Degrees Offered:

  • BA
  • MA
  • PhD
  • Minor*

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Degree Requirements

Four Year Plan

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* = Minors are not technically a degree, but can be pursued to supplement a bachelor's degree

The Department of Political Science offers instruction and research in the art and science of politics. They are among the best political science departments in the country, thanks to the diversity and rigor with which their faculty and students ask questions that challenge all of us to think more clearly about politics, government and citizenship.

Graduates of the department can be found at the highest levels of government, both in politics and law, and across the media landscape and the business world.

Work within the department is organized around six basic fields: American government and politics, comparative politics, public policy, political theory, empirical theory and methodology, and international relations. 

The University of Colorado’s Department of Political Science is truly one of a kind. As an undergraduate, I was able to learn from some of the nation's most accomplished political scientists, who helped me learn the tools needed to think critically about public policy, political theory, and government, and in the process, developed life-long mentors. Put simply, I consider myself tremendously fortunate to have received my undergraduate degree from the CU Political Science Department."

— Rep. Joe Neguse (BA '05), Second District. Served as an elected member of the CU's Board of Regents for the Second Congressional District and in the Cabinet of Governor John Hickenlooper as the head of Colorado's consumer protection agency

The political science program at CU Boulder is among the best political science departments in the country, with the graduate program ranking #40 in the most recent U.S. News & World Reports rankings.

Their faculty are active researchers whose publications have appeared in the most prestigious outlets in the profession. The faculty are also highly devoted to graduate training and undergraduate education and can boast of numerous teaching awards. They offer research and teaching in: 

  • American Politics,
  • Comparative Politics,
  • International Relations, Methods, Policy, and
  • Political Theory.

The department also prides itself in the diversity and rigor with which their faculty and students ask questions that challenge all of us to think more clearly about politics, government, and citizenship.

The Political Science department is nationally recognized in several areas of research, including international relations, environmental politics, political psychology, political economy and democratic theory, resulting in numerous prestigious publications, two fulbright scholars and a Professor of Distinction in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Their diverse faculty include several who have joint affiliations with the Institute for Behavioral Science, as well as in the Women and Gender Studies and International Affairs departments, and in the College of Law.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in political science, there are a number of opportunities beyond just class work:

  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research, and to learn how to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.
  • You may also seek honors in political science, which results in the designation of cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude at graduation. Honors work usually involves special coursework and a senior honors research project. Look into this program early because it involves securing a faculty sponsor and developing an individual project.
  • A semester or year at a foreign institution can give you a new perspective on the theoretical and practical problems of government. You may choose from over 250 study abroad programs and may spend from a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program selected. You may also earn credit as if you had taken the courses here, sometimes fulfilling core or major requirements. Language study is a prerequisite for participation in many of the programs, so early planning for study abroad is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.
  • CU in D.C. is a program for students who want to put classroom learning into real world action. The program is a semester-long experience that combines a professional internship with CU coursework in Washington D.C. Internships in Washington D.C. offer students an opportunity to build bridges between knowledge gained in the academic environment of CU, and practical experience gained in the exciting, fast-paced world of the nation’s capital. You can find more information about the program on the CU in D.C. website.
  • The Political Science Department offers a 3 credit 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; with lobbyists 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 our students. Owing to the need for direct oversight and the classroom component of the course, the Department of Political Science does not award course credit for internships outside of Colorado (with the exception of through the CU in D.C. program). Please contact a political science academic advisor for more information.
  • The International and National Voluntary Service Program (INVST) is a two-year academic program emphasizing sustainable development, ecological conservation and nonviolent social change. The program combines coursework with experiential learning and is affiliated with the Departments of Political Science and Sociology.

The political science program provides you with knowledge, skills, and expertise required for advanced training in many areas such as global affairs, law, the social sciences and business. A degree in political science will provide you with knowledge and understanding of political issues and prepare you for a career in fields such as the civil service, journalism, management, politics, legislative analysis, criminology, city planning and population studies. You can combine the major with teaching credentials and teach government, political science, and civics in secondary schools. 

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

Without an advanced degree, according to the 2019-20 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:

  • The median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in political science and 0-5 years of experience is $65,000.
  • The median salary for someone with a bachelor's degree in political science and 10-plus years of experience is $82,000.

Political Science Payscale

The estimated median salaries, as reported on Tableau, for Political Science graduates for 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and over 11 years out from school.

At CU Boulder, Political Studies graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $97,690, based on a pool of 2391 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. This amount is also higher than the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that 2016-2026 job growth for political scientists with a master’s degree with be 2 percent, slower than the average for all jobs.

The political science department has an extensive list of alumni that are either working or have worked in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Pam Jenkins (BA '82), the president of global public affairs at Weber Shandwick, a public-affairs and strategic communications firm in New York. She was previously president of Powell-Tate, a public-affairs and communications firm, and managing director of Ogilvy Communications.
  • Joseph Neguse (BA, summa cum laude, '05), a lawyer at Snell & Wilmer and a member of the University of Colorado Board of Regents who was elected in 2008 while attending law school at CU, and in 2017 launched a campaign to become the Democratic candidate for Colorado’s Second Congressional District in 2018.
  • Todd Saliman (BA '89), the vice president and chief financial officer of the University of Colorado since 2012. He also served from 1996-2001 in the Colorado House of Representatives and was chair of the Joint Budget Committee for four years. He was a cabinet member in the administrations of Colorado governors Bill Ritter and John Hickenlooper.
  • Carl Quintanilla (BA '93) a journalist working for CNBC. He is co-anchor and anchor, respectively, of CNBC's morning programs Squawk on the Street and Squawk Alley, both of which broadcast live from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
  • Loren B. Jenkins (BA '61) received a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1983.