Undergraduate Program

Professor Carnes in a lecture

Upcoming Major Declaration Sessions

  • September 28th, 9:00am – 11:00am
  • October 28th, 10:00am – 12:00pm
  • November 18th, 12:00pm – 2:00pm
  • December 7th, 10:00am – 12:00pm


A degree in Government equips students with theoretical and practical knowledge concerning many different dimensions of politics, including:

  • Domestic political institutions and processes in the United States and throughout the world;
  • International and transnational relations; and
  • The scope and nature of ethics, justice, rights, and obligations in political life.

Courses in the Department are located in one (or more) of four subfields:

  • American Government;
  • Comparative Government;
  • International Relations; and
  • Political Theory.

The Department seeks to provide its students with more than extensive knowledge of political institutions and processes; it aims to arm them with additional tools that help them to better evaluate, advance, and refute political arguments. These tools involve logical analysis, causal inference, research skills, and effective communication of ideas.

A degree in Government cultivates relevant skills in a number of different ways. Most Government courses require students to practice and develop analytic writing skills — whether in the form of in-class essays, out-of-class essays, or research papers. Students also must complete at least one Department Seminar. These seminars, which majors usually take during their junior or senior years, are limited to fifteen participants and involve significant writing assignments geared toward developing a student’s skills under the close supervision of a faculty member or advanced graduate student.

The Government Department takes a pluralistic approach to methodological issues; it aims to instill its students with an understanding of a variety of different forms of rigorous causal and logical analysis. Majors should therefore expect exposure to various forms of statistical inference, singular causal analysis, deductive reasoning, and conceptual analysis.

Many students take classes on statistical techniques and go on to more extensive work with–or even the development of–data sets on topics that interest them. Others focus on the explanation of specific historical events and develop skills in, for example, process tracing, the identification and vetting of causal mechanisms, and qualitative counterfactual analysis. Some students prefer to focus on methods appropriate for the assessment of normative claims about political institutions, justice, and other important issues in political theory.

Through the required introductory courses, students develop competency in multiple methodologies. In order to ensure a thorough understanding of key normative and ethical concerns in political life, the Department requires students to take an upper-level course in political theory. This requirement not only reflects Georgetown’s Jesuit traditions, but the long history of student and alumni engagement with domestic and international politics.

In all of these respects, a Government degree not only assists students to become better national and global citizens, but also provides them with a foundation for leadership in their chosen vocations.

Comprehensive information about the undergraduate program can be found in the Undergraduate Program Handbook.

Numbering System and Grades

The Government Department has adopted a new numbering system for undergraduate courses starting Fall 2014. The reason for this change is to provide more structure and transparency to our course offerings.

The courses have been renumbered according to the following scheme:
000-level: introductory courses

GOVT 1200 US Political Systems
GOVT 1400 Comparative Political Systems
GOVT 1600 International Relations
GOVT 1800 Elements of Political Theory

1000- and 2000-level: lecture courses
3000-level: department seminars
4000-level: advanced lectures and seminars

Within each level, the courses are grouped by field, as follows:
2000-2190 Non-field / Offered on irregular basis
2200-2390 American Government (AG)
2400-2590 Comparative Government (CG)
2600-2790 International Relations (IR)
2800-2990 Political Theory (PT)

Grades in the Department of Government reflect high standards and university norms.  For the four introductory courses, no more than 40 percent of the grades will be A-minus or higher.  For other undergraduate level courses, the expectation is that no more than 50 percent of grades will be A-minus or higher.  Classes with substantially higher percentage of A-minus and higher grades will be reviewed by the Department.  In certain cases, such as Honors courses or courses with demonstrated high levels of effort and learning, grading percentages may go higher, but the basis for these higher grades will need to be documented.

Contacts and Links

Please see the Directors of Undergraduate Studies to declare your major and request approval for studying abroad.

Course scheduling information can be found via the registrar’s website and the MyAccess system. When prompted, select “Government,” “Political Economy,” “International Affairs” or “All.” You may also sort courses by Professor or type.

For more information about the requirements for a major or minor in Government, please see the Major Requirements page and the Undergraduate Program Handbook.