American Government Degree and Certificate Program Summaries

Oct 15, 2019

Essential Information

An American government concentration appeals to those who seek careers in politics, business, law, management and education. Concentrations in American government are available within political science degrees programs at the associate's, bachelor's and master's levels. Political scientists bring an expanded awareness of public concerns to their many diverse occupations. Beyond work in public service, they also contribute to political lobbies and nonprofit, social and civic interests. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs offer general knowledge of American government and how it functions, while master's programs are usually more specialized.

Applicants to associate's programs must generally hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and recent high school graduates may need to submit scores from the ACT or SAT.

Applicants to bachelor's programs must supply official transcripts from high school and/or colleges attended, and may also be required to include a personal essay, letters of recommendation, test scores and proof that minimum-required GPAs were maintained.

Applicants to master's degree programs may be required to meet minimum GPA requirements and GRE scores, and may also need to submit letters of recommendation, past academic transcripts and a statement of purpose and intent relating to the student's area or areas of interest and career goals. In order to graduate, candidates are expected to complete a comprehensive exam to demonstrate basic competencies in knowledge areas such as foreign languages, methodologies and research, as these skills relate to political science.

Some colleges and universities offer a combined bachelor's and master's program and most of these require continuous, sequenced enrollment.

Associate of Arts (AA) in Political Science

While many community colleges offer a concentration in political science, it may not be noted on transcripts as a formal area of study. These programs usually provide credits that are transferable to bachelor's degree programs. Through curricula in social sciences, computer proficiency, communications, humanities, mathematics, foreign language and the natural sciences, graduates acquire knowledge of the principles, structure, functions and processes of the American government. They analyze internal and external events and the impact these have on individuals within local, state, national and international milieus.

Common courses include:

  • Intro to United States government
  • Fundamentals of political science
  • Comparing rules of government
  • International relations and service
  • Political theory and the government system
  • Law and civil rights

Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science

Students in bachelor's degree programs learn to recognize the function and power of government and its effect within different political systems. As an interdisciplinary major, a bachelor's degree in government program helps students gain the breadth of knowledge they need to engage in public issues, including curricula in English and foreign language skills, arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, mathematics and natural sciences.

Common courses include:

  • Public policy process
  • Identity and collective action
  • Regimes and political evolution
  • Ethics in public policy and service
  • American foreign policy
  • Comparative politics and America

Master of Arts (MA) in Political Science

Universities offer a variety of concentrations under this degree title, such as American government, legislative affairs, political theory and political studies. Some degree programs are offered as Master of Professional Studies (MPS) degree programs. The goal of these various programs is to provide students with an understanding of how legislative decisions are influenced and made, and how to work within the legislative environment.

Common courses include:

  • Executive and legislative interaction
  • Quantitative political research methods
  • American political processes
  • Political parties and election process
  • Interest groups and political action campaigns
  • Public policy scope and analytical methods

Popular Career Options

The professional with a political science degree may move between occupational sectors, shifting specific job interests when a new opportunity presents itself. This flexibility can be leveraged and linked among nonprofits, universities, government and private-sector organizations. Those with higher levels of education attract the most interest. The types of jobs held by political science majors include:

  • Housing specialist
  • Parks and recreation manager
  • City operations associate

Graduates with bachelor's degrees are well prepared for entry-level positions in fields such as government service, human services and law enforcement. The following job titles apply:

  • Writer
  • Policy analyst
  • Market analyst
  • Research assistant

Continuing Education

Matriculation agreements are common among community colleges and their local or regional universities. Students interested in continuing their education can apply to a bachelor's degree program. Self-directed learning, a part-time job or an internship also provides opportunities for continuing education. The American Political Science Association offers professional development to students in such forms as conferences, seminars, classes, lectures, webinars, and networking with members.

Students with a bachelor's degree in government are well prepared for further graduate study in many diverse fields, such as criminal justice, law, psychology, education, social work and politics. A master's degree in political science is considered by most colleges and universities to provide a scholarly, liberal education in addition to preparing the candidate for a career.

Undergraduate certificate programs relate mostly to specific fields or disciplines, and are primarily designed to put students to work as quickly as possible. There are 4-year programs in advanced leadership studies that help students develop the knowledge and skills that are important for effective leadership in all career fields. Other professional certificate programs are available for such sectors as health, military, federal research, law, postsecondary education and international service.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), interest in social and environmental policies, immigration, healthcare and general politics is a factor influencing the demand for political scientists. The BLS projected that employment in this field would increase by 5% during 2018-2028. The BLS reported that the median annual wage for political scientists in May 2018 was $117,570 (

Concentrations in American government are often available as part of a political science degree at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Graduates develop skills that are easily transferrable to a wide range of careers.

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