Political Science is the study of government. International Relations is the study of governments. Yes, that description is an oversimplification, but Political Science and International Relations do cover much of the same subject matter; government structure, political theory, comparative government…So, which one is an international student to choose?
The Political Science undergraduate major studies governmental structure and political policy. The major also encapsulates how governmental actions effect societal behavior. (For an even more in depth description of the Political Science major, check out “Study Political Science in the US.”) In short, study Political Science and you’ll be studying government, policies, and their effect on the population. But, which population, you ask? Although concentrations such as Comparative Government are offered at most universities, the focus of a Political Science major in the US is primarily on America.
If as an international student, you would like to concentrate more on foreign affairs than domestic ones, the International Relations major might be more up your alley. The International Relations major, or IR as it’s commonly referred to, adds to students’ analytical skill set much in the same way that a Political Science major does, while maintaining a more international focus. Additionally, the International Relations major typically has stricter course requirements than its Political Science counterpart. Most universities require at least two years of foreign language study, since mastery of language is so crucial in international communication. Economics classes are also usually required, because of the strong connection between politics and the global economy.
Still puzzled on which major to take? Since they are quite similar, it’s hard to go wrong with either Political Science or International Relations. The decision is largely rooted in whether you’d like to primarily study the American political system or if you’d rather focus on global politics. Try to figure out where your interest lies, and decide from there!