FAQs

Why should I choose Government as my concentration?

Government incorporates the combined knowledge and methodology of several disciplines – history, economics, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, among others – and applies them to the study of politics.  The discipline has porous boundaries, and is therefore an extremely flexible concentration.  It allows you to decide the direction of your studies according to your inclinations and interests: globalization, human rights, the U.S. Presidency, war and terrorism, area studies, political philosophy.  Additionally, the study of Government will develop your writing and analytical abilities, Read more about Why should I choose Government as my concentration?

What can I do with a degree in Government?

Government graduates pursue work in graduate school (Master’s and Ph.D. programs), professional school (law, business), and the business, education, and non-profit worlds. Faculty and Staff in the Undergraduate Program Office and Concentration Advisers in the Houses are happy to talk to you about educational and professional opportunities for Government concentrators. The Office of Career Services is an excellent Read more about What can I do with a degree in Government?

What’s the difference between Government and Social Studies?

The main difference between Government and Social Studies is that Social Studies requires a thesis, while Government does not.  Beyond that, you should think about how you want to approach your studies. The sophomore year looks quite different. In Social Studies, students take two semesters of Social Studies 10, a course focused on the texts of social science “greats.” In Government, students take Gov 97 in the spring of the sophomore year, a challenging course providing theoretical perspectives on “democracy” and introducing students both to ways of practicing “political science” and to Read more about What’s the difference between Government and Social Studies?

I’m a freshman interested in concentrating in Government. Is there anyone I can talk to about the concentration?

The Government department has many people you can talk to about the concentration.  Concentration Advisers in the Houses can offer you guidance in your choice of concentration, and can provide information about different subfields and course selection. The Peer Concentration Counselors (PCCs), who are undergraduate Government concentrators, are also happy to talk to freshmen or potential concentrators.  The Coordinator of Read more about I’m a freshman interested in concentrating in Government. Is there anyone I can talk to about the concentration?

As a freshman, am I allowed to take 1000-level Gov courses?

Yes. We recommend that freshmen take Foundational (Gov 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50) and/or 1000-level courses, as well as General Education courses taught by Government faculty. We generally do not recommend that freshmen take seminars, although it is possible for second-semester freshmen to enroll in a Gov 94 (Undergraduate Seminar) with the instructor’s permission.

I want to change my concentration to Government. How can I do that?

Come by the Government Undergraduate Program Office and talk to staff or the DUS about changing concentrations, or talk to one of the House Concentration Advisers. They can help you think about your reasons for changing your concentration, review your student record to see which classes can count for Government credit, and help you figure out which classes you will need to take. Once you’re sure you want to switch to Government, they can help you fill out an  Read more about I want to change my concentration to Government. How can I do that?

Who is my adviser in the department?

Every House has a designated Concentration Adviser (CA) who acts as the departmental adviser for Government concentrators in that House. In most cases, your CA will be the Government Resident Tutor in your House.  We make an effort to ensure that your CA stays in your House as long as possible, in the hope that you will have the same CA during your entire time at Harvard.  

Although your assigned CA is your “official” adviser, any CA will be happy to help you, and CAs are Read more about Who is my adviser in the department?

What is the benefit of taking a foundational course (Gov 10, 20, 30 or Gov 40) rather than a 1000-level course to fulfill the distribution requirement?

The foundational courses are designed to provide you with a firm grounding in the fundamental concepts and themes of the subfield. If you are unfamiliar with the subfield, or intend to study it in greater depth later, you may find it useful to take the foundational course rather than a 1000-level course in order to ensure that you have a good overview of the subject matter. This breadth of study will give you a firm base for upper-level work in the subfield, and will help you if you need to take oral exams for your final Read more about What is the benefit of taking a foundational course (Gov 10, 20, 30 or Gov 40) rather than a 1000-level course to fulfill the distribution requirement?

What’s the best way to approach a professor?

Professors hold office hours weekly, and welcome students. You may want to contact the professor beforehand to see if making an appointment is necessary (there is an online list of contact information for the faculty, including office hours). Many students are intimidated by the idea of approaching a professor. Remember that you must be proactive in establishing a relationship with a faculty member; the faculty member most likely does not have time to seek you out, and has many other students. Most faculty members, however, tell us Read more about What’s the best way to approach a professor?

How can I learn about Research Assistant/internship positions?

Research Assistantships and internships are publicized via the weekly “Events and Opportunities” email that is sent to Government concentrators, and on the bulletin board in the Undergraduate Program Office. If you are not yet a Government concentrator and would like to be added to this mailing list, please contact us and we will add you.  The OCS andStudent Employment Office (SEO) also publicize these opportunities.

If you are Read more about How can I learn about Research Assistant/internship positions?

Can I double-count Gen Ed and concentration requirements?

In general, cross-listed Gen Ed courses taught by Government faculty will count for elective concentration credit. The exception to this rule falls under the Political Theory requirement. The only Gen Ed courses that count for Theory credit are Ethical Reasoning classes taught by Government faculty. All other cross-listed courses under the Political Thought and Its History section will count for Gov elective credit only.  Gen Ed Courses for Gov Credit lists Gen Ed courses accepted for concentration credit. 

Which courses count for the subfield requirements?

For Foundational and 1000-level courses, subfields are organized by number as follows:

  • Gov 10 and 1030–1099: Political Thought and Its History
  • Gov 20 and 1100–1299: Comparative Government
  • Gov 30 and 1300–1599: American Government, Public Law, and Administration
  • Gov 40 and 1700–1999: International Relations

In addition, some Gen Ed courses taught by Government Faculty members may count for subfield credit. Finally, you may petition the DUS for subfield credit for a seminar if you Read more about Which courses count for the subfield requirements?

Which courses count for the Political Theory subfield?

Gov 10 and courses numbered 1030-1099 and 2030-2099 count for the Political Theory requirement. Courses numbered 1000-1029 and 2000-2029 DO NOT count for Theory credit.  In addition, certain Gen Ed courses taught by Government faculty (such as Ethical Reasoning 39, Money, Markets, and Morals, taught by Prof. Michael Sandel) and some undergraduate seminars count for Theory credit.  Please ask the Undergraduate office if you are in doubt about the status of a course for Gov Theory credit.

How do I cross-register for a course at the Kennedy School, and does it count for Government Credit?

There is a pre-approved list of Harvard Kennedy School courses for which Government concentrators will automatically receive Gov elective credit. However, the cross-registration form must still be signed by a member of the Undergraduate Program Office. Cross-registration forms are available at the Registrar and your house office. The form must be signed by the instructor of the course, the Government Undergraduate Office, and your Resident Dean.

Please note that Law School Read more about How do I cross-register for a course at the Kennedy School, and does it count for Government Credit?

Can I get credit for Government Courses taken at Harvard Summer School?

As a Harvard undergraduate, any course taken at Harvard Summer School will automatically appear on your transcript. If it is a Government course, it will count just as it would if taken during the year. For instance, if you take an American Politics course during the summer, that could count toward your American field requirement.  If you took a summer school course before you came to Harvard, you must petition to have it count for Harvard credit.  Please see your Resident Dean for details.