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Political Science

Department Overview

101 Gowen

Political science, broadly conceived, is the study of governments and other political actors, including their origins and foundations, interactions with groups and individuals, and interactions with nations. Within this larger framework political scientists study power, authority, conflict, economic relationships, culture, laws, policy, values, ethics, justice, equality, rights, legitimacy, and representation, to list only a few. Using these and other concepts, they analyze the political impacts of social issues such as war, peace, poverty, crime, education, the environment, race, gender, and globalization. Modes of inquiry are highly interdisciplinary.

Undergraduate Program

215 Smith, Box 353530
(206) 543-1824

The Department of Political Science offers the following programs of study:

  • The Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in political science and options in political economy and in international security
  • A minor in political science

Coursework in the discipline covers four major fields of political science: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. In addition to major requirements, students may pursue faculty-supervised internships, research, independent study projects and an optional senior thesis.

Bachelor of Arts

Suggested First- and Second-Year College Courses: Courses that develop writing skills and breadth of knowledge. Introductory statistics.

Department Admission Requirements

  1. Minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA
  2. Three introductory political science courses (15 credits) with a minimum 2.0 grade in each from the following: POL S 101, POL S 201, POL S 202, POL S 203, POL S 204, POL S 205
  3. Students are admitted all quarters. Applications are due the second Friday of each quarter. Applications and additional information available from advisers in 215 Smith and on the Political Science Department website.
  4. Applicants who meet the stated requirements are admitted in time to register for the following quarter as majors.

Major Requirements

50 credits in political science as follows:

  1. Introductory Requirement (15 credits): three courses from POL S 101, POL S 201, POL S 202, POL S 203, POL S 204, POL S 205
  2. Field Requirement (15 credits): one course numbered POL S 210 or above in three different fields of political science chosen from political theory, comparative politics, international relations, American politics, and research methods, with a minimum grade of 2.0 in each
  3. Electives (20 credits): Four courses numbered POL S 210 or above with a minimum 2.0 grade in each
  4. GPA Requirement: Minimum 2.25 cumulative GPA in political science courses at graduation and minimum 2.0 grade in each political science course taken to fulfill requirements for the major
  5. Transfer and postbaccalaureate students must meet all the above requirements and complete a minimum of 10 political science credits numbered 210 or above through the UW.

Political Economy: This interdisciplinary option is a specialized program that combines study of political science and economics. Students who wish to pursue this option should consult a political science adviser. A list of recommended coursework is available.

International Security: Recommended to students interested in an in-depth study of international security. Concentrates on the relationship between politics and security, and specifically on the causes of war and the use and control of force, threats, promises, and the tactics, techniques, and ethics of violence. Teaches theories to address security issues and provides historical context for understanding contemporary security issues. Option coursework is completed in addition to the requirements of the major, however, up to 25 credits from the option may also fulfill requirements for the political science major. A list of recommended coursework is available.

45 credits as follows:

  1. POL S 203, POL S 321, POL S 407 (15 credits)
  2. 30 additional credits from an approved list of courses maintained in the department. At least 15 elective credits must be at the 300 or 400 level.


Minor Requirements: 30 political science credits as follows:

  1. One introductory course chosen from POL S 101, POL S 201, POL S 202, POL S 203, POL S 204, or POL S 205
  2. 25 elective credits numbered POL S 210 and above. (Internship and independent study courses such as POL S 496, POL S 498, POL S 499 do not count toward the minor)
  3. Minimum 2.00 cumulative GPA for courses applied to the minor
  4. Minimum 15 credits for the minor completed in residence through the UW

Student Outcomes and Opportunities

  • Learning Objectives and Expected Outcomes: The study of political science arms students with substantive knowledge of the discipline, including its concepts and theories. It also prepares them to be knowledgeable and active citizens. Through their study, students develop critical thinking, analytical, research, writing, interpersonal, and communication skills.

    Graduates of political science pursue careers in many fields, including government (federal, state, and local), business, trade, public service (including non-governmental and international organizations), law, journalism, and teaching.

  • Instructional and Research Facilities:
    • Political Science Laboratory: This facility with 25 computer stations, functions as a computer classroom and also as a general laboratory.
    • Center for Social Science Computation and Research maintains an extensive data archive and offers many statistical and software consulting services.
    • Political Science/Jackson School/Law, Societies, and Justice/Comparative History of Ideas Writing Center: The Writing Center is staffed by peer tutors and provides free help to students seeking feedback about their writing. The Writing Center director works with instructors to design workshops to help students with assignments.

The Department of Political Science is affiliated with a number of research centers:

    • The Center for American Politics and Public Policy is a focal point for the study of politics and policy processes in the United States. Research relates to public policy processes, including issues of agenda setting, decision making, implementation, quantitative and qualitative measures of policy change, and the role of ideas and dialogue in policy change. Policy arenas include education reform, health care, environmental regulation, and building code enforcement.
    • The Center for Communication and Civic Engagement investigates how innovative communication can improve the quality of civic life. The center's primary focus is to understand how new information technologies can supplement more traditional forms of communication to facilitate civic engagement.
    • The University of Washington's Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality is an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to bringing the tools of contemporary social science inquiry to the careful examination of issues of social, economic, and political exclusion and disadvantage of marginalized minority populations in the United States, and their potential solutions.
    • Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies promotes the study of labor as a central concern in higher education and focuses on labor's contribution to society—locally, nationally, and worldwide. The center supports research, teaching, and community outreach.
    • The Comparative Law and Society Studies Center is committed to promoting interdisciplinary research and teaching as well as community service regarding law, justice, and human rights throughout the world.
    • European Union Center promotes the study of the European Union and trans-Atlantic relations.
  • Honors Options Available: With College Honors (Completion of Honors Core Curriculum and Departmental Honors); With Honors (Completion of Departmental Honors requirements in the major). See adviser for requirements.
  • Research, Internships, and Service Learning: The department offers three internship programs that range from part-time to full-time programs. Students may work in local agencies (POL S 496), in the state legislature (POL S 497), and in Washington, D.C. (POL S 498).

    Listings of local internships and applications are available in 215 Smith.

    The Washington State Legislative Internship Program is a winter-quarter program in Olympia and is open to students from all majors. Students earn 15 credits for the internship and attend a class taught by a political science faculty member. Applications are available from departmental advisers in 215 Smith and are due by the end of October.

    Students in all majors may apply for The Washington Center, a comprehensive internship program that places students in Washington, D.C. Students earn 15 credits for the internship. Additional information is available from departmental advisers in 215 Smith.

  • Department Scholarships:
    • Hugh Bone Scholarship: The endowed Hugh A. Bone Scholarship was established by the Department of Political Science in 1986 to recognize Professor Bone, a former department chair, and to continue his commitment to a "participative citizenry." Professor Bone founded the Washington State Legislative Internship Program and many students who studied with him continue active political lives because of his stewardship and interest. The scholarship was established in his name to help students with financial need study and intern away from the UW-Seattle campus.
    • Agnes C. Nelson Memorial Scholarship: The departments of Political Science and Economics make annual full-tuition awards to students who demonstrate interest in the interrelationship of politics and economics and who meet financial eligibility requirements. To apply for the scholarship, students must have completed a minimum 25 credits in political science and economics with at least 10 credits in each discipline. Deadlines are posted early in spring quarter.
  • Department Awards
    • The Robert A. Dahl Award: The Department of Political Science recognizes an outstanding graduating senior with the Robert A. Dahl Award. To be eligible for consideration, a student must demonstrate scholarship excellence as well as interest in political science as a discipline.
    • Daniel C. Lev Award: The Department of Political Science created this award to recognize the contribution of Professor Dan Lev to the department's Honors program. The award recognizes an exceptional senior Honors thesis.
    • Sharon S. Redeker Award for Public Service: The Department of Political Science created this award in honor of Sharon Redeker, who served for many years as the department's Director of Academic Services. This award recognizes the exceptional public service of a political science senior while at the UW.
  • Student Organizations/Associations: Pi Sigma Alpha (Political Science Honor Society), Phi Alpha Delta (pre-law fraternity). See adviser for details.

Graduate Program

Graduate Program Coordinator
215 Smith, Box 353530
(206) 543-1898

Graduate study integrates traditional education in political science's primary fields with other fields in the social sciences.

Areas of study include comparative politics, international relations, American politics, political theory, political economy, race and ethnic politics, public policy, public law, political communication, and methodology.

Graduate work is primarily preparation for the doctor of philosophy degree. The master of arts requirement serves as the initial stage of the PhD program; the department does not offer a terminal master of arts degree and admits students for the PhD program only.

Doctor of Philosophy

Admission Requirements

  1. Statement of Purpose academic background, including any research experience and methodological skills; plans and goals for study, including intellectual interests and areas of specialization; and reasons for interest in studying at the UW.
  2. Writing sample: A paper (not to exceed 20 pages) or excerpts from a larger work (e.g., honors thesis) demonstrating ability to write critically and analytically.
  3. Resume
  4. Letters of recommendation
  5. Transcripts
  6. Test scores: GRE General Test scores sent directly by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). English proficiency scores for international students, sent directly by the Educational Testing Service (ETS)-

Degree Requirements

Minimum 92 credits

  1. General Fields: One from American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. At least one additional core course in another general field. Either a second general field or a specialized field (public law, political communication, political economy, political methodology, public policy processes, or minority and race politics).
  2. Political Research Methods: Minimum level of competence. (Foreign language is not required for the PhD, unless the student selects a field(s) where competence in a language is beneficial.)
  3. MA Degree (40 credits): Usually completed within the first two years of study.
  4. Additional Field: A third field which can be another general field and/or one or more of the specialized fields listed above, and/or at most one non-designated field (from either another academic discipline or individually defined by the student).
  5. PhD Degree: Normally four years beyond the MA, including written and oral examinations in the three fields; general examination (dissertation prospectus); dissertation (minimum 27 credits).

Research Facilities

Access to computing facilities and extensive data holdings is available. The department is also affiliated with several research centers, including the Center for American Politics and Public Policy, the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement, the Center for Statistics and Social Sciences, the Comparative Law and Society Studies Center, the Harry Bridges Labor Studies Center, the Center for Comparative and Historical Analysis of Organizations and States, and the UW's Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race, and Sexuality. The University is also a member of the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.

Financial Aid

Fellowships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships are available to qualified graduate students, including those in their first year of study. Provided they make satisfactory progress, students are eligible for departmental financial assistance for five consecutive years.