled with courses from Amherst College Political Science Department offerings. When offered POSC 410, Senior Honors Seminar does not fulfill our 400 level requirement and does not replace Senior Tutorial courses (POSC 498/499). Special Topics and Senior Tutorial (POSC 498/499) courses have 400 numbers, but these courses cannot count towards fulfilling the 400-level requirement. 
  • Majors may also include among courses to complete the major 1 course from outside the discipline of political science. Such a course should be designated as counting toward the major at the end of registration, or, if the course is completed prior to declaring the major, at the time of the declaration.
  • Credits are available for study abroad, 5 college courses, and transfer students.
  • No courses in political science taken under the pass/fail option will count toward completion of the major. EXCEPTION: Courses taken in the spring 2020, fall 2020, January 2021, and spring 2021 semesters with a Pass grade will count toward the major.

In total, majors in Political Science must complete 9 courses for rite, or 11 for honors (a result of 2 additional thesis research courses in the senior year), in courses offered or approved by the Amherst College Political Science Department.

CHANGES: Apply exclusively to the class of 2023

Please note:  We made important changes to the requirements for the major approved on July 28, 2020.  These changes apply exclusively to the class of 2023:

  • The number of required courses for the major has been reduced from 9 to 8 for rite, or 10 for honors (a result of 2 additional thesis research courses in the senior year), in courses offered or approved by the Amherst College Political Science Department.
  • The number of courses that must be taken in the Department has been reduced from 6 to 5.
  • Flexibility with the distribution requirement.  Our current policy requires students to take one department course at each level.  We will now allow juniors and seniors to petition to have either a 200 or a 300 level class count for a level above.  If you are interested in this option, here are the steps:Obtain the approval of the faculty member teaching the class.  This involves negotiating with your professor the additional work and standards required to meet the higher level. These standards must be met at the completion of the course for this arrangement to be valid.
  • Obtain approval from your Political Science faculty advisor.
  • Have your faculty member and advisor send an email to the chair and Theresa Laizer confirming their approval and completion of work.
  • Regrettably, your transcript cannot be adjusted to reflect.
  • If these steps are not completed, flexibility with the distribution requirement cannot be used.