What is Political Science?

Political science aims at a systematic and rigorous understanding of politics, both in explaining political phenomena and in exploring their ethical and normative dimensions. The discipline covers a broad range of subjects, from authoritarian to democratic politics, from local governance to international relations, from formal rules and institutions to the psychology and behavior of individuals who participate in political processes. Political scientists make use of data ranging from ancient texts, to satellite images, to surveys, to millions of Facebook posts, and analyze them with a diverse set of methods and tools, including qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Why Major in Political Science?

By completing an undergraduate major in political science, you will acquire a sophisticated understanding of political processes. Perhaps more importantly, our major is designed to develop critical and independent thinking, to hone your writing and communication skills, and to provide you with analytical tools. This is a major deeply rooted in former president Richard Brodhead’s vision of a liberal arts education that “aims to engage multiple forms of intelligence to create deep and enduring habits of mind, an active, versatile, integrative spirit that’s naturally disposed, when it comes upon a new fact or situation, to use existing knowledge to try to grasp it, while updating existing understandings in this new light.”

Many political science majors take advantage of the complementarities between political science and other Duke programs. Some choose a double-major, for example, in Classical Studies, Economics, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Psychology, Public Policy, Sociology, or Statistics. Others complete one of the certificate programs housed within the department including Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, and Decisions Sciences. Our students also regularly take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad as part of their political science coursework.

Upon graduation, our majors are highly successful, and pursue careers in diverse fields, including non-governmental and public interest organizations, think tanks, consulting, journalism, communications, local, state, and federal government, polling firms, finance, and business management. Many also go on to pursue graduate study in law, political science, public administration, or business administration.