These guidelines apply to students who declare a political science major in fall 2023 and thereafter. For students who declared the major earlier, please see the 2022 Bulletin for major requirements.

Students majoring in political science are required to complete 11 courses, each with a grade of C- or higher.

The major requirements consist of:

  1. Four lower-level courses (200-level and below), only one of which may be a 100-level course; one of which must be a research methods course (see below).
  2. Six 300-level courses
  3. A senior capstone course
  4. A course in each subfield (American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory)

Lower level courses: Four courses at the 200-level or below, only one of which may be a 100-level course and one of which must be a research methods course. All four should be taken by the end of the sophomore year. Enrollment in 200-level courses is closed to seniors. Enrollment in 100-level courses is closed to both juniors and seniors.

Methods requirement: Students are required to take POLS 242 (Research Methods) or one of the following methods courses in other departments/programs: ANTH 301, ECON 318, HIST 300, PBPL 220, PSYC 221, SOCL 201. Any of these six non-POLS methods courses will be equivalent to POLS 242, thus fulfilling the 200-level methods requirement. Only one research methods course will count toward the eleven required for the major. ECON 318, HIST 300, and PSYC 221 are limited to only those students who are double majors (or minors in the case of history). ANTH 301 and PBPL 220 require a prerequisite (or permission of the instructor).

Upper-level courses: Six 300-level courses.

Senior capstone: One senior seminar (400 level) or the completion of a senior thesis. (The senior capstone course satisfies the Writing Intensive Part II requirement.)

One course in every subfield: For breadth in the discipline, majors must complete one course in each of the four subfields (American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory). The senior capstone course does not satisfy this requirement). A list of courses in the various concentrations can be found here.

No new majors will be accepted into the department after the College deadline for major declarations in the second semester of the sophomore year.

Any majors, regardless of GPA, can apply to the department to write a senior thesis by submitting a thesis proposal. However, honors in the major will be awarded to students with both a GPA of 3.67 or higher in the major and an A- or better on the thesis.

All senior theses will be two-semester, two-credit theses. In the first semester, students will enroll in a thesis colloquium. In the second, students will continue to write independently in consultation with their advisers. The senior thesis colloquium will satisfy the senior capstone course requirement, though thesis students are still welcome to enroll in a senior seminar. Thus, the colloquium counts among the 11 minimum credits required for the major, while the spring semester of the thesis must be taken in addition to the 11 credits.

The thesis proposal will normally be due in late March of the junior year. Juniors studying away may request an extension for submitting the proposal, but the proposal must be submitted and approved by early September, in time to enroll in the fall thesis colloquium.

In the thesis proposal, students may apply for funding to support their research. Typical awards will range up to $1,500.


AP credit: The Department does not recognize AP credit toward the minimum 11 course major requirement; however, a minimum score of 4 on the AP United States Government and Politics exam allows entry into upper-level American politics courses that have POLS 102 as a prerequisite.

Internships: There are a range of internships students in the major may pursue for credit. Although internships supervised by POLS faculty do not count toward the POLS credit requirement, there is one exception—the Legislative Internship Program. Through this unique program, students may earn POLS major credits for their participation.

The Trinity College Legislative Internship is a special program designed for those students who want to observe politics and government firsthand. Student interns work either part-time or full-time for individual legislators and are eligible for two course credits for part-time interns and four credits for full-time interns. For full-time interns, three credits are graded and one is pass/fail. One of the graded credits is a political science credit for both part-time and full-time interns. In addition to working approximately 16 hours per week (part-time) to 32 hours per week (full-time) for a legislator, interns participate in a seminar on state legislatures. There are no prerequisite courses for enrollment in this program; preference will be given to juniors and seniors. Students majoring in areas other than political science are encouraged to apply.

Candidates for this program, which is limited to 14 students, should contact the political science department in September.

Study away: Students are encouraged to take advantage of appropriate study-away programs, for which the department will grant up to two credits toward the major. Students who study away for a full year at approved study-away sites may transfer up to three courses for the major. There is, however, no limit on credits from the Rome program, as it is considered part of the Trinity campus.

Honors: Honors in the major will be awarded to students with both (1) a GPA of 3.67 or greater in the major and (2) an A- or better on the thesis.