Political Science, B.A. (Behrend)

Program Code: POLSC_BA

Program Description

The discipline of political science consists of different related subfields such as American government, international relations, comparative politics (the study of different political systems), political theory, law, and public policy and administration (the study of how governments accomplish objectives). The major offers students the opportunity to take course work in most subfields as well as seek practical experience through an internship. All students are encouraged to develop research and writing and statistical skills. Many students have continued their education in law or graduate school.

Crime and Law Option

This option requires coursework in criminology and law and helps to prepare students for careers in law and criminal justice, including students planning on law school.

International Relations Option

This option requires coursework in international politics and comparative politics and prepares students for careers with international institutions or in business in other countries, and for graduate school work in international affairs.

Politics and Government Option

This option allows students to choose their own concentrations of coursework within political science and helps to prepare students for a variety of careers, including government employment, social studies secondary education, activist politics, and graduate school in political science.

Public Policy Option

This option requires coursework related to how to make government and policy decisions effectively and prepares students for careers with government offices, businesses, interest groups, or think tanks related to public policy, or in public administration, or for graduate degree programs in public policy or public administration.

What is Political Science?

Political science is one of the social sciences. It is the study of systems of governance and governmental institutions, political activity, political thought, and political behavior. Political science draws from many other academic disciplines, including economics, law, sociology, history, philosophy, geography, psychology, and anthropology. There also are subfields of political science, such as comparative politics, political theory, international relations, international law, public administration, and public policy. Political science students study how American government works (and doesn't work) and what can be done to improve government at the federal, state, and local level. In comparative government and international relations coursework, students study the politics and policies of other countries. Political theory courses examine the ideas of famous political philosophers, while courses on law and the legal process provide knowledge about the criminal justice and civil litigation systems.

You Might Like This Program If...

  • You want to understand how political and governmental decisions are made.
  • You love discussing and analyzing events in the news.
  • You're interested in how the legal system works.
  • You’re interested in how diplomacy works.
  • You’re looking for a degree that is useful in many different career paths.

Entrance to Major

In order to be eligible for entrance to this major, a student must:

  1. attain at least a C (2.00) cumulative grade-point average for all courses taken at the University; and
  2. have third-semester classification.


Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minimum of 120 credits is required:

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Electives 15
Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements 24
Requirements for the Major 42-43

0-7 of the 45 credits for General Education are included in the Requirements for the Major. This includes: 0-6 credits of GS courses; 0-4 credits of GQ courses; 0-3 credits of GH courses.

3 of the 24 credits for Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements are included in the Requirements for the Major, General Education, or Electives and 0-12 credits are included in Electives if foreign language proficiency is demonstrated by examination.

Per Senate Policy 83.80.5, the college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of coursework in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned.

General Education

Connecting career and curiosity, the General Education curriculum provides the opportunity for students to acquire transferable skills necessary to be successful in the future and to thrive while living in interconnected contexts. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, a strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. These are requirements for all baccalaureate students and are often partially incorporated into the requirements of a program. For additional information, see the General Education Requirements section of the Bulletin and consult your academic adviser.

The keystone symbol Keystone/General Education Course appears next to the title of any course that is designated as a General Education course. Program requirements may also satisfy General Education requirements and vary for each program.

Foundations (grade of C or better is required.)

  • Quantification (GQ): 6 credits
  • Writing and Speaking (GWS): 9 credits

Knowledge Domains

  • Arts (GA): 6 credits
  • Health and Wellness (GHW): 3 credits
  • Humanities (GH): 6 credits
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (GS): 6 credits
  • Natural Sciences (GN): 9 credits

Integrative Studies (may also complete a Knowledge Domain requirement)

  • Inter-Domain or Approved Linked Courses: 6 credits

University Degree Requirements

First Year Engagement

All students enrolled in a college or the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park, and the World Campus are required to take 1 to 3 credits of the First-Year Seminar, as specified by their college First-Year Engagement Plan.

Other Penn State colleges and campuses may require the First-Year Seminar; colleges and campuses that do not require a First-Year Seminar provide students with a first-year engagement experience.

First-year baccalaureate students entering Penn State should consult their academic adviser for these requirements.

Cultures Requirement    

6 credits are required and may satisfy other requirements

  • United States Cultures: 3 credits
  • International Cultures: 3 credits

Writing Across the Curriculum

3 credits required from the college of graduation and likely prescribed as part of major requirements.

Total Minimum Credits

A minimum of 120 degree credits must be earned for a baccalaureate degree. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 credits. Students should consult with their college or department adviser for information on specific credit requirements.

Quality of Work

Candidates must complete the degree requirements for their major and earn at least a 2.00 grade-point average for all courses completed within their degree program.

Limitations on Source and Time for Credit Acquisition

The college dean or campus chancellor and program faculty may require up to 24 credits of course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. Credit used toward degree programs may need to be earned from a particular source or within time constraints (see Senate Policy 83-80). For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

B.A. Degree Requirements

Foreign Language (0-12 credits): Student must attain 12th credit level of proficiency in one foreign language. See the Placement Policy for Penn State Foreign Language Courses.

B.A. Fields (9 credits): Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arts, Foreign Languages, Natural Sciences, Quantification (may not be taken in the area of the student's primary major; foreign language credits in this category must be in a second foreign language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the first language)

Other Cultures (0-3 credits): Select 3 credits from approved list. Students may count courses in this category in order to meet other major, minor, elective, or General Education requirements, except for the General Education US/IL requirement.​

Requirements for the Major

Each student must earn at least a grade of C in each 300- and 400-level course in the major field.

To graduate, a student enrolled in the major must earn a grade of C or better in each course designated by the major as a C-required course, as specified by Senate Policy 82-44.

Common Requirements for the Major (All Options)

Prescribed Courses
PLSC 1American Politics: Principles, Processes and Powers Keystone/General Education Course3
PLSC 3Comparing Politics around the Globe Keystone/General Education Course3
PLSC 14International Relations Keystone/General Education Course3
Additional Courses
Select one of the following:3
Contemporary Political Ideologies Keystone/General Education Course
Introduction to Political Theory Keystone/General Education Course
Introduction to Political Theory Keystone/General Education Course
Supporting Courses and Related Areas
Supporting Courses and Related Areas: Require a grade of C or better
Select 12 additional credits of PLSC courses not used to complete other requirements. At least 12 credits from Additional and Supporting Courses must be at the 400-level.12
Requirements for the Option
Select an option18-19

Requirements for the Option

Crime and Law Option (18 Credits)
Additional Courses
Select 6 credits from the following:6
Social Problems Keystone/General Education Course
Criminology Keystone/General Education Course
Juvenile Delinquency Keystone/General Education Course
Introduction to Criminal Justice Keystone/General Education Course
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better
Select 6 credits from the following:6
American Constitutional Law
The American Legal Process
International Law and Organizations
Supporting Courses and Related Areas
Select 6 PLSC credits in law courses from an approved list6
International Relations Option (18 Credits)
Additional Courses
ECON 104Introductory Macroeconomic Analysis and Policy Keystone/General Education Course3
or GEOG 126 Economic Geography Keystone/General Education Course
Select 6 credits from the following:3
PLSC 90Introduction to Security Keystone/General Education Course3
PLSC 140Contemporary Controversies in International Relations Keystone/General Education Course3
PLSC 200NGovernment and Politics of Europe Keystone/General Education Course3
PLSC 220Politics of the Developing World Keystone/General Education Course3
Supporting Courses and Related Areas
Select 3 credits of HIST from approved list (GH)3
Select 6 credits in PLSC comparative politics or international relations courses from an approved list6
Politics and government Option (18 Credits)
Supporting Courses and Related Areas
Select 12 credits of PLSC courses12
Select 6 credits of courses in related areas from a major-approved list6
Public Policy Option (18-19 Credits)
Prescribed Courses
Additional Courses
PLSC 111Debating the Purpose of Government Keystone/General Education Course3
or PLSC 123
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better
Select 3-4 credits from the following:3-4
Elementary Statistics in Psychology Keystone/General Education Course
Introduction to Statistics for Business Keystone/General Education Course
Elementary Statistics Keystone/General Education Course
Introduction to Biostatistics Keystone/General Education Course
Supporting Courses and Related Areas
Select 3 credits of GEOG from approved list3
Select 6 PLSC credits in policy courses from approved list6

Program Learning Objectives

  • Understanding of the institutions, processes, constitutional background, and policy outcomes of American government and the ability to compare American government to other countries around the world.
  • Knowledge of key theories and concepts, historical developments, organizations, and modern issues in international relations.
  • Understanding of government institutions, electoral processes, and policies in a variety of countries around the world and the ability to compare the effectiveness or impact of differing political arrangements across countries.
  • Knowledge of some of the philosophical underpinnings of modern politics and government and the legal principles by which political disputes are often settled.
  • Ability to use the comparative case study method of analysis, quantitative forms of analysis, and legal analysis in oral communication and in written research.

Academic Advising

The objectives of the university’s academic advising program are to help advisees identify and achieve their academic goals, to promote their intellectual discovery, and to encourage students to take advantage of both in-and out-of class educational opportunities in order that they become self-directed learners and decision makers.

Both advisers and advisees share responsibility for making the advising relationship succeed. By encouraging their advisees to become engaged in their education, to meet their educational goals, and to develop the habit of learning, advisers assume a significant educational role. The advisee's unit of enrollment will provide each advisee with a primary academic adviser, the information needed to plan the chosen program of study, and referrals to other specialized resources.



Robert Speel, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Political Science
159 Kochel
Erie, PA 16563

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2021-22 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition (Note: the archive only contain suggested academic plans beginning with the 2018-19 edition of the Undergraduate Bulletin).

Political Science, B.A. at Erie Campus

The course series listed below provides only one of the many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The University may make changes in policies, procedures, educational offerings, and requirements at any time. This plan should be used in conjunction with your degree audit (accessible in LionPATH as either an Academic Requirements or What If report). Please consult with a Penn State academic adviser on a regular basis to develop and refine an academic plan that is appropriate for you.

First Year
ENGL 15 or 30H†‡3PLSC 1 or 33
PLSC 1 or 33General Education3
General Education3General Education3
Foreign Language (Level One)4General Education 3
First-Year Seminar1Foreign Language (Level Two)4
 14 16
Second Year
PLSC 14 or 17N3PLSC 14H or 17N3
CAS 100†‡3ENGL 202A†‡3
General Education 3General Education3
General Education3General Education3
Foreign Language (Level Three)4General Education3
 General Education1.5
 16 16.5
Third Year
PL SC 400-level*3PL SC 400-level, Writing Across the Curriculum (W) course*3
PL SC American Government any level3PL SC International Politics any level3
General Education3BA Knowledge Domain3
General Education1.5General Education3
Other Cultures3Electives3
 13.5 15
Fourth Year
PL SC 400-level*3PL SC 400-level*3
PL SC Comparative Politics any level3PL SC Gov in Theory and Practice any level3
BA Knowledge Domain3BA Knowledge Domain3
 15 15
Total Credits 121

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy University Requirements (United States and International Cultures).

W, M, X, and Y are the suffixes at the end of a course number used to designate courses that satisfy University Writing Across the Curriculum requirement.

GWS, GQ, GHW, GN, GA, GH, and GS are abbreviations used to identify General Education program courses. General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ) and Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS, and Integrative Studies). Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of ‘C’ or better.

Integrative Studies courses are required for the General Education program. N is the suffix at the end of a course number used to designate an Inter-Domain course and Z is the suffix at the end of a course number used to designate a Linked course.

Bachelor of Arts Requirements:

Bachelor of Arts students must take 9 credits in Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Fields (Humanities; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Arts; World Languages [2nd language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the 1st]; Natural Sciences; Quantification). The B.A. Fields courses may not be taken in the area of the student’s primary major. See your adviser and the Degree Requirements section of this Bulletin.

Bachelor of Arts students must take 3 credits in Other Cultures.
See your adviser and the full list of courses approved as Other Cultures courses.

Additional Notes

Both US (United States Cultures) and IL (International Cultures) must be completed within the degree requirements.

Program Notes:  Students can double count US & IL requirements for general education courses but not for the Other Cultures requirement.

Academic Advising Notes:  The course series listed above is only one of many possible ways to move through this curriculum. The number of electives required varies per student.  Please be sure to consult with an adviser about your intended plan.

Career Paths

The B.A. in Political Science program emphasizes the development of key intellectual skills, ingraining the habits of questioning, debating, challenging, and shaping coherent and persuasive arguments. You’ll be expected to master effective writing, speaking, and reasoning, and conduct upper-level research in public affairs—skills that are impressive to future employers. Penn State Behrend has a comprehensive support system to help you identify and achieve your goals for college and beyond. Meet with your academic adviser often and take advantage of the services offered by the Academic and Career Planning Center beginning in your first semester.


Employers of recent Penn State Behrend B.A. in Political Science graduates include the FBI, CIA, U.S. State Department, Social Security Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, Pennsylvania General Assembly, and NASA. Recent Political Science graduates work as attorneys for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Michigan Attorney General, The Nature Conservancy, and GEICO, and in policy positions at Toyota Motors, Erie Insurance, and the Center for Naval Analyses. Other recent graduates work in education at the University of California, Los Angeles, University of Notre Dame, University of Connecticut, and in many secondary schools.


Opportunities for Graduate Studies

Recent Penn State Behrend Political Science alumni have attended the law schools at Cornell University, University of Pittsburgh, New York University, George Washington University, University of Illinois, and Boston College. Other recent graduates have pursued graduate degrees in fields such as public policy and international relations at the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Pepperdine University, China’s Fudan University, and England’s Cambridge University.

If you are interested in a teaching career, you can fast-track your completion of Pennsylvania teacher certification in middle-level or secondary social studies through Penn State Behrend's agreement with Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.


Professional Resources



170 Irvin Kochel Center
4951 College Drive
Erie, PA 16563