The undergraduate program in Political Science at Rice University educates students about political science as the scientific study of political institutions, political behavior, and public policy. Our program focuses on three subfields, and students can specialize in one or two of these subfields or approach the major more broadly:
- American Politics - the study of politics and government in the United States
- Comparative Politics - the study of domestic politics in countries outside the United States
- International Relations - the study of how countries interact with one another
Mission and Learning Outcomes
The mission of the undergraduate program is to provide students with a strong, substantive and theoretical understanding of political science, to teach students how to conduct empirical research, to help students develop and improve their communication skills, and to encourage students to be informed and responsible citizens.
The major has several specific goals for students to help achieve the department’s mission. As a Political Science major, you will:
- Develop a broad understanding of political science and more specific knowledge in one or more subfields (Substantive knowledge)
- Develop critical thinking skills and the ability to apply political science theories to understand the political world (Critical thinking)
- Learn how to interpret, conduct and evaluate political science research, including data collection and data analysis techniques and statistical software (Empirical analysis)
- Develop and strengthen written, oral, and visual communication skills and the ability to present political science research to an audience (Communication)
- Become an informed citizen able to participate effectively and meaningfully in the political process (Citizenship)
The Political Science Curriculum
The Political Science undergraduate curriculum is designed to help students achieve the above goals.
Students should start by taking the 200-level introductory courses in American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations to gain an overview of the main topics, questions, and approaches within each subfield and political science, more generally.
In the 300-level courses, students explore specific political science topics in greater detail. The department offers courses on topics, such as democracy, political representation, the presidency, elections and voting behavior, minority politics, women and gender, the judiciary, legislatures, political parties, Latin American politics, European politics, urban politics, public policy, war, terrorism, foreign policy, international organizations, trade, among others.
At the 400-level, all courses are research seminars where students use critical thinking skills to apply methodological, theoretical, and research knowledge to political science topics in which our faculty specialize. These topics vary from year to year but may include voting systems, democratic elections, gender representation in Latin America, comparative public policy, US-China relations, world legislatures, the global spread of policy and ideas, civil war and terrorism, among others. Students write research papers and/or do oral/visual presentations as part of the 400-level courses.
All majors are required to take two research methods courses, which teach students introductory statistics, show students how to design and conduct research in political science, and allow students to apply their newly learned research methods. We recommend that students take these courses early in the major because they provide an invaluable set of skills to help students in upper division courses in the department. The research methods courses are also prerequisites for all 400-level courses.
Please see our degree requirements page for specific political science major requirements.
The Political Science major provides students with a variety of marketable skills, such as written, oral, and visual communication, critical thinking, policy evaluation, data analysis, some programming skills, and research methods. These skills, in addition to the in-depth knowledge of political institutions, behavior, and policy gained as part of the major, prepare students for a wide variety of professional careers and post-baccalaureate educational opportunities:
- government (local, state, and national level)
- non-governmental and international organizations
- policy and public administration
- international affairs
- law school
- medical school
- and more!
Beyond preparing students for a host of future careers, political science courses equip students for life as an informed citizen ready to participate in political activities within interest groups or political parties; related to community organization and political advocacy; or even service as an elected or appointed official.