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Political Science Career Opportunities

Career opportunities with a degree in political science are extremely varied. It is this flexibility that makes the degree so practical. Political science majors qualify for many different careers in business, the law, state, local, and federal government, journalism, international organizations, finance, political campaigns, interest groups and associations, and pre-college and college teaching.

Political science training also provides valuable preparation for participating in community organizations, electoral politics, movements on behalf of specific policies, or even seeking elected or appointed positions in government.

Top Graduate Programs in Political Science

The following sites will help you choose a quality political science graduate program.

Caution: We recommend that you do not rely on any single ranking source, nor should you rely on rankings alone. You should investigate a variety of material before deciding which program may be best for you.

Ranking sites:

What can a Political Science degree do for you?

A political science degree provides good preparation for*:

The expanding population of the United States and the increasing complexity of government and business have combined to create a strong demand for law school graduates ever since the late 1950's. . . . It is worth noting that there are many different areas of specialization within the law, and that the demand for lawyers with expertise in the newer fields of regulation and public policy, such as environmental law and family law [and with the growth of the Internet, intellectual property and privacy rights as well], is likely to be good. Moreover, increasing numbers of persons with legal training are being employed by corporations, governments, banks, the media, and virtually all types of organizations in American society and internationally.

As undergraduate courses are chosen, certain goals should be kept in mind. First, a lawyer must be able to communicate effectively in oral and written expression. Any course in any discipline in which students know that they will be required to commit ideas or research to writing, submit the writing to rigorous criticism by a faculty member . . . , and then laboriously rewrite to meet the criticism, is a course which will help prepare them for law school.

Second, the prospective law student needs critical understanding of human institutions and values. Here, political science, economics, philosophy, anthropology, and history come to mind.

Third, the prospective law student must develop creative critical thinking. A lawyer must be able to reason closely from given premises and propositions to tenable conclusions. The training to do this type of close reasoning may be sought in courses in mathematics, physical science, logic, and advanced political and economic theory among others.

Federal, state, local government

Federal service offers stimulating work and the rewards of public service. It also offers good entry level salaries, comprehensive benefit packages, and excellent retirement program for the long-term employee, and outstanding opportunity to advance. . . .

Political science undergraduates who are interested in federal government employment are advised to acquire analytical skills and the ability to write clearly and quickly. . . . If students are interested in a career with the federal government, their educational program should include some formal training in mathematics and statistics as well as written and oral communication.

State and local governments today perform functions in almost every area that has had an impact upon the lives of their citizens. The states have taken increased responsibility in equal opportunity, consumer protection, highway safety, water pollution, soil conservation, the rehabilitation of drug addicts, industrial development and manpower training, licensing, and transportation. . . . The technical nature of many of these problems has led to the growth of staffs in even relatively small towns and cities. And these are staff positions for which political science graduates are well qualified.

Wherever possible, students aspiring to a career in state and local government ought to do an internship as part of their undergraduate program. An internship is a valuable learning experience . . . moreover, students have been offered employment after they graduated from college in the office where thy interned.

Undergraduates planning to seek careers in state and local government might also seriously consider the possibility of obtaining a master's degree in . . . public administration . . . .

Interest representation

[T]thousands of private groups are represented in Washington, D.C., and many are active also in state capitals. . . . Many organizations have created government affairs divisions of their own to monitor public policy developments and, when necessary, to try to influence the policy process. . . .

 . . . And, as the impact of government is felt far and wide in the society, many organizations that once hardly noticed political affairs now pay close attention.

This vast expansion of attention to the policy making processes has resulted in the creation of many thousands of jobs calling for people who understand how governments function in the United States, and whose skills include the ability to analyze and assess public policy as well as to plan ways to affect favorably the outcomes of political processes.

 . . . Strong backgrounds in the social sciences are certainly valuable. By a considerable margin, political science was the most popular undergraduate major, followed by history and economics. Writing skill is also highly prized.

 . . . Interest groups are often understaffed and anxious to make use of people with good educational preparation in political science and policy analysis. It is sometimes possible to move quite quickly into positions with important responsibility, and careers in the interest group community can be very exciting.

International Organizations and Business

In recent years the opportunities, and the demand, for qualified men and women with interest in international business, banking, or overseas voluntary agencies have grown enormously. . . . There are growing international employment opportunities for persons trained in political science because so many social and economic problems require political intervention, in the form of public policies, outlays of public funds, regulations enacted and enforced by political and governmental bodies, and the involvement of citizens. Currently, political transformations of monumental importance are occurring in the form of . . . regional . . . authorities such as the European Community.

There is an explosion of worldwide demands for assistance from such governmentally supported international bodies as the United Nations . . . , the World Bank . . . , and many other such organizations. Private organizations operate internationally in every area from health, education, and social service to cattle raising, cultural affairs, and community development.

International business, banking, and finance offer a great diversity of opportunities to those with undergraduate and graduate degrees. Business and banking enterprises have become so globalized that the success of their ventures is vitally dependent on a better understanding of the political and regulatory, as well as the economic environments in which they do business.

Students who major in political science should include some work in comparative politics, international relations and organizations, political development, and interest group politics. . . . The resume of a person seeking an entry level job in an international organization will be strengthened by a good internship in this field.

Private Sector Employment

The dominant feature of American business today is its bigness. . . . Many private sector businesses are large-scale, complex, bureaucratic organizations, and they require people who understand how such organizations work. When these enterprises interact with government through contracts or regulations, they face large and complex bureaucratic organizations whose decisions often make the critical difference between success or failure in the marketplace. Persons who are trained to understand the complexities and the nuances of governmental economic policy and public administration, therefore, represent a form of expertise that modern enterprises and their managers have come to value more and more.

. . . First, all graduates interested in business careers should be certain that they can communicate easily in written English. Second, it is important that the graduate have some familiarity with mathematical concepts; at the least it is important to be able to analyze elementary statistical data and to be able to read a balance sheet.

The person who majors in political science offers potential employers in the business and banking worlds a trained understanding of the intricate institutions and processes of governments. It is governments, after all, that most immediately affect business, financial, and commercial organizations. . . . Moreover, fluency in a foreign language and an understanding of a foreign culture are increasingly valuable skills.

Campaign management

As campaigns become more candidate-centered and less party-controlled, the demand for campaign workers increased exponentially. Every candidate running for political office in the United States today - be it at the local, state, or federal level - must put together his or her own campaign organization, with very little help from the political parties.

A typical career pattern in this field is for a young person to start on an individual campaign, at the local or congressional level, move to a statewide or national campaign, and then move to a consulting firm. Be it a state legislative race or a presidential campaign, the entry level position for most people is a campaign's field organization - those people responsible for identifying voters who support a candidate and then getting those voters to the polls on election day.

Someone interested in a career in campaigns should have a solid understanding of how the American political system works. Basic courses in American government and American history, as well as more specific courses on political parties, elections, and public opinion and voting behavior, are very useful. Additionally, an ability to write well, as well as quickly and succinctly, is a requirement for many aspects of campaign management.


Today's "global village" has an insatiable appetite for news. Every aspect of human behavior - social, political, and economic - is a potential reportorial subject. What is reported defines the environment of large masses of people, and the way journalists analyze what they report shapes our understanding of our world.

The basis of good reporting lies in the ability to write, the ability to comprehend the significance of events, and the ability to translate that comprehension quickly and with clarity into written words. . . . Understanding American society requires a broad liberal arts education with an emphasis on courses in political science, history, economics, sociology, English, and American studies. Within the field of political science, a person interested in journalism might focus on courses that address domestic affairs, . . . or focus on foreign affairs . . .


In elementary and secondary schools, political science shares its place in the curriculum with a wide variety of courses in social studies . . . [T]here are opportunities to use political science knowledge in government and history courses. . . . [For] school administrators . . . political science training can be profitably applied to basic problem-solving situations.

Any discussion of a teaching career by political science majors should take into account the fundamental societal need for political or civic education . . . .

Political science majors who are inclined to work with young people should investigate opportunities for teaching in both public and private schools. These careers help meet a societal need and also offer relatively good entry level pay . . . .

Political Science as a Career

For those who wish to pursue a career in political science itself, most of the available jobs will continue to be, as they are today, in the colleges and universities. A Ph.D. is virtually a prerequisite for any of these positions. Other job opportunities that are available for professional political scientists also require advances degrees in almost every instance. These career openings may be found in professional research organizations, survey research institutes, and foreign affairs research organizations.

The job outlook for professional political scientists has been quite good in the past few years. With 75% of all political science Ph.D.'s employed by educational institutions, the job market has been related to the growth and expansion of colleges and universities. From the . . . 1990's into the next century, there will be an increasing demand for college faculty.

Jobs and Skillsets
Possible Job Titles
  • Government Staffer
  • Legislative Aide
  • Lawyer
  • Paralegal
  • Legal Investigator
  • Court Clerk
  • Lobbyist
  • Staffer for Political Parties
  • Historic Preservation Planner
  • Transportation Planner
  • Government Teacher
  • Professor
  • Peace Corps Volunteer
  • Recruiter (Headhunter)
  • Government Researcher
  • Corporate Researcher
  • Research Assistant
  • Librarian
  • Public Opinion Analyst
  • Public Health/Hospital Administrator
  • City Manager
  • Assistant City Manager
  • County Manager
  • Assistant County Manager
  • Police Officer
  • Corrections Officer
  • Probation Officer
  • Parole Officer
  • Press Agent
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Editor
  • Newspaper Reporter
  • Public Affairs Reporter
  • Higher Education Administrator
  • Educational Administrator
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Military Officer
  • Urban Policy Analyst
  • Urban Planner
  • City Planner
  • Community Development Specialist
  • Economic Development Specialist
  • Human Resource Specialist
  • City Clerk
  • Budget Analyst
  • Finance Analyst
  • Advertising Specialist
  • Regulatory Analyst
  • Sales
  • Corporate Public Affairs Specialist
  • Systems Analyst
  • Corporate Marketer
Typical Places of Employment
  • City Government
  • County Government
  • State Government
  • Federal Government
  • Court System
  • Law Firms
  • Colleges and Universities
  • High Schools
  • Political Parties
  • Media Outlets
  • Newspapers
  • Corporations
  • Interest Groups
  • Military
  • Embassies
Range of Skillset Development
  • Communication
  • Writing ability
  • Presenting ideas and data clearly
  • Influencing people and groups
  • Mediating/negotiating conflicts
  • Public speaking
  • Critical listening
  • Interpreting data
  • Developing research designs and models
  • Utilizing statistical methods
  • Analysis
  • Logistical thinking
  • Offering relevant perspectives
  • Synthesizing information
  • Planning
  • Strategic planning
  • Making projections
  • Decision making

*These career descriptions are from Careers and the Study of Political Science: A Guide for Undergraduates, 5th edition, Washington D.C., American Political Science Association, 1992 (emphasis added).


If you are interested in a political science or international affairs major or minor, or a pre-law or American politics concentration, please stop by the Department of Political Science and International Affairs in Hansford Hall,  call 706-864-1628, or use the faculty page to contact one of us.

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