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Online Bachelor’s in Political Science Degree Programs

Political science is a social and behavioral sciences field in which politics, political trends, and political behavior are examined and analyzed in the context of social structures, economic realities, cultural institutions, mass media, and other factors. Political scientists study systems of governance, ideologies, and demographics in order to identify patterns in political behavior, analyze the causes of political outcomes, and deepen our understanding of political events. Students who pursue a degree in political science learn how to use various tools, including statistical analysis and theories of individual and group behavior, to scientifically examine political events from the past and investigate trends in contemporary politics at the local, state, federal, an international level. Through this process, they cultivate a scientific approach to understanding the forces and structures that define politics.

What Is a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science?

A bachelor’s degree in political science is an undergraduate degree conferred by a college or university that indicates that a student has successfully completed a program of study in political theory, systems of government, and the social and cultural institutions that influence political behavior. Students in a bachelor’s in political science program are, like students who major in other fields, required to take general education courses, which may include English composition, mathematics, physical science, literature, arts, and humanities courses. They also complete the introductory, intermediate, and advanced coursework that comprise a school’s major in political science. This process typically takes approximately four year or eight semesters and culminates with the conferral of a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Political Science.

Online Bachelor’s in Political Science Programs

Online bachelor’s in political science programs offer students the option of earning an undergraduate degree in political science without having to regularly attend campus-based classes. Instead, students in an online program receive all or most of their training and instruction via digital online learning platforms, often referred to as learning management systems (LMSs). A program’s LMS may be used to stream live lectures and virtual class meetings and/or pre-recorded modules that incorporate lectures and other instructional activities. Online students interact with classmates and instructors via messaging applications and discussion groups through a program’s LMS and are typically able to complete and submit most if not all of their assignments electronically as well. This provides students who do not want to relocate in order to be near a school that offers a bachelor’s in political science program, and students who would prefer to avoid commuting regularly to a college or university campus for classes, a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based bachelor’s in political science programs.

How Identifies and Classifies Online Bachelor’s in Political Science Programs researches programs and uses a number of important criteria to properly identify and classify those programs based on academic requirements and curricula. To be classified as an online bachelor’s program, a program must offer all or most of its required instruction via distance learning technologies. Thus, programs that require students to attend more than two campus visits per year are not listed on the site. In addition, programs must be offered by a non-profit college or university that has formal regional accreditation. Finally, to be included among the programs classified as online bachelor’s in political science programs, a program must offer a designated major in political science with coursework in theories of government and politics, and methods of political science research and analysis.

What Students Learn in Online Bachelor’s in Political Science Programs

There are essentially two components of a bachelor’s in political science program: general education requirements that fall outside of the political science major and that all students regardless of their major must complete; and coursework within the political science major, which typically includes core requirements and electives. Among the topics covered in the core coursework of a political science curriculum are the American political system, the comparative study of different systems of governance, the history of political thought, and research methods and analysis techniques in the field of political science.

In addition, political science majors are typically required to take a statistics course as a foundation for the critical examination of political science theories and research, and to apply the empirical tools of political inquiry to the scientific study of historical and contemporary political institutions, events, and trends in the US and around the world. This may involve taking required or elective classes in the evolution of various schools of political thought and ideologies, studying global and international relations, examining the two-party system in the US in comparison to other forms of governance, and looking at how demographic trends, cultural shifts, and the actions of interest groups influence politics. Finally, some programs may have a required or optional final project in which students apply what they have learned in a self-directed research project or senior paper.

Online Bachelor’s in Political Science Program Courses

The coursework in online bachelor’s in political science programs varies by program, as do course names and descriptions. However, the table below offers a representative overview of the types of courses that are commonly part of a bachelor’s in political science program. The course titles and names were derived through research into actual online bachelor’s in political science programs.

Course TitleCourse Description
Political Thought and TheoryAn overview of major political thinkers, their theories of government and politics, the ideologies that emerge from these theories, and how these theories are applied in the field of political science.
American Political TheoryThe thinkers and theories that have influenced the evolution of American political institutions and politics in America, from Europe and the pre-Colonial era to the present day.
Empirical Political Inquiry and Scientific MethodologyThe application of social science methods and quantitative analysis to the study of government and politics, including the process of research design, data collection, and hypothesis testing.
American Government and PoliticsA survey of the major institutions of modern government and processes of individual and group political activity in the US, with a focus on how our federal and state systems have evolved structurally and politically.
Political IdeologiesAn examination and analysis of historically important political ideas and belief systems, including liberalism, conservativism, communism, and socialism.
Comparative PoliticsQuantitative and qualitative methods for comparing governments and political systems, including normative and empirical theories of governance, the practical nature of government functions in modern societies, and representative structures and processes in various political and governmental systems.
Rights and Interest Groups in AmericaAn exploration of historical and contemporary movements in American politics and the process by which interest groups use the tools of democracy to expand their rights through social, cultural, and political movements.
Criminal Law and the US ConstitutionAn examination of state and federal police powers, the American criminal justice system, and Constitutional restraints on the exercise of government power.
Global PoliticsA critical analysis of contemporary world politics, theories of international relations, and major geopolitical trends.

Admissions to Online Bachelor’s in Political Science Programs

The basic requirement for admission to an online bachelor’s in political science program is a high school diploma. In addition to high school transcripts, applicants may also be asked to furnish SAT test scores or scores from another standardized college entrance exam, two or three references or letters of recommendation, and/or a personal essay or answers to one or more essay questions. Some online bachelor’s programs may be designed for students who have already had a year or more of college. These programs are often referred to as bachelor’s completion programs and they may require applicants to have a certain number of transferrable college credits (typically, 30 to 60 credits) or an associate degree from an accredited community or junior college. Bachelor’s completion programs allow students who have already earned a number of college credits to earn a bachelor’s degree without having to take courses they have already completed.

Online Bachelor’s in Political Science Program Formats

There are several key differences in online program formats that can affect a student’s learning experience. Potential applicants to online bachelor’s in political science programs should take note of these differences and may want to take one or more them into consideration when choosing a program. The method of online instruction, for example, is one factor to consider, and enrollment options and campus visits are two other areas in which programs may differ in significant ways. Each of these issues is addressed in detail in the sections below.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: Synchronous instruction and asynchronous instruction are the two primary modes of online instruction and they differ in one significant fashion. Synchronous instruction takes place in real-time and thus requires students to be logged on to a program’s LMS at specific times for scheduled online class meeting and lectures. Asynchronous instruction has no real-time component and allows students to view lectures and other instructional materials at their own convenience, 24-7. By providing students with scheduled class meeting times, synchronous instruction brings more structure to the online learning experience than asynchronous instruction. However, for self-motivated students who can handle more flexibility in their learning schedule, programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction may be preferable.

Full-Time vs. Part-Time Enrollment: Some online bachelor’s in political science programs offer students the option of enrolling full-time or part-time, while other have designated full-time or part-time tracks. Enrolling full-time in a bachelor’s program means spending 40 or more hours per week on schoolwork while classes are in session for four years. In contrast, a part-time student may only have to spend 15 to 20 hours per week on school but will likely take longer (five or more years) to earn their degree. Students who are enrolled part-time may be able to finish their degree requirements in less time if they take classes year-round.

Campus Visits: Many online bachelor’s in political science programs are offered 100% online and do not require students to attend any campus-based sessions. However, some programs have a limited number of on-campus requirements that may be used for orientation sessions, workshops, seminars, and other instructional activities. These campus visits typically do not last longer than a week and may be as brief as a weekend or three days. They can be a valuable addition to an online program, as they give students the opportunity to meet instructors face-to-face and interact in-person with other students. But, for some students, required campus visits may be inconvenient and the travel and lodging expenses can add to the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree online. Potential applicants to online programs should review program requirements carefully prior to submitting an application in order to determine whether or not the program has any campus-based requirements. does not list programs that require students to attend more than two campus visits per year.