Political Science is the social scientific study of political institutions and political behavior. The study of political institutions includes topics such as the effect of the design of electoral systems on the quality of representation in government, the formal and informal elements of the legislative process and their implications for the making of law, and the impact of domestic political institutions on the incidence of international conflict. Under the rubric of political behavior, political scientists study how and why people choose to participate in politics, the determinants of vote choice, and the nature and origins of public opinion. Students studying political science at UC Merced develop a strong substantive understanding of both political institutions and behavior. Students also learn the theories that help us better understand the political world and the methods by which these theories are tested and refined.
Political Science majors choose courses from three subfields of the discipline: American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations. The study of institutions and behavior is central to all three of these subfields, although the substantive emphasis differs. Courses in American Politics focus on domestic politics in the U.S., while courses in Comparative Politics examine government and politics in other nations. International Relations classes address issues in foreign policy, international conflict, and the institutions intended to govern the interactions between nations. Students focus on one of these three subfields, although they also are required to take courses in one or both subfields outside of their focus.
The knowledge and skills acquired with the Political Science Major should provide a strong foundation for graduate training in law, political science or other social sciences. Students graduating with a degree in political science can also pursue a wide variety of other careers, such as public administration, campaign management or consultation, grassroots political organization, corporate governmental affairs, Foreign Service, journalism, lobbying or teaching.