Careers for Political Science Majors

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Undergraduate and graduate students earning a political science degree analyze how and why governments work. Although many learners specialize in American government and politics, the field offers numerous specialization options, such as international relations and comparative politics. Degree-seekers also receive a rigorous liberal arts education emphasizing transferable skills.

Successful political science students typically possess an analytical mindset, curiosity, and the desire to improve the American political system. Political science careers require the ability to persuade and communicate effectively with voters, donors, and other stakeholders. Professionals in the field should feel comfortable juggling multiple responsibilities in an evolving work environment.

 
 

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Graduates of political science degree programs can pursue careers in industries including education, government service, and political fundraising. Some graduates secure positions outside the political science field, including roles as public relations specialists, social media managers, and attorneys. These and other positions may require additional training or education.

FAQ


  • What kinds of jobs do political science majors get?

    Graduates of political science programs often become policy analysts, legislative assistants, and political consultants. Workers interested in these political science careers may need a degree and significant professional experience.


  • What is the highest-paying job in political science?

    Many political science jobs feature high salaries. For example, political scientists and economists earn median salaries above $100,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).


  • What does a political scientist do?

    Political scientists research political systems, keep up to date with current events, and advise elected officials and other policy makers. These professionals can also work in academia, researching political history and trends.


  • What does a career in political science involve?

    Responsibilities vary based on the individual’s career and education level. Professors with a Ph.D. perform research and publish peer-reviewed articles. Bachelor’s degree-holders can work for nonprofits, marketing agencies, and the government.


Political Science Specializations



Many undergraduate and graduate political science programs offer specialization options. To obtain a specialization, students typically complete multiple upper-division courses in a political science subfield. Degree-seekers can choose a specialization to prepare for an advanced academic program or a specific career. Learners can work with a career or academic advisor to explore specialization options that align with their goals.

Colleges and universities may refer to specializations as concentrations, tracks, or certificates. Available specializations vary by school, but the list below features a few options common to many political science degree programs. Learners should consult an online curriculum guide or speak with an enrollment advisor to learn how their prospective program trains students for political science careers.


  • American Politics

    Students pursuing a concentration in American politics take courses in American politics and policy processes, law and public policy, and the problems of American politics. Learners examine the relationship between politics and the American experience. Degree-seekers analyze primary source documents and perform original research.

    Specializing in American politics helps learners develop transferable analytical, research, and writing skills. Graduates often secure positions advising political candidates and teaching at the secondary and postsecondary levels.


  • Comparative Politics

    This specialization covers the differences and similarities among various political systems. Degree-seekers take courses on topics such as East Asian security issues, environmental policy, and democracy and democratization. Learners explore the latest scholarships and examine challenges facing world governments.

    The political science field needs professionals trained in comparative politics, as changes in the international order affect the United States’ standing. Professionals in this specialization area advise elected officials on nations’ laws, economic challenges, internal divisions, and gender relations.


  • Prelaw

    Political science degree-seekers obtaining a prelaw specialization gain foundational skills and prepare for law school. Core coursework explores topics such as the judicial process, American constitutional law, and civil liberties. Degree-seekers typically customize their education by selecting electives.

    This concentration often appeals to aspiring lawyers interested in the intersection between politics and the law. Elected officials craft and define laws, while professionals in the legal system ensure that individuals who break those laws face justice.


What Are the Education Requirements for Political Science?



Colleges and universities may offer political science degrees at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. Admission and graduation requirements vary significantly among schools and programs. A learner’s program also impacts their career options. Career counselors can help students determine which degree will qualify them for certain political science jobs.


  • Associate

    Two-year associate programs feature both general education and major courses. Typical graduation requirements include coursework in comparative government and politics, political economy, and international relations and world politics. Students may also take electives such as principles of macroeconomics and law and society.

    Graduates of associate programs can transfer to bachelor’s programs or pursue entry-level jobs. Potential political science careers for graduates include positions as campaign staffers, political pollsters, and research assistants.


  • Bachelor's

    Students earning a bachelor’s in political science train to create and analyze public policy, apply effective communication skills in the workplace, and participate in government functions. Upper-division undergraduate courses cover topics such as comparative politics, global terrorism, and American foreign relations. Unlike associate programs, bachelor’s degree programs typically require a capstone course.

    A bachelor’s degree typically leads to more career opportunities than an associate degree. Bachelor’s degree-holders can become middle school and high school teachers. However, some positions require additional education or training.


  • Master's

    Political science master’s programs help learners develop the research skills necessary for doctoral studies and management positions. Many master’s programs feature a research course during the first semester. Degree-seekers may also take classes on political phenomena, politics in the lab, and quantitative methods.

    Students generally demonstrate mastery of program topics by writing a master’s thesis or completing a final project. Popular political science jobs for master’s degree-holders include political consultant, journalist, and postsecondary educator.


  • Doctorate

    Students preparing for careers in academia or political leadership often pursue a Ph.D. in political science. Doctoral programs typically require 4-5 years and feature coursework in research design, comparative politics, and the conduct of inquiry. Students hone research and writing skills, which they apply while completing their dissertation.

    Doctoral students work with one or more professors to select a dissertation topic, perform research, and write the dissertation. Degree-seekers defend their dissertation in front of a dissertation committee comprising faculty members.


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How Much Does a Political Science Degree Cost?

Graduate credits typically cost more than undergraduate credits. For the most affordable political science degree, prospective degree-seekers can consider attending a public in-state university. Public institutions typically charge state residents discounted tuition rates. However, prospective students should also consider each institution’s financial aid package when determining the overall affordability of a program.

In addition to tuition rates, college applicants should research applicable fees. Institutions often charge on-campus students facility and technology fees. Experiences such as internships and study-abroad trips may include additional fees. Some schools exempt online learners from specific fees.

Online learning may be more affordable, even if distance students pay the same tuition rates as on-campus learners. Online students often save on costs associated with on-campus housing, meal plans, and commuting. Learners with small children may also save on childcare costs.

Calculating the Cost of a College Degree



Learners preparing for a political science career can avoid debt by understanding their ability to pay for a degree. The following affordability calculator removes the guesswork and produces an answer in seconds. Users input details regarding tuition rates, income, cost-of-living expenses, and expected financial assistance. A maximum monthly contribution less than the cost of tuition suggests the degree-seeker should seek additional financial aid.

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Break down your current financial situation, and receive a college tuition estimate you can afford to pay.


How Much Do Political Science Majors Make?


Employer and Location


Salary varies widely among political science professions and depends on factors such as employer and location. According to BLS data, postsecondary teachers earn a median salary of $80,790 per year. These professionals typically need a master’s or doctorate. Educators specializing in political science and those living in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York earn even higher salaries.

Political Scientists


Political scientists earn a median salary of $125,350 per year, well above the median annual salary for all occupations. Political scientists in Maryland, Virginia, and Michigan earn the highest salaries — up to $151,660 per year. A professional’s industry also impacts their earning potential. The highest-paying employers for political scientists include professional services agencies and the federal government.


Workers in any political science career can explore how an advanced degree, university certificate, or professional certification may result in a promotion or raise. Work supervisors and human resources managers can help employees determine which options may positively affect their career trajectory.

Career and Salary Outlook for a Political Science Degree



Well-paying positions such as those below may require a graduate degree and professional experience. However, these political science jobs feature positive projected growth rates, suggesting that graduates should enter a strong job market.

The following list features a few common career paths for graduates of political science degree programs. Learners can use the embedded links to learn about each political science job’s education requirements and typical responsibilities.


  • Political Scientists

    Political scientists study and analyze government systems, political developments, and policy proposals. They use their expertise to advise elected officials and government agencies. These professionals can also work in the private sector, advising companies on political contributions and lobbying efforts. Most political scientist positions require a master’s or Ph.D.


  • Public Relations Specialist

    Public relations specialists help their employer develop and maintain a positive image. Typical job duties include preparing press releases, analyzing public opinion, and acting as their employer’s public face. These professionals may specialize in print, television, or digital media. Many entry-level public relations positions require only a bachelor’s degree.


  • Paralegals and Legal Assistants

    Some individuals with an associate degree in political science pursue careers as paralegals and legal assistants. Job responsibilities typically include performing legal research, writing reports for lawyers, and preparing documents for trial. These professionals may specialize in an area such as litigation. In addition to a degree, candidates for these positions may need a paralegal certificate.


Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Political Scientists $125,350 6%
Public Relations Specialists $62,810 7%
Paralegals and Legal Assistants $52,920 10%

Source: BLS

Certifications and Licensure for Political Science



In addition to a degree, some political science careers require a state-issued license. Typical licensure requirements include passing an exam, paying a fee, and joining an organization. Professionals maintain their license by completing professional development courses. Obtaining additional credentials can lead to increased employability and may qualify professionals for a promotion or raise.

Teaching License


Aspiring K-12 public school educators must obtain state licensure. Requirements vary, but candidates must typically complete an approved teacher-preparation program and undergo a criminal background check. Other licensure requirements often include a bachelor’s degree and passing exam scores. Teachers must generally complete professional development courses throughout the year to qualify for licensure renewal.

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Resources for Political Science Majors


  • American Political Science Association APSA provides student members with dissertation assistance, job-hunting resources, and professional journals. Other benefits include discounts on office supplies and political science books. The organization offers learners a 90-day free trial membership.
  • Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management Many doctoral students interested in public service join this association. Degree-seekers enjoy a mentorship program, access to podcasts and webinars, and a subscription to the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
  • Open Journal of Political Science Students and professionals can benefit from this resource. The Open Journal of Political Science features free articles covering political history and modern political systems. Articles also explore topics including political theory, public law, and international relations.
  • The Week The Week's reporting covers U.S. and international politics, technology, science, and business. The publication also features an opinion page and book reviews. The content requires no subscription fee.

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