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Course Major/Double Major

Courses in the Political Science Department encompass four sub-fields of the discipline:  1) American Politics; 2) Comparative Politics; 3) International Politics (International Relations); 4) Political Theory. Requirements pertaining to these sub-fields are known as distribution requirements, and they are outlined further below.

Students can use the Major/Minor Requirement Checklist to be make sure they complete all requirements. 

  1. To graduate with a major or double major  in Political Science, a student must complete 8.5 credits in the Department, including the senior comprehensive exercise.
  2. At least five of the 8.5 credits must be taken at Swarthmore with faculty from the Department.  Please see the Political Department website for an up-to-date list of course offerings and their distributions.
  3. Majors must take courses in all 4 of the aforementioned sub-fields. The Department recommends that in addition to any Intro level courses, students take their first theory course before the end of their sophomore year.   Only the following courses satisfy the Political Theory distribution requirement:  POLS 011, POLS 012 , POLS 100, POLS 101, with the latter two being honors seminars, where honors students get priority admission.
  4. One introductory level course (POLS 002, 003, 004) and one additional course in the Department must be completed at Swarthmore before acceptance as a major. Majors will be deferred from acceptance into the Department until these two courses are completed. 
  5. Introductory level courses will count toward the distribution requirements, but students can only count two Intro courses toward their major (i.e. toward the 8.5 credits).
  6. Other than courses taken the fall semester of first year, none of the credits needed to complete the major may be taken CR/NC; shadow grades for introductory courses taken CR/NC the fall of first year will be used for GPA purposes.
  7. Grade requirements: We consider student applications to join the Department individually, considering each student's background and College performance to date. Normally, we apply the following rule:  For acceptance as a course major or a double major, the Department expects performance at 2.33 GPA in all College courses and at 2.67 GPA in courses in Political Science (including courses graded Credit/No Credit).
  8. Majors and minors may take one directed reading within the Department for credit with approval from the faculty directing the read and the Department Chair.
  9. Students should note that certain courses and seminars have specific prerequisites.  As one example, POLS 066 requires POLS 004 as well as an introductory Econ course.
  10. The senior comprehensive requirement. To graduate from Swarthmore, all majors and special majors must fulfill the senior comprehensive requirement in the Political Science Department. This can be done in one of two ways. The preferred option is POLS 092:  the Senior Comprehensive Exam, which is a 0.5 credit graded exercise.  Working with a faculty adviser, students will substantively develop a paper written previously for a Political Science course. Students will then present their work at a Department conference. Option two, POLS 095 is a one-credit graded written thesis, which may be chosen by students who meet the eligibility requirements and get the approval of a faculty adviser and the Chair. All junior and senior course majors (unless abroad) are required to attend the Department senior comprehensive exercise conference typically held in April.
  11. Recommended courses in other Departments: Supporting courses strongly recommended for all majors are Statistical Thinking or Statistical Methods (STAT 001 or 011) and Introduction to Economics (ECON 001).

Policy Changes as of July 2020

  1. As of Class 2023, the Political Science Department will no longer count any POLS-eligible courses toward any of its majors or minor fulfillments (i.e., a POLS-eligible course will not count as a credit toward any major or minor within the Department).   
  2. The Department announces that as of Spring 2021, only courses taught by POLS faculty (in other programs at the College) will be eligible for POLS designation/credit. This does not apply for courses taken outside the College.  
  3. Beginning with the Class of 2023, both course majors and double majors in the department are required to complete 8. 5 credits in Political Science, including the senior comprehensive exercise.  
  4. Beginning with the Class of 2023, majors must take one course in each of the four subfields: American, Comparative, International and Theory.
  5. Given the College's CR/NC policy for Spring 2020 grades, the Department will count POLS courses taken in Spring 2020 towards its major requirements (i.e. it will waive its requirement of no CR/NC for Spring 2020 as a one-time exception). The Department, nonetheless, retains the right to seek the shadow grade for Spring 2020 for consideration of acceptance into the Honors program or for other major/minor acceptance purposes (the student will be notified in case the shadow grade is being sought).

Policy Update December 2022

  1. Barring exceptional circumstances, honors seminars should always be taken for 2-credits.