Online Graduate Degrees in Political Science: Program Options

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Online master's programs in political science are available, though only a few schools in the United States offer them. Ph.D. programs in political science are only available on campus.

Online master's degree programs may offer focus areas, such as global politics or homeland security. Students may be able to select between thesis and non-thesis tracks. Some schools allow students to complete their degree program fully online. Students may choose to complete a research project and/or an internship that includes in-person practical work. Interns may find positions within non-profit organizations, courts and government offices.

Master's Degree in Political Science

Students enrolled in an online master's degree program in political science examine the development, operation and origin of public policy and political systems. Courses guide students through a number of contemporary issues relevant to political governance, policy, organization and action. In addition to political science courses, students are typically required to learn about research methods in order to perform data collection and analysis for political science research. Graduates of an online political science program are prepared for a variety of careers, such as legislators, teachers or lobbyists.


Most online political science programs mirror their on-campus counterparts in course content and work load. In addition to a core curriculum, elective courses allow students to specialize in a topic like homeland security or political globalization. Electives can also incorporate interests from other disciplines, such as criminal justice, communications or global politics. Courses are conducted online and students are expected to interact with both faculty and fellow students through e-mail, discussion boards and online conferencing. Online political science programs offer both thesis and non-thesis options.

Common Courses

In addition to the online courses outlined below, political science curriculums often incorporate classes in mathematics, statistics and quantitative research methods.

Contemporary Political Theory

This course covers modern political theory, including varying models of social science inquiry. Students study political aspects of power, rationality and ideology.

International Politics

The theories of international organizations and relations are emphasized. Research and discussions focus on foreign policy and implementation, the global political economy, conflict resolution and international integration.

American Government and Politics

Lessons in this class provide a thorough overview of the function and structure of the American political system. Students are expected to perform individual research and analysis of various aspects and issues of American politics.

Career Information

Earning a master's degree in political science prepares graduates for a variety of careers in business, teaching, political activism, government and journalism. According to the American Political Science Association (ASPA), a sample of careers for political scientists may include congressional office staffer, high school government teacher, legislative analyst, corporate public affairs advisor or campaign operative.

Political scientists gain a great deal of experience in gathering and analyzing data, conducting surveys and interviews, and organizing their findings into reports that is invaluable to political lobbying, nonprofit, civic and social organizations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 54% of political scientists in 2018 were employed by the federal government, while 17% worked for educational, professional and scientific services. As of May 2018, the BLS reported the average annual wage for political scientists as $115,300.

Online master's degree programs in political science include coursework in political theory, statistics and research methods. These programs prepare students for careers as educators, lobbyists or political scientists. Online PhD. programs in political science are not available, but interested students can consider in-residence options.

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