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The major in International Studies offers students the opportunity to take a set of courses across disciplines to bring multiple methods and concepts together to address global problems. The major is rigorous and offers a balanced approach between disciplinary structure and depth and cross-disciplinary flexibility and breadth. Students create a curriculum from across the college and university aimed at developing broad understanding of the causes and effects of global challenges and potential redresses. The International Studies major aims to develop students’ skills in moving among different units of analysis and different approaches and methods to understand, analyze, and ultimately help solve contemporary global issues and challenges. 

International Studies students will be exposed to topics such as global health trends, human rights and refugees, cultural homogenization and hybridization, environmental and energy crises, terrorism, transnational social movements, immigration, and the spread of technology.

The major will draw on methods developed in specific disciplines such as economics, sociology, psychology, comparative literature, political science, anthropology, and history, and some methods emerging from cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary fields.

The International Studies major alone is a complete and well-rounded curriculum, but students often elect to pursue a double major, pairing an International Studies major with one in anthropology, economics, language study, environment, political science, or any other complementary field in which one might hope or expect to develop a globally-oriented career.

Students may also undertake a joint undergraduate degree program in business, architecture, art and design, engineering, or music while concurrently admitted to LSA and another U-M school or college.

Prerequisites to Declare the Major

  • INTLSTD 101 (Grade of C- or better)
  • Students declaring the Political Economy and Development sub-plan must complete ECON 101 with a grade of C or better.
  • Students must have started or completed 4th-term language proficiency.

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 34 credits. Students must earn C- or better in all required PICS courses. Language requirement courses are not included in the minimum 34 credits required for the major nor in the major GPA.

Language Requirement for the Major

Sixth-term proficiency in a language other than English must be satisfied through study of a language, though language courses do not count as credits toward the major. Because sixth-term proficiency in a language other than English is required, students should begin the language sequence early, and should have started or completed the fourth term proficiency or equivalent before they declare the major.

We believe that language study is a vital part of any liberal arts education, and that students who major in International Studies should be well prepared to work in environments overseas, or in companies or organizations that interact regularly with people from other countries. The PICS language requirement will not only be of benefit to the students in broadening their skills and their vision of the world, but will also be an important signal to employers or graduate admissions committees about how our students are well rounded and focused on the world and not just the United States. Please see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page for further information about the sixth-term language requirement.


International Studies majors must choose one sub-plan. The four sub-plans represent four different themes or areas of interest: International Security, Norms and Cooperation (ISNC)Political Economy and Development (PED), Comparative Culture and Identity (CCI), and Global Environment and Health (GEH). Students gain an ability to analyze historical and contemporary global trends in the following topics, and to compare experiences of nation-states and peoples across time and space. Requirements differ between sub-plans, so explore which path you want to pursue!