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Learning Goals | Major Requirements | Honors and Thesis | Degree Audit Checklist | BA/MA Degrees

In pursuing a BA in International Studies, students develop an understanding of international political, economic, historical and cultural questions from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. In choosing their courses, students are able to take advantage of this multi-disciplinary approach and develop their own interests within the broader field of international studies.

International Studies Learning Goals

Upon graduating with a BA degree in International Studies, students will have:

(1) attained knowledge across a broad spectrum of academic fields, including political science, history, economics, anthropology, and sociology.

(2) gained a deeper understanding of a specific academic area of interest via a chosen specialized track, focus area, or concentration

(3) acquired proficiency  in one foreign language via at least 6 credits of study beyond the intermediate level

(4) had the opportunity to study abroad in their country of interest, either through direct enrollment in a foreign university or via a third-party program

(5) had the opportunity to further explore their academic interests in greater depth through a senior thesis, a substantial independent research project written under the supervision of a faculty advisor in the students’ department of interest

Major Requirements

In addition to the coursework necessary to complete the International Studies Major, students are expected to fulfill the general distribution requirements set forth by the University. Students should consult with Dr. Ruth Aranow at the Office of Academic Advising for questions regarding these requirements.

Political Science Requirements

IS students must complete 18 credits in political science, including one of the following gateway courses:

  • Contemporary International Politics (190.209),
  • International Politics (190.213), or
  • Introduction to Comparative Politics (190.260)

Learn more about these requirements and see a list of approved courses.

Economics Requirements

IS students must complete 12 credits in economics, including:

  • Elements of Macroeconomics (180.101),
  • Elements of Microeconomics (180.102),
  • An additional economics course with an international focus.This requirement can sometimes be completed via study abroad.
  • A fourth course of the students' choice, taken in the Economics Department at Johns Hopkins University.

Learn more about these requirements and see a list of approved courses.

Foreign Language Requirements

Proficiency in at least one foreign language. Proficiency may be demonstrated by completing two semesters (6 credits) of coursework beyond the intermediate level. Note that courses at the intermediate level may be used for distribution requirements. If you are already proficient in a foreign language, a proficiency test as well as two semesters (6 credits) of either a) an upper level class taught entirely in that language, or b) two semesters of a new foreign language will be required.

See our language course page.

History Requirements

IS students must complete 15 credits in history. Three of these courses must be non-Western History courses. Up to two courses may be taken outside the History Department, provided that the student first secures permission from the Associate Director. Two out of the five required courses must be at the 300-level.

Note: Historically-oriented political science courses, history of art, history of science and ROTC courses cannot be counted towards this requirement.

Learn more about these requirements and see a list of approved courses.

Specialization Requirements

To narrow an inevitably broad focus in International Studies, students are required to pursue a specialization in an internationally-oriented field. To complete the specialization, students may:

1) Pursue one of our unique tracks or focus areas. These brand-new tracks and focus areas are offered in conjunction with affiliated departments, and allow students to gain an in-depth specialization within a specific department or program, while simultaneously benefiting from the interdisciplinary training offered by the International Studies major. 

Students pursuing a track will receive a double major in International Studies and the affiliated department or program (for example, students pursuing the Global Social Change and Development track will receive a double major in International Studies and Sociology). The student's faculty advisor will be a faculty member from the affiliated department or program.

Students pursuing a focus area will receive a major in International Studies and a minor in the affiliated department or program (for example, students pursuing the Global Modernity and the Jewish Experience focus area will receive a minor in Jewish Studies) and benefit from a faculty advisor in the affiliated department or program.

Learn more about our current tracks or focus areas. International Studies is planning to launch additional tracks and focus areas within the next academic year.

2) Students may create their own concentration reflecting a coherent combination of coursework equivalent to four semester courses (12 credits).

Specializations may include:

  • A language beyond that used to fulfill the major's language requirement;
  • A functional specialization (e.g. international security, foreign policy, or international environmental policy); or
  • A regional or area focus (e.g. Latin America, the Middle East).

Concentrations are to be developed according to the student's evolving interest in international studies. The four courses may be drawn from those already being used toward other major requirements, the requirements of another major or a minor, or university distribution requirements. Two of the courses should be 300+ level courses.

Proposed concentrations should be discussed, as early as possible, with the Associate Director or a faculty advisor.

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Honors Information

In order to graduate with honors in International Studies, students must have a GPA in the major of 3.7 or higher and they must complete a senior thesis. First semester freshman grades do not count towards the GPA calculation for honors.

Students are required to complete the:

1. Honors Clearance form

2. Honors GPA form

These forms should be brought, together with a transcript, to Associate Director Julia Galan for a signature. Students are then responsible for submitting the signed forms to the Office of Academic Advising.

Please see below for information on the senior thesis.

Senior Thesis

A senior thesis is an extended original research project written under the supervision of a faculty advisor during your senior year. Thesis projects are best suited for students who have an interest in exploring a specific question and/or a field of knowledge beyond their previous course work. Students may complete a senior thesis regardless of GPA. However, in order to graduate with honors in International Studies, the senior thesis is a requirement.

Steps to complete a senior thesis:

  • Find a topic of interest.
  • Find a faculty member who would be willing to supervise the thesis. Students may choose a faculty member from any department affiliated with the International Studies Program.
  • Register for an Independent Study with the faculty adviser in the Fall semester.
  • In the Spring semester, register for 190.499 (Senior Thesis: IR/Pol Sci) if the faculty adviser feels that sufficient progress has been made.

Refer to the Senior Thesis Information document for more details and advice on writing a thesis.

Senior Thesis Independent Study Course Numbers

Fall190.541 or equivalent

During the fall semester, each professor will have a specific section number. Registering for the Independent Study may require a visit to the Registrar for a paper form.

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Degree Audit Checklist

Complete the checklist form for Junior Clearance and to keep track of your major requirements.

Degree audit for Class of 2016 and earlier

Degree audit for Class of 2017 and later


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BA/MA Degree Programs

For students with a clear intent to pursue an MA in International Studies after graduation from Hopkins, the University offers two BA/MA joint programs, one with the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and one with Sciences Po Paris (Institut d'etudes politiques de Paris).For more information about these programs, please consult the Associate Director, Julia Galan.

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