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Social Science Division

Political Science Major

What is Political Science?

Political Science is the study of the world of governments and the governing process. Whether it is wrangling over a new health care plan in Congress, a bitterly contested campaign for President, or the global struggle against terrorism, the political world is fascinating, ever-changing, and complex. Political Science seeks to understand and react to this world of swirling events and players. To understand means to analyze, to put in context, to develop a balanced perspective. To react to that political world means one needs to be able to think critically and to develop a sense of purpose and direction, to have values and beliefs that enable one thoughtfully to evaluate and prescribe.

Unique Aspects of the Major

There are three distinguishing features of the political science major at Pepperdine University. One is an emphasis on integrating the theoretical work of the classroom with practical experience. The Washington, DC Internship Program provides opportunity to live, work, and study in the capital during the school year or summer. Internships are also available in Sacramento, California and the local Los Angeles area. In addition, students have an opportunity to participate each year with students from many other colleges and universities in the Model United Nations program, representing one of the nations of the world. Students also have the opportunity to attend the Sacramento Legislative Seminar, where they meet governmental officials and others on the Sacramento political scene. There are also opportunities to study abroad. In recent years political science majors have taken part in programs in London, England; Moscow, Russia; Heidelberg, Germany; Florence, Italy and elsewhere.

A second key feature of the political science major is the faculty's emphasis on giving a balanced emphasis on solid factual knowledge, the ideas and concepts of political philosophy, modern research concepts and methods, and basic beliefs and values rooted in Christianity. An approach to the political world which emphasizes facts without values, research methodology without the great ideas of such thinkers as Plato, Locke and Madison, or any other one sided approach ill equips a person in living a thoughtful, purposeful life. A third feature of the political science major is flexibility in meeting the needs and interests of the political science majors. The requirements do not rigidly structure the courses students must take, but allow students to tailor their program to meet their needs and interests. This flexibility also allows many students to double major with the second including history, economics, or journalism.

Career Opportunities

Law -- Career opportunities in the legal profession are numerous. Although a number of majors can prepare one for a legal career, political science is an especially appropriate background since law is an aspect of governments and the governing process.

Government Service/Political --There are many career possibilities in government service in what are considered political positions. These include elective office, positions on the staffs of elected officials, and staff positions with one of the political parties.

Government Service/Civil Service -- There are many government careers under the civil service systems of the national, state and local governments. Most political science majors who enter a civil service position do so in an executive or management training position. These positions are often very rewarding due to their broad, policy making roles. Although not required for some of these positions, it is helpful to go on to graduate school to obtain a Master's Degree in Public Administration either immediately after graduation or after working for several years.

Secondary Education -- A number of our graduates obtain a secondary teaching credential and go on to careers teaching government or civics on the junior or high school level.

Professional Political Scientist -- An undergraduate major in political science can serve as the groundwork for the pursuit of graduate studies in Political Science leading to a Ph.D. This equips one to teach and do research on the college and university level or full time research positions with government or private agencies.

International Organizations -- In recent years the opportunities for qualified persons with an interest in international organizations has grown. These positions are in private overseas voluntary agencies, international businesses, international governmental agencies and other international agencies.

Interest Groups and Associations -- Since 1960 interest groups activity has exploded on both state and national levels. One thinks immediately of traditional economic interest groups such as organized labor and business associations. A political science major is a natural for such positions.

Journalism -- Often covering community and political stories are a major part of the journalist's task. Thus, political science is an excellent background for either print or broadcast journalism. Those contemplating such a career should either double major in Journalism or plan to obtain a Master's Degree in Journalism after completing the major.

Business -- A large number of graduates (some studies suggest nearly one third) find employment in the business sector with careers in such fields as marketing, personnel, advertising, and public or community relations. Others have obtained management training positions with public and private corporations.

Course Requirements

All students must take POSC 104* (American People and Politics) as a GE course. Political Science majors must also earn at least 32 upper-division Political Science units; however, if the student takes POSC 250 (Introduction to Statistics), only 28 upper-division Political Science units must be taken. To ensure some breath of knowledge, at least 1 course must come from 4 of the 5 following fields:

FieldQualifying Courses
Methodology POSC 250 (GE, PS, RM) 310 (PS, RM), and 560 (PS, RM)
Political Theory POSC 311 (WI), 416, 417, 518
American Government and Politics POSC 428, 437, 509, 520-526, 533
International Relations POSC 344 (WI), 446, 449, 542, 548
Comparative Government POSC 353 (WI), 410, 451-459, 555

*Satisfies General Education requirement.

No more than one Supervised Fieldwork class (POSC 595) can be included in the minimum of 32 upper-division Political Science units.  A maximum of 4 units in Supervised Fieldwork may be taken for credit/no credit toward the required units in the major.  Political Science majors, particularly those planning to pursue graduate studies in Political Science, are urged to meet their General Education Mathematics requirement by taking POSC 250.  Political Science majors who take POSC 250 must take 28 upper division units to complete the major.

The Honors Research Program in Political Science

Political science majors are encouraged to participate in the Honors Research Program, which is aimed at providing students with insight into how professional political scientists design research projects, collect and analyze data or interpret philosophical texts, and communicate their results to the academic community. Students apply to the program in the fall semester of their senior year and are admitted to the program based on their GPA, career goals, successful completion of a course or courses in political methodology (such as POSC 250, 310, and/or 560), and the degree of congruence between the topic of the student's proposed honors project and the expertise of the regular members of the political science faculty. Students are selected by a committee in the fall semester of the student's senior year and are notified in time for preregistration for the spring semester of that same academic year. Upon acceptance into the program, students enroll in POSC 491: Senior Honors Thesis. During the spring semester, the student will research and write an article-length manuscript under the supervision of one of the regular political science professors. In order to complete the program, students must present their findings in thesis form to an examining committee composed of the thesis supervisor and two other regular political science faculty. After each candidate successfully completes an oral thesis defense, the committee recommends that the student's transcript and diploma be marked "Honors in Political Science." It is expected that the thesis will be presented as an academic conference paper coauthored with the supervising professor and that a revised version will be submitted for publication as a coauthored article in a scholarly social science journal.

Program Learning Objectives

A student who completes the Political Science major should be able to:

  • Compare political institutions, governmental and non-governmental actors, and political cultures in the United States and other states, distinguishing basic differences and similarities among them.
  • Analyze and apply theories of politics and society to contemporary politics.
  • Evaluate the dynamics of international relations and how politics, economics, and culture shape relations between states.
  • Utilize research methods appropriate to the political science subfields and write arguments and/or test hypotheses grounded in the extant literature and justified using textual and/or empirical evidence.
  • Integrate political knowledge and personal experiences with faith commitments, civic responsibilities, and ethnic and gender identities.