Political science involves studying governments, political processes, systems, and behaviors. With politics being ubiquitous in society, some assume political science must be easy to study. But is political science truly an easy major? Let’s closely examine the academic rigor and workload involved.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: No, political science is generally not considered an easy major. It requires strong reading, writing, and analytical skills to succeed in upper-level political theory and research methods courses.
Defining the Political Science Major
Overview of the field of study
The political science major is a field of study that focuses on the theory and practice of government and politics. It delves into various aspects of political behavior, institutions, policies, and systems.
Political science covers a wide range of topics, including political theory, international relations, comparative politics, public policy, and more. It offers students the opportunity to explore and analyze the complexities of political systems and their impact on society.
Common curriculum and coursework
The curriculum for a political science major typically includes a combination of core courses and elective options. Core courses often cover foundational topics such as American government, political theory, comparative politics, and international relations.
Students may also have the opportunity to specialize in specific areas of interest, such as public administration, political philosophy, or global politics.
Coursework in the political science major often involves critical analysis, research, and writing. Students may be required to analyze political texts, evaluate policy proposals, conduct independent research projects, and participate in class discussions and debates.
This coursework helps students develop essential skills in critical thinking, research, and communication, which are highly valued in many professional fields.
Typical skills developed
Pursuing a political science major can help students develop a range of valuable skills. These skills include:
- Analytical skills: Political science majors learn to critically analyze complex political issues and develop logical arguments based on evidence.
- Research skills: Students in the field of political science learn how to gather and analyze data, conduct literature reviews, and draw conclusions based on empirical evidence.
- Communication skills: Political science majors often engage in written and oral communication, presenting their ideas and arguments effectively to diverse audiences.
- Problem-solving skills: Studying political science equips students with the ability to identify and propose solutions to real-world political challenges.
- Interdisciplinary thinking: Political science draws from various disciplines, allowing students to develop a holistic understanding of politics and its connections to other fields.
These skills are transferable and can be applied in a wide range of careers, including government, law, journalism, advocacy, consulting, and more.
Challenging Aspects of Political Science Courses
Reading and comprehending dense, complex texts
One of the most challenging aspects of studying political science is the need to read and comprehend dense and complex texts. Political science courses often require students to delve into academic journals, research papers, and political theories.
These texts can be filled with complex ideas and theories that may require multiple readings to fully grasp. However, developing strong reading and comprehension skills is crucial for success in the field of political science.
It allows students to critically analyze and understand the intricacies of political systems, policies, and ideologies.
Writing research papers with strong analyses
Another challenging aspect of political science courses is the requirement to write research papers with strong analyses. Political science is a field that heavily relies on research and evidence-based arguments.
Students are often tasked with conducting in-depth research, analyzing data, and crafting well-structured papers that present their findings. This requires not only a deep understanding of the topic at hand but also strong analytical and writing skills.
It may take time and practice to develop these skills, but they are essential for success in political science.
Mastering qualitative and quantitative methods
In political science, students are exposed to both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Qualitative methods involve analyzing and interpreting non-numerical data, such as interviews or case studies, while quantitative methods involve the use of statistical analysis to study large data sets.
Mastering both types of methods can be challenging, as they require different skill sets and approaches. However, being proficient in both qualitative and quantitative methods is important for conducting comprehensive research and analysis in political science.
Applying theoretical frameworks and models
Political science courses often require students to apply theoretical frameworks and models to analyze political phenomena. This involves understanding various political theories, such as liberalism, Marxism, or realism, and applying them to real-world situations.
It can be challenging to navigate and apply these theories effectively, as they often involve complex concepts and debates. However, doing so allows students to develop a deeper understanding of political processes and provides a framework for analyzing and interpreting political events.
Time Commitment Required for Success
Heavy reading load for classes
One of the primary reasons why political science is not considered an easy major is the heavy reading load. Students pursuing this field of study are required to read a significant amount of material, including textbooks, scholarly articles, and case studies.
This is necessary to develop a deep understanding of political theories, ideologies, and historical events. The readings can be dense and complex, requiring students to spend hours analyzing and critically evaluating the content.
Writing long research papers
Another aspect that adds to the academic rigor of political science is the requirement to write long research papers. Students are often assigned research projects that involve conducting in-depth analysis, synthesizing information from multiple sources, and presenting well-supported arguments.
These papers can range from 10 to 20 pages or even longer, depending on the level of the course. Writing such papers requires extensive research, organization, and critical thinking skills, which can be time-consuming and mentally demanding.
Group projects with coordinating schedules
In addition to individual research papers, political science majors often participate in group projects. Collaborating with peers can be both rewarding and challenging, especially when it comes to coordinating schedules and dividing tasks.
Group projects often require students to work together to analyze complex political issues, develop policy recommendations, or present findings in a cohesive manner. This collaborative work adds an extra layer of time commitment as students must find ways to effectively communicate and collaborate with their team members.
Studying for exams in theoretical courses
Political science encompasses a wide range of theoretical courses that require students to understand and apply complex concepts. Studying for exams in these courses can be challenging as students need to grasp theoretical frameworks, analyze political systems, and evaluate the impact of various factors on political processes.
This involves reviewing lecture notes, completing practice questions, and engaging in critical thinking. The time commitment required to study for exams in theoretical courses can be significant, especially when trying to fully grasp and apply the concepts.
Overall, political science is not an easy major due to the time commitment required for success. Heavy reading loads, writing long research papers, participating in group projects, and studying for exams in theoretical courses all contribute to the academic rigor of this field of study.
However, for those passionate about politics and interested in understanding the complexities of the political world, pursuing a degree in political science can be a rewarding and intellectually stimulating journey.
Variability Between Subfields of Political Science
Political science is a diverse field that encompasses various subfields, each with its own unique focus and methodology. Understanding the differences between these subfields is crucial in assessing the academic rigor of a political science major.
Political theory vs. American politics vs. comparative politics
One key distinction within political science is the difference between political theory, American politics, and comparative politics. Political theory delves into the philosophical foundations of politics and examines concepts such as justice, power, and democracy.
American politics, on the other hand, focuses on the study of the U.S. political system, including institutions, elections, and public policy. Comparative politics takes a broader perspective by comparing political systems across different countries and regions.
The level of academic rigor can vary between these subfields. Political theory courses often require extensive reading of classic texts and engaging in deep critical thinking. American politics courses may involve analyzing current events and policy debates.
Comparative politics courses may require a more in-depth understanding of different political systems and their historical contexts. Ultimately, the level of difficulty in each subfield depends on individual interests and strengths.
Quantitative empirical methods vs. qualitative case studies
Another factor that influences the academic rigor of political science courses is the methodology employed. Some courses focus on quantitative empirical methods, using statistical analysis and data to examine political phenomena.
These courses may require a solid foundation in mathematics and statistical software. On the other hand, qualitative case studies rely on in-depth analysis of specific cases, often involving interviews, ethnographic research, and textual analysis.
The choice between quantitative and qualitative methods can impact the level of difficulty in political science courses. Both approaches have their own challenges, and students may find one more intuitive or engaging than the other.
It is important to note that proficiency in both quantitative and qualitative methods is valued in the field of political science.
More complex math in some courses than others
Within political science, there can be variation in the level of mathematical rigor required in different courses. Some subfields, such as political theory or international relations, may place less emphasis on mathematical analysis.
However, other subfields, such as political economy or formal modeling, may involve more complex mathematical concepts.
While mathematical proficiency is not a prerequisite for all political science courses, it can be advantageous for students interested in pursuing certain subfields or conducting advanced research. Developing strong quantitative skills can open up opportunities for data-driven analysis and modeling in political science.
Developing Strong Foundational Skills
Political Science is not an easy major. It requires students to develop strong foundational skills that are essential for success in the field. These skills play a crucial role in shaping a student’s ability to critically analyze political events, conduct research, and make informed arguments.
Let’s explore some of these foundational skills:
Critical reading and analysis
One of the fundamental skills that political science majors develop is critical reading and analysis. They learn to carefully examine and interpret complex texts, such as political speeches, policy documents, and academic articles.
This skill enables them to identify biases, evaluate arguments, and form their own informed opinions. It is through critical reading and analysis that political science majors gain a deeper understanding of political systems and dynamics.
Research and writing competencies
Another essential skill that political science majors develop is research and writing competencies. They are trained to conduct thorough research on various topics, utilizing credible sources and evidence to support their arguments.
Political science majors learn how to critically evaluate sources, synthesize information, and present their findings in a clear and coherent manner. These research and writing skills are vital for producing well-structured essays, policy briefs, and research papers.
Data and statistical literacy
Data and statistical literacy are increasingly important in the field of political science. Political science majors are taught how to collect, analyze, and interpret data to understand political phenomena.
They learn to use statistical tools and methods to examine patterns, correlations, and trends in political data. This skill allows them to make evidence-based arguments and draw meaningful conclusions from empirical research.
Websites like PoliticalScienceDegree.com provide valuable resources for students to enhance their data and statistical literacy.
Logical reasoning and argumentation
Logical reasoning and argumentation are at the core of political science. Students are taught how to construct logical arguments based on evidence and sound reasoning. They learn to identify fallacies, analyze different perspectives, and engage in respectful debates.
Political science majors develop the ability to construct coherent and persuasive arguments, which is essential for effective communication and policy advocacy.
In summary, while individuals with an interest in politics may be attracted to political science, it is considered a rigorous major that requires strong skills. It involves significant reading, writing, and analytical workloads.
Ultimately, political science rewards discipline, commitment, and intellectual curiosity.