From Henry Kissinger to Condoleezza Rice, political scientists can have an impact on the world and make important policy that effects everyday life. Consider, in fact, just how far U.S. President Barack Obama has come since obtaining his political science degree from the University of Columbia.
Political science is a field that examines governments, politics and the political process. Students of political science learn about the political behavior of people to try and understand why they act the way they do and what they might do in the future. Depending on their interests, political science majors could enter varied career fields including:
- American or international politics
- Law and justice
- Public policy and administration
- Social theory and political philosophy
- Teacher education
A political science degree can lead to many career paths. Students who want to enter education, law, politics or more can use a political science background to get there.
Deciding on a political science degree
Online liberal-arts degrees in political science are available at all levels from the associate to doctoral degree. At the associate degree level, students can pursue coursework that can prepare them to continue on and major in political science at the bachelor's degree level. A bachelor's degree may be sufficient for some entry level positions but, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities in the field are more promising for those with a master's or doctoral degree.
Master's degree programs focus the student's education on a particular political science concentration and usually take one or two years of full-time study to complete. Political science doctoral programs prepare candidates for research, post-secondary teaching or high level policy positions. Candidates usually complete a political science doctoral program in five to six years. This could be longer than other disciplines because students are typically required to conduct independent research.
Political science certificates are another option for students. Most certificates are for those who already hold degrees but need focused expertise in a political science discipline. An example is a certificate that provides training and analysis of policy issues.
Additionally, political science students could have the opportunity to intern with government entities, political parties, research organizations, non profits or public interest groups. These internships provide excellent in-school experience that translates well to the real world and can provide valuable networking leading to future employment opportunities.
Advantages of online degrees in political science
Online degrees in political science offer a valuable opportunity for students to gain knowledge about political viewpoints across the nation and the world. Additionally, studying political science in the online medium has advantages for students in the career world. In a 2009 column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, political science professor Amy Cavender writes that in addition to helping students learn technology skills that may be required in the workforce, using online tools to teach political science also helps students understand the wider context of political science work and learn collaboration skills by engaging with the wider political science community.
What can I do with a political science degree?
The BLS notes that the federal government employs the highest concentration of "political scientists." However, political science majors can also pursue career paths in criminal justice, education, journalism and other fields. Political science graduates are hired by public and private organizations, profits and nonprofits, businesses, colleges and universities and industry sectors across the board.
Because political science graduates learn general skills such as statistical analysis, effective communication, problem-solving and analytical thinking, they may be well qualified to enter a number of careers. Political science training could set students up to serve others, make decisions about policy or become a leader in their community, region or nation.
Political science at a glance
- Career paths: teaching, government, law, public policy
- Job prospects: The BLS projects faster than average job growth for political scientists from 2008 to 2018.
- Salary: Mean annual wage in 2010: $107,930.