Fulfilling Academic Requirements - Political Science Major

As our world becomes an increasingly global community, governments and cultures interact with one another more directly than ever before, and gaining an understanding of how they do so is growing in its importance. For Political Science majors, the opportunity to experience cultures and view political systems from multiple perspectives is invaluable.

Through study abroad, you not only have the chance to gain a richer, more immediate understanding of different governmental systems, but you will find a wealth of new perspectives on your home political environment and how it operates.

Many study abroad options are available for you. From short-term, faculty-led programs to full-year enrollment at a foreign university, there are plenty of opportunities to earn credit. You can fulfill Political Science requirements, take General Education classes, explore general electives in subjects that interest you, or immerse yourself in language study and internships.


Study abroad during your first year of college is not usually recommended. There are many transitions you need to make between high school and university. First year students usually concentrate on completing General Education Program requirements or exploring different disciplines by taking lower-level elective credit. You might consider studying abroad as early as the summer following your first year at the University of Iowa.


Sophomore year is a good time to study abroad for a semester or a year. You can use your time abroad to complete coursework for Political Science, work on general education and elective credit, or study a language.


Like your sophomore year, junior year is also a great time to study abroad. And for those in the honors program, the junior year presents an excellent time to complete fieldwork or research abroad.


While it is possible to study abroad during your senior year, it is not necessarily recommended. Your time may be best spent at the University of Iowa wrapping up your studies, working on research projects, or pulling together applications for graduate school if you intend to continue your education. Developing personal relationships with faculty members in the department can be invaluable for this purpose, and you cannot do that if you are overseas. However, if none of these situations apply to you, fall semester can present a good opportunity to go abroad.

Generally speaking, honors students should not study abroad as seniors. The senior thesis can absorb your attention for most of your final year.

General Education and Electives

Most study abroad locations offer coursework that can apply towards the General Education Program requirements of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Humanities, Historical Perspectives, Fine Arts, Foreign Civilization & Culture, and foreign languages are some of the most common "Gen-Eds" that students complete overseas. Also, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences requires that all majors acquire either fourth-semester competency or the departmental equivalent in a foreign language. This can be done overseas on intensive language programs in as little as one semester. Study Abroad is authorized to approve GEP courses, so please consult your study abroad adviser for information about the approval process.

Taking elective courses abroad is exciting because you have the chance to explore a topic you might never be able to study in the U.S.

Political Science Major Requirements

Students in Political Science must complete a minimum of 33 semester hours of Political Science coursework. At least 12 of these 33 hours must be taken at the University of Iowa.

30:001 Introduction to American Politics  and the four introductory courses (eg, 30:020 Introduction to Politics through 30:070 Introduction to Political Communication): These can be taken abroad, but the credit-worthiness of each course must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Obtain a Credit Approval Form from your study abroad adviser, and take course descriptions of any courses you are considering taking abroad to your academic adviser to be certain they will meet the requirements for the Political Science degree.

Eighteen hours of advanced undergraduate courses:  at least 12 of these hours must be earned in regular class work. These are the best courses to take abroad, as these courses can address a variety of specialized topics.  The credit-worthiness of each course must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Obtain a Credit Approval Form from your study abroad adviser, and take course descriptions of any courses you are considering taking abroad to your academic adviser to be certain they will meet the requirements for the Political Science degree.

Note that 30:029 First Year Seminar and 30:191 Government Internship cannot be taken for political science major credit.

BS in Political Science

In addition to the major requirements for the Political Science BA, you are also required to take 30:100 Understanding Political Research, either 30:193 Undergraduate Research Tutorial or 30:185 Honors Research Project, and three semesters of math or statistics courses.

30:100, 30:185, and 30:193 will count toward your 18 semester hours of 100-level courses.

For the most part, the additional courses for the BS cannot be taken abroad.



You must complete 30:180 Honors Seminar on the Study of Politics (you are encouraged to take this class as a sophomore), and at least one additional honors seminar. Honors students must also complete 30:185 Honors Research Project or 30:186 Honors Senior Thesis. 30:186 must be taken the semester prior to the one in which you graduate. (Note that this precludes study abroad during your senior year.) You must receive a grade of B or above in this nine-semester-hour sequence.

You will need to schedule an oral discussion of your honors thesis.

You can do thesis research abroad, though you might not get research credit at the UI—speak to your academic adviser about this.


Internships are encouraged as part of your Political Science study. It is possible for you to take an internship overseas, so consider the unique opportunity to do so!

Earning Credit

Your study abroad adviser will provide you with a Credit Approval Form, a document that helps structure a dialogue between you and your academic adviser regarding transferring credit from abroad toward degree requirements. Check your intended program's website or course catalog and provide your academic adviser with course descriptions of the classes abroad you propose to substitute for classes at the University of Iowa. Your academic adviser will make a decision about each proposed class and record it on the Credit Approval Form, which you will file with Study Abroad prior to your departure.

Sometimes course offerings at overseas universities change at the last minute, even after you arrive abroad--if this happens to you, then before you register be sure to alert your academic adviser by e-mail and get further guidance about transferring credit from abroad toward degree requirements. Hopefully a replacement course can be found that can earn the credit you need, but this is not guaranteed. Be as flexible as possible regarding transfer credit from study abroad.

The programs listed below are based at foreign universities with comprehensive Political Science or Government departments, are short-term faculty-led programs, or offer course work designed for study abroad program participants.

While we suggest you look at these highlighted programs first, feel free to browse the programs section of the Study Abroad website, explore an online directory of study abroad programs, and consult materials in the Study Abroad Resource Room.


University if KwaZulu-Natal Exchange

The University of KwaZulu-Natal's school of Poltical Science provides an opportunity for Political Science majors to study alongside UKZN students in this historically and politically rich setting.


Iowa Regents Semester in Newcastle

Iowa Regents Semester in Tasmania

The Iowa Regents Semester in Australia offers undergraduate students an opportunity to study for a semester at the University of Newcastle or the University of Tasmania.  Participants are fully integrated academically and socially with their Australian peers.


CIC Quebec
This program offers its participants the chance to increase their command of French in a French-speaking environment and introduces them to the culture of Quebec, North America's largest francophone region.


USAC Spanish and Latin American Studies in Santiago
This group program allows students to experience the culture and physical beauty of Chile through study in specially designed courses combined with family home stay and some program travel. Classes are held in classroom space in the downtown campus of Universidad Andrés Bello. Participants are allowed student privileges on campus through this affiliation. 

Costa Rica

USAC Heredia

USAC Puntarenas


Semester in South India
Located in Mysore, a lovely mid-sized city in the southern state of Karnataka, the University of Iowa’s Semester in South India program allows students to explore India’s rich classical heritage and the contemporary forces that are rapidly reshaping this powerful nation.


Iowa Regents Semester in Cork
University College Cork’s Politics program and its Government department are separate entities. The Politics program focuses on the issues that form politics, that in themselves are political: human rights, equality, the environment, justice, gender, and energy supply. This department draws on courses from the Government, Philosophy, and History departments to form its course.

The Government department teaches courses more specifically in politics and government in themselves, and less on the cultural aspects that form them. Of special interest is a "Certificate in Political Issues in Ireland Today," offered during the spring semester only.


USAC Business, Architecture and Italian Studies in Turin
Italian Studies Program, Turin, Italy: Offered as fall or spring semester, an academic year, as well as an intensive summer session at the University of Turin's Scuola di Amministrazione Aziendale, this program's curriculum is designed to address core degree requirements while providing a complement of courses with an international dimension.


Iowa Exchange Netherlands


Russian Politics and Foreign Affairs
This 7-week program is designed by the University of Iowa and the world renowned Moscow State University for International Relations (MGIMO), where students will study.  It provides students with a comprehensive and balanced curriculum that combines classroom instructions with field trips, language partnerships, and extra curricular activities. Students take two courses (taught in English), "Russian Politics and Institutions in a Comparative Perspective" and "Russian Foreign Policy" taught by Russian professors. Everyone also takes a "survival" Russian Language and Culture course. The program yields 7 s.h. of credit  


USAC International Business, Spanish, and Cultural Studies in Bilbao 
The USAC program in Bilbao offers courses at every level of Spanish language study. Alternatively, students can take less language and choose from several courses taught in English to fill out their semester. Internship placements at libraries, small businesses, schools or service organizations can be arranged for students with an advanced language level in Bilbao. These practicas are un-paid, but convey elective academic credit.

CIEE Language and Society Program in Seville
This fall or spring semester program offers juniors and seniors an opportunity to examine Spanish Business management and economics in their political and socio-cultural context. The academic program combines business, economics and language coursework with visits to local businesses and industries. Informal internships are an option for participants with the requisite language proficiency and relevant skills.

United Kingdom

Regents Semester in Scotland
The University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Studies maintains an international reputation for its instruction in the politics of the UK, as well as European and global politics and justice, and studies in International Relations, Social Anthropology, Social Work, Sociology, Canadian Studies, and South Asian Studies.

Regents Semester in Wales
At Swansea University, courses in politics are offered through the school of Politics & International Studies. The courses offered allow students to develop critical and analytical skills, as well as communication skills while studying how and why governmental systems operate the way they do, and the program asks students to consider their own opinions about politics and government.