Degree and Major Requirements

Degree Requirements

Explore further requirements for your degree: Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of Science
See also: L&S Student Academic Affairs for more information on policies and resources in the College of Letters and Science.

General Major Requirements

Students must complete (or show good progress towards completing) the first two pre-requisites before declaring the major. Pre-requisite courses will not count towards the 35 credits in the major, but GPA accumulated from the pre-requisites will count toward the overall major GPA.  The IS Major offers three tracks. Students select one track in which they wish to specialize when they declare.  Please see the About page for further descriptions of our three tracks.

Click here to see IS Major 4-year sample plan.

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Tracks (Choose one upon declaration)

The IS Major has three tracks from which students can choose when they declare. Students may not declare multiple tracks at the same time, and must choose a track at the time of declaration.

Global Security: Causes and solutions to political crises, violent conflicts, and human rights challenges in interstate, transnational, and domestic settings.

Politics and Policy in the Global Economy: Why do we live in a world of haves and have-nots? Is it possible to “make poverty history” and, if so, how? This track offers a multidisciplinary survey of the key factors that shape the distribution of wealth and resources in our world. This includes institutions that govern international trade and transactions, different regimes of aid, development, and philanthropy, issues related to natural resource use and environmental problems, the interactions between states and markets, and the politics of alternative and non-market economies. The track offers both quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding the global economy drawing from a range of disciplines.

Culture in the Age of Globalization: How do global interactions shape culture?  How is culture shaped by global interactions? These are the fundamental questions we explore in this track. To ask these questions we think about culture as something that we do (as opposed to something that “is”)—we are constantly creating and re-creating culture through our practices, and those practices are often influenced by (or influence) the practices of people in other places. In this track you will have the opportunity to think about how people make meaning in their world and the ways in which group identities, boundaries and meanings are continually created, maintained and transformed, often through global interactions. Substantive topics include gender, social class, ethnicity, religion, music, art, film, media, literature, food, sports, language, migration, and nationalism, just to name a few. Our focus throughout is on the intercultural—the ways that systems of meaning interact within and across social and political boundaries in ways facilitated by transnational migration, new information technologies and global markets.

Introductory Requirements

  1. Introduction to International Studies: INTL ST 101
  2. Introduction to Economics- Choose one of the following four options:
    1. ECON 101: Introduction to Microeconomics and ECON 102: Introduction to Macroeconomics
    2. AAE 215: Introduction to Applied Economics and ECON 102: Introduction to Macroeconomics
    3. ECON 111 (accelerated, honors version of ECON 101 & ECON 102)
    4. POLI SCI 350: International Political Economy
  3. Fifth semester college-level foreign language course
    1. Based on reaching the 5th semester level of course. If you have previous language experience, you should first take a language placement exam. You might not need to start at the first semester level.
    2. For example, if you test into third semester French through the placement exam, you only need to take third, fourth and fifth semester French to fulfill the requirement.
    3. Please reach out to the IS Major Advising Team if you have any questions.

IS Major Coursework

Total Credits: 35
Minimum 2.0 GPA in the major
Minimum 2.0 GPA in 15 upper level credits in residence

Core Courses: These three courses focus on specialization in the major. Here you will begin to focus in your Option’s theme and become further exposed to one region in the world.

  • One Area Studies course: You will  be exposed to one region in the world.
  • Two Track Core courses: You will begin to focus in your Option’s theme. Please note that Track Core classes must be completed on campus at UW-Madison (cannot be taken abroad or transferred into UW-Madison).

Issues Courses: 15 Credits that focus on depth, providing exposure to the various issues encompassed in each Option.

Electives in the Major: These remaining 3-4 courses focus on breadth across the field of International Studies. Here you will gain some basic knowledge of issues outside of your specialty.  Select courses from any Options’ Issues list to bring your major coursework up to 35 credits.

Declaring the Major

There are several ways that you can declare the International Studies Major.  Before declaring the major, you need to attend an Introduction to the IS Major advising workshop and you need to show good progress towards completing the prerequisites for the major.  Students interested in declaring may do so at an Intro to the IS Major workshop or by scheduling an appointment with the Peer Advisor. The IS Major declaration form can be found online here:

Additional Requirements: Four Course Rule

Students are limited to counting a maximum of four courses from any one department toward their IS Major requirements. This rule excludes prerequisites. Students should be mindful of cross-listed departments, because the cross-listed departments also count toward the four-course rule. For example, IS 318 (cross-listed with Poli Sci) will count in the IS and in the Poli Sci groups. Please feel free to connect with an advisor if you have any questions about the four course rule.

Directed Study

Upper level students who are interested in a specific academic topic or are developing an independent research topic with a faculty member may be able to enroll in directed study courses. In order to do this, the student must meet with the IS Major advisor, have a clear plan of action, and fill out the directed study petition form.

Study Abroad Encouraged

While study abroad is not required, it is strongly encouraged. Checkour Study Abroad tab or the International Academic Program (IAP) website for more information. A total of 20 credits taken during study abroad can be counted towards requirements in the IS Major.