—Photo by Ben Goodwin
Career Opportunities in Political Science
Political science is the study of governments – their procedures and policies – and the political behavior of citizens and officials. Governments might include nation states, international organizations or the sub-units of government such as counties, states, provinces etc. Other actors and entities that often participate in political and governmental procedures and policy-making include nonprofit and advocacy organizations, corporations, and citizen or other grassroots movements. Power and conflict are frequent topics of study but so are the means used to make collective and policy decisions such as elections and legislative voting. In studying these topics, political scientists use philosophical, historical and legalistic and quantitative methods.
Students of political science develop the ability to conceptualize, think analytically, and communicate effectively. Thus, it provides good preparation for a wide range of potential careers including law, administration, urban affairs, and any other professional path that involves public policy and decision-making, and the implementation of policy decisions that can stem from legislation, regulations, executive actions, or court decisions.
It’s a fact that graduates with political science degrees can be found in every professional job sector. Political science provides important foundational learning that employers value, but where you end up in your early career path depends equally on more specific skills you develop during your studies (e.g., quantitative methods, foreign language, immersion in a specific sub-field, etc.), and the experiences you can accrue while you are a student such as completing internships, directed research projects, participating in major-related clubs, societies and advocacy groups, and network-building among alumni and other professionals.
General skills that all political science majors will be required to develop, and that are cited by employers as positive attributes of potential hires, include:
- A thorough understanding of the American political and governmental system. Some students may also choose to study more in-depth international systems and/or international comparative politics. The focus on international issues and politics is also a positive attribute depending on what career you want to pursue.
- Accurate research skills where students develop applied knowledge about the vast sources of appropriate and reliable information and practice in how to utilize research to support thesis propositions, policy analyses, and strategic memos.
- Strong writing skills that can be employed in various written formats to include longer research-supported papers, shorter analyses, memos, and speeches. Even in today’s highly digital, social-media driven culture traditional writing skills remain vitally important.
- Oral communications skills that facilitate persuasive and informative presentations.
Common areas of employment following graduation include teaching, public relations, government service at the federal, state or local level, lobbying with interest groups or business, policy research, journalism, and campaign work (polling, media relations etc.). In addition, a large number of graduates go into business: marketing, personnel, advertising, communications, public relations, banking and finance. The non-profit sector is another major avenue for political science majors to explore. There are endless issues, causes and projects being promoted by non-profits (large and small) to include the environment, human rights, legal reform, democratization abroad, and education. Another career avenue is with non-profit agencies that receive contracts to perform services funded by government.
Relatively few students are hired as a “political scientist,” since few jobs specifically call for this specialization. Graduates with computer skills or training in a specialized policy area or policy analysis in general are most likely to find government jobs.
Sample Job Titles
Bachelor’s Degree/Entry Level Further Education/Experience Often Required
- lobbyist assistant or campaign assoc. *labor relations specialist
- paralegal *legislative coordinator
- international business *public relations officer
- legislative correspondent *political campaign manager
- broadcast journalist *lawyer
- foreign service officer *political representative
- staff assistant
Some Employers of Political Science Majors
- consulting firms
- state/federal government
- public/international affairs offices
- political parties
- private/public interest groups
- campaign management firms
- business and industry
- non-profit organizations