One of the most popular degree choices made by American college students, particularly at the undergraduate level, is political science. Political science degree programs can be found at most major college and university campuses and are also offered by online colleges. Additionally, a growing number of major postsecondary institutions are providing the very same online political science degree programs that are available at their brick-and-mortar locations. As a result, most employers today make no distinction between degrees earned online and those obtained at a traditional campus.
Political science, broadly defined, is the study of governments and their policies, as well as the processes, systems and behavior that surround them. Political science degree programs can be found at all degree levels, but a bachelor’s degree is generally considered to be a minimum requirement for entry-level employment in most related fields. In addition, a bachelor’s degree is required for political science students who wish to continue on to complete either a master’s or doctoral program. The following is a brief description of the political science degree programs most commonly found online:
Two key factors to consider when evaluating an online political science degree program are:
Whether a degree program is offered online or at a traditional campus, the importance of proper accreditation cannot be overstated. There are two principal forms of accreditation: institutional and programmatic (or specialized). Institutional accreditation is that which is given to an entire college or university. Institutional accreditation in the United States is evaluated by six regional agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Programmatic accreditation commonly refers to accreditation awarded to specific degree programs by professional associations and organizations. While a college or university may boast of a particular academic accreditation for its political science degree program, only institutional accreditation by a regional agency is essential; therefore, students should steer clear of any school, online or otherwise, lacking the proper regional accreditation.
Anyone considering a career that could be defined as falling under the broad category of political science would do well to seek out a quality Bachelor of Arts in Political Science degree program. However, as mentioned earlier, political science professionals typically choose an area of specialization by the time they are ready to pursue a postgraduate degree. Fortunately, distance learning colleges offer an abundance of master’s and doctoral degree programs with a range of specialized subjects. Individuals interested in an online postgraduate degree would be wise to decide on the specific area of employment they wish to enter and choose a degree program that best coincides with that employment field.
Specific online political science degree curriculum requirements will vary from program to program, but students should expect to complete courses in the following areas:
|Ancient, Modern and American Political Theory|
|Research Design and Data Collection|
|American National Government|
|The United States Constitution|
|Elements of Public Administration|
|World Political Systems|
Professional certifications are official designations earned by individuals to verify that they have demonstrated standard knowledge, skills, experience or expertise in a given area of their chosen profession. Unlike many career fields, however, professional certifications for political scientists are almost never required and, in fact, very few professional political science associations offer certification opportunities to their members. One professional association, the Academy of Certified Political Scientists and Certified Political Analysts (ACPA), does provide the following professional certifications in the political science field:
Requirements vary by specific designation, but in all cases certification requires the following:
Additionally, professional certifications in related fields (such as international relations, public administration, law, government, and teaching) may be available to political science professionals depending on a certification’s specific requirements.
Many colleges and universities now offer open online courses in political science. These courses are typically open to anyone interested in the subject, though some may have specific pre-requisites or requirements, and cover a wide range of relevant topics. Below are some examples of available open online political science courses:
This Cornell University open online course explores how economic development fueled the United States' evolution, from thirteen backwater colonies to a global power. This 8-week course is designed to help the student better understand how the nation became the world's leading economic power with lessons about what has been and what is possible in capitalism's on-going revolution.
This 13-lecture course presents a survey of American political thought from the colonial era to the present. Topics include the relationship between religion and politics, republicanism versus liberalism, and the role of ideas in politics. Required readings are drawn from the writings of politicians, activists and theorists.
International Politics in the Korean Peninsula introduces several archetypes of politics and introduces contemporary issues of the inter-Korean relationship. Issues discussed include the Korean Crisis of 2012, the arms race between the two Koreas, and the power succession and simultaneous build-up strategy of North Korea.
This 24-session class is intended as an introduction to political philosophy as seen through an examination of some of the major thinkers and texts of the Western political tradition. Class requirements include attendance and participation in weekly discussion groups, three short papers and completion of a final exam.
This 12-week course taught by Michael J. Sandel, Professor of Government, offers a critical analysis of classical contemporary theories of justice, including a discussion of present-day applications. Topics include affirmative action, income distribution, same-sex marriage, and the dilemmas of loyalty in public and private life.
Taught by Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science, this course explores the main answers to the question, "When do governments deserve our allegiance?" The course consists of 25 lectures covering topics such as origins of classic utilitarianism, Marx's theory of capitalism, distributive justice and the welfare state, and democracy and majority rule.
Through lectures, reading assignments and research projects, this course provides an introduction to a variety of empirical research methods used by political scientists. It is not a course in data analysis, but rather one on how to approach political science research.
This eight-week course examines the dangers and varieties of terrorism and assesses effective counterterrorist responses. Topics covered include the nuances involved in defining terrorism, counterterrorism and the rule of law, and the political context in South Asia and the Middle East.
The APSA Minority Fellows Program awards up to twelve stipend fellowships each year to minority or underrepresented students applying to enter a doctoral program in political science. A candidate must be a college or university senior or graduate, or currently enrolled in a master's program applying for doctoral study. Applicants must additionally demonstrate an interest in teaching and potential for research in political science.
Offered by the National Federation of Republican Women, the Betty Rendel Scholarship Fund awards three $1,000 scholarships annually to female undergraduates who are majoring in political science, government or economics, or who have completed at least two years of college course work. Recipients must be U.S. citizens and are chosen from applicants throughout the nation. Application requirements include three letters of recommendation and a one-page essay stating why the applicant should be considered for the award.
Sponsored by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Enid Griswold Memorial Scholarship is a one-time $1,000 award presented each year to a college junior or senior enrolled in an accredited United States college or university who is pursuing a major in either political science, economics, history or economics. A candidate must be a United States citizen to be eligible for this award.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation is dedicated to the support of graduate education and professional development of outstanding young people committed to public service leadership. The Foundation offers 55 to 65 annual scholarship awards in varying amounts, up to $30,000, to current full-time students pursuing a bachelor's degree who intend to continue on to obtain a graduate or professional degree in one of several political science-related fields.
Affiliated with both the APSA and Pi Sigma Alpha, the Howard Penniman Scholarships are $2,000 annual awards given to five members of the honor society entering graduate school in political science for the upcoming academic year. Along with an application, candidates must also submit a letter of nomination from a Pi Sigma Alpha Chapter Advisor, two letters of recommendation from college faculty members, and a statement from the candidate describing how graduate studies in political science relate to his or her career goals.
The James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation offers $24,000 fellowships to students interested in becoming teachers of the American Constitution on the secondary school level. Individuals entering the James Madison Fellowship Program are expected to complete a master's degree program in history, political science or one of a number of education-related fields. The applicant's proposed plan of graduate study should include substantial constitutional course work. Candidates must be U.S. citizens to be awarded this scholarship.
Presented by the George Washington Crossing Foundation (GWCF), this scholarship program is for students completing their final year of high school and planning careers in government service. The GWCF awards a variety of national and regional scholarships ranging in amounts from $500 to $5,000 for students pursuing a degree in a number of fields of study including political science. Applicants must submit a one-page essay on why he or she plans a career in government service.
The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Programs are sponsored through a collaboration between the U. S. Department of State and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. The program provides funding of up to $40,000 for the senior undergraduate year or first graduate year of a student interested in pursuing a career in the Foreign Service. Applicants should be studying in a program relevant to international affairs, such as political science.
Sponsored by the Energy Telecommunications & Electrical Association (ENTELEC), the Wayne V. Black Scholarship offers a $5,000 scholarship to one student annually who is pursuing a bachelor's degree in political science or in one of several other fields of study. Applicants must be a U.S. or Canadian citizen or permanent resident, and an entering freshman or full-time undergraduate student in good standing at an accredited college or university in the United States or Canada.
The Women In Defense (WID) is a national organization supporting the advancement and recognition of women in national security. Through its HORIZONS Scholarships program, the WID presents scholarships in varying amounts to college juniors and above studying in one of a number of subjects, including political science, and are planning careers in, or already employed in, the fields of defense or national security.