Political Science

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, once said that “the method of political science is the interpretation of life; its instrument is insight, a nice understanding of subtle, unformulated conditions.”

As convoluted as politics can be, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would want to devote their life to studying it. But that is exactly what political scientists do – they scrutinize and analyze the origin, development and operation of political systems.

They are responsible for conducting research in one of four subfields of political science: American politics, comparative politics, international politics or political theory. Political scientists use a variety of sources from which to gather information, and then rely heavily on quantitative methods to interpret that information.

Political scientists work for the federal government, think tanks, non profits, political lobbying groups, labor organizations and even colleges and universities.

Education Requirements

The minimum degree required to work in the field of political science is a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor degree programs take four years to complete and qualify candidates to work in some entry-level positions within the industry. Common jobs for those who hold an undergraduate degree include research assistant, political campaign worker, government agency worker or non-profit organization worker.

In order to be competitive in the industry and to hold higher-level positions which command bigger wages, a master’s degree or doctorate degree in political science is necessary.

In order to qualify for a master’s degree program in political science, candidates must complete their undergraduate studies in writing, political science and statistics. There are a variety of master-level degrees available, including a master of public administration (MPA), a master of public policy (MPP) and a master of public affairs (MPA). Regardless of which master degree is chosen, core courses will include research methodology, program evaluation, statistics and policy formation.

A doctorate degree program in political science also is available and is almost always required to teach political science at a college or university. Those who pursue a doctorate degree will be expected to complete several years of schooling, followed by the creation and presentation of a dissertation.

Future Outlook

As of May 2012, there were 6,600 jobs held by political scientists in the United States, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Roughly half of those worked for the federal government, with the remaining political scientists working for think tanks, colleges and universities, nonprofits, lobbying groups and labor organizations.

Demand for qualified political scientists is expected to grow by 21 percent between now and 2020, which is more than double the average growth rate for other professions during the same time period.

The average annual salary for political scientists is $102,000, with the lowest 10 percent earning $49,290 and the top 10 percent bringing in $155,490.

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