“What is political science?

Political science is primarily concerned with questions about power: What is power? How is power gained and how is it lost? Who has power and who should have it? How is it organized? How is it used? How is it abused? Students who have majored in political science have gone on to work in a diverse array of fields, including journalism, the nonprofit sector, public service, government, law, political organizing, pre-collegiate and graduate education.

At Wellesley, political science is divided into four subfields: American politics and law (courses that begin with POL1), which focuses on political and legal institutions and processes in the United States; comparative politics (POL2), which considers politics in countries other than the United States though it may also look at the United States in comparative perspective); international relations (POL3) , which is concerned with politics among nations as well as within the global system; and political theory (POL4), which involves questions about the nature, value and purposes of politics as articulated by philosophers and political thinkers past and present. We also offer a political science methods courses (POL 299) that teaches students how to use quantitative methods in the study of politics.

The department offers two types of 100-level introductory courses: First-Year Seminars and non-seminar courses that are open only to first-year students. First-years and other students can also begin their study of political science by taking one of the introductory courses in the four subfields: POL1 200, American Politics; POL2 202, Comparative Politics; POL3, World Politics; and POL24 201, Introduction to Political Theory.

A major in political science (which consists of nine courses) is built on a minimum of one 200-level course in each of the four subfields and 300-level course work in two subfields; one of these 300-level courses must be a seminar, which usually involves writing a major research paper. Please see information related to transfer credits on the Major Requirements page.

The Department of Political Science also serves as the “hub” for several of the College’s interdisciplinary programs, including American studies, East Asian studies, South Asia Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, environmental studies, international relations, and Latin American studies. Many political science faculty help to direct these programs and teach courses that count for credit in them. First-year students who have any questions about specific political science courses or about the major are very welcome to talk with any faculty member in the department.

Need more info? Check out the answers to many frequently asked questions.