Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Curriculum


There are three components to the IR Major.

  1. The core curriculum
  2. The electives in the major
  3. The senior thesis

All IR majors are required to complete a core-curriculum consisting of international relations theory, history, security, international economics, and research methods. In addition, IR majors are required to complete a series of electives in the major chosen from a list of courses approved by the IR program. Finally all IR majors are required to successfully complete an independent senior thesis project.


The INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS major totals 14 C.U. of instruction to include:

  • PSCI 150, Introduction to International Relations or INTR 200, Contending Theories of International Relations
  • INTR 350, "Praxis" Course (Research Methods in International Relations)
  • International History (Choose 2): HIST 395, HIST 420, HIST 421, HIST 331, HIST 451, HIST 159, HIST 160
  • ECON 50, International Economics or PSCI 152, International Political Economy 
    • Economics double-majors may wish to take ECON 251 and 252 to satisfy this requirement 
  • International Political Economy Elective (1 C.U.)
  • Foreign Policy / International Security-focused Elective (1 C.U.)
  • Five (5) Free Electives (5 C.U.)
    • From IR-Approved List of Courses, three or four of which are recommended to comprise a thematic or regional area of concentration. Please see advisor.
  • INTR 390, Senior Seminar for Thesis Research (Part I) and INTR 391, Senior Seminar for Thesis Research (Part II)
    • All IR majors enroll during their senior year in a two-semester seminar during which they develop an original thesis topic, review the relevant theory and method, then research and write a substantial thesis based on primary and secondary documentation.

Students must take at least one course unit among the above in non-Western politics, economics, history, or culture as listed on the IR approved course list.



The university graduates its students cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum luade according to its own standards. However, independent of College honors students may earn their BA "With Distinction in International Relations" by meeting certain requirements set by the International Relations Program, which are:

  • Minimum 3.60 GPA in the 14 courses (12 C.U. of coursework and 2 C.U. of senior thesis seminar) required for the major
  • A 3.50 GPA overall
  • Grade of "A" or "A-" on the senior thesis
    • This is the grade on the paper itself, and may be different from the grade you receive for your performance in the senior thesis seminar.
  • Attendance AND presentation at the annual IR student research conference for seniors
  • At least one (1) foreign language C.U. beyond the minimum College proficiency requirement, or otherwise demonstrated advanced proficiency in a non-native tongue
    • If clarification is needed, contact the IR Program

Honors status will be determined automatically by the Program upon completion of the senior thesis in the spring of your senior year. Those meeting the requirements will be notified of their status accordingly.



Students completing the International Relatinos Major will need a total of thiry-four (34) course units of earned credit, including College requirements, in order to graduate.



The courses relevant to International Relations are many and varied. Most courses approved as electives in the major are drawn from political science, history, and economics, but courses in other departments that have a clearly international dimension may also be approved. We urge all IR students to consult the list of approved courses for the coming semester prepared for you by the IR office during every pre-registration period.



Students may also petition to receive IR credit for Independent Study (IR 199/399) or graduate-level courses. Such course work must be done under the supervision of a professor, and students must demonstrate, with a syllabus and/or research essay, the relevance of the subject to their IR studies. Students with advanced foreign language skills are especially encouraged to make use of them in such independent or graduate-level courses.



As noted, all majors are required to take INTR 390 and INTR 391. This seminar is the "capstone experience" in the program, requiring students to submit a research essay on a topic of their own special interest. The Senior Seminar is conducted as a research seminar, emphasizing research design, application of theory, generation of data and other skills that are essential to the conduct of independent research by the student.



To achieve a minor in IR, a student must do passing work in six (6) courses. The International Relations minor requires completion of all the core courses listed above except the INTR350 Praxis and IPE elective requirements, as well as at least two other approved IR electives. Only one non-College course may be applied to the minor. These courses cannot be taken Pass/Fail, but can be double-counted for other majors. Minor students are recommended to complete ECON 1 & 2 prior to taking ECON 50, International Economics.

  1.  PSCI 150 or INTR 200
  2. International History (Choose 2): HIST 395, HIST 420, HIST 421, HIST 331, HIST 451, HIST 159, HIST 160. Refer to current Course List for term-by-term International History offerings.
  3. Econ 50 or PSCI 152 (Or ECON 251 / 252 for Economics majors)
  4. 2 Approved IR Electives

The application form for the IR minor is to download Minor Form.doc. Minor applications may be filed upon completion of the above courses. Please send completed applications to Mark Castillo,