Studying Political Science: Degree and Career Options

The study of political science examines the American political system, including an in-depth look at the structure and process of local, state and federal governments. Political science degrees are available at all levels of study.

Essential Information

Undergraduate programs will provide overviews of U.S. government structures and global political issues. Graduate programs, offered at the master's and doctoral degree level, tend to focus on political theory, research and analysis. In some cases, degree programs in political science at any level can be taken online. Graduates are poised for career opportunities in a wide array of agencies, including those in government, non-profit, corporate and administration organizations. Students earning a doctorate might also consider academic careers at a college or university. Specialization options for these programs include political theory, American government, world politics, public policy and urban politics.

Bachelor of Arts in Political Science

Most 4-year institutions offering a political science degree require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent education and be able to submit SAT or ACT scores along with their applications. General university admissions requirements and procedures apply to political science applicants at the undergraduate level. A bachelor's degree in political science is often used as a pre-law degree for individuals wishing to pursue careers in the judicial system, such as attorneys or judges.

Bachelor's degree programs in political science introduce students to political theory and government structure. Students become skilled in logical reasoning, critical analysis, fact gathering and enabling arguments. In addition, political science majors gain an understanding for and appreciation of the political system. Possible course topics include:

  • Political philosophy
  • International relations
  • American national government and politics
  • Global issues
  • Comparative government

Master of Arts in Political Science

Political science master's programs are designed to prepare individuals to take leadership positions in public service in the areas of government or education, as well as many positions available in the private sector. Candidates for graduate studies in political science must have a bachelor's degree in political science or other social science field and a qualifying score on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Most master's programs also require candidates to submit several letters of recommendation with their completed applications.

Master's programs provide students with skills in policy analysis and a deeper understanding of the political system. Many graduate programs provide students the option to concentrate in specialty areas such as American government and politics, world politics, public policy or urban politics. Possible course topics include:

  • Research methods in policy and politics
  • Statistics and data analysis in political science
  • Comparative politics
  • Political theory
  • Political behavior and processes
  • Public law

Ph.D. in Political Science

Graduates of master's programs wishing to focus their careers on political science research or academia should consider continuing their education beyond a master's degree. Ph.D. programs in political science are primarily research-based and prepare students for careers teaching at the college or university level, as well as research positions with either public or private research institutions or foundations. Doctoral students must submit evidence that a baccalaureate and/or master's degree from an accredited college or university has been received, as well as official transcripts from each college previously attended. Political Science Ph.D. programs often require students to also submit letters of recommendation and official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score reports.

Ph.D. students may choose to specialize in such areas as public policy and administration, American politics, political analysis, comparative politics, international relations or political theory. Most programs require doctoral candidates to complete hours of research to submit final dissertations and pass comprehensive exams in order to graduate.

Possible course topics include:

  • Research design and analysis
  • Political methodology
  • Modern political theory
  • Problems in political science
  • Independent study and research in political science topics

Possible Career Options

  • Political journalist
  • Public affairs officer
  • Lobbyist
  • Politician
  • Government teacher
  • Political analyst
  • Campaign manager
  • Political Science Professor or researcher
  • Government Official

Political science degree holders will find work in many different walks of life due to their familiarity with the political environment and governmental bodies. Whether it's at the graduate or undergraduate level, these programs teach students all about political theory and the function of the government and politics in society.

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