American Politics Major

The Statue of Liberty.

American Politics


To understand their obligation to support and defend the Constitution, AP majors examine the foundations and practice of American political power. Majors have a unique appreciation for the Constitution and the ideas of the Declaration of Independence and possess the skills required to assess the actions of government and the military’s role in its defense.

Offered by the Department of Social Sciences.

The American Politics (AP) program aims to make cadets adept at examining the sources, development, and mechanisms that inform the American approach to political power. Efficient action that achieves results in any domain – in boardrooms, military HQs, or legislatures - is informed and governed by understanding politics in its various forms. We invite AP cadets to be dynamic actors in any environment by understanding political and military power in the context and tradition of the American Political system.  

The central currency, and concern of the American Politics stem is domestic power and the uniquely American answer to controlling its political, electoral, bureaucratic, and military dimensions. Cadets receive a rigorous curriculum covering various methods to analyze, judge, and employ power and predict its consequences. Drawing on historical and normative foundations the stem aims to ground cadets in an inherited political tradition while exposing them to contemporary methods of political investigation using empirical methods to ensure a modern and informed citizen-soldier.  

This macro understanding of the governing institutions, processes, and actors that form the constitutional order enables cadets to see the ubiquity of politics, leadership, and decision-making in everyday life. This awareness allows AP majors to be keen observers of the mechanisms and processes that shape tangible results in any domain. In addition, cadets learn to appreciate the tremendous power military officers wield individually and in concert, and the relevant place this power plays in a democratic republic and in relation to its elected representatives. By the completion of this rigorous curriculum cadets will have a grounded understanding of the methods that social scientists use to examine questions in the political context of the American republic.

Have more questions about this major?

Are you interested in learning more about American Politics (AP)? Check out our links below for more detailed information on what it’s like to study American politics:

To graduate as an American politics major, cadets are required to take 13 elective courses in the major as well as 27 courses in the core. With a large pool of elective options, American politics majors have a lot of flexibility in charting their academic journeys to match their unique interests. 

This major offers an honors track. 

Required Tool Box Courses

All American politics majors are required to take five tool box courses. These classes provide the foundational skills you will use over the course of your academic journey in American politics.

  • SS360: Research Methods- sophomore (yearling) year
  • SS386: Political Thought - sophomore (yearling) / junior (cow) year
  • SS376: American Political Development - sophomore (yearling) / junior (cow) year
  • SS366: Comparative Politics - junior (cow) / senior (firstie) year
  • SS480: Public Policymaking - senior (firstie) year

American Politics Electives

American Politics majors choose four American politics electives from the below list of options. These electives are normally taken in the cadet's junior (cow) and senior (firstie) years.

  • SS370: Mass Media and American Politics
  • SS373: The American Presidency
  • SS379: Legislative Politics
  • SS392: The Politics of Race, Gender, and Sexuality
  • SS464: Homeland Security
  • SS465: Terrorism: New Challenges
  • SS466: Advanced Terrorism Studies
  • SS468: Political Participation
  • SS472: The Soldier and the State
  • SS473: American Foreign Policy
  • SS481: The Politics of Defense Policy
  • SS490A: Colloquium in American Politics*
  • SS493: Senior Studies in American Politics*

*SS490A and SS493 explore special topics in American politics and vary annually. Recent special topics classes have included “Music and Influence,” “African American Political Thought,” “Politics and the Internet,” and “Economics for Policymakers.”

International Affairs Elective

Cadets take one international affairs elective. This is normally taken in the cadet's junior (cow) or senior (firstie) year. Possible options include the following:

  • SS372: Politics and Government of China
  • SS375: Government and Politics of Russia and Neighbors
  • SS457: Introduction to Grand Strategy
  • SS476: Conflict and Negotiation
  • SS483: National Security Seminar
  • SS487: International Political Economy
  • And many more! Check the USMA Redbook for the most current list of international affairs electives.

Complementary Support Courses

AP cadets also choose three Complementary Support Courses (CSCs) in order to develop their academic breadth outside of the field of political science. These classes are normally taken in a cadet's Cow or Firstie year. Options include courses in the field of Economics, Psychology, Management, History, English, Geography, Law, and Mathematics, among others. 

For a list of possible CSC courses, please check the American Politics Major entry in the Redbook. Courses not on the list of CSCs in the Redbook may still qualify for credit.

Interested in the major but not sure how to build your academic program? Check out our links below for more detailed information on what it’s like to study American politics:

Cadets in this major can participate in the Domestic Affairs Forum where they learn about domestic politics and government through a variety of experiences including round tables, mentorship programs, panel discussions, and numerous trip sections across North America. 

Majors can also expect to meet expert guest speakers, to travel on exciting trip sections, and to have the opportunity to compete for Academic Individual Advanced Development (AIAD) program, USMA-run academic enrichment experience.. Recent AIAD locations include The White House, Congress, Pentagon, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Safety Council, and the New York Police Department Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Honor Societies:
Pi Sigma Alpha - National Political Science Honor Society
Golden Key - International Honour Society
Phi Kappa Phi - Oldest and Largest Collegiate Honor Society

To learn more about enrichment for this area of study, visit the Department of Social Sciences or the Combating Terrorism Center.