Political Science

Undergraduate Program

Political Science

Student veteran standing in the Multicultural Center

Political Science Bachelor's Degree and Minor Overview

Cesar Chavez. Ronald Reagan. Indira Gandhi. Mao Zedong. Sojourner Truth. These are all such different people with different political goals, and yet they all have something in common: they all understood the nature of power and political action, and they used their knowledge to change the world. A political science degree from Portland State University will give you the tools to understand power and to make changes in the world that you believe in. Maybe these changes will be very small, maybe they will be very big, but the knowledge you gain from getting a degree in political science will give you what you need to take your vision for our neighborhoods, city, state, country, or world and put it into action.

Your classes in the political science department will teach you the nature of power in our world through an option of lenses based on your interested. We offer a wide variety of perspectives so that you can pick the approach that is most interesting to you.

  • In our American Politics classes, students learn about the political system of the United States, as well as the history, culture, and social movements in this country. Classes in this field also engage the local politics of Portland as well as state politics in Oregon.
  • In our Comparative Politics classes, students learn about the domestic politics of other countries. If you wonder about how the Prime Minister is chosen in Germany, how Augusto Pinochet -the former dictator in Chile- overthrew the democratically elected government, or how government restrictions affect the lives of women in Iran, this is the field for you.
  • Our International Relations classes teach our students to understand how governments interact with one another. This sometimes means the study of war, but more often means learning about the role of international organizations and international law in facilitating negotiation and communication among countries.
  • Students in our Political Theory classes read books that challenge commonly held views of what constitutes politics and how political change occurs. In exploring contending ideas of power, justice, authority, freedom, and so forth, political theory students develop their own theories of politics.

At Portland State University, we offer four specializations in American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory, along with two Political Science tracks in International Development and Public Service, and two minors in Law & Legal Studies and Political Science.

Major in Political Science

The standard major offers a traditional course of study in political science that involves some exposure to four basic areas of the discipline. In addition to meeting the University’s general education requirements, a student wishing to pursue a basic major in political science must take a minimum of 48 credits in political science distributed as follows. The distinguishing feature of the B.S. degree is that it requires either PS 295 or PS 495 as one of the Upper Division Requirements, while the B.A. does not require either of these courses.

Minor in Political Science

The minor in political science requires fewer credits than the standard major and may be combined with other majors offered at PSU. Of the 28 required course credits, students must complete at least 16 at PSU. This minor can be completed entirely online.

Public Service Option

The Public Service option is designed for Political Science majors who want more hands-on experience or are interested in practical politics. The curriculum provides students with a strong foundation in American government while instilling in them an understanding of public service. Students in this track are required to serve an internship in a governmental or political office. This track requires 48 credits of coursework and is only an option for students adhering to degree requirements in effect as of the 2013-14 academic year.

International Development Option

The International Development option is designed for political science majors who want to pursue a directed course of study on such topics as global governance, international and development economics, foreign aid and humanitarian assistance, poverty reduction and human development, sustainable development, and international and intergenerational justice. This track requires 60 credits of coursework and is only an option for students adhering to degree requirements in effect as of the 2013-14 academic year.

Honors

The Honors Program in Political Science is designed for our top students who seek out additional intellectual challenges, including research and writing an honors thesis during their senior year. It is distinct from the University Honors Program, but political science majors may be admitted to both programs. Contact the Political Science Department for more information.

Bachelor's + Master's Program

Our Bachelor's + Master's Program allows currently admitted political science undergraduates to get a head-start on their master's degree! Students admitted into our Pathway Program are able to take up to 20 credit hours of 500 level course work as an undergraduate and apply the credits to their undergraduate and graduate degrees. Admitted Pathway students have the potential to start their graduate program with 20 credits already completed. Contact Graduate Committee Chair, Professor David Kinsella for further details.

Degree Details

Location Definitions:

On campus:
100% on campus
Online:
100% online
Flexible:
Combination of online and on campus
  • BA
    Bachelor of Arts
    Locations
    On campus
    Total Credits
    180
    Start Term
    Fall
  • BS
    Bachelor of Science
    Locations
    On campus
    Total Credits
    180
    Start Term
    Fall
  • m
    Minor
    Locations
    On campus
    Flexible
    Total Credits
    28
    Start Term
    Any

Political Science Bachelor's Degree and Minor: Why PSU?

Earn your political science degree in Oregon’s largest and most politically active city of Portland. Studying political science in Portland presents a unique opportunity to see how a mid-size metropolitan city addresses issues such as gentrification, homelessness, police engagement, and social justice from a public policy, legal, political theory, and American political perspective. Situated in the heart of Downtown Portland and within walking distance from multiple city, state, and federal offices, you’ll be able to easily connect with professionals actively engaged in fields such as law, politics, public policy, sustainable global development and international justice to gain marketable skills in your field of interest, setting you up for the political science career of your dreams.

Internships prepare you for your career beyond Portland State University. Political Science students have access to signing up with a top notch internship program that connects you with alumni and current working professionals in your field of interest. The Political Science Internship Program helps students tie together what they have learned through coursework with practical political experience. It provides them with an opportunity to earn course credits in a learning situation outside the walls of the traditional classroom.

Students have considerable flexibility in pursuing an internship position that is appropriate for their particular academic or professional needs. A variety of types of internships are acceptable for credit, be it serving as an assistant to a member of Congress or the state legislature, working in the city or county government, assisting a non-profit organization, or participating actively in an election campaign. The main criteria are that the position must be relevant to political science and it must provide the student with an opportunity to gain experience not otherwise available.

Once hired as interns, students work closely with a faculty member who provides a directed course of study to help the students to understand the work they are doing. The interaction with the professor is a major component of the internship program, providing an academic perspective.

Internship Coordinator

In this program, you'll have direct access to the Internship Coordinator Professor Richard Clucas who is the primary liaison between the student interns, the sponsoring organization, and the individual faculty instructors. Professor Clucas can help you find internships, provides advice, monitors your work within the sponsoring organization, help you handle problems that arise on the job, and maintains all internship records. Even though the coordinator handles most of the internships in the department, all regular faculty members in Political Science can oversee internships.

Past Placement

PSU Political Science students have worked as interns in a variety of organizations and positions. Here is a partial listing of some organizations and offices that have accepted interns from the Political Science department within the past few years:

  • Members of the Oregon Congressional Delegation
  • Oregon House of Representatives
  • Oregon Senate Governor’s Office
  • Portland Mayor’s Office
  • Members of the Portland City Council
  • National Coalition for the Homeless
  • AFL-CIO summer intern program
  • Campaigns for candidates at all levels of government
  • The Veterans Administration
  • Oregon Assembly for Black Affairs
  • U.S. Humane Society
  • Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families, and Community
  • Portland Development Commission
  • Oregon Latino Health Coalition
  • Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO)
  • Planned Parenthood
  • NARAL
  • Scottish Parliament
  • State Department Mission at the United Nations

Legislative Intern Program

One of the most popular placements for PSU students has been in the State Legislative Intern Program. The Legislative Intern Program was created in 1976 to provide Oregon college students with an opportunity to work within the state legislature, learning leadership responsibilities as well as developing familiarity with the legislative process. Since the Oregon legislature has fewer professional staff members than many states, the student interns can play an important role in a variety of activities related to the legislative process. As a result, this program can be a very valuable and exciting experience. Some of the positions open to students include Legislative Office Assistant, Legislative Committee Assistant, Legislative Counsel Assistant, Information Systems Computer Assistant, and Media Production Assistant. The recommended prerequisite for the Legislative Intern Program is PS 312: Legislative Process, or PS 431: State and Local Politics.

For more information regarding internships, please feel free to contact to the Internship Coordinator, Professor Clucas at (503) 725-3258 or hprc@pdx.edu.

What can I do with a bachelor's degree or minor in Political Science?

Our students develop skills that are highly valued by today’s employers. These skills include, but are not limited to: out-of-the-box problem solving, research, critical communication skills in writing/thinking/analysis, inclusive collaboration skills and effective oral presentation skills.

Students and alumni find employment in business, government, nonprofits, social services, and educational institutions. Completing an internship or obtaining a relevant part-time job can only boost your job prospects after graduation.

Our Internship program and connections to our Alumni provide us a network of potential opportunities once you graduate with a degree in Political Science.

Here is a list of the top careers for Political Science majors:

  • K-12 Teacher
  • Policy Analyst
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Legislative Assistant
  • Lawyer and Judge
  • Political Consultant
  • Political Campaign Staff
  • Elected Official
  • International Assistance Staff
  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Political Journalist

Featured Courses

  • PS 101 US Government
  • PS 102 US Politics
  • PS 204 Introduction to Comparative Politics
  • PS 205 Introduction to International Politics
  • PS 208 Introduction to Political Theory
  • PS 221 Introduction to Law & Legal Studies
  • PS 381 Women's Leadership
  • PS 431 State and Local Politics
  • PS 335 Race and Politics in the US

Electives

  • PS 310 How to Win the U.S. Election
  • PS 317 Film & Politics
  • PS 318U Media, Opinion, and Voting
  • PS 380U Women and Politics
  • BST 430/530 Modern Black Political Thought
  • PS 362U Arab-Israeli Conflict
  • PS 421The Supreme Court and American Politics
  • PS 466 Politics of China

Accreditation

Portland State University is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).