Undergraduate Program

FAQs

Why should I choose Government as my concentration?
What can I do with a degree in Government?
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?
As a freshman, am I allowed to take 1000-level Gov courses?
I want to change my concentration to Government. How can I do that?
Who is my adviser in the department?
What are the other advising resources 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?
What’s the best way to approach a professor?
How can I learn about Research Assistant/internship positions?
Can I double-count Gen Ed and concentration requirements?
Does Government allow its concentrators to study abroad?
Can I take a subfield requirement pass/fail?
Which courses count for the subfield requirements?
Which courses count for the Political Theory subfield?
Which cross-listed courses count for subfield and/or elective credit in Gov?
How do I cross-register for a course at the Kennedy School, and does it count for Government Credit?
Can I get Gov elective or related field credit for an Accounting class I’m taking at MIT?
Can I get credit for Government Courses taken at Harvard Summer School?
Can I get credit for the AP Exam in political science?
If I am doing Government as a Secondary Field, how many Gov courses can I double-count with other requirements?
If I take the first half of Social Studies 10, can that count for a Gov course?

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, and prepare you to be a cognizant and responsible citizen in our rapidly changing world.  Its nearly universal applicability to different fields ensures that concentrating in Government will provide you with a base of knowledge and skills that will serve you well in whatever endeavor you choose after graduation.

Back to top

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 resource for information on careers, internships, and fellowships.

Back to top

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 tenured faculty in the Government Department who do research in the area. Students can and often do similar work in both Gov and Social Studies, but Social Studies has a relatively greater emphasis on social theory and interdisciplinary research. A Social Studies concentrator is expected to take the initiative, in consultation with Social Studies advisers, in designing his or her own coherent plan of study that is organized around a "focus field" and culminates in a relevant senior thesis. Thus Social Studies students often have a particular issue or problem that anchors their studies from sophomore through senior year.. By contrast, Gov concentrators are free to count for their concentration requirements any Government courses that interest them. While some have very specific interests in a subfield or area of political science, some pursue several distinct “foci” (for example political philosophy and Middle Eastern politics, or American presidential politics and the political economy of development).

Back to top

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. In particular, Gabriel Katsh is the Freshman Outreach Concentration Adviser.  The Peer Concentration Counselors (PCCs), who are undergraduate Government concentrators, are also happy to talk to freshmen or potential concentrators.  The Coordinator of Undergraduate Studies (Karen Kaletka), the Student Services Staff Assistant (Tricia Vio), and the Director of Undergraduate Studies (Prof. Cheryl Welch) can also answer many of your questions about the concentration. Please do not hesitate to contact us, either by dropping by the office at 1737 Cambridge Street, or via email or phone 5-3249.

Back to top

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.

Back to top


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 online Change of Concentration form and sign it for you. All Government classes you’ve taken can apply to the concentration requirements (with the exception of Gov 91r). If you want to get Gov credit for a non-Gov class (e.g. for Social Studies Tutorials), you will need to contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cheryl Welch, for approval. You will also need to fill out the General Education section of the form and have it signed by your Resident Dean.

Back to top

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.  His or her office hours, held in-House, will be posted on the Undergraduate website.

Although your assigned CA is your “official” adviser, any CA will be happy to help you, and CAs are especially interested in talking with first-years about the concentration.

During the second semester of your sophomore year, you will be advised primarily by your Sophomore Tutorial (Gov 97) Teaching Fellow. Your CA will serve as a “back-up” adviser, and will become your primary adviser for your junior and senior years.

Back to top

What are the other advising resources in the department?
In addition to the CAs, we are always happy to talk to you in the Undergraduate Program Office in CGIS, where you can make an appointment with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and/or speak with the Coordinator for Undergraduate Studies or the Student Services Staff Assistant. The Peer Concentration Counselors can also give you an insider’s perspective on the concentration.  

Back to top

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 honors determination.

Back to top

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 that they are disappointed that more students don’t visit them during office hours and that they would welcome talking to undergrads, so if you do make the effort, you will probably be met with enthusiasm by the faculty member.

When you do meet with him or her, make sure you are prepared for the meeting – discuss what you want to research, why you want to work with the professor, or what advice you are soliciting and for what purpose. If you need some guidance on approaching a professor, you can talk to a staff member of the Undergraduate Program Office, particularly a CA.

In addition, during your sophomore year you will meet with a faculty member for a “faculty conversation.” The Undergraduate Office will match you with a faculty member based on your responses to the Sophomore “Statement of Interests," which you will fill out with the help of your Gov 97 TF. This informal conversation may provide you with an entrée to working with a faculty member, or meeting other faculty who share your interests.

Back to top

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 and Student Employment Office (SEO) also publicize these opportunities.

If you are interested in doing research for academic credit, you should consider taking a Gov 92r, Faculty Research Assistantship for Credit. These opportunities will be publicized before the beginning of each semester, and allow you to participate in a guided research project with a Government faculty member.

Back to top

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. In addition, a number of Gen Ed courses count as related field courses for the Classes of 2013 and 2014 if they are cross-listed in that field's section of the catalogue (for instance, a United States in the World course that is cross-listed in the History Department will count for related field credit). See the Courses in Related Fields webpage for more information.

Back to top

Does Government allow its concentrators to study abroad?
Since we are so flexible with related fields, and because many of the programs Harvard offers or approves of are government related, it is extremely easy to study abroad as a Government Concentrator. See the Study Abroad webpage for more details.

Back to top

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 are not using it to fulfill the Gov 94 requirement (note that these petitions are not always approved, since some seminars are interdisciplinary).

For more information see How to Fulfill the Subfield Requirement in Government.

Back to top


Can I take a subfield requirement pass/fail?
No. You must take the subfield requirements for a letter grade.

Back to top

Which courses count for the Political Theory subfield?
Gov 10 and the courses under the section called Political Thought and Its History (course numbers 1030-1099 and 2030-2099) count for the Political Theory requirement. Courses under the section called Political Methodology and Formal Theory (course numbers 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 22, Justice, 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.

Back to top

Which cross-listed courses count for subfield and/or elective credit in Gov?
Any cross-listed course printed in the catalog under the subfields of American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations count for Gov elective credit.  The only cross-listed courses that may count for subfield credit are those taught by Government faculty.

Back to top
 
How do I cross-register for a course at the Kennedy School, and does it count for Government Credit?
Starting in AY 2013-13, there will be 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 courses are not letter-graded and cannot be petitioned for Government credit.

Back to top

Can I get Gov elective or related field credit for an Accounting class I’m taking at MIT?
No, we do not accept these classes for Gov elective or related field credit.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

Can I get credit for the AP Exam in political science?
No. However, Advanced Standing students in the Classes of 2013 and 2014 who received a score of 5 on the AP examination in American or European history can receive credit for one half-course in History as a related field if they graduate in 3 years. If you choose to stay four years, your AP credit will not count and you must take an additional related field course.

Back to top

If I am doing Government as a Secondary Field, how many Gov courses can I double-count with other requirements?
You are limited to counting only one course for your Secondary Field and your primary concentration.  However, you may double-count more than one Secondary Field course with other programs, such as Gen Ed or language citations.  See the Secondary Fields website for more information.

Back to top

If I take the first half of Social Studies 10, can that count for a Gov course?
If you take Social Studies 10a, it may count as one Gov elective, but not for a subfield requirement. If you take BOTH Social Studies 10a and Social Studies 10b, you may count those courses together as either the equivalent of Gov 97 OR for the subfield requirement in political theory, but not both.

Back to top

Have a question that’s not answered here?  Contact us.

Thank you to Ivana Djak ’11 and Gabriel Katsh for their help in revising these FAQs.

Print Friendly and PDF