Political Science, B.A. (Capital)

Program Code: PLSCA_BA

Program Description

The Political Science major offers the student an opportunity to understand not only American federal, state, and local governments, but also the political systems of other nations and the philosophies that underlie them. Courses are offered in American, comparative, and international politics, and in political theory and methodology. Internship opportunities are available.

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 are interested in how power and resources are allocated in society. Students in this major study governments, public policies, and political behavior in the United States and around the world from both a humanistic and scientific perspective. If you’re interested in how history, culture, and economics shape our lives and impact things like economic development, conflict, foreign policy, terrorism, globalization, and the environment, then this is the major for you.

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 at least third-semester classification.


Degree Requirements

For the Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, a minimum of 123 credits is required:

Requirement Credits
General Education 45
Electives 15
Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements 24
Requirements for the Major 39

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 world 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 course work in the major to be taken at the location or in the college or program where the degree is earned. For more information, check the Suggested Academic Plan for your intended program.

Requirements for the Major

In meeting the requirements for the major, students must take at least one course at any level from FOUR of the five fields offered in the department: Political Theory, Methodology, American Politics/Public Administration, Comparative Politics, and International Relations.

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

Additional Courses
Additional Courses: Require a grade of C or better
Select 15 credits in PLSC at or above the 400 level15
Select 15 credits in PLSC at any level, with at least 9 of these credits above the 100 level or above 115
Select 9 credits from the following:9
American Politics: Principles, Processes and Powers Keystone/General Education Course
Comparing Politics around the Globe Keystone/General Education Course
Scientific Study of Politics Keystone/General Education Course
International Relations Keystone/General Education Course
International Relations Honors Keystone/General Education Course
Introduction to Political Theory Keystone/General Education Course
Introduction to Political Theory Keystone/General Education Course

Up to 6 credits of these 15 credits at any level may be taken in related or complementary disciplines with approval of an academic adviser.

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 and Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

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

Breadth in the Knowledge Domains (Inter-Domain courses do not meet this requirement.)

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

Integrative Studies

  • Inter-Domain Courses (Inter-Domain): 6 credits


  • GN, may be completed with Inter-Domain courses: 3 credits
  • GA, GH, GN, GS, Inter-Domain courses. This may include 3 credits of World Language course work beyond the 12th credit level or the requirements for the student’s degree program, whichever is higher: 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

World Language (0-12 credits): Student must attain 12th credit level of proficiency in one world language in addition to English. This proficiency must be demonstrated by either examination or course work. See the Placement Policy for Penn State World Language Courses.

B.A. Fields (9 credits): Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Arts, World Languages, Natural Sciences, Quantification (may not be taken in the area of the student's primary major; world language credits in this category must be in a second world language in addition to English or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the first language). Credits must be selected from the list of approved courses.

World 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 University Cultural Diversity (US/IL) requirement.​

Program Learning Objectives

  • Understand Governmental Processes, Theories, and International Relations
    • Understand Constitutional Foundations, Processes, Institutions, Non-Government Actors
    • Be Able to Compare Political Systems
    • Understand Political Theory
    • Knowledge of International Relations Concepts, Actors, Processes, Political Economy
    • Knowledge of  Policy Issues
  • Locate, Assess, Interpret and Communicate Political Information
    • Write effectively
    • Communicate Verbally and with Use of Technology  
    • Assess and Interpret Political Data and Events
    • Define Research Problems and Develop Hypotheses
  • Exercise Responsibilities of Citizenship in a Democratic Society
    • Understand World, National and Regional Politics
    • Demonstrate an Understanding of Democratic Values
    • Recognize and Understand Opposing Viewpoints

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.



Daniel J. Mallinson, Ph.D.
Program Coordinator
Olmsted W160
Middletown, PA 17057

University Park

Liberal Arts Academic Advising
Use the Liberal Arts Meet the Academic Advisers web page to see the contact information for the specific adviser(s) of this program

World Campus

Undergraduate Academic Advising
301 Outreach Building
University Park, PA 16802

Suggested Academic Plan

The suggested academic plan(s) listed on this page are the plan(s) that are in effect during the 2024-25 academic year. To access previous years' suggested academic plans, please visit the archive to view the appropriate Undergraduate Bulletin edition.

Political Science, B.A. at Harrisburg 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, 15S, 30T, or ESL 153CAS 100A or 100S3
PLSC I *3PLSC 14*3
Quantification (GQ)3World Language level 24
World Language level 14General Education Course3
General Education Course (GHW)1.5General Education Course3
 14.5 16
Second Year
World Language level 34ENGL 2023
General Education Course 3General Education Course 3
General Education Course3PLSC 7 or 400-level PLSC or 400-level PUBPL course3
Quantification3General Education Course 3
PLSC 3 or PLSC 20*3General Education Course3
 General Education (GHW)1.5
 16 16.5
Third Year
PLSC 17W or 400 level PLSC or PUBPL course3400 level PLSC or PUBPL course *6
400 level PLSC or PUBPL course*3General Education Course3
General Education Course3US Cultures (prefer PLSC 110, PLSC 123, or PLSC 130)3
 15 15
Fourth Year
400 level PLSC or PUBPL courses or courses in related disciplines, including 300 level PUBPL courses*3PLSC, PUBPL, or related discipline courses*6
400 level PLSC or PUBPL courses or courses in related disciplines, including 300 level PUBPL courses*3Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirement 3
Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirement3Electives6
 15 15
Total Credits 123

Course requires a grade of C or better for the major

Course requires a grade of C or better for General Education


Course is an Entrance to Major requirement

Course satisfies General Education and degree requirement


World Language: requires World Language at the 12th credit level. 

  • PLSC 7 is typically offered spring semester only.
  • PLSC 117W is typically offered fall semester only.

Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirement: This requirement cannot be fulfilled by courses offered in a student's primary major, and cannot double count to meet General Education requirements.

World Language credits for this requirement must be in a second World Language or beyond the 12th credit level of proficiency in the first World Language. 

University Requirements and General Education Notes:

US and IL are abbreviations used to designate courses that satisfy Cultural Diversity 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.

General Education includes Foundations (GWS and GQ), Knowledge Domains (GHW, GN, GA, GH, GS) and Integrative Studies (Inter-domain) requirements. N or Q (Honors) is the suffix at the end of a course number used to help identify an Inter-domain course, but the inter-domain attribute is used to fill audit requirements. Foundations courses (GWS and GQ) require a grade of 'C' or better.

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 World Cultures.
See your adviser and the full list of courses approved as World Cultures courses.

Program Notes

  • Students must complete at least 15 credits of 400-level courses
  • The 9-credit writing requirement for PLSC may be met by taking either PLSC 17W or PUBPL 304W
  • Concurrent majors in Political Science and Public Policy are not permitted
  • Students must complete a 3-credit course in "United States Cultures (US)" and a 3-credit course in "International Cultures (IL)." (Prefer PLSC 110, PLSC 123, or PLSC 130 for US culture.)

Career Paths

Political Science is one of the most versatile majors in the liberal arts. The program provides students with an in-depth understanding of political issues while honing their ability to think critically and communicate persuasively. As a political science major, you will learn to conduct research and to evaluate information and assemble empirically supported arguments. These skills are necessary for success in a variety of careers, including law, public policy, lobbying, business, political campaigning, and government, as well as with non-profit organizations.


Penn State Political Science graduates are serving as advisers to the State Department; as attorneys and management specialists in the Department of Justice; as speech writers, lobbyists and policy analysts on Capitol Hill; and even in the United States Senate. Our alumni have built successful careers in business, and as lawyers, teachers, and journalists. Many are successful entrepreneurs, some work for NGOs, others are leaders of major corporations. You can learn from their experience through our alumni mentoring program.





Olmsted Building, W160
Middletown, PA 17057


University Park

202 Pond Lab
University Park, PA 16802


World Campus

220 Pond Lab
University Park, PA 16802