Online Political Science Degrees

From Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice to Barack Obama, political scientists can have an impact on the world and make important policy that effects everyday life. Political science is a field that examines governments, politics and the political process. Students of this field 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.

The College Board recommends honing your debating skills if you wish to pursue a career in political science as it can be important to be able to argue your point. Discussions in class and outside are known to get lively! The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) adds creative thinking, analytical and critical thinking skills to the list.

As many topics are theoretical, political science can lend itself well to online learning and a political science degree program may allow recent high school graduates, working professionals and career changers to pursue their education while still adhering to work, family and other commitments.

Despite what the name suggests, apart from the government, political scientists may work in think-tanks, political lobby groups or businesses. While their duties may vary according to where they work, they may include:

  • Researching political subjects like the U.S. political system or foreign policy for example
  • Monitoring current events, policies and related issues
  • Collecting and analyzing data from public opinion surveys and other such sources
  • Forecasting political, economic and social trends
  • Developing and testing political theories

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 may be hired by public and private organizations, profits and nonprofits, colleges and universities and industry sectors across the board.

The table below lists occupations related to the field of political science along with their associated mean annual wages, job growth and employment outlook using data from the BLS.

Career
Employment
Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Political Science Teachers, Postsecondary15,750$102,2907.6%
Political Scientists6,010$120,2605.3%

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

What can I do with a degree in political science?

Online political science degree programs 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 BLS, opportunities in the field are more promising for those with a master’s or doctoral degree. Political science doctoral programs can prepare candidates for research, post-secondary teaching or high level policy positions. However, doctoral degree programs are typically located on-campus.

Students enrolled in online political science degree programs could have the opportunity to intern with government entities, political parties, research organizations, nonprofits or public interest groups. These internships can provide excellent in-school experience that translates well to the real world and can provide valuable networking leading to future employment opportunities.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Students earning their political science associate degree online may gain an overview of the subject, and learn how various laws, policies, and the government work.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Online associate degrees in political science can give students a well-rounded education through general education classes and core courses. Some courses you may take include:

  • Comparative government and politics
  • Contemporary world affairs
  • Introduction to American government and politics
  • Introduction to political philosophy/political theory
  • Modern world governments

Possible electives: Political economy; political and social history of the U.S.

What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in political science?

Individuals with an associate degree in political science may be able to transfer the credits earned from their degree toward a bachelor’s degree program in political science or a related field. As a political science degree can build transferable skills like communication and analytical abilities, working professionals may also qualify for advancement in their current jobs or for supervisory or administrative positions in a number of different industries like retail or customer service for example.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

An online political science bachelor’s degree can allow students to explore political questions; learn to analyze events as they occur on a global, national and local scale and apply critical thinking and analytical skills to find real-world solutions.

Typical duration: Up to four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or GED

Typical coursework: Topics delve in to politics in more depth than those in an associate degree program. Courses you may take include:

  • American state and local government
  • Globalization and world politics
  • International relations
  • Public administration
  • Scientific study of politics

You may have to complete a capstone project or an internship as a part of your online political science degree program

Possible electives: Contemporary political ideologies; analysis of public opinion and political attitudes; the politics of terrorism

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in political science?

A bachelor’s degree can work as a stepping stone toward a more advanced degree like a master’s or a doctoral degree in political science. Graduates of online political science bachelor’s degree programs may also find entry-level employment in diverse fields like public policy, politics and elections, consulting work and education to name a few. Potential job titles include:

  • Fundraising specialist
  • Grant writer
  • Intelligence analyst
  • Journalist
  • Program coordinator

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Students enrolled in online political science master’s degree programs usually choose a concentration or specialization and study associated topics. Students can also learn how to conduct advanced research, study traditional and contemporary political thinking in order to develop theories that can be applied to real-world scenarios.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in political science or a related field

Typical coursework: Topic may have an interdisciplinary approach and look at how politics has an influence on economics and markets, the workings of international governments among others. Courses you may take include:

  • Applied public policy research methods
  • Contemporary political process and trends
  • Economics and public policy
  • Political philosophy
  • Political science, public policy and statesmanship

You may have to complete a master’s level thesis or a capstone project depending on the requirements for your online political science degree program.

Possible electives: Congress and the legislative process; the judicial process; women and politics; campaigns and elections

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in political science?

The BLS reports that a master’s degree is the minimum requirement to work in the field of political science. Master’s degree holders may be qualified to hold positions within the federal government, professional and scientific research firms, and civic organizations among other private and public agencies. Some job titles include:

  • Regulatory affairs manager
  • Compliance manager
  • Lobbyist
  • Political scientist

Online graduate certificates in political science are typically aimed a working professionals in the same or related field who want to expand their knowledge on a particular aspect of the field, like foreign relations for example, or those individuals who want graduate-level college education but do not have the time, finances or other resources to commit to a full-fledged master’s degree. As graduate certificate programs can have a narrower focus than online political science master’s degree programs, the time to completion is often shorter as well.

Typical duration: One year of part-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in political science or a related field

Typical coursework: Courses you take can vary with the focus of the program. Some examples include:

  • Foreign policy and national security
  • Globalization and global politics and economics
  • Peace and conflict
  • Political behavior
  • Political theory

Possible electives: Discourse analysis; urban politics; Regional studies: East Asia

Accreditation

Accreditation is a voluntary process schools undergo to demonstrate that their educational offerings are on par with or exceed educational standards of quality. Accreditation may be regional or national and are offered by private, nongovernmental organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Attending an accredited school can be important for students as employers may prefer hiring those who have graduated from such. Additionally it can be an important prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid, scholarships or grants.

Specializations in Political Science

The field of political science is vast with a number of different applications which has given rise to specialized areas within the field. Students of online political science degree programs may be able to choose a concentration or a specialization that aligns with their career goals and areas of interest. Some specializations you may be able to choose from include:

  • American government and politics
  • International affairs
  • Political Theory
  • Pre-law
  • Public service

Certifications

Professional certifications in the field of political sciences are not mandatory, nor are they commonly offered. However, certifications can demonstrate your commitment to the field. The Academy of Certified Political Scientists and Certified Political Analysts was the first organization in the world to offer professional certifications in the field of political sciences. It offers the following certifications:

  • CPS Certified Political Scientist – Board Certified in Politics
  • CPM Certified Political manager – Campaign Manager & Analyst
  • Certified in Public Policy – Policy Analyst
  • ChPA Chartered Certified Political Analyst – Political Governmental Journalism Certification

Scholarships and financial aid programs can help eligible students to cope with rising tuition fees. Apart from federal financial aid, scholarships and grants may be offered by private institutions, educational foundations or colleges and universities themselves. It can be a good idea to check with your school’s financial aid office to see if you qualify for any of their offerings. Some scholarship programs to help you get started on your search are listed below.

Other resources for aspiring political scientists

Employment Statistics

Political Scientists

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Social Advocacy Organizations
  • Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services
  • Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
States with the highest level of employment
  • District of Columbia
  • Virginia
  • Texas
  • California
  • Washington
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
  • Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Sources:

  • 19-3094.00 – Political Scientists, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3094.00, accessed September 2019
  • AA in Political Science, Foothill College, https://foothill.edu/onlinelearning/students/aa_courses/aa_political_science/, accessed September 2019
  • About Accreditation, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, https://www.chea.org/about-accreditation, accessed September 2019
  • Bachelor of Science in Political Science, Penn State World Campus, https://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates/penn-state-online-political-science-bachelor-of-science-degree/overview, accessed September 2019
  • Career: Political Scientists, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/careers/social-science-political-scientists, accessed September 2019
  • Careers, Oregon State University, https://ecampus.oregonstate.edu/online-degrees/undergraduate/political-science/careers.htm, accessed September 2019
  • Fields of Study, University of Pittsburgh, https://www.polisci.pitt.edu/fields-study, accessed September 2019
  • Foundations of Political Analysis (Graduate Certificate), Virginia Tech Online, https://liberalarts.vt.edu/academics/graduate-programs/graduate-certificates/graduate-certificate-foundations-of-political-analysis/, accessed September 2019
  • Global Studies and International Relations, Northeastern University, https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/program/graduate-certificate-in-global-studies-and-international-relations-online-213/, accessed September 2019
  • Graduate Certificates in Political Science and Government, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/political-science/academics/graduate-programs/graduate-certificates.php, accessed September 2019
  • Major: Political Science and Government, Big Future, The College Board, https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox, accessed September 2019
  • Master of Science in Political Science, Liberty University, https://www.liberty.edu/online/government/masters/political-science/, accessed September 2019
  • Online Bachelor’s Degree, BA in Political Science, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/ba-in-political-science, accessed September 2019
  • Political Science Degree: Associate of Arts, Red Rocks Community College, https://www.rrcc.edu/political-science/degree, accessed September 2019
  • Political Science Master’s Degree: Online, University of Nebraska Omaha, https://www.unomaha.edu/college-of-arts-and-sciences/political-science/academics/online-masters.php, accessed September 2019
  • Political Science, West LA College, http://www.wlac.edu/Online-College/Online-Degrees-Certificates/Online-Degrees/Political-Science-Associate-of-Arts-Degree.aspx, accessed September 2019
  • Political Scientists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/political-scientists.htm, accessed September 2019
  • Specializations, South Illinois University, https://cola.siu.edu/politicalscience/undergraduate/specializations/, accessed September 2019
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