Political Science

Undergraduate Degrees


The department has faculty and staff advisers who provide academic advisement, career counseling and advisement to pre-law students and those wishing to go on to graduate studies. All majors are encouraged to see their adviser.

Major Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

Department majors are required to take nine courses (36 units) in political science. At least two of the nine courses must be selected from the four 100-level core courses: POSC 100 Theory and Practice of American Democracy, POSC 110 Ideology and Political Conflict, POSC 120 Comparative Politics, POSC 130 Law, Politics and Public Policy.

In addition, at least six of the nine courses must be at the 300-level or above, including at least one course in each of the following four fields: American politics, political thought, comparative politics, and law and public policy. No more than one course (or four units) of POSC 395 or POSC 490x may be counted toward the 36 unit departmental requirements.

Students who have a double major in political science and in another department in the social sciences, may, with prior permission of the department undergraduate adviser, substitute one upper division course from the second major for one upper division political science course. In the development of an undergraduate program, students should consult periodically with the political science undergraduate adviser and/or with departmental faculty.

Area Specialization

While majoring in political science and fulfilling the department requirements, a student may elect to emphasize a particular regional area in the fields of comparative government, diplomacy and international politics. Regional specializations are offered in six areas: East Asia, Western Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Africa, Russia and Eastern Europe. With the approval of the faculty, a student may organize an academic program in such a way as to fulfill the general education language requirements with the language or languages of the regional area specialization. In addition, it is assumed the student will fulfill other social sciences and humanities requirements and electives with courses focusing on the history and culture of the particular area of specialization. Such a pattern of courses at the undergraduate level will strengthen a student’s qualifications for graduate-level area programs, as well as for various forms of foreign service.

Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, Politics and Law

This interdisciplinary program consists of nine courses chosen from PHIL, POSC, LAW and ANTH. See Philosophy.

Political Science Minor

Students who minor in political science must take five courses, 20 units, in political science. Students can either pursue course work in a traditional subfield (American politics, comparative politics, law and public policy, or political theory) or in a specific issue area of concentration (civil liberties and human rights, race, ethnicity, and gender, urban political problems, Asian politics, etc.).

Those who focus their studies on a traditional subfield must take the lower-level introductory course in that subfield: POSC 100 Theory and Practice of American Democracy (American politics); POSC 110 Ideology and Political Conflict (political theory); POSC 120 Comparative Politics (comparative politics) or POSC 130 Law, Politics and Public Policy (law and public policy).

Students pursuing the minor must also take four upper-division courses, three of which must be in the chosen subfield. Students choose from a predetermined list of courses divided by subfield in consultation with and approval of the department’s undergraduate student adviser.

Those who pursue a specific issue area of concentration are required to take the department’s designated gateway course, POSC 120 Comparative Politics, and at least three upper-division courses in the issue area of concentration. A fourth upper division course must be taken in the issue area of concentration or a complementary area. The upper division courses are chosen in consultation with and approval of the department’s undergraduate student adviser.

Human Rights Minor

The protection of human rights has become a matter of international concern. Despite widespread media coverage of violations, flagrant abuses occur daily throughout the world. The human rights minor provides students with in-depth knowledge about various human rights issues.

Drawing together classes from a range of departments in and outside the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, this interdisciplinary minor will cover the theoretical foundations of human rights, historical and current developments, case studies and policies. Students will be required to take their learning outside the classroom through an internship or by teaching human rights in the community and will be encouraged to join relevant student organizations.

Total unit requirements for the minor are 18*. Students take one core course in human rights, POSC 448a The Politics of Peace. In addition, the minor requires two courses dealing with international human rights, one domestic human rights related course and a community involvement experience through the Department of Political Science.

Required Courses (16 units)

POSC 448a

Two international human rights courses selected from: ANTH 330, HIST 456, HIST 365, IR 310, IR 315, IR 316, IR 318, IR 325, POSC 366, POSC 440, POSC 456, PPD 382, REL 335

One domestic human rights course selected from: AMST 348, COMM 412, FREN 370, GERO 435, JOUR 466, POSC 333, POSC 380, POSC 441, POSC 444, PPD 342, PPD 439, SOCI 356, SOCI 360

Community Involvement (2 units)

Students are required to take their learning outside the classroom through an internship with a focus in human rights, teaching human rights in the community or an independent project. Students who choose the internship must enroll in POSC 395 and those who choose do an independent project must enroll in POSC 490x. Approval is needed to enroll in POSC 395 and POSC 490x.

*POSC majors must take four courses (16 units) outside of the Political Science Department for a total of 22 units.

Law and Society Minor

This interdisciplinary program focuses on the effect of law on society as well as the ways in which social forces influence the legal system. The idea is that students will understand the law if they look beyond “law on the books” to “law in action.” Thus, it is important to study key legal institutions such as the legal profession, the judiciary, juries, the police, legislatures, and administrative agencies. In addition, the minor introduces students to legal policies like plea bargaining and the death penalty, and the constitutional principles that underlie political debates about them, e.g., equal protection, due process and privacy.

The requirements for the minor include seven courses (28 units). All students are required to take POSC 130 Law, Politics, and Public Policy. Three component political science upper division courses are required, one from each category:

1. Core – POSC 130

2. Constitutional Law – POSC 340, POSC 426 or POSC 444

3. International Law – POSC 345 or POSC 448a

4. Policy Analysis – POSC 333, POSC 347, POSC 395, POSC 432, POSC 435, POSC 436, POSC 440, POSC 441, POSC 442, POSC 443, POSC 448b or POSC 452

5. Humanistic/Historical – PHIL 340, PHIL 430

6. Sociology – SOCI 351 or SOCI 353

7. Other – ANTH 345, COMM 421, ECON 434, LAW 200x or PSYC 355

At least four classes must be unique to the minor. Political science majors must take upper-division courses only from categories 5, 6 and 7. Non-political science majors must take at least one upper-division course from 5, 6 or 7.

Race, Ethnicity and Politics Minor

The interdisciplinary minor in race, ethnicity and politics helps students analyze and critically evaluate contemporary race relations and how race matters in politics today.

Requirements: Five courses (20 units)*

All students are required to take POSC 421 Ethnic Politics. In addition, students must also take one course from each category: Race and Gender in a Global Context, Comparative Racial Politics, Social/Historical (Racial Perspective) and Racial Formation. The following is a list of courses that fulfill each category.

Core requirement Units
POSC 421 Ethnic Politics 4
Political Science Upper Division courses units
Choose one course from each of the groups below:
Race and Gender in a Global Context
POSC 350 Politics of Latin America 4
POSC 351 Middle East Politics 4
POSC 352 Politics of Southeast Asia 4
POSC 354 Japanese Politics 4
POSC 356 Politics in the People’s Republic of China 4
POSC 358 Politics of Sub-Sahara Africa 4
POSC 430 Political Economy of Mexico 4
POSC 431 Political Economy of Central America 4
POSC 452 Critical Issues in Law and Public Policy 4
POSC 456 Women in International Development 4
POSC 464 Politics of Russia and Eastern Europe 4
Comparative Racial Politics
POSC 320 Urban Politics 4
POSC 328 Asian American Politics 4
POSC 424 Political Participation and American Diversity 4
POSC 427 Black Politics in the American Political System 4
POSC 428 Latino Politics 4
POSC 441 Cultural Diversity and the Law 4
POSC 442 The Politics of Human Differences: Diversity and Discrimination 4
POSC 444 Civil and Political Rights and Liberties 4
Electives Units
Choose one course from each of the groups below:
HIST 265 Understanding Race and Sex Historically 4
HIST 318 Early American Indian History 4
HIST 341 American Social History 4
HIST 347 Urbanization in the American Experience 4
HIST 357 The New South 4
SOCI 142 Diversity and Racial Conflict 4
SOCI 155 Immigrant America 4
SOCI 342 Race Relations 4
SOCI 432 Racial and Ethnic Relations in a Global Society 4
Racial Formation
AMST 301 America, the Frontier, and the New West 4
AMST 320 Social Construction of Race and Citizenship 4
AMST 365 Leadership in the Community – Internship 4
AMST 385 African American Culture and Society 4

*Political science majors are required to take seven courses (28 units).

Political science majors must take four courses (at least three must be upper division) from the Social/Historical and the Racial Formation categories. At least four classes must be unique to the minor and not taken for additional major, minor or general education credit.

Political Organizing in the Digital Age Minor

The digital environment is changing the face of political organization, both in domestic American electoral politics and in the methods used by transnational social movements to call attention to problems around the globe. Howard Dean’s use of the Internet to fund his 2004 presidential campaign has made other candidates aware of the political power of the Web in fundraising and grass-roots orchestration of local (and “global”) events.

This minor should be of interest to students majoring in international relations, political science or other programs who plan to use technology to affect contemporary national and international affairs. As with all minors, students must choose four courses dedicated exclusively to this minor and four courses outside their major departments. These may, but need not be, the same four courses.

This minor is intended to help students engage in domestic and international political organizing by creating Websites, podcasting and using other new technologies. It should help students secure internships and jobs with political and international organizations, and generally improve their abilities to change the world.

Course Requirements units
Choose one class from each of the following five lists:
I. Domestic Political Organizing
POSC 315 Regulation of Elections and Political Finance 4
POSC 335 Political Parties, Campaigns, and Elections 4
POSC 422 Political Attitudes and Behavior 4
POSC 424 Political Participation and American Diversity 4
POSC 437 Mass Media and Politics 4
II. Transnational Social Movements
IR 305 Managing New Global Challenges 4
IR 306 International Organizations 4
IR 324 Multinational Enterprises and World Politics 4
IR 371 Global Civil Society: Non-State Actors in World Politics 4
III. New Technologies in Organizing
ITP 304 Technologies for Building Online Political Campaigns 4
IV. The Context of Political Organizing
COMM 321 Communication in the Virtual Group 4
COMM 489 Campaign Communication 4
IR 308 Globalization: Issues and Controversies 4
IR 325 Rich and Poor States in the World Political Economy 4
IR 330 Politics of the World Economy 4
IR 444 Issues and Theories in Global Society 4
POSC 300 Principles, Institutions, and Great Issues of American Democracy 4
POSC 345 International Law 4
POSC 371 The Non-profit Sector and the Public Interest 4
POSC 427 Black Politics in the American Political System 4
POSC 428 Latino Politics 4
POSC 451 Politics of Resources and Development 4
POSC 456 Women in International Development 4
PPD 372 Public Service in an Urban Setting 4
V. Capstone Class
The capstone class allows students to engage more deeply in one of the contributing areas of study.
COMM 487 Communication and Global Organizations 4
IR 327 International Negotiation 4
ITP 413x Interactive Web Development 4
POSC 395 Directed Governmental and Political Leadership Internship 4
Total: Five courses, 20 units

Interdisciplinary Russian Area Studies Minor

See Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

Critical Approaches to Leadership Minor

See the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Political Science Honors Program

The department offers an honors program for outstanding undergraduate students in the junior and senior years. The two semester program emphasizes a specialized topic (a different area each year) in political science. The organization of the course during the first semester follows the seminar model, emphasizing independent research, discussion, and oral and written reports. In the second semester, the student is required to write a thesis under the direction of a faculty member. Students are admitted to the program after careful screening on the basis of their academic record and a personal interview. Classes are limited to about 10 students.

The department also offers an honors sequence for freshmen and sophomores, POSC 190ab. The first semester is a small seminar of about 10 students. The second semester is a continuation with a major research paper due as the final.

Political Science Honor Societies

There are two honor societies of special interest to political science majors. Pi Sigma Alpha stimulates scholarship and interest in the subject of government by providing tangible recognition to students who have excelled in the field. Political science majors are eligible to join after successful completion of at least three upper division courses in political science. An overall grade point average of 3.5 or higher is required, with a minimum of 3.5 in all political science classes.

The second honor society is Blackstonians. This is a pre-law honor society for undergraduate students designed to recognize academic excellence, assist the student in his or her preparation for law school, and expand the knowledge of the legal profession. Membership is restricted to students who have completed at least 32 units (16 of which must be from USC), but not more than 118 units, and have maintained at least a 3.5 grade point average.

Mock Trial Team

The department hosts the USC Mock Trial Team. This trial advocacy training program is designed to develop students’ knowledge of substantive areas of civil law, criminal law and evidence. Additionally, public speaking skills are honed and societal mores are explored. Legal concepts, sociocultural theory and presentational skills are then applied through participation in courtroom advocacy competitions nationwide and local public interest advocacy assignments. Academic credit is earned through POSC 398. Membership on the team is required to enroll.