What Can I Do With My Political Science Major?

A political science major in a suit stands in front of a courthouse with her arms crossed
Political science major Odessa Runyan photographed in front of the Robert T. Matsui United States Courthouse in downtown Sacramento. Runyan had an internship with Kamala Harris. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Are you looking for a major that will challenge your critical thinking and analytical skills? Look no further than the political science program at UC Davis. The exciting field of political science navigates the relationships between individuals, governments, and institutions that shape our world.

At UC Davis, the political science major offers students a robust and comprehensive education. Whether you're interested in American politics, global governance, or international relations, our program has you covered. The major offers engaging coursework and hands-on experiences. You'll develop the skills to navigate the complex and ever-changing political landscape of the 21st century.

At UC Davis the political science division is divided into three majors:

Undergraduate advisor Saira Delgado explains the difference between the two political science majors. “The political science major is intended to give students a broader understanding of political concepts, political institutions, political behavior, political processes,” Delgado says. “The political science — public service major is a little bit different. It focuses on American politics and policy, but really focusing on how policy is formulated and implemented and how that works in terms of governing and governance.” Students can choose which major fits their interests in the diverse field of politics.

What is it like to major in political science?

Political science majors sit on a coach in a stately office to advocate for their rights.
UC Davis students Hannah Poploskie, political science major; Preeti Naidu, computer science major; MaryAnn McNamara, international relations major; and Terrvyah Yura Raju, international agriculture development major; talk with Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry during UCAN Ambassadors Sacramento Advocacy at the State Capitol Building. The student were lobbying state representatives for funding for their schools and the UC system. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Political science majors dive into the fundamental concepts that underpin the field. They examine power, authority, and democracy. They explore the origins of political institutions. And they analyze contemporary challenges of governments around the world.

But the political science program at UC Davis isn't just about theory. The program also provides opportunities for students to engage with real-world political issues. They become informed and engaged citizens. Students in the major take on internships with local political organizations or participation in political campaigns. You'll have the chance to put your skills and knowledge to work in the real world.

The major also teaches students how to collaborate. “I would say the culture is one of working together,” said political science department chair Benjamin Highton. “There's not a competitive zero-sum nature where, you know, for one student to do well requires another student not to do well. So that helps reduce, I think, at least some of the competitiveness.”

Resume-building opportunities for political science majors

Three political science majors wearing leis and caps and gowns smile.
Left to right: Political science majors Puneet Bhullar, Felipe Grimaldo and Nicole Campbell before the start of the UC Davis College of Letters and Sciences Commencement Ceremony at the Pavilion. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

The political science major offers opportunities to gain experience outside of the classroom. Every year, the Global Learning Hub offers several study abroad programs. "Many of these programs are good fits for political science students," said Ryleigh Parker, peer advisor for political science. "Past programs have taken place in Europe, Asia, and South America. And they have covered topics such as culture, economics, and environmental policy. The breadth of the major means everyone has a different combination of interests and specialties. There’s something for everyone. Many students are involved in a variety of extracurriculars, like student government, pre-law organizations, mock trials, student papers, activist groups, and more.”

Political science majors can also participate in the UC Davis Washington Program and the UC Center Sacramento Program. There, students get first-hand experience working in government, public policy, and advocacy. The programs supplement classroom education with real-world experience. You can build a network of professional contacts that can serve you well in your future career.

What can you do with a political science degree?

A political science major asks a question at an open forum.
Third year political science major Camille Shakirova asks a question during the UC Davis Campus Town Hall on Free Speech at Public Universities. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Graduates in political science can apply their skills to many different fields. Students learn critical thinking, collaboration, and fundamental concepts behind organizations and power. These skills open doors both during and after college.

“Students have certainly gone into law and law school government positions at the local, state, federal levels,” said undergraduate advisor Saira Delgado. “Nonprofit work, international security, and certainly academia. I have also seen students go into sales, technology, education, consulting, marketing, PR, communications.”

Department Chair Benjamin Highton added that he’s seen students go to professional schools, such as business and law. Though students can still land a variety of jobs after undergrad. “There's a range of jobs that we will see them go into depending on their focus,” Highton said. “Then you also will sometimes see them going into academics and then pursuing a Ph.D. whether in political science or other fields”

Advice for political science majors 

A political science major stands on the UC Davis campus with her bike.
Khadeja Ibrahim, a political science major, aspires to study law after graduation. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The community at UC Davis helps political science majors to navigate undergraduate life. Faculty and students offer their tips for any student wondering if the major is right for them:

Try out some lower-division courses

"The most important advice I would give them is take a couple courses in the department and see if you like it. We all have in our heads preconceived notions about what all these different majors and possibilities are in college. And one thing to find out is what they are actually like. And really the only way you can do that is by taking courses." — Benjamin Highton, political science department chair

Consider double-majoring or minoring

"The political science majors are relatively short majors. There's not a ton of units that students need to take to complete these majors. That actually leaves space for students to be able to explore potentially a double major or maybe a minor or two. Or just being able to take elective courses that may just be able to help them in furthering their career goals or their academic goals. If you want to declare a POL major, also consider what kind of things you may want to study outside of political science." — Saira Delgado, political science undergraduate major advisor

Speak with a peer advisor

"If you are interested in political science, I recommend taking a lower division course (POL 001-004 are good bets) to see if you enjoy it! These four courses are the basic background classes for each of our four concentrations. So they provide a good overview. If you’re interested in Poli Sci, I also recommend visiting peer advisor drop-in hours to discuss requirements and any questions." — Ryleigh Praker, peer advisor for political science and political science — public service

Riddhi Puranik is a second year double majoring in communication and design. She's currently a writing intern with Strategic Communications. 

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