International Studies Major Requirements

(Also see Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree.)

Students considering a major in International Studies should begin introductory courses required of the major early in their college careers. Choices may include AS.180.101 Elements of Macroeconomics, AS.180.102 Elements of Microeconomics, the appropriate level of a foreign language, and one of the designated Gateway courses.

The international studies major is comprised of three main components:

  • Foreign language study
  • Courses in history, political science, and economics
  • A focus area of the student's choosing

In addition, students must earn a grade of C- or better in all courses applied towards major requirements and courses may not be taken satisfactory/unsatisfactory. Students must also complete at least 5 courses at the 300 level or higher within the history, political science, and/or economics components of the major. This excludes courses used to fulfill the language requirement and focus area.

Foreign Language

Foreign language proficiency through the second semester of the advanced/ third-year level is required. If students already have proficiency above the advanced/third-year level, they can choose either: Option (A), two semesters of upper-level literature or culture courses offered by the language departments and taught in the language of proficiency, or Option (B), take two semesters of another language. Waivers indicating advanced level/third-year language proficiency must be documented in the student's official academic record in order for a student to be eligible to complete Option A or B. To receive these waivers, students should contact the Center for Language Education or the Department of Modern Languages & Literatures to complete a proficiency exam.

Core Courses

Courses fulfilling the specific requirements below are listed on the International Studies website.

  • One Gateway course: AS.190.108 Contemporary International Politics, AS.190.111 Introduction to Global Studies , or AS.192.150 States, Regimes & Contentious Politics.
  • One course in international relations (POS-Tag INST-IR)
  • One course in American politics (POS-Tag INST-AP)
  • Two courses in comparative politics (POS-Tag INST-CP)
  • One course in political theory (POS-Tag INST-PT)
  • Five courses in global history (POS-Tag INST-GLOBAL).
  • Four courses in economics. Two courses must be AS.180.101 Elements of Macroeconomics and AS.180.102 Elements of Microeconomics. One course must be identified by the POS-Tag INST-ECON in the schedule of classes. The final course may be of the student's choosing from courses offered in the Economics Department at Johns Hopkins University. Both the Elements courses should be completed by the end of the sophomore year.

Focus Area Specialization

Every major in International Studies selects a specialization area, which consists of four courses within a coherent field of interest. Specialization fields may be organized in terms of area (e.g., Latin America, East Asia), theme (e.g., security studies, international economics), or language (e.g., Chinese, Spanish). These courses cannot be used to satisfy other requirements of the major.

Major Requirements

Foreign Language Study 1
Two courses beyond the intermediate level or, if proficient based on exam, two additional language courses6-10
Gateway Course
AS.190.108Contemporary International Politics3
or AS.190.111 Introduction to Global Studies
or AS.192.150 States, Regimes & Contentious Politics
Political Science Courses
One international relations course3
One American politics course3
Two comparative politics courses6
One political theory course3
Economics Courses
AS.180.101Elements of Macroeconomics3
AS.180.102Elements of Microeconomics3
One course3
One approved economics course 23
History Courses
Five global history courses 315
Focus Area
Four courses within a coherent field of interest12
Total Credits63-67

Languages that currently apply automatically are: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, HIndi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.  Students proficient in another language should speak to the program about whether that language will be allowed. American Sign Language is not accepted for the major.  


Approved economics courses are listed each semester on the International Studies website and can be identified by the POS-Tag INST-ECON in the schedule of classes.


Approved global history courses are listed each semester on the International Studies website and can be identified by the POS-Tag INST-GLOBAL in the schedule of classes.

Sample Plan of Study

Note: The plan below assumes the student begins language study at the Elements/First-Year level.  Not displayed on the plan below is the requirement that at least 5 courses be taken at the 300 level or higher within the history, political science, and/or economics components of the major. This excludes courses used to fulfill the language requirement and focus area.

First Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
AS.190.108 (or other Gateway course)3Foreign language4
History course (INST-GLOBAL)3Comparative politics (INST-CP) course3
Foreign language4 
 13 10
Second Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
Foreign language3Foreign language3
International relations (INST-IR) course3Political theory (INST-PT) course3 Economics course3Focus area course3
History course (INST-GLOBAL)3 
 12 9
Third Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
Foreign language3Foreign language3
American politics (INST-AP) course3Comparative politics (INST-CP) course3
History course (INST-GLOBAL)3Economics course (INST-ECON)3
 9 9
Fourth Year
First SemesterCreditsSecond SemesterCredits
Focus area course3Focus area course3
Focus area course3History course (INST-GLOBAL)3
History course (INST-GLOBAL)3 
 9 6
Total Credits 77

Double-Major and Major-Minor Programs

Students may pursue one of International Studies’ unique double-major or major-minor programs. These are offered in conjunction with affiliated departments and allow students to concentrate their course of study within a specific department or program while simultaneously benefiting from the interdisciplinary training offered by the International Studies major.

Students pursuing a double-major program will receive a major in International Studies as well as a major in 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 will have a faculty advisor from the affiliated department or program as well as an advisor in International Studies.

Students pursuing a major-minor program will receive a major in International Studies and a minor in the affiliated department or program (e.g., students pursuing the Global Italy track will receive a minor in Italian Studies) and benefit from a faculty advisor in the affiliated department or program.

Successful completion of an approved double-major or major-minor program will satisfy the International Studies major's focus area requirement.

Senior Thesis

International Studies majors also have the opportunity to write a senior thesis. A senior thesis is an extended original research project written under the supervision of a faculty advisor during the student’s 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. Theses nominated by the student's thesis advisor will be considered for the Robert Tucker Prize for Best Thesis in International Studies.

Honors in the Major

Departmental honors will be awarded to students who have a major GPA in the top 20% of the International Studies graduating class, regardless of whether they have written a senior thesis. 

Study Abroad

Studying abroad is especially valuable for International Studies majors. JHU encourages all IS majors to spend one or both semesters of their junior year abroad. International Studies sponsors a number of study abroad programs designed for IS majors and administers them in collaboration with the Global Education Office.

The Junior Year or Semester Abroad at SAIS Europe, offered through the Bologna, Italy campus of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), allows motivated International Studies majors to spend all or part of their junior year taking graduate level classes. Students who spend their junior year or a semester in Bologna, and subsequently apply for graduate studies at SAIS, will receive advanced credit at SAIS for part of their work.

A similar exchange program with the French political science institute Sciences Po allows students to spend a semester or a year studying at one of Sciences Po’s seven regional campuses: Paris, Menton, Reims, Poitiers, Le Havre, Nancy, or Dijon. One of Europe’s most prestigious universities, Sciences Po has a strong international focus and allows students to develop a cross-cultural and transatlantic perspective, while simultaneously offering unique access to the field of international affairs.  Courses are offered in English as well as French and thus are open to students regardless of their knowledge of French.

Additionally, the Global Education Office offers a wide range of study abroad opportunities across the globe tailored to students' specific interests.

BA/MA Programs for International Studies Majors

The International Studies Program offers two BA/MA options for its undergraduates, one with the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington, DC and the other at the renowned French political science institute Sciences Po in Paris.  Admission to both programs is based on strong academic performance, a high level of maturity, and a demonstrated interest in international affairs.  See the program page for more information.