How to Become a Political Scientist
Political scientists analyze quantitative and qualitative data.
Political scientists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in political science, public administration, or a related field.
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.
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.
Some political scientists 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: national 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 with a bachelor’s degree in political science usually qualify for entry-level positions in a related field, such as assistants or research assistants for research organizations, political campaigns, or nonprofit organization. They may also qualify for some government positions. Others go into fields outside of politics and policymaking, such as business or law.
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. Internships can give students a chance to apply their academic knowledge in a professional setting and to develop the analytic, research, and writing 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.
Communication skills. Political scientists often collaborate with other researchers when writing reports or giving presentations. They must communicate their findings to a wide variety of audiences.
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 political scientists, because they often write research papers. They must be able to convey their research results clearly.