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What Is Political Science?

As Harold Laswell famously noted, politics is “who gets what, when, and how.”  Political science is an academic discipline focused on the study of political ideas, institutions, processes, policies, and behavior in the United States and around the world.

Why Study Political Science?

Are you interested in politics in the US and globally? Questions concerning how we ought to govern ourselves? Critical issues such as health, the environment, and civil rights?  Theories about how power and resources are allocated in society?  Do you want to study these subjects and pursue a career based on your interest?  If so, you should consider studying political science.  Political science majors gain a versatile set of analytical and organizational skills that can be applied in a wide range of exciting careers in government, law, business, international organizations, nonprofit organizations, survey research, journalism, and teaching.

Why Study Political Science At UNC?

The UNC Department of Political Science is consistently rated as one of the top 15 political science departments in the country.  Our internationally renowned faculty is dedicated to exposing students to cutting-edge political science research and scholarship.  In recent years, UNC political science majors have won national and international honors, including the Rhodes, Luce, and Gates Cambridge Scholarships.  Political Science is one of the largest undergraduate majors at UNC-Chapel Hill, yet there is ample opportunity for students to receive individual attention and assistance as they pursue their chosen course of study. Many classes have fewer than 30 students, and our faculty members are committed to creating interesting and relevant classroom environments. Over the years, many of our faculty members have been recognized for their efforts with multiple teaching awards.

Prospective Students – Considering a Major in Political Science?

Take An Introductory Course

The Political Science Department offers courses in a wide variety of areas, broadly falling within the fields of American politics, international politics, and law, ethics and politics. Introductory courses are encouraged to provide a better understanding of what the study of political science is all about.  Even if you do not end up majoring in political science, you can use these courses to meet General Education requirements.  Suitable courses for first-year students and others new to political science include:

  • POLI 100: Introduction to Government in the United States
  • POLI 101: State and Local Government in the United States
  • POLI 130: Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • POLI 150: International Relations and World Politics

Review The Department Website

The department’s website provides a wealth of information for prospective students.  Explore information regarding major requirements, course descriptions, research and professional opportunities, department activities, and faculty biographies. Learn about the various opportunities available to political science major both in and out of the classroom. Read about each of the major’s concentrations and the ways in which a political science major prepares its graduates for life after college, whether it be in the workforce or graduate school.

Meet With An Advisor Or Faculty Member

Academic advisors and faculty members can help answer questions that you might have about majoring in political science.  The Department’s Undergraduate Advisor (Matthew Weidenfeld) and Director of Undergraduate Studies (Stephen Gent) are located in Hamilton Hall and are happy to meet with prospective majors during their office hours.

What Do Political Science Majors Do After Graduating?

Political science majors are encouraged to make the most of their time at Carolina through department events, internships, and study abroad. Of course, though, students wonder how their major prepares them for life after college. The political science major at Carolina prepares students for work in federal, state, and local governments, international organizations, non-profit organizations, a vast number of jobs in the private sector and business, as well as graduate and law school.

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Christopher Clark

Associate Professor

Undergraduate Advisor

Matthew Wiedenfeld

Teaching Associate Professor of Political Science

Undergraduate Coordinator

Millie Tan

Director of Internships

Robert Jenkins

Teaching Professor

Directors of Honors

Jonathan Hartlyn

Kenneth J. Reckford Professor of Political Science

Evelyne Huber

Distinguished Professor of Political Science

Related Programs

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Minor

The Duke-UNC Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Program trains students to look beyond the borders of academic disciplines by offering them an integrated study of philosophy, politics, and economics. The Program is a collaboration between UNC and Duke, which offers minor at UNC and a certificate at Duke. Students pursuing either the minor or the certificate can take courses at the other school to meet the relevant requirements. The Gateway and Capstone courses are co-convened, meeting for half the semester at Duke and for half at UNC. The program also offers a PPE Club as well as numerous events and a listserv.

For more information, please visit the Philosophy, Politics, and Economics Minor website.

Joint Degree Program with the National University of Singapore

Political science majors may wish to consider applying for the Joint Degree Program, an innovative joint undergraduate degree program joining the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the National University of Singapore. Chapel Hill undergraduates spend anywhere from two to four semesters at the National University of Singapore and receive a joint bachelor of arts degree from both institutions. For further information, contact the Study Abroad Office.