Carnegie Mellon University

Bachelor of Science in International Relations and Politics

Offered through the Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS), the International Relations and Politics (IRP) major analyzes the role of politics at the national, regional, international, and transnational levels; examines political and institutional arrangements within and among these levels; and investigates the grand strategy of nation-states.

International Relations and Politics is available as a primary major, additional major, and minor.

Offered through the Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS), the International Relations and Politics (IRP) major analyzes the role of politics at the national, regional, international, and transnational levels; examines political and institutional arrangements within and among these levels; and investigates the grand strategy of nation-states. Statesmen, scholars, and policy makers often define grand strategy as the combination of diplomatic, economic, military, and political factors used by leaders to defend their respective nation-states.

The IRP major investigates the way in which leaders and citizens construct grand strategy and national security policy more generally; the impact of domestic and international forces on states’ security and economic policies; and the significance of alliances, coalitions, and international institutions for world politics.Although the study of grand strategy and political institutions is the flagship initiative of the major, students are also able to study the effects of culture, economics, and society on the international system through a rich set of elective courses. 

Thinking systematically about international and domestic politics is the core objective of the IRP major. To this end, the major has prerequisites in mathematics and statistics that help to sharpen students’ ability to undertake scientific analysis in the required substantive and historical courses. The major is rooted in the discipline of political science but also utilizes the interdisciplinary strengths of decision science, economics, and political history. Thus, students pursuing this major will use the analytic tools of game theory, economic and statistical analysis, qualitative analysis, rational choice theory, and theories of behavioral decision making as they study alliances, coalitions, institutions, and political strategy.

The name of the major signifies that those studying IRP learn about international relations and domestic politics from the standpoint of the discipline of political science. Also, the major taps into and contributes to CMU’s strengths in other social sciences that combine analytical and empirical methods. IRP has recently launched an innovative initiative to incorporate decision science in international relations. It enables students to apply the burgeoning science of judgment and decision making to understanding political actors’ strategies and foibles, the strengths and weaknesses of formal methods of policy analysis (e.g., cost, risk, benefit, analysis), and the factors shaping public responses to politics and policies. 

Recognizing the influence of language and culture on politics, students are required to complete the intermediate (200) level, or its equivalent, in a modern language other than English. Advanced-level study is strongly encouraged. 

Open to all Carnegie Mellon undergraduates, the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP) allows students to study public policy and intern in Washington for one semester. Courses taken through CMU/WSP will count toward the elective sequence in public policy for IRP majors.  

Students’ understanding of politics is further informed by courses and colloquia offered by CMU’s top-ranked departments, divisions, and schools in business, computer science, and engineering. 

IRP majors interested in developing their research skills are encouraged to apply for a research position with the Center for International Relations and Politics or work directly with a member of the IPS faculty. Students are also encouraged to join student organizations focused on domestic or international politics. Becoming involved in the Institute for Politics and Strategy, as well as attending lectures and events sponsored by the Center for International Relations and Politics will provide additional opportunities for students. 

Double Counting: Students may double count a maximum of four courses with another major or minor. 


All International Relations and Politics majors should complete prerequisites by the end of the sophomore year.

Mathematics:  21-111 Calculus I AND 21-112 Calculus II OR  21-120 Differential and Integral Calculus
Statistics:  36-200 Reasoning with Data

Core Courses

  • 84-104                   Decision Processes in American Political Institutions
  • 84-250                   Writing for Political Science and Policy*
  • 84-265                   Political Science Research Methods
  • 84-275                   Comparative Politics
  • 84-326                   Theories of International Relations
  • 84-369                   Decision Science for International Relations**
  • 84-450                   Policy Forum
  • 36-202                   Methods for Statistics and Data Science
  • Economics- students must take one of the following:
    • 84-110                   Foundations of Political Economy***
    • 73-102                   Principles of Microeconomics

*Beginning with the 2018 undergraduate catalog, students are required to take this core course.  For students following a prior catalog, this course will count as an IPS elective for the major.

**Beginning with the 2017 undergraduate catalog, students are required to take this as a core course. For students following a prior catalog, this course will count as an IPS elective for the major.

***New course offering beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year.

Language Requirement

Students are required to complete the intermediate (200) level or the equivalent in a modern language other than English. Advanced level study is strongly encouraged. Students who successfully pass a language placement exam on campus, at the intermediate II level or higher, will be required to take an advanced language course to satisfy the language requirement.


International Relations and Politics students will either:

Option 1) take 45 units (five courses) from the elective lists below. At least three courses (27 units) must be from the Institute for Politics and Strategy (84-xxx). Most courses listed below are 9-unit courses, but some are fewer. When courses offered for fewer than 9 units are chosen, students should note that a minimum of 45 units is required, and should plan to take one or more additional courses as appropriate.


Option 2) complete or the majority of their electives via the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program (CMU/WSP) Public Policy elective sequence. Any elective units not fulfilled during CMU/WSP may be completed through coursework from the Institute for Politics and Strategy (84-xxx) elective list.

The Washington Semester Program (CMUWSP) Public Policy Elective Sequence includes:

  • Policy Forum (12 units) - This course will count as the Policy Forum (84-450) Core Course Requirement.
  • Internship Seminar 84-360 CMU/WSP: Internship Seminar (12 units)
  • CMU/WSP Elective Seminars (24 units total)

A list of CMU/WSP Elective Seminars may be found in the Public Policy Elective list below.

Grand Strategy and Political Institutions

66-221    Topics of Law: Introduction to Intellectual Property Law
79-203    Social and Political Change in 20th Century Central and Eastern Europe
79-298    Mobile Phones & Social Media in Development & Human Rights: A Critical Appraisal
79-301    History of Surveillance: From the Plantation to Edward Snowden
79-302    Killer Robots: The Ethics, Law, and Politics of Lethal Autonomous Weapons System
80-135    Introduction to Political Philosophy
80-321    Causation, Law, and Social Policy
80-335    Social and Political Philosophy
84-309    Political Behavior
84-319    U.S. Foreign Policy and Interventions in World Affairs
84-320    Domestic Politics and International Affairs
84-321    Autocrats and Democrats
84-322    Nonviolent Conflict and Revolution
84-323    War and Peace in the Middle East
84-324    The Future of Democracy
84-325   Contemporary American Foreign Policy
84-362    Diplomacy and Statecraft
84-363    Comparative Legal Systems
84-364    Comparative Presidential Behavior: Leadership, Personality, and Decision Making
84-366    US Presidential Politics
84-370   Global Nuclear Politics
84-372   Space and National Security
84-373   Emerging Technologies and the Law
84-380    Grand Strategy in the United States
84-386    The Privatization of Force
84-387    Technology and Policy of Cyber War
84-388    Concepts of War and Cyber War
84-389    Terrorism and Insurgency
84-390   Social Media, Technology, and Conflict
84-393    Legislative Decision Making: US Congress
84-402    Judicial Politics and Behavior
84-405    Future of Warfare
84-414    International and Subnational Security
88-281    Topics in Law: 1st Amendment
88-284    Topics of Law: The Bill of Rights

Economics and Society

19-441   Global Competitiveness: Firms, Nations and Technological Change
19-452    EPP Projects
70-342    Managing Across Cultures
70-365    International Trade and International Law
70-430    International Management
73-103    Principles of Macroeconomics
73-148    Environmental Economics
73-328    Health Economics
73-331    Political Economy of Inequality and Redistribution
73-394    Development Economics
79-386    Entrepreneurs in Africa, Past, Present and Future
80-136    Social Structure, Public Policy & Ethics
80-244    Environmental Ethics
80-249   AI, Humanity, and Society
80-348    Health Development and Human Rights
80-447    Global Justice
84-310    International Political Economy
84-311    International Development: Theory and Praxis
84-312    Gender and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa
84-313    International Organizations and Law
84-315    Contemporary Debates in Human Rights
84-318   Politics of Developing Nations
88-411    Rise of the Asian Economies
88-412    Energy, Climate Change, and Economic Growth in the 21st Century
88-430    Methods of Policy Analysis: International Policy

International Cultures

76-318    Communicating in the Global Marketplace
76-386    Language & Culture
79-205    20th/21st Century Europe
79-221    Development and Democracy in Latin America
79-222    Between Revolutions: The Development of Modern Latin America
79-223    Mexico: From the Aztec Empire to the Drug War
79-224    Mayan America
79-227    African History: Height of Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade to the End of Apartheid
79-229    Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1880-1948
79-230    Arab-Israeli Conflict and Peace Process since 1948
79-233    The United States and the Middle East since 1945
79-256    20th Century Germany
79-257    Germany and the Second World War
79-259    France During World War II
79-262    Modern China: From the Birth of Mao ... to Now
79-264    Tibet and China: History and Propaganda
79-265    Russian History: From the First to the Last Tsar
79-266    Russian History: From Communism to Capitalism
79-267    The Soviet Union in World War II: Military, Political, and Social History
79-275    Introduction to Global Studies
79-288    Bananas, Baseball, and Borders: Latin America and the United States
79-291    Globalization in East African History
79-307    Religion and Politics in the Middle East
79-313   "Unwanted": Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Patterns of Global Migration
79-314    The Politics and Culture of Memory
79-318    Sustainable Social Change: History and Practice
79-320    Women, Politics, and Protest
79-338    History of Education in America
79-342    Introduction to Science and Technology Studies
79-343   Education, Democracy, and Civil Rights
79-377    Food, Culture, and Power: A History of Eating
79-381    Energy and Empire: How Fossil Fuels Changed the World
79-385    The Making of the African Diaspora
79-398    Documenting the 1967 Arab-Israeli War
85-375    Crosscultural Psychology
300 or 400- level language course

CMU/WSP Public Policy Elective Seminars
84-330    The Shading of Democracy: The Influence of Race on American Politics
84-331    Money, Media, and the Power of Data in Decisionmaking
84-332    Effects of US Policy on Businesses: Perspectives of Asian Americans
84-333    Power and Levers for Change in Washington, DC
84-334    Presidential Power in a Constitutional System
84-336    Implementing Public Policy: From Good Idea To Reality
84-337    Biomedical Science Research, Policy, and Governance
84-343    Language and Power: How to Understand and Use Political Speech
84-346    Legal Issues in Public Administration
84-348    Advocacy, Policy and Practice