Political Science Major/Minor

If you enjoy grappling with public policy issues, or you’re fascinated by the ideas and ideals that underlie politics in the United States and the world, the political science major at Saint Mary’s may be a great fit for you.

Students will gain knowledge in a wide array of the major’s subfields:

  • International relations explores how countries and other international entities (such as the UN and non-governmental organizations) do or do not cooperate to prevent war and to solve other pressing global problems
  • Comparative politics analyzes how different types of political systems—democracies and non-democracies, for instance—govern themselves
  • Political theory examines the ideas that underpin varied governments and ideologies
  • American politics examines elections, parties, interest groups, and, of course, U.S. governmental institutions and the policies they produce
  • Research methodology focuses on how to conduct and interpret research such as public opinion surveys

Majoring in political science prepares students for careers in government at the local, national, or international level for careers in law or for further study in graduate school, by developing systematic understanding of American government, politics, policy, and institutions, and international processes and issues.

Career Options

Government administrators, executives and legislators; government lawyers; judges; news analysts, reporters, and correspondents; public interest advocates; and public interest lawyers.

High School Preparation

Comparative Government and Politics; English; Foreign Language; Statistics; U.S. Government and Politics; U.S. History; World History.

Enhance Your Experience

Students who major in political science are oftentimes part of the pre-law or English and Law pre-professional program and pursue coursework in English, history, or business.

Degree Requirements

A. All of the following:

Please note: Students need only take one statistics courses: ST132 Reasoning with Statistics, ST232 Introduction to Statistics, or BU215 Business Statistics.

BU215 Business Statistics (3 cr.)

Statistical techniques which are commonly used in all areas of business are studied. Topics include descriptive statistics, probability and probability distributions, hypothesis testing, regression, and non-parametric statistics. Emphasis is placed on the appropriate use of each procedure and on communicating the results of statistical techniques to others.

PS102 American National Government (3 cr.)

A basic course on the nature and purpose of our U.S. political system; includes the Constitution, institutions, processes and persons that combine to form our federal government. The student is exposed to a variety of approaches to political study.

PS242 Logic of Analysis (4 cr.)

This course examines the major social science perspectives in conjunction with an instruction in the logic and procedures of gathering information about social phenomena. The course covers such topics as: the logic of the scientific method, research design, hypotheses formation, theory and methods of scaling, and research analysis.

PS306 Political Theory (3 cr.)

This upper-division course covers the span of political theory from the Ancients to contemporary theorists.  In doing so with both coverage and depth, the course is devoted to an analysis and examination of the development of democratic government, the rise of the rule of law, the impact of morality and religion, the importance of social and economic groups to politics, theories of the nation-state, communism and socialism, fascism, and modern theories of representation and justice.  Theorists studied will include a broad range of contributors from Plato to John Rawls.  A focus on discussion and interaction and professor-guided research will be achieved. 

PS313 International Politics (3 cr.)

This course examines the basic structures of the international system including: 1) states, nations, transnationals, international organizations, diplomacy, etc.; 2) global issues including: war/peace, deterrence, arms control, political economy, trade, human rights, peacekeeping, etc.; and, 3) global ideas: sovereignty, nationalism, modernization, etc. This course deals extensively with the contemporary international system and the issues arising from the limitations of power in international affairs. Students apply this knowledge in a United Nations simulation.

PS320 Comparative Politics (3 cr.)

This course examines how different types of countries, i.e., established democracies, transitioning nations, and nondemocracies, are governed. The course examines first the broader trends and concepts about political systems and then engages in more in-depth case studies on a number of countries representing different regions, colonial and postcolonial experiences, levels of economic development, and government types.

PS342 Field Methods (4 cr.)

This course offers a working experience in the purpose and tools of qualitative field methods. The course covers rapport, methods of observation, field notes, data coding and analysis, ethnography, focus groups and interviews, as well as an introduction to quasi-experimentation.

ST132 Reasoning with Statistics (3 cr.)

This course is designed to develop student facility in the use of statistical methods and the understanding of statistical concepts. The course takes a practical approach based on statistical examples taken from everyday life. Topics include: descriptive and inferential statistics, an intuitive introduction to probability, estimation, hypothesis testing, chi-square tests, regression and correlation. Appropriate technology is used to perform the calculations for many applications, and correspondingly an emphasis is placed on interpreting the results of statistical procedures. Credit is not granted for this course and any of the following: BU215, B392 or ST232.

ST232 Introduction to Statistics (2 cr.)

This course is designed to provide the basic ideas and techniques of statistics. Topics include: descriptive and inferential statistics, an intuitive introduction to probability, estimation, hypothesis testing, chi-square tests, regression and correlation. This course makes significant use of appropriate technology. Topics in this course are treated at a higher mathematical level than they are treated in ST132. Credit is not granted for this course and any of the following: BU215, B392 or ST132.

B. 6 credits International & Comparative Government

(courses numbered PS314–329, excluding PS320)

PS314 American Foreign Policy (3 cr.)

This course studies the ideas, institutions, and individuals responsible for American foreign policy, the mechanics of its determination and implementation, with emphasis on current problems, policies and objectives in foreign policy.

PS315-319 Topics in International Relations (3 cr.)

Courses in this section are devoted to a thorough review, analysis, and evaluation of topics and methods that are relevant to the study of international relations and politics. Topics may include but are not limited to the following: war and peace, international political economy, international organizations, non-state actors in world politics, comparative foreign policy, trade and aid in the international system, global issues, regionalism in international relations, and other topics.

PS321-329 Topics in Comparative Government (3 cr.)

Courses in this series are devoted to a thorough review, analysis, and evaluation of topics and methods that are relevant to the current study of comparative politics and government. Topics may include but are not limited to the following: Asian politics and governments; Latin American politics and government; European politics and governments; comparative political leadership; political and economic development; comparative revolutionary movements; regimes, movements, and ideologies; and other topics.

C. 6 credits American Government, Law, & Policy

(courses numbered PS332–339 and PS370–379)

PS332 American Constitutional Law (3 cr.)

This course examines the social, philosophical and legal problems faced by the Supreme Court in translating the abstract language of civil liberties contained in the U.S. Constitution into concrete reality with an emphasis upon current problems and the evolving nature of the process.

PS333-339 Topics in American Government and American Law (3 cr.)

These courses are devoted to a variety of significant issues, developments, institutions and outcomes which are important to an understanding of American government and law. Topics may include the study of American constitutional law, the American presidency, Congress, great American political thinkers, American foreign policy and diplomacy and more. Courses and topics vary according to faculty and student interest.

PS370 Public Policy (4 cr.)

This course is devoted to a thorough review, analysis and evaluation of public welfare policy and at least one other topic. These topics may include but are not limited to the following: health care, environmental regulations, energy; consolidation of federal programs; affirmative action, etc. Special emphasis is given to the formulation, adoption, implementation, impact, and evaluation of public policy.

PS371-379 Topics in Public Policy and Administration (3 cr.)

Courses in this section are devoted to a thorough review, analysis and evaluation of topics that are relevant to the current study and practice of public administration. Topics may include but are not limited to the following: development of the merit system, terrorism, health care policy and administration; environmental regulation; energy policy; economic policy; consolidation of federal programs; affirmative action; federal grants-in-aid; and other topics. Special emphasis is given to the formulation, adopting, implementation, impact, and evaluation of public policies.

D. One political science or public administration seminar

PS451 Seminar in Public Administration (3 cr.)

The seminar in public administration represents the culmination of studies for some majors and minors. This seminar focuses on a contemporary political topic/ issue, bringing together material and information from the various sub-fields of the discipline. Students in the course undertake a major research paper with the close supervision of a faculty member. In the past, topics have included: comparative public administration, leadership, current issues in public administration, environmental policy, and administrative law.

PS460 Seminar in Political Science (3 cr.)

This seminar represents the culmination of studies for some majors and minors. It focuses on a contemporary political topic/issue, bringing together material and information from the various sub-fields of the discipline. Students in the course undertake a major research paper with the close supervision of a faculty member. In the past, topics have included: campaigns and elections, democracy, the presidency, and the judiciary.

A. All of the following:

PS102 American National Government (3 cr.)

A basic course on the nature and purpose of our U.S. political system; includes the Constitution, institutions, processes and persons that combine to form our federal government. The student is exposed to a variety of approaches to political study.

PS242 Logic of Analysis (4 cr.)

This course examines the major social science perspectives in conjunction with an instruction in the logic and procedures of gathering information about social phenomena. The course covers such topics as: the logic of the scientific method, research design, hypotheses formation, theory and methods of scaling, and research analysis.

PS342 Field Methods (4 cr.)

This course offers a working experience in the purpose and tools of qualitative field methods. The course covers rapport, methods of observation, field notes, data coding and analysis, ethnography, focus groups and interviews, as well as an introduction to quasi-experimentation.

ST132 Reasoning with Statistics (3 cr.)

This course is designed to develop student facility in the use of statistical methods and the understanding of statistical concepts. The course takes a practical approach based on statistical examples taken from everyday life. Topics include: descriptive and inferential statistics, an intuitive introduction to probability, estimation, hypothesis testing, chi-square tests, regression and correlation. Appropriate technology is used to perform the calculations for many applications, and correspondingly an emphasis is placed on interpreting the results of statistical procedures. Credit is not granted for this course and any of the following: BU215, B392 or ST232.

B. Six credits upper-division political science electives.