Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

School of Public Affairs

Political Science is the academic study of governments, public policies and political behavior. The Political Science major is designed for students interested in domestic and foreign policy issues, politics, public administration, and related areas like policy analysis and policy advocacy. Political scientists use both scientific skills and humanistic perspectives to study political decision-making in the United States and other countries and regions of the world.

Students taking Political Science classes will acquire a broad foundation of political knowledge and analytic skills. They will expand their knowledge in vital issue areas, such as public policy formation, international relations, foreign policy, terrorism, civil rights and liberties, the environment, Congress and the Presidency, constitutional issues, state and local government, campaigns and elections, voting behavior, public opinion, political systems in other countries, and political theories about the nature of power and government. Courses are offered in four broad areas:

  • American Government and Politics
  • International Relations
  • Comparative Politics
  • Political Theory and Methodology

Students must complete at least one course in each of these areas, but they have considerable discretion in selecting upper-division courses matching their own interests. Political Science majors will take 36 credits in Political Science or Public Policy courses. An 18-credit Political Science minor is also available.

For a B.A. degree in Political Science, a minimum of 123 credits is required.

Penn State Harrisburg’s proximity to the state capital and Washington, D.C., provides students with a rich environment for both study and internships. In addition to our full-time faculty, Political Science draws upon the expertise of part-time faculty with unique professional strengths and qualifications. In recent years, students have explored politics and political issues in classes taught by a former lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, a state senator, a former legal counsel for the National Security Council, a lobbyist for a major corporation, a corrections system administrator, and a governor’s press secretary. This integration of academic study with the "real world" of politics and policy making is further enhanced through a variety of quality internships, which are described below.

Overall, the Political Science program seeks to advance the ideals of an active, informed citizenry and a commitment to public service.

Career Opportunities

Political scientists are concerned with the functions of government, including the legal system. Many political scientists analyze and report on current events, much as do news analysts, reporters, and correspondents. Political scientists conduct surveys, study social problems, teach, and engage in urban and regional planning.

The Political Science program at Penn State Harrisburg gives students the educational foundation for successful careers in Federal and state governments, many businesses, public administration, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), journalism, and some areas of teaching, particularly in private schools. The program provides a unique opportunity for students to tailor study to a specific interest.

Students concentrating in American Politics are prepared for careers in government service, print and electronic journalism, political research, lobbying, campaign management, political consulting, polling, elective politics, and legislative staff positions. Those who have focused their coursework in International Relations or Comparative Politics are prepared for careers in the U.S. Foreign Service, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, and journalism. Those who have concentrated their studies in Political Theory and Methodology typically undertake careers in college teaching or political research and analysis.

Many undergraduate Political Science majors go on to law school. Others pursue M.A. or Ph.D. degrees in Political Science or International Relations, usually with the expectation of a career in college teaching and research or in political analysis for government or private sector organizations. Political Science majors also undertake graduate study in Public Administration, Health Care Administration, Education, Business, and Criminal Justice.

Regardless of course distribution, a Political Science degree provides an excellent liberal arts background for advanced study or direct entry into a career.

Job Titles

Graduates of undergraduate Political Science programs have a wide variety of career titles, including: Policy Analyst, Budget Analyst, Campaign Manager, Community Organizer, Congressman, FBI agent, Foreign Service Officer, Human Resources Specialist, Intelligence Specialist, International Business Analyst, Lawyer, Legislative Director/Analyst, Lobbyist, Media Specialist, Interest Group Policy Analyst, Paralegal, Peace Corps Volunteer, Policy Advocate, Political Correspondent, Pollster, Researcher, State or Federal Agency Employee, State Legislator, Strategic Planning Consultant, Survey Researcher, Strategic Planner, United Nations Employee, Urban Policy Planner, and President of the United States.

Job Outlook

Employment of Political Scientists is expected to increase gradually through 2016 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, although recent political and financial developments may accelerate employment in this field.


Penn State Harrisburg’s proximity to the state capital provides many exciting opportunities for student internships in state agencies, the state legislature, and political organizations. The Political Science program prides itself in placing qualified students into internships that facilitate their development of professional skills and promote their prospects for professional employment following graduation. Internships provide students with a realistic exposure to the political and public policy environment, while also providing practical, on-the-job experience in their field of study and academic credit.

Among the most popular Political Science and Public Policy internship options are the Legislative Fellowship Program and the Harrisburg Semester. Many other internships, including work with political campaigns, are available as well. All students are encouraged to begin preparation for an internship upon admission into the Political Science major. Most internships are completed during the senior year. Students applying for internships must have completed 60 credits, have a 3.0 or higher grade-point average, have completed core course work, have demonstrated computer literacy, and have the permission of the internship coordinator. Additional information regarding internships may be obtained by contacting the Internship Coordinator, Dr. Steven Peterson at.

This page is not a part of the official Penn State University Bulletin.