Program Overview

The POSC curriculum covers the core theories and concepts in political science, providing majors with knowledge of American Politics, Comparative Politics, Law and Public Policy, and Political Theory.  Many POSC students complement their studies at USC with study abroad programs, internships, and programs on state and federal government in Sacramento, CA and Washington, D.C. The Department also offers the multi-semester, award-winning Trial Advocacy Program, preparing participants for law school and other post-graduate education. Our selective Honors Program provides an outstanding experience of intensive study and research for our best undergraduate students.

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    (For course descriptions, please see the USC Course Catalogue or the Schedule of Classes.)

    1. Lower Division Requirement (8 units)

    Two of the following courses: POSC 100, 110, 120, 130

    2. Distribution Requirement (12 units)

    One upper-division course from 3 of the following 4 sub-fields (total of 3 courses):

    • American PoliticsPOSC 300, 311, 315, 320, 321, 323, 325, 328, 334, 335, 418, 420, 421, 422, 423, 424m, 425, 427, 428, 437, 439, 449
    • Comparative Politics: POSC 350, 351, 352, 354, 355, 356, 358, 360, 363, 365, 366, 430, 431, 450, 451, 453, 456, 463, 464, 469
    • Law and Public PolicyPOSC 333, 340, 343, 345, 347, 426, 432, 435, 436, 440, 441m, 442m, 443, 444, 448a, 448b, 452
    • Political ThoughtPOSC 370, 371, 374, 375, 377, 380, 381, 476, 479


    3. Concentration Requirements*** (12 units)

    Three courses within one of the following 8 concentrations:

    • Applied Politics: Allows students to take the theories learned in the classroom and see how they are carried out in real-world politics. In doing so, students gain a unique understanding of the American political system.

      POSC 300, 315, 323, 335, 395, 398, 418, 420, 425, 437, 449


    • Cross-national and Regional Politics: Offers courses in democratization, political economy, law, sub-national politics, state-society relations and women in development. Classes are offered in a multitude of regional context, including North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia, Europe, Russia, and the Middle East and Africa.

      POSC 350, 351, 352, 354, 355, 356, 358, 360, 363, 365, 366, 430, 431, 450, 451, 453, 456, 463, 464, 469


    • Environmental Politics: Examines political problems and opportunities involved in key environmental problems such as climate change, sustainability, and air pollution. The courses explore international, national, state, and local environmental politics looking at interest groups, government, and the courts.

      POSC 265g, 270, 321, 347, 363, 418, 436, 451, 456


    • Law and Human Rights: Explores the role of politics in a variety of legal context, such as civil rights and liberties, environmental law, and criminal justice.  It further examines the complex issue of human rights, both domestically and abroad.

      POSC 248gw, 321, 340, 345, 347, 366, 421, 425, 426, 427, 432, 440, 441m, 442m, 443, 444, 448a, 448b, 452


    • Parties, Interest Groups, and Institutions: Focuses on key decision-makers in Washington such as the president, Congress, interest groups, and political parties. Students also learn the role of elections and campaigns in shaping government policy-making.

      POSC 300, 311, 315, 325, 334, 335, 360, 420, 423, 425, 428, 435, 436


    • Political Thought and Philosophy: Students who choose to study Political Thought and Philosophy will learn to think about power. The intent and goal of this concentration, is not merely to inform students of this grand political complexity, but also to prepare them to analyze and transform their world.

      POSC 370, 371, 374, 375, 377, 380, 381, 476, 479


    • Public Opinion, Communication, and Decision Making: Explores the core institutions of American Politics, including the Presidency, Congress, judiciary, and mass media. Students come to understand the holistic nature of American government.

      POSC 311, 334, 335, 422, 423, 426, 435, 437, 449


    • Race, Gender, and Politics of Justice: Emphasizes the sustained and systematic study of the intersection of categories of political marginalization in politics. Spanning political theory to U.S. and comparative politics to research methodology, this concentration focuses on the relationship between gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and public policy within the context of the pursuit of political equality.

      POSC 320, 321, 328, 381, 421, 424m, 427, 428, 432, 441m, 442m, 444, 448a, 449


    4. Elective Requirement (8 units)

    Two additional upper-division courses

    ***Students may take no more than one 200-level course per concentration. Students may not double-count any courses taken in the Distribution (Field) Requirement and the Concentration Requirement. No more than a total of four units of POSC 395 and POSC 398 can count for the Concentration Requirement. Four units of the Honors Seminars (POSC 391/392) can count toward a concentration if the topic of the honors thesis is in the area of the concentration. Critical Issues courses may count for a concentration area, but must receive department approval in advance.

  • The Department of Political Science (POSC) has identified the following learning objectives for each student who graduates with a Bachelors of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science:

    Substantive knowledge of the core concepts in Political Science and a general knowledge of our four (4) main subfields: American Politics; Comparative Politics; Law and Public Policy; and Political Theory

    An understanding of normative political theories and empirical political theories

    Basic competence in qualitative and quantitative research methods

    A familiarity with diversity, which includes (among other things) race, ethnicity, gender and immigrant status as well as cultures and nationalities other than their own

    The development of critical thinking and a refined set of skills in analytical thinking, problem-solving, persuasiveness, and academic writing

    Ability to conceive, research and write a major research paper through an upper division course or, for our best students, through our honors sequences (for freshmen and sophomores: POSC 190; for juniors or seniors, POSC 391 and 392)

    Learning and practicing the methods and processes of individual research and group research

    Familiarity with practical politics and personal experience through internships and various forms of civic engagement

    Competence and knowledge to speak about politics in small groups and in larger venues

    A three-semester competence in a foreign language