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 four subfields of the discipline: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Law and Policy. The study of institutions and behavior is central to all four 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. Law and Policy classes involve legal institutions, the behavior of legal actors, and public policy. Students choose two subfields on which to 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.
Political Science Program Learning Outcomes
Upon graduation, students majoring in Political Science will be able to:
- Understand the processes, theories, and empirical regularities of political institutions and political behavior in the student’s chosen emphasis area: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or law and policy;
- Employ critical thinking and demonstrate social scientific literacy, including basic quantitative literacy;
- Utilize contemporary social science research methods to conduct rigorous research on political phenomena;
- Write effectively, particularly to convey complex concepts and information in a clear and concise manner;
- Apply abstract theory and research methods to understand contemporary political events and public policies.