Political Science Major



General Education Requirements for Political Science Majors
Political Science Major Requirements
Upper-Division Electives
Free Electives
Program Summary
Other Requirements
Credit by Examination, Waivers, Equivalencies, and Substitutions
Applying for Graduation
Avoiding Common Mistakes


Beginning in Fall 2004 all schools in the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) system adopted a common General Education core.  The idea is that students can transfer between schools in the system without having to worry that courses previously taken "don't count" towards the General Education requirement.  In addition this assures students that educational expectations are similar from one school to another and that all schools provide students with certain basic skills.  Here is a summary of the TBR General Education requirements:

  • Communications (9 hours)
  • Humanities and/or Fine Arts (9 hours, including 3 hours of sophomore literature)
  • Natural Sciences (8 hours)
  • History (6 hours)
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (6 hours): Political Science majors should take POLI 2010 and POLI 1010
  • Mathematics (3 hours)

Each school has a different list of courses that satisfy the basic requirements, but all TBR schools agree to accept General Education courses from students enrolled in degree programs at other TBR schools.  Note, however, that once a student enrolls at TSU, only courses on the TSU list (regardless of where taken) can be counted towards the General Education requirement.  Also, courses at schools outside the TBR system will not necessarily fulfill General Education requirements at TSU.  A list of approved courses is at http://www.tnstate.edu/academic_affairs/Learning_Outcomes_Courses.aspx.

Students at TSU must also take a one-hour Orientation course.  Political Science majors are encouraged to take ASOR 1002, Orientation for Social Sciences Majors, but any orientation course is acceptable. Students transferring in 60 hours or more will have the orientation requirement waived.

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The Political Science faculty put together a list of degree competencies and a program of study (see pp. 110-111 of Tennessee State University, Undergraduate Catalog, 2011-2013) that will ensure that our majors receive a broad background in the field of Political Science.

Political Science majors should begin by taking core courses including Introduction to Political Science, American National Government, Introduction to International Relations, and State and Local Government.  (Note that Introduction to Political Science and American National Government also satisfy the Social and Behavioral Sciences component of the General Education core.)

Research Methods provides students with an in-depth introduction to specific tools and concepts necessary to succeed as a professional political scientists.  This course provides a foundation that students will build on in subsequent courses.

Upper-division courses introduce students to in-depth study of specific topics in Political Science; students should count on significant research and writing in an upper-division course in Political Science.

Senior Project is the "capstone" of the degree.  In Senior Project students will put into practice the skills that they have learned in their previous courses in a semester-long project.

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Students at TSU must complete a total of 42 upper-division hours.  Since the Political Science major requires 27 upper-division hours, that means that most students will have to take 15 upper-division hours in addition to the required Political Science courses.  Students can use these electives in various ways.  Some students will take additional courses in their majors, for example.  Others will apply the additional hours to a minor or a second major.  Still others may take courses according to their interests.  For example, a student interested in issues of race and poverty might take courses in Africana Studies or Sociology that dealt with that topic.


Students should plan to take enough credit hours to reach 120 hours total.  For most students in Political Science  this means that they must take 30 credit hours (either upper-division or lower-division) in addition to the courses outlined above.  As with upper-division electives, students have a lot of options with these courses.

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Most Political Science majors should plan on the following (total of 120 hours):

  • Orientation (1 hour)
  • General Education courses (41 hours)
  • Political Science major courses (33 hours)
  • Upper-division electives (15 hours)
  • Free electives (30 hours)

Transfer students and students with deficiencies should make adjustments accordingly.


In addition to specific courses, students need to maintain a GPA of at least 2.000 overall and to earn a grade of C or better in English Composition (ENGL1010-1020) and all Political Science courses.  Graduating seniors must also take the Senior Exit Exam (a general test required of all TSU students) and the Major Field Test (a test specifically on the student's major).  Senior Exit Exam dates are posted on the Testing Center's page, http://www.tnstate.edu/testing/.  Check with the Political Science Department office (963-5471) for Major Field Test dates.

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In special circumstances students can ask that exceptions be granted for some requirements.  As a general rule of thumb, the exception must be approved by the administrative official at the level at which the rule is applied.  Thus, the Provost must approve exceptions to university-wide rules, the appropriate dean must approve exceptions to college-wide rules, and the appropriate department head must approve exceptions to departmental rules.

Students who have taken advanced placement courses or have learned material outside of the classroom can try to test out of requirements.  The latest copy of the TSU catalog contains a list of courses, minimum scores, and general information on the process (see pp. 35 and 39-41 of Tennessee State University, Undergraduate Catalog, 2011-2013).

Students who transfer in 60 credits or more have the Orientation requirement waived.  Waivers for other requirements are very rare.

Students who have taken courses at non-TBR schools can petition to have the courses considered equivalent to TSU General Education courses.  Students must get an "equivalency form" from the Records office and get the department head to sign the form.  (For example, the Head of Biology would sign a form to have a course declared equivalent to BIOL 1010 or 1020.)  Be sure to keep a copy of the form for your own records and to deposit a copy with the department.

Students who want to substitute a course for a major requirement can ask the department head to sign a substitution form.  For example, a student might want to take an upper-division course outside of Political Science that had a lot of content relevant to Political Science.  Again, students should get a copy of the form from the Records Office and make copies of the completed form for themselves and for the department files before turning the form in to Records.

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Students must apply for graduation approximately 3 months in advance.  The on-line application form and information on deadlines are available at http://www.tnstate.edu/records/commencement/.  I suggest that students print out a copy of their graduation application before closing the page.

Once the date for filing has passed, Academic Affairs will pass on a list of prospective graduates to the departments.  At this point advisors review the graduation application.  If the student is ready to graduate (completed or enrolled in all required courses, with appropriate grades in past coursework), the advisor will send the form forward to the College and then to Academic Affairs.  Personnel in the college office (Dean of Arts and Sciences for Political Science majors) and in Academic Affairs then check the work of the departments.  If the advisor decides that the student cannot meet the graduation requirements by the end of the semester, then the department will notify the student.  If the personnel in the college office or Academic Affairs believe that the advisor has wrongly approved a student for graduation, the form is sent back to the department.

When I review a graduation application, I check the following:

  • General Education requirements
  • Lower-division major requirements
  • Upper-division major requirements
  • Total upper-division hours
  • Total credit hours
  • Overall GPA
  • Grades in Freshman English and in major courses

You can check your own progress using this check-list: Political Science Curriculum Planner.

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Every student's program is a little different, but here are some tips to avoid common (and costly) mistakes:

  • Take General Education courses early in your program.  If you put them off until your junior or senior year, you might not be able to fit them into your schedule.  Also, these courses provide a foundation for later work, so postponing them may put you at a disadvantage in your other courses.
  • Don't count a repeated course twice when calculating total credit hours (repeating a course won't increase total credit hours—unless the previous grade was F).
  • Don't take a course with a similar title/number to the courses on the General Education list instead of an approved Gen Ed course (for example, taking "Art History" instead of "Art Appreciation" won't satisfy the requirements).
  • Remember that major courses and composition courses must be passed with a grade of C or better.
  • Plan more than one semester ahead and check for prerequisites when planning your schedule.  (Note, for example,  that POLI 3100, "Research Methods," is a prerequisite for POLI 4500, "Senior Project"; so students should plan on taking them in separate semesters.)
  • Don't confuse total credit hours and total college-level credit hours.  Only college-level hours (not remedial and developmental courses) count towards the 120 hours required for graduation; the transcript on Banner will give both totals, so students should be sure that they use the right one.
  • Remember to count upper-division credit hours.  You will need at least 42 upper-division credits.
  • Remember that only 3 credit hours of POLI 4480 (Legislative Internship) will count towards your Political Science major.  Additional hours will count towards general upper-division credit hours.
  • Make sure that transfer credits come through properly.  Students must first make sure that TSU receives complete transcripts from all institutions attended.  Students should then check to make sure that the credits have been recorded correctly (all credits recorded, individual courses given appropriate course numbers, repeated courses recorded correctly, etc.).  In an ideal world there will be no mistakes, but it's in the student's interest to get mistakes corrected as soon as possible to avoid inadvertently retaking a course previously passed, for example.
  • Check with your advisor before withdrawing from a course to make sure that this won't push back your graduation.
  • Don't plan to take more than 21 credit hours a semester.  Twenty-one hours is the maximum load at TSU.  Period.
  • Keep track of deadlines for adding courses, withdrawing from courses, registering for examinations, and applying for graduation.

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Elizabeth Dachowski