How to Become a Political Scientist
Political scientists often work alone, collecting information, analyzing data, and writing reports.
Political scientists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in political science, public administration, or a related field.
Jobseekers with a bachelor’s degree in political science usually qualify for entry-level positions in many related fields. Some qualify for entry-level positions as research assistants for research organizations, political campaigns, nonprofit organizations, or government agencies. Many go into fields outside of politics and policymaking, such as business or law.
Most political scientists need to complete either a master’s or Ph.D. program. To be admitted to a graduate program, applicants should complete undergraduate courses in political science, writing, and statistics. Applicants also benefit from having related work or internship experience. Working in an internship on a congressional staff or for a research organization will help applicants gain experience writing, researching, analyzing data, or working with policy issues.
Political scientists often complete a master of public administration (MPA), master of public policy (MPP), or master of public affairs degree. These programs usually combine several disciplines, and students can choose to concentrate in a specific area of interest. Most offer core courses in research methods, policy formation, program evaluation, and statistics. Some colleges and universities also offer master’s degrees in political science, international relations, or other applied political science specialties.
Political scientists can also complete a Ph.D. program, which requires several years of coursework followed by independent research for a dissertation. Most Ph.D. candidates choose to specialize in one of four primary subfields of political science: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory.
Political scientists who teach at colleges and universities need a Ph.D. Graduates with a master’s degree in political science sometimes become postsecondary teachers and high school teachers.
Jobseekers who have earned a bachelor’s degree can benefit from internships or volunteer work when looking for entry-level positions in political science or a related field. They give students a chance to apply their academic knowledge in a professional setting and develop skills needed for the field.
Analytical skills. Political scientists often use qualitative and quantitative research methods. They rely on their analytical skills when they collect, evaluate, and interpret data.
Critical-thinking skills. Political scientists must be able to examine and process available information and draw logical conclusions from their findings.
Intellectual curiosity. Political scientists must continually explore new ideas and information to produce original papers and research. They must stay current on political subjects and come up with new ways to think about and address issues.
Writing skills. Writing skills are essential for those who write papers on political issues. They must be able to convey their research results clearly.