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Online Political Science Degree: Curriculum

Curriculum Details

37 credit hours required in the major

The online bachelor’s degree in political science from Southwest Minnesota State University is designed to give you a deep understanding of political institutions and processes, both in the U.S. and globally. Courses explore topics ranging from voter behavior to international relations, providing a broad-based introduction to the political science field.

Throughout your program, you will study political research methods, public policy, international law, and the judicial process while customizing your course plan with electives that align with your interests and career goals. Most students complete the political science major and earn their degree in three to four years.

Core Courses


This course surveys the scope and methods of the study of political behavior and political systems. It examines political ideologies; the emergence and evolution of nation-states; government policies; the pursuit and uses of power; the role of parties, interest groups and social movements in influencing decision-making institutions; the primary forms of governing institutions (parliamentary and presidential); and relations between nations.

Surveys the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the national government; the role of political parties, interest groups and public opinion. Includes discussion of local and state government and the political uses of the law.

A survey of the study of comparative politics. Students examine political concepts (including representation, legitimacy, and the state), ideologies, institutions and processes as applied to selected industrial democracies, authoritarian, totalitarian, communist regimes, and developing countries, ending with a discussion of ethics from a comparative political perspective.
Covers the basics of research methodology and an introduction to statistical analysis and data processing with computers as applied to Political Science.
A survey of American political ideas, and their consequences, from the American Revolution to the present. Includes an examination of the European origins of the American political tradition. Among the figures studied are John Locke, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John C. Calhoun, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan. Particular attention is paid to the evolution of the dialogue between conservatism and liberalism since World War II.
Seminar devotes intensive study to selected topics in the fields of government and statecraft. Includes exposure to scholarly literature in the field, student-led discussions of course material, a major research project, and formal presentation of findings.

Political Science (select 1 of the following): Category 1


Examines the role of states in the American federal system. Analyzes intergovernmental relations and issues of current interest such as taxing powers, grants, and responsibilities for providing public services such as education, policing, welfare, and environmental protection. Special attention to Minnesota.
This course surveys the government and politics of local governments, including counties, cities, and townships. Major topics include contrasts between major urban governments and local governments in Greater Minnesota, intergovernmental relations between local, state and federal levels, elected and appointed leadership, local budget policy, economic development, and land use issues.

Examines the initiation, development and implementation of public policy in the U.S. at all levels of government, with special emphasis on national policy-making. Includes study of the role of each branch of government in the policy process, citizen input in the process, current debates over important policies, and the significance of political parties and interest groups in the formulation of policies.

Political Science (select 1 of the following): Category 2


Examination of theories, concepts, and structures instrumental in understanding international relations. Includes a realistic, systematic and political economy analysis of actions and interactions, images and realities in international affairs. Topics include great power rivalry, the arms race, great power intervention in the Third World, trade war and conflict in Southern Africa.

A traditional regional approach to geography combined with a survey of several important subfields, such as urban geography, geopolitics, political geography, and economic geography.
This course considers the legal regimes that govern how international law is employed, how it is created, its sources, and the substantive bodies of law that have evolved to shape the field. That is, we take a look at human rights, humanitarian law, private international law, and the development of international organizations, all of which influence the structure and governance of the international community.

Political Science (select 1 of the following): Category 3


Examines the role of lawyers, judges, juries, and citizens in the American legal and judicial systems. Attention is given to various theories behind the law and legal practices; the moral aspects of public law; modern problems confronting the legal system, and efforts to reform the system.
This course considers the role of government in the regulation of the market. In doing so, we consider regulatory practice and the mechanisms to adjust market behavior. To that end, we consider rulemaking, adjudication, enforcement, licensing, the collection of information, judicial review, and public sector personnel management.
An examination of the role of the U.S. Constitution and the state and federal courts in handling crime and justice in America. Particular attention is paid to the evolution of legal precedents, recent Supreme Court decisions, federalism, criminal procedure, and efforts to reform the American criminal justice system.
An examination of the various rights, responsibilities, and liberties guaranteed Americans in the U.S. Constitution. Special attention is paid to First Amendment speech, assembly, press and religious rights; governments ability to conduct searches; equal protection; economic liberties; protection against self-incrimination, and rights before and during criminal trials.
A study of the impact of American laws, courts, and judicial practices on American society. Includes examination of significant Supreme Court decisions; the changing role of lawyers; the plight of the nations poor; problems associated with civil litigation; public perceptions of the nations judicial system, and efforts to reform the national legal system.
An examination of the history, functions, and characteristics of the United States Supreme Court. Special focus is given to the contemporary Supreme Court, current legal and judicial controversies, and the Supreme Courts individual members. The central feature of the course is a mock U.S. Supreme Court trial, which engages all class members (through research, preparation of written briefs, and presentation of oral arguments) in a term project. The trial is judged by local attorneys and other members of the legal community, all of whom appear clad in black judicial robes.

Additional Political Science Courses


Students must choose two additional courses (6 credits) from Categories 1-3: State Government, Local & Rural Politics, Public Policy & Administration.

Elective Courses


Students must choose one Political Science Course (3 credits) from the 200 level or above.

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