Major in Political Science

Applies to all Columbia College and General Studies students.


Students must choose a Primary Subfield and a Secondary Subfield to study. The subfields are as follows:

  • American Politics (AP)
  • Comparative Politics (CP)
  • International Relations (IR)
  • Political Theory (PT)


The major in political science requires a minimum of 9 courses in political science, to be distributed as follows:

Introductory Courses*
Students must take two of the following introductory courses:

  • POLS UN1201 Introduction to American Politics
  • POLS UN1501 Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • POLS UN1601 International Politics
  • POLS UN1101 Political Theory I

*NOTE: Introductory courses taken that do not fit into the Primary or Secondary Subfield will be counted in the Political Science Elective category.

Primary Subfield
Minimum three courses.

  • A subfield's corresponding introductory course can be taken to fulfill one of the subfield course requirements, but it is not mandatory. 

Secondary Subfield
Minimum two courses.

  • A subfield's corresponding introductory course can be taken to fulfill one of the subfield course requirements, but it is not mandatory. 

Two 4-point seminars, at least one of which is in the student’s Primary Subfield.

  • Courses that satisfy the seminar requirement:
    • POLS UN3911 and UN3912 — Seminar in Political Theory
    • POLS UN3921 and UN3922 — Seminar in American Politics
    • POLS UN3951 and UN3952 — Seminar in Comparative Politics
    • POLS UN3961 and UN3962 — Seminar in International Relations
  • Usually taken in the junior and/or senior year.
  • Entry into seminars requires instructor permission.
  • Seminars must be taken for a letter grade.
  • Barnard colloquia can count for seminar credit only with the written permission of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Research Methods
Minimum one course.

  • Courses that satisfy the methods requirement: POLS UN3220, UN3704, UN3706, UN3708, UN3720, GU4710, GU4712, GU4714, GU4730, GU4732, GU4764, GU4768, GU4790, and GU4792.
    • NOTE: POLS GU4700 Math Methods for Political Science does not fulfill the methods requirement. However, undergraduates are welcome to take the course and count it toward the major as an elective.
  • A student may take another course inside or outside the department that provides relevant training in research methods to satisfy this requirement only with the written permission in advance of the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the department’s undergraduate adviser.
  • If a course outside the political science department is used to satisfy the research methods requirement, this same course cannot be used toward other majors/concentrations or programs.

Political Science Electives
Minimum one course (in any subfield).


Policy on Double-Counting Courses

  • No course may double-count for two separate majors/concentrations or programs.

Policy on Counting Credits outside the Department of Political Science

  • Courses taken at other institutions or in other Columbia departments may not be used to meet the requirement of a major or concentration in political science without the approval of the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the department’s undergraduate adviser. Students should secure such approval in advance of registration.

Pass/D/Fail and Grading Policy

  • A grade of “Pass” is acceptable only for the first course taken toward the major.
  • Students must receive a grade of at least C- in order for a course to count towards the major.

AP Credit Policy

  • Students who receive transfer credit for one or more AP exams in political science may count a maximum of one AP course toward the major, contingent upon completing an upper-level (3000 or higher) course with a grade of C or higher in the subfield in which the AP exam was taken.

Transfer Credit Policy

  • A maximum of three courses in Political Science may be transferred from other institutions. This includes study abroad and AP credit. All transfer credits must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the undergraduate adviser.
  • Students wishing to count transfer credits toward the major or concentration should send the Director of Undergraduate Studies their transfer credit report, the syllabi of the courses they want to count toward departmental requirements, and a statement of how they want to apply the transfer credits to the requirements.

Independent Study Policy

  • Independent Study (POLS UN3901x or UN3902y) taken in fulfillment of course requirements for the major must be taken for at least 3 points of credit.