Requirements for the Major

The Political Science major has six main requirements:

  1. Introductory Course Requirement: Students must complete two of the following introductory political science courses to declare Political Science. One of these courses should be in their intended subfield of specialization.

    • PS 1, Introduction to American Politics
    • PS 2, Introduction to Comparative Politics
    • PS 4, Introduction to Political Theory
    • PS 5, Introduction to International Relations 
  2. Methods Requirement: Students must take PS 3, Intro to Empirical Theory and Quantitative Methods, or, for those who want more advanced Data Science training to satisfy the major's methods requirement:  the combination of Data Science C8 and PS 88. PS 88 must be taken concurrently with, or after taking, Data Science C8. [PS 88 is scheduled to be taught once per academic year. For the 2024-2025 academic year, that will be Fall 2024.]

  3. History Requirement: Students must take one history course from the pre-approved course list. Courses at Berkeley that are not on this list will not be considered, regardless of the course topic.

  4. Distribution requirement: Students are required to complete at least one course from each of the five primary subfields listed below. Courses fulfilling the distribution requirement may be either introductory (i.e. PS 1-5) or upper-division.

  5. Subfield Specialization: Students must specialize in one of the five primary subfields by completing the introductory course and taking two upper-division courses in that subfield. ( Students may also be able to specialize in the areas of Political Behavior, Public Law and Jurisprudence, and Public Organization and Policy. However, specialization is contingent on course availability. Course offerings in these subfields are much less numerous, and we cannot guarantee that you will be able to fulfill your specialization requirements for the major in any of these three smaller subfields. For specifics, please consult a Political Science undergraduate adviser). NOTE: Neither the transcript nor the diploma will note the specialization.

  6. Upper-division coursework: Students must complete a total of eight upper-division courses within the Political Science Department from those numbered 102-189, PS 191 (the junior seminars), and/or c196w (the UC in DC program). Graduate political science courses (numbered 200/above) may be counted. Courses fulfilling the upper-division course requirements can satisfy the distribution and specialization requirements in the major.

    Students cannot sign up for more than two upper division Poli Sci courses in Phase 1, per department policy. Most, or all, Poli Sci courses fill before Phase 2 starts, and only declared majors can enroll in upper division Poli Sci courses in Phase 1. It is therefore crucial to declare the major no later than March of your sophomore year so that taking two upper division Poli Sci courses each semester will keep you on track to graduate on time. 

TIP! It is strongly recommended that students complete requirements # 4 (Distribution) and # 5 (Subfield Specialization) no later than the end of their junior year.

Rules governing the major

The Political Science major is comprised of three lower-division requirements and eight upper-division political science courses, as well as a history course, for a total of 12 courses.

  • All 12 major requirements must be taken for a letter grade.

  • Independent studies, honors, De-Cal, and P/NP courses, labs, simulations, and similar non-lecture courses cannot fulfill requirements in the major.

  • AP credit does not fulfill a major requirement; however, students who scored a 4 or 5 on the American Government AP exam may declare the major upon completion of 1 course from PS 2, 4, or 5.  Students who scored a 4 or 5 on the American Government AP exam may also opt to take an upper-division American Politics course (PS 102-111B, 150-171) instead of PS 1 after declaring the major. This substitute does not also count as one of the 8 upper-division courses required for the major.

  • All of the lower-division courses, with the exception of PS 3, can be taken at other colleges or universities. There are no equivalents to PS 3. To determine which lecture-based courses at California community colleges fulfill our lower-division requirements, check the Assist Program at (external link)

  • Up to 3 upper division Polisci requirements may be satisfied by courses taken at other 4-year institutions, either in the U.S. or abroad. All courses must be approved by the department and must conform to the same standards used for our own UCB courses. A maximum of one upper division course taken outside UC Berkeley can count towards the major's subfield specialization requirement and none can satisfy a distribution requirement. For procedures and requirements for getting courses approved see either: Transferring Coursework (for U.S. schools), or Studying Abroad (if you are going abroad).

Students admitted to UC Berkeley as freshmen prior to Fall 2008, or as junior transfers prior to Fall 2009, should consult the Political Science undergraduate advisers at, as a different set of requirements applies.

Primary Subfields in Political Science

Courses listed fulfill the Distribution and Specialization Requirements in the major:

American Politics: PS 1, 102-111B, 116J, 150-189

This field explores American political institutions and processes along with the main theories that explain how and why they work. The subjects covered are broad, embracing Congress, the Presidency and the judicial branch; political parties, interest groups, mass media and policy analysis; state and local politics; and voting, mass political behavior, racial and ethnic politics, and public opinion.

Comparative Politics: PS 2, 136A-149Z

Comparative Politics is the study of politics, economy, and society in a comparative framework. Some works in the field focus largely on a single country or region, while others cover multiple regions or the entire globe. Major themes in comparative politics include the political economy of development and underdevelopment; social change; democracy, authoritarianism, and regime change; political parties and organizations; social movements; nationalism and ethnic politics; religion and politics; and constitutional design.

Empirical Theory and Quantitative Methods: PS 3, 131A-C135

The field of empirical theory and quantitative methods includes the study of philosophy of science, survey research, statistical methods and mathematical theory. These research tools have become essential in Political Science.

Political Theory: PS 4, 111AC, 112A-118AC

Topics in this field include classical and modern political philosophy (both American and European), Marxist theory, theories of governance, the historical role of political intellectuals in the development of modern societies, and others.

International Relations: PS 5, 122A-129C, 138F

This subfield concentrates on politics at the global level, dealing with issues of war and peace, poverty and prosperity, foreign policy behavior, globalization and regionalism, the politics of trade and finance, and evolving relationships among state, non-state, and supra-national actors in world politics.


Sample Degree Pathways

Major Map: