Man next to podium with american plaque
Degrees Offered: BA (MA) PhD Minor

The Department of Political Science offers instruction and research in the art and science of politics. Students and faculty study six basic fields: American government and politics, comparative politics, public policy, political theory, international relations and empirical theory and methodology. 

The American subfield concentrates on the United States government and political system, analyzing topics such as interest groups, governmental regulation of business, political parties, the presidential and congressional systems, public priorities, the judicial system and constitutional law. In the area of comparative politics, students use a global perspective to investigate the interaction between politics and a wide range of phenomena: globalization, economic development, political protest, social capital, immigration, language policy, international organizations and the environment. In addition, students investigate the effects and implications of socioeconomic and political changes in Europe and the European Union, Southeast Asia, sub­Saharan Africa and Latin America.

The international relations subfield examines U.S. foreign policy, the dynamics of the international environment, international security, international organizations, international political economy, international law and war and peace. Political theory focuses primarily on the history of political thought and on enduring normative questions of political association, such as the nature of justice, the proper basis of political authority, the promise and problems of democratic theory and the extent of duties across borders.

A degree in political science provides students with knowledge and understanding of political issues and prepares them for a career in fields such as civil service, journalism, management, politics, legislative analysis, criminology, city planning and population studies. The political science major also provides an excellent background for law school or graduate school in political science, sociology, economics or a number of other social science disciplines.

Undergraduate Opportunities

The Department of Political Science offers instruction and research in the art and science of politics. The major in political science leads to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. 

The mission of the undergraduate program in political science is to provide students with the knowledge and tools to understand important political ideas, political institutions (both domestic and international) and political actors themselves. The curriculum is designed to provide a base of knowledge and the skills necessary to understand and operate effectively in the political world. Students learn the philosophical basis of justice, equality and representation and how that relates to current trends and developments. 

Understanding the issues surrounding diversity and their political consequences, both globally and domestically, are important areas of study. A strong grasp of the American political system and political society is coupled with learning about how other countries and societies organize politically. Another important component of the major includes understanding global forces and why some countries cooperate while others engage inconflict. Finally, the major exposes students to real­world problems that require political solutions.

Graduate Studies

The Political Science Department at the University of Colorado Boulder has a long tradition of excellence in training graduate students. At CU­ Boulder, a diverse faculty trains graduate students to conduct original research in the six major areas of political science. The same faculty pursue rigorous research that contributes to theory development in political science and addresses real world challenges. 

The department is distinctive for encouraging and supporting collaboration. Recent initiatives crossing traditional subfield lines include environmental ethics and policy, political economy, local politics, comparative judicial institutions, political mobilization and participation, ethnic conflict, emotions and political attitudes, social networks, identity politics and gender. Courses are available in advanced statistical analysis, network analysis, game theory, comparative case study methodology and context-sensitive research methods. To supplement these course offerings, the department encourages­­and provides financial support for­­additional methodological training at summer programs such as ICPSR at the University of Michigan and the program in Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models (EITM). In addition, the department provides summer stipends to cover travel related expenses (both international and domestic) for work related to the student’s dissertation and offers financial support for conference attendance and grant writing.

With a wide array of courses in each of the subfields, students can explore their varied interests and discover the topics and methodologies that best suit their skills. There is a long history of faculty­graduate student collaboration on scholarly publications and research proposals as well as collaboration among graduate students on publications.

Research Opportunities

Computers are used widely in departmental teaching and research. The departmentmaintains a computer laboratory with terminals and printers for student use, and has two classrooms equipped with monitors. Students anticipating careers in government or research are especially encouraged to make use of the department’s computing facilities.

The International and National Voluntary Service Program (INVST) is a two­year academic program emphasizing sustainable development, ecological conservation and nonviolent social change. The program combines course work with experiential learning and is affiliated with the Departments of Political Science and Sociology. CU in DC is a program for students who want to put classroom learning into real world action. This semester­long program combines a professional internship with CU course work in Washington DC. Internships in Washington DC offer students an opportunity to build bridges between knowledge gained in the academic environment of the university, and practical experience gained in the exciting, fast­paced world of the nation’s capital. More information is available at: http://cuindc.colorado.edu/.

The Political Science Department offers a six­credit hour internship course, PSCI 4938, during the fall and spring terms. This course offers students the opportunity to integrate theoretical concepts related to politics with practical experience in political settings. The theoretical portion of the course is derived from required readings, seminar meetings of the class and other courses students have taken. Practical experience is obtained through placements in: executive, legislative and judicial offices; governmental agencies; lobbyist or interest groups; campaigns or with other institutions directly involved in the political process. The department has over 80 agencies and organizations in Colorado that host CU­ Boulder students.