As a government major, you’ll learn how to think and write rigorously and creatively about issues of public life. You’ll have the choice of courses in four subfields: American politics (the political behavior, policies and institutions of the U.S.), comparative politics (the institutions and political processes of other nations), political theory and philosophy (normative theories of politics and history of political thought) and international relations (transactions between states, international organizations and transnational actors).


Want to start right away? Here are some basic requirements for students wanting to major in government. Keep in mind this isn’t the complete list of formal requirements — that list can be found on the Courses of Study page.

To be admitted to the major, a student must pass two Cornell government courses.

To complete the major, a student must:

  1. Pass two of the introductory government courses in the subfields of American Government (AM), Comparative Politics (CP), Political Theory (PT), and International Relations (IR) (GOVT 1111GOVT 1313GOVT 1615GOVT 1616GOVT 1817)
  2. Accumulate an additional 30 credits of government course work, of which only one course can be at the introductory (1000) level. First-Year Writing Seminars can NOT be used.
  3. Complete at least one seminar-style course at the 4000 level in Government, which can be applied toward the 30-credit requirement above. This course must (a) be taught by a Government faculty member; (b) yield 4 credits; (c) have no more than 15 students; (d) be taken for letter grade; and (e) have a substantial writing or project component, unless an exception to these requirements is announced by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Cornell-in-Washington seminars will satisfy this requirement if they are taught by a Government faculty member and yield 4 credits. First-Year Writing Seminars can NOT be used.
  4. There must be at least 1 course taken in 3 of the 4 subfields of the study of political science: American Government, Comparative Politics, Political Theory, International Relations.


  • All courses used to fulfill Government Major Requirements must be passed with a letter grade of C minus or above.
  • Courses with S–U grades cannot be used toward the major.
  • First-Year Writing Seminars cannot be used towards the major.
  • Students may receive major credit for either GOVT 1615 or GOVT 1616, not both.
  • All government coursework applied for major credit must be taken with a government subject code (i.e., GOVT XXXX, not ASIAN XXXX)
  • No more than half the total credits can be taken outside of Cornell.

Sample classes

  • Sex, Power and Politics
  • Issues Behind the News
  • Racial and Ethnic Politics
  • Secession, Intervention and Just-War Theory


All information below is based on the 2022 First-Destination Survey. Lists are not exhaustive; rather, they are a sampling of the data. If you would like more information, please email

What can you do with a degree in Government? 

Graduate School:

In 2022, 30% of government students embarked on graduate school journeys. They pursued various advanced degrees, with 65% focusing on their JD, 13% working towards an MA, 6% dedicated to an MS, and more. Their graduate field interest ranges from law (65%) to Asian & East Asian studies (6%) and government & political science (6%).

These ambitious individuals have chosen to continue their education at prestigious institutions like American University, Georgetown University, the London School of Economics and Political Science, McGill University, and Yale University.


70% of government graduates secured employment, and the majority entered sectors in consulting/professional practice (23%) and law/legal services (14%). Deloitte Consulting and the New York County District Attorney’s Office were the top 2022 employers.

Where 2022 Government Graduates Work

Employer Job Titles
Arizona Democratic Coordinated Campaign Political Campaign Field Organizer
Broscious, Fischer, & Zaiter Legal Assistant
Lead for America Climate Fellow
New York County District Attorney's Office Paralegal
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP Litigation Paralegal
Proskauer Rose LLP Paralegal
United States Democracy Center Research Assistant
The Institute of International Law and Human Rights Research Assistant
United States Government Accountability Office Analyst
Warner Media News Associate
Weil, Gotshal, & Manges LLP Litigation Paralegal
Wigdor LLP Paralegal