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Top 10 Colleges for Political Science

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Political science on a keyboard

Top 10 Colleges for Political Science

Political science programs cover the study of how governments work, people’s political actions, public policies, and international relations. These programs help students develop critical thinking, analytical skills, and a deep understanding of political processes needed to navigate complex global challenges. The top 10 colleges for political science offer academic excellence, practical experience, and a supportive environment to prepare students for leadership roles in various fields.

Choosing the right school for political science is crucial as it can significantly impact the quality of education received, networking opportunities, access to resources, and career prospects. By attending one of these prestigious institutions, students can benefit from top-notch faculty, cutting-edge research opportunities, and a strong alumni network that can open doors to rewarding career paths in politics and beyond.

Top 10 Colleges for Political Science

Discover the top 10 colleges for political science and explore the unique strengths of each institution. Let’s learn about the courses and areas of concentration in these colleges to help you make an informed decision about your path in political science.

1. Harvard University – Department of Government

Location: CGIS Knafel Building, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Estimated Tuition: $54,269

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Government
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Government (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: 3.41%

Harvard University is well-known for its rigorous programs and historical significance. Within Harvard’s esteemed Department of Government, students engage in rigorous academic study and research, exploring topics such as political theory, comparative politics, and international relations.

View of Harvard University campus during the day.

The department is known for its distinguished faculty members like Professor Danielle Allen and Professor Steven Levitsky, who lead groundbreaking research in areas such as democratic theory and political behavior. Additionally, Harvard houses prominent research centers like the Institute of Politics and the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, providing students with unparalleled opportunities for academic growth and real-world impact.

2. Stanford University – Department of Political Science

Location: Jane Stanford Way Encina Hall, Stanford, California

Estimated Tuition: $61,731

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • Master of Arts in Political Science (Joint Program)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: 3.91%

Stanford University is a leading institution known for its innovation and academic excellence. In Stanford’s Political Science Department, students immerse themselves in a dynamic blend of quantitative and qualitative methodologies while exploring a wide range of topics, including political behavior, public policies, governance systems, and institutional design.

Notable faculty members such as Professor Condoleezza Rice and Professor Anna Grzymala-Busse lead research in areas like comparative politics and the historical development of the state. Stanford is also home to renowned research centers like the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL), providing students with valuable opportunities for hands-on research and collaboration with experts in the field.

3. University of California, Berkeley – The Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Location: Social Sciences Building, Berkeley, California

Estimated Tuition: $16,522 (In-state students); $50,722 (Out-of-state students)

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: 11.6%

The University of California, Berkeley, boasts a diverse student body and a lively campus culture, placing it among the top 10 colleges for political science. The Travers Department of Political Science at UC Berkeley emphasizes social justice and activism and encourages students to examine issues related to equity, diversity, and inclusion in both research and coursework.

At Berkeley, undergraduate courses in Political Science range from large lectures with up to 450 students to intimate seminars with just 18 participants, all designed to provide challenging and engaging learning experiences. Meanwhile, graduate courses maintain small class sizes, with numerous opportunities for close faculty-student interaction through special reading courses, research and teaching assistantships, informal seminars, and joint research endeavors.

4. Princeton University – Department of Politics

Location: Fisher Hall, Princeton, New Jersey

Estimated Tuition: $59,710

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Politics
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Politics (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: ~4%

Princeton University, a prestigious Ivy League institution located in New Jersey, is renowned for its rigorous academics, historic campus, and vibrant student life. At Princeton, you’ll find one of the largest programs in the country dedicated to studying politics, with around 50 different courses for undergraduates and support for over 150 students’ independent projects.

Undergraduate teaching covers four primary fields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. There is also a strong focus on quantitative analysis, political economy, and strategy in politics for undergraduates. At the same time, graduate courses in Politics address various subjects in political science, spanning from ancient Greek political philosophy to the latest quantitative research methods.

5. Yale University – Department of Political Science

Location: Rosenkranz Hall, New Haven, Connecticut

Estimated Tuition: $64,700

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: 4.5%

Yale University’s Department of Political Science stands out for its interdisciplinary approach, offering students a diverse range of courses integrating political theory, political economy, comparative politics, international relations, and American politics. With more than 50 faculty members, over 400 undergraduate majors, and about 100 Ph.D. students, it is the second-largest major in Yale College.

Yale university buildings in spring blue sky

The department’s faculty members are distinguished scholars who have significantly contributed to political thought, with research spanning democratic theory, international security, and public opinion. Notable figures like Ian Shapiro and Bruce Ackerman have helped shape contemporary political discourse through their groundbreaking work.

6. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor – Department of Political Science

Location: Haven Hall, Ann Arbor, Michigan

Estimated Tuition: $17,228 (In-state students); $58,072 (Out-of-state students)

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science (Ph.D.)
  • Joint Ph.D. Program in Public Policy and Political Science

Acceptance Rate: 18%

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, recognized as one of the top 10 colleges for political science, was among the pioneering institutions nationwide to establish a dedicated department focused solely on the study of politics. With a strong commitment to excellence in both research and teaching, Michigan’s Department of Political Science is consistently ranked among the top programs nationwide.

This department offers a robust curriculum that is organized into topical areas or subfields, including American Politics, Comparative Politics, World Politics, Political Theory, and Research Methods. Furthermore, the department offers valuable opportunities for individualized study through research fellowships, independent reading/research, and honors theses, along with practical experiences such as internships and service learning initiatives.

7. Columbia University – Department of Political Science

Location: International Affairs Building, New York, New York

Estimated Tuition: $68,400

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • Master of Arts in Political Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: 3.9%

Columbia University’s Department of Political Science, founded in 1880 as the first of its kind in the country, is highly esteemed for its comprehensive curriculum, cutting-edge research opportunities, and distinguished faculty members who are leaders and award recipients across various disciplines. Enrolling in the Political Science program at Columbia offers students innovative insights into legislation, policies, and political concepts shaping daily life, while also exploring global governmental systems and their interactions.

Moreover, the university’s prime location at the heart of NYC offers students exceptional access to political and financial centers, fostering exclusive networking opportunities, internships, and practical experiences that enhance their academic pursuits and equip them for prosperous careers in the dynamic world of politics and governance.

8. University of Chicago – Department of Political Science

Location: Pick Hall, Chicago, Illinois

Estimated Tuition: $63,801

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: 5%

The University of Chicago’s Department of Political Science is renowned for its exceptional strengths in political theory and quantitative methods, offering students a comprehensive and rigorous education. The department also provides ample opportunities for interdisciplinary studies, encouraging students to explore connections between political science and other fields to gain a broader perspective.

Notable figures such as Harold Gosnell, Harold Lasswell, Grant McConnell, and Charles Merriam, among others, have contributed significantly to the department’s esteemed reputation. Additionally, luminaries like Gabriel Almond, V.O. Key, and Herbert Simon, who received their doctorates from Chicago, further exemplify the department’s tradition of producing influential scholars. 

9. Cornell University – Department of Government

Location: White Hall, Ithaca, New York

Estimated Tuition: $43,888 (State Contract Colleges: NY State Residents); $65,204 (Endowed Colleges/State Contract Colleges: Non-NY State Residents)

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Government
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Government (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Cornell University, consistently ranked among the top 10 colleges for political science, is a renowned Ivy League institution celebrated for its rich academic heritage and commitment to cutting-edge research and innovation. Cornell’s Department of Government offers a comprehensive study of political science, focusing on American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. Students can tailor their studies to their interests, exploring themes like democracy, identity, institutions, and political economy.

Cornell Chimes at the Cornell campus

Moreover, students have access to specialized opportunities within the major, such as minors in Crime, Prisons, Education & Justice, and Public Policy, and engaging programs like Cornell in Washington and Study Abroad. With a diverse faculty and a strong emphasis on critical thinking and practical skills, the department equips students for various career paths in public service, law, business, and beyond.

10. University of Pennsylvania – Department of Political Science

Location: The Ronald O. Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Estimated Tuition: $58,620

Degrees Offered:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science (Ph.D.)

Acceptance Rate: 5.8%

The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Political Science is popular for its strong emphasis on research and the practical application of political science theories in real-world contexts. The department offers a diverse curriculum that allows students to explore systematic approaches to understanding politics, with options to specialize in American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory. They can also choose a concentration in a specific world region. 

Students gain insights into recent and ancient political ideas in the department’s course offerings, from studying American political institutions to exploring the politics of different world regions. The department also provides extensive opportunities for internships, allowing students to gain hands-on experience in government agencies, non-profit organizations, and international institutions.

Why Major in Political Science?

Choosing a major is a significant decision that shapes a student’s future career and personal growth. Among the various options available, political science is an intriguing field offering numerous benefits and opportunities.

Now that we’ve explored the top 10 colleges for political science, another crucial question arises: Why major in political science? Let’s explore why majoring in political science can be a transformative and enriching experience.

The Multidisciplinary Nature of Political Science

Political science is unique for its multidisciplinary approach, encompassing diverse fields such as history, sociology, economics, and law. This breadth allows students to comprehensively understand complex political phenomena, from government formation to international relations. By embracing diverse perspectives, students develop a holistic worldview that enhances their analytical skills and broadens their intellectual horizons.

Developing Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills

Critical thinking and analytical skills are fundamental to political science, honed through rigorous academic inquiry and research. Whether analyzing political ideologies or interpreting historical events, students learn to evaluate evidence and formulate reasoned judgments. These skills are invaluable in academia and various professional settings, where assessing information and making informed decisions are highly valued.

Understanding Global and Local Dynamics

Political science equips students to navigate the complexities of global and local politics, from international relations to domestic policy issues. Students gain insights into the forces shaping our world by studying topics such as globalization and conflict resolution.

Moreover, political science fosters an appreciation for cultural diversity, preparing students to be informed and empathetic global citizens.

Fostering Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility

Political science majors are empowered to participate in democratic processes and advocate for social change actively. Whether through community organizing or political activism, students are equipped to make a meaningful impact on society. By examining issues of justice and equality, students develop a commitment to promoting a more just and equitable society.

The scales of justice with hands supporting the balance

Majoring in political science offers students a unique opportunity to explore politics and governance while developing critical skills and fostering civic responsibility. From its multidisciplinary approach to its emphasis on civic engagement, political science prepares students to navigate the challenges of an ever-changing world and make a positive difference in their communities.

What Can You Do With a Political Science Degree?

After tackling the top 10 colleges for political science, you might be curious about the potential career paths that await you in this exciting field. Perhaps you wonder, “What can you do with a political science degree?”

Political science is a versatile field that offers many opportunities for students interested in understanding and influencing the dynamics of government, policy, and society. Let’s discuss some possible paths students can pursue with a degree in political science.

1. Careers in Government and Public Service

One of the most obvious paths for political science graduates is a career in government or public service. Whether working for a local government agency, a state legislature, or a federal department, political science majors play crucial roles in shaping public policy, implementing programs, and serving the community. From elected officials to policy analysts, there are countless opportunities to impact society through a career in government positively.

2. Nonprofit and Advocacy Opportunities

For those passionate about social change and advocacy, a political science degree opens doors to a variety of nonprofit organizations and advocacy groups.

Whether working on environmental issues, human rights, or social justice initiatives, political science majors can leverage their knowledge of government processes and policy analysis to effect meaningful change in society. Nonprofit organizations rely on political science graduates to advocate for their causes, lobby policymakers, and mobilize grassroots support.

3. Private Sector Opportunities

Contrary to popular belief, political science majors are not limited to careers in government or nonprofits. Many private sector organizations value the analytical skills and critical thinking abilities that political science graduates possess.

From consulting firms to corporate communication departments, political science majors succeed in diverse industries such as business, finance, and marketing. With their understanding of political dynamics and regulatory environments, political science graduates bring unique perspectives to the private sector.

4. Preparation for Graduate Studies

Finally, a degree in political science provides an excellent foundation for further education in graduate or professional programs. Whether pursuing a master’s degree in public policy, law school, or a Ph.D. in political science, graduates with a political science degree are well-prepared for advanced study. 

a PhD graduate wearing a graduation gown

Graduate programs offer opportunities for specialization in areas such as international relations, public administration, or political theory, allowing students to study their areas of interest in depth and pursue careers in academia or research.

A degree in political science opens doors to a wide range of career opportunities in government, nonprofit organizations, the private sector, and academia. Whether you are passionate about public service, social justice, or business, a political science degree equips you with the skills and knowledge to make a difference in the world.

How to Find the Best Political Science Program for You

Selecting the right political science program is challenging for students. Considering the top 10 colleges for political science and with numerous options available, finding the best fit requires careful consideration and thorough research.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through each step of how to find the best political science program for you, from self-reflection and goal setting to the final decision-making process.

Self-Reflection and Goal Setting

  • Identifying Interests and Passions: Before diving into researching programs, take the time to explore specific areas within political science that align with your personal interests. Whether it’s international relations, public policy, or political theory, understanding your passions will guide your academic journey.
  • Clarifying Career Objectives: Reflect on your desired career path within the field of political science. Are you interested in working in government, international organizations, or academia? Assess whether your short-term goals align with undergraduate program offerings to ensure they provide the necessary foundation for your career aspirations.
  • Personal Learning Style: Consider your individual learning preferences, whether you thrive in hands-on experiences, research projects, or theoretical coursework. Reflect on factors such as class size and teaching methods to ensure they complement your learning style and enhance your academic experience.

Researching Programs

  • Utilizing College Rankings and Reviews: Examine various rankings and understand their methodologies to gain insights into program quality. Cross-reference multiple sources for a comprehensive view of the top 10 colleges for political science and read reviews and testimonials from current students and alumni to gauge their experiences.
  • Investigating Faculty Profiles: Explore faculty credentials, specializations, and research interests to ensure they align with your academic interests. Assess whether faculty members have a strong presence in the academic and professional communities, as this can greatly impact your learning experience.
  • Program Reputation: Investigate the overall reputation of political science programs within the academic community and relevant industries. Consider factors such as historical achievements, collaborations, and partnerships to gauge program quality and relevance.
  • Alumni Success: Research the achievements and career paths of alumni from political science programs to understand how well they prepare students for success in various fields. Alumni success can serve as a testament to the program’s effectiveness in providing valuable skills and opportunities.

Evaluating Program Features

  • Curriculum and Specializations: Analyze the core curriculum and available elective courses to ensure they align with your interests and career goals. Assess whether the program offers specialized tracks or concentrations that cater to your specific interests within political science.
  • Research Opportunities: Explore the availability of research opportunities for undergraduate students, including access to research centers, projects, and faculty-led initiatives. Research experience can greatly enhance your academic and professional development.
  • Internship and Networking Programs: Assess the program’s connections with government agencies, NGOs, and private sector partners for internship opportunities. Understand the support systems in place for students to build professional networks, as internships are crucial for gaining real-world experience and establishing connections in the field.

internship opportunities for students

Considering Location and Campus Culture

  • Urban vs. Rural Environments: Reflect on your personal preferences regarding the location of the college and consider how it may impact networking opportunities, internships, and extracurricular activities. Whether you prefer an urban, suburban, or rural environment, ensure it aligns with your lifestyle and academic needs.
  • Campus Size and Atmosphere: Evaluate whether a large or small campus environment aligns with your personal preferences. Consider the impact of campus culture on academic and social experiences, as it can greatly influence your overall college experience.
  • Student Demographics and Diversity: Explore the diversity of the student body in terms of ethnicity, nationality, and background. Exposure to different perspectives within the political science field is essential for a well-rounded education and fosters a vibrant learning environment.
  • Facilities and Resources: Assess the availability of state-of-the-art facilities, including libraries, laboratories, and technology resources. Consider the campus’s commitment to providing resources that enhance the overall learning experience and support your academic endeavors.
  • Extracurricular Opportunities: Explore the availability of political science-related clubs, organizations, and events on campus. Assess the opportunities for involvement in activities that complement academic studies, such as Model United Nations, debate clubs, or political forums, as they can enrich your college experience and provide valuable networking opportunities.
  • Support Services: Investigate the support services available to political science students, including academic advising, career counseling, and mentorship programs. Understand the availability of resources to assist students in overcoming challenges and achieving academic success.
  • Internship and Job Placement Assistance: Explore the effectiveness of the college’s career services in assisting political science students in securing internships and post-graduation employment. Understand the strength of the alumni network in facilitating career opportunities for graduates, as it can greatly impact your future prospects in the field.
  • Global Opportunities: Assess the availability of study abroad programs or international exchange opportunities to gain exposure to international political dynamics. Consider the college’s commitment to providing a global perspective and its impact on your academic and professional development.

study abroad programs

Final Decision-Making Process

  • Comparative Analysis: Create a comparative analysis of the top 10 colleges for political science or other competitive schools offering the program, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each. Develop a list of priorities and preferences to guide the decision-making process, ensuring they align with your academic and career aspirations.
  • Campus Visits: Schedule campus visits to the shortlisted colleges to experience the environment firsthand. Participate in information sessions, campus tours, and meetings with faculty or current students to gain insights into the program’s offerings and campus culture.
  • Financial Considerations: Evaluate the cost of tuition, available financial aid, and scholarship opportunities to ensure they align with your budget and financial goals. Consider the overall value of the education provided concerning the financial investment to make an informed decision.
  • Application Process: Understand the requirements for application, including standardized tests, essays, and letters of recommendation. Ensure timely submission of all application materials to maximize your chances of acceptance.
  • Decision-making Criteria: Establish clear criteria for making the final decision, considering academic fit, campus culture, career opportunities, and personal preferences. Seek guidance from mentors, teachers, or career counselors if needed to ensure you make the best decision for your future.

To find the best political science program, you must carefully assess factors like academic excellence, career prospects, and campus environment, ensuring they align with your goals. You can identify a program that suits your interests and aspirations through a thorough evaluation, setting the stage for a fulfilling academic experience.

In this guide, we’ve examined the top 10 colleges for political science, providing detailed insights into each institution’s offerings and key considerations for prospective students. This comprehensive overview aims to equip you with the insights and knowledge to make an informed decision about your educational journey.

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