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Political Science Major Guide for 2015-2016

What is Political Science?

Political Science is the systematic study of politics and government. It is a broad and diverse discipline ranging from the study of political philosophy to the analysis of international terrorism. Political Science attends to the theory and practice of government at all levels from local to international, as well as to the complex relationships between social values and the formulation of public policy. The Political Science curriculum is divided into the following areas:

  • U.S. Government and Politics/ Public Administration
  • Comparative Government and Politics
  • International Relations
  • Political Theory

As a blend of the theoretical and the practical, Political Science provides a broad liberal arts background for professional careers in law, government service, foreign service, business, journalism, and education. It offers an excellent foundation for those wishing to pursue postgraduate study, especially in the fields of law, political science, and public administration.

Career Opportunities in Political Science

Political science majors upon completion of their Bachelor of Arts degree undertake a variety of career paths. Many continue with their education in law or graduate school and then practice law, work for public agencies, or become college educators. It is also common for our majors, especially those who have completed internships, to go to work directly in politics and government for political candidates, organized groups, and as public officials. Those who meet State certification requirements may become secondary school social studies teachers.

Salary Trends in Political Science

An Arts and Sciences degree can propel you in limitless directions. Majors are not always the deciding factor as to what career path you follow. As with any degree, your pre-professional experiences (volunteerism, work experience, internships, etc) enhance your chances at obtaining desired employment and further guide where you fall on the salary continuum.

High School Preparation

A broad background in social studies (history, geography, sociology, psychology) is excellent preparation for a Political Science major. Specific classes in civics and economics are highly recommended. Participation in extracurricular activities such as student government, mock trial, debate, and forensics develop skills of great use in this major. Students are encouraged to take any high school AP credit courses in government available at their school as these can be applied to meeting prerequisites to the major.

How to Major in Political Science

Political Science 101, U.S. Government and Politics, or 107, Honors U.S. Government and Politics; and 102, Introduction to Political Science are prerequisites to the major. Students must complete the prerequisite courses before declaring the major. These courses can also be applied to the Arts and Sciences Divisional Distribution in Social Science requirement.

Requirements for Political Science

The major consists of 31 hours of courses numbered 200 or above. At least 19 hours of courses numbered 300 or above must be completed.

Students will select four courses – Foundations of Political Science – from:

Students will select 6 courses from any 300-400 level political science courses.

Students will complete also complete POLS 480-Capstone.

Minor in Political Science: Prerequisites to the minor are the same as for a major (101 or 107 and 102), 6 hours of credit in courses numbered 200 and above, 9 hours of credit in courses numbered 300 and above.

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

Concentration in Public Administration: For students interested in preparing for a career in public service, the department offers a 34 hour program, which combines work in political science and business with an emphasis on public finance. For details see the Undergraduate Catalog or the departmental web page at

Concentration in International Affairs: For students interested in international affairs, the department offers a 31 hour program. For details see the Undergraduate Catalog or the departmental web page at

Internships: Up to 6 hours of credit is available for internships involving work in politics and government. Before engaging in the internship, students must apply to the department, and upon acceptance, will be allowed to enroll in the Political Science 494 Internship course. Credit extended is S/NC only, and only 3 hours may be applied to the major.

Highlights of Political Science

Honors in Political Science: The Honors concentration is normally a two year, 34 hour program and completion of a thesis in the senior year. It encourages highly motivated students to obtain a superior liberal education and more rigorous preparation in the discipline. Students must apply and admission is selective. For details see the Undergraduate Catalog or the departmental web page at

Ready for the World logo

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, offers study abroad programs in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, South America, and North America. Program lengths vary from mini-term trips to the entire academic year, and students may choose to fulfill general education requirements, study a foreign language, or take courses within their majors. In addition, UTK offers students opportunities for international internships.

Political Science majors who study abroad can learn about the politics of other countries and regions, enhance their foreign language skills, and gain a unique perspective on world politics.  The Department of Political Science works with the UTK Programs Abroad Office to find study abroad opportunities for its students.  In addition, each year the Department sends a contingent of students (with a faculty supervisor) to London for a unique study abroad experience.

Students are highly encouraged to begin planning early in their academic career and to consult with an academic advisor about the best time to study abroad as well as what courses to take abroad. For more information about program options, the application process, and how to finance study abroad, please visit the Programs Abroad Office website.

Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Academic Plan and Milestones

Following an academic plan will help students stay on track to graduate in four years. For first-time, first-year, full-time, degree-seeking students, UT has implemented Universal Tracking (uTrack), an academic monitoring system designed to help students stay on track for timely graduation. In order to remain on track, students must complete the minimum requirements for each tracking semester, known as milestones. Milestones may include successful completion of specified courses and/or attainment of a minimum GPA.

To see a sample academic plan and milestones for this major, please visit the undergraduate catalog.

For More Information

Department of Political Science
(865) 974-2261



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.

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