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Online master's degree programs in political science often result in a Master of Arts or Master of Science. Students in these programs refine their knowledge of political theory and global politics, and they're prepared for research, political analysis, or policy-making positions. Concentrations may be available in American politics, comparative politics, foreign politics or international relations. Fully online programs are available, but in-person requirements such as a thesis defense may be required.
While on-campus master's programs typically take two years or four semesters to complete, full-time online programs allow students to pursue a degree on a part-time basis, providing a flexible option for those with job responsibilities.
In most institutions, the online program's course content and requirements are identical to those of the on-campus program. Generally speaking, the first three semesters are used for foundation and elective coursework, while the final semester is devoted to writing a thesis. Typical courses in an online political science master's program include:
- Contemporary political theory
- Research methods
- Alternative political theories
- Public policy
- International politics
- Post-9/11 United States foreign policy
- Branches of U.S. government
- Terrorism and counter-terrorism
Successful completion of an online master's program in political science generally requires the presentation and defense of a thesis. Students must submit a thesis proposal to a faculty committee. While on-campus students are required to do this in person, online students have the option of making the submission via tele- or video-conference.
Upon acceptance of the proposal, a student spends the last semester writing the thesis, which then must be presented and defended in person; this is the only time an online student's presence on campus is mandatory. At some institutions, a comprehensive final examination or an applied research project may be substituted for a thesis.
Distance Learning Details
Online students access course content through virtual learning platforms, such as Blackboard. Students may download assignments, participate in online discussion forums with peers and communicate with their instructors. They may also use the school's online library to conduct research. Students may be able to complete their entire program of study at their own pace through asynchronous learning formats.
Political scientists may find employment in federal, state or local government. They may work in nonprofit or campaign organizations, as well as pursue positions in polling. Other possible career areas include journalism or academia. Individuals who have a master's degree in political science are qualified to teach at the junior college level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 2% decrease in employment opportunities for political scientists over the 2014-2024 decade is projected, which is slower than the national average for all professions.
Students in an online political science master's program have various specializations to choose from, including international and American politics. Students must also complete a thesis to graduate, and the presentation and/or defense of this thesis may need to be done in-person.