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What Are the Top US Universities for Political Science?

NOV 06, 2020 • 16 min read

Do you want to study the broad and intriguing field of Political Science? In celebration of the 2020 US Election, we explore which US universities have the top Political Science programs in the country!

As you might know, this week was the 2020 US Presidential Election, and over the past few days we have been hearing a lot of analysis, predictions and conjecture from some of the nation’s top experts as they count the votes to determine the next US President. While the fields of expertise and knowledge amongst these election analysts are diverse, most of them come under the field known as “political science,” which is the field of social science dealing with topics such as government, politics and international relations.

It is at times such as elections where political scientists are most visible to the public eye. However a career as a political scientist can provide an invaluable role to society in several other spheres, including in government, law, business, international and civic organizations, journalism, and education.

For those interested in joining the ranks of these political experts in the future, you will undoubtedly need to receive some university education in the field. Indeed, many top US universities offer political science as a popular college major or graduate degree. Further, some of these top universities have even built a reputation for educating the nation's leading political experts, as well as politicians themselves.

Check out who Times Higher Education (THE) ranks as the best “politics & international studies” (an equivalence to political science) in their 2021 World University Rankings. The methodology takes into account teaching (32.4%); research: volume, income and reputation (32.6%); citations (25%); international outlook: staff, students and research (7.5%); and industry income (2.5%). See the top-10 below!

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1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

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Topping our list is MIT, with their leading MIT Department of Political Science. This department is tasked with teaching the fields of American politics & public policy; comparative politics; international relations & foreign policy; and political philosophy & social theory at MIT. The department is research-oriented, and welcoming of both prospective political scientists and scientists/engineers who must understand the political system within which they live in order to evaluate their influence upon that system.

At an undergraduate level, you can study classes through the Political Science major or minor, as well as the minor in Public Policy and minor in Applied International Studies. Students can also undertake graduate study under the 1 year Master of Science in Political Science (SM) or the PhD in Political Science.

2. Stanford University

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Stanford’s department of political science comes in second-place. In this area of study, Stanford hopes to provide students with a solid grasp of the American political system and other political systems within the context of global forces, international conflicts, social movements, ideological systems and diversity.

College students can study political science at Stanford through the Political Science major or minor. Additionally, the Masters and PhD programs in political science are available to graduates.

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3. Harvard University

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At Harvard, political science comes under the umbrella of the Department of Government, which allows students to study a remarkable range of political subjects blended with history, law, economics, sociology, philosophy, and ethics. You might also know that Harvard College is notorious for training future politicians and presidents, having educated 5 of the 44 presidents throughout US history. You can read more about that here.

Harvard College students can study four different programs as part of their Gov concentration, including Data Science, Tech Science, Public Policy, and Political Economy. There is also a graduate PhD program offered.

4. The University of California - Berkeley

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The Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science at UC-Berkeley offers an unusual combination of depth and breadth in the major subject areas of political science, covering subfields of American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory and much more.

The Political Science major at UC-Berkeley is available to undergraduates, and the PhD program for graduates.

Did you know- Crimson Students are 3x more likely to gain admission to UC-Berkeley and UCLA? Find out more about our admissions support service to see how we can help you!

5. Princeton University

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The Princeton Department of Politics is one of Princeton University's largest and most prestigious departments. Fields of study open to students include American politics, comparative politics, public law, international relations, formal theory & quantitative methods, and political theory.

As mentioned, Politics is one of the most popular undergraduate concentrations at Princeton. Graduate students have the Ph.D. program in Politics available.

6. The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

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Michigan was one of the first schools in the country to organize a department devoted entirely to the study of politics. The modern Department of Political Science at Michigan continues this excellence in teaching students about the diverse discipline of political science, including within the subfields of American politics, methods, law & politics, comparative politics, political theory and world politics.

Like the above universities, undergraduates can study political science at Michigan through the Political Science major, and graduates through the PhD program.

7. Yale University

Yale University

Yale’s Department of Political Science promotes itself as a leader in research and teaching in contemporary Political Science. Ultimately, Yale’s goal is to enable students to think critically and analytically about the agents, incentives, and institutions that shape political phenomena within human society.

Yale’s Political Science department offers both an undergraduate (BA) degree in Political Science and a graduate (PhD) in Political Science. On offer is also the MA in International Relations/Global Affairs.

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8. The University of Chicago

University Of Chicago

UChicago’s Department of Political Science is often credited with founding the modern study of international politics, under the leadership of the late Quincy Wright and Hans Morgenthau. Thus, a focus of UChicago is a disregard for disciplinary and sub disciplinary boundaries, with cross-disciplinary approaches and creative thinking is strongly encouraged in order to develop the field.

UChicago offers the Political Science major to undergraduates and a PhD program for graduates.

9. University of California - Los Angeles

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UCLA’s Department of Political Science teaches a broad-ranging curriculum oriented toward research. Most courses are organized into six fields, those being political theory; international relations; American politics; comparative politics; methods and models; and Race, Ethnicity and politics.

Students at UCLA may also be lucky enough to be able to study for a quarter studying and learning in Washington DC at the University of California Washington Center.

Undergraduates at UCLA wanting to study political science must first enroll as Prepolitical Science majors. After completion of preparation for the major courses, they then must petition to enter the full Political Science major. Graduate students are offered the PhD program.

10. The University of Pennsylvania

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Rounding out the list is the University of Pennsylvania. The Penn Political Science Department hopes to arm its students with the expertise and analytical depth to better understand and respond to real-world problems in politics and government. Penn also seems to take a unique career-oriented approach, providing an immense number of on-campus resources and internship/placement opportunities around the world.

You can study undergraduate study political science at Penn through the Political Science major, or the minors in Political Science; International Development; Survey Research & Data Analytics; or American Public Policy/Business ​Economics & Public Policy. Graduate students can study Penn’s PhD program.

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