some political science grads have done with their degrees.
science is a very popular major in the United States,
because it gives students tools to analyze their world
critically, revealing the nature and scope of political and
economic authority, the process of policy-making, and so on.
However, the number of majors who go on to actually work in
a governmental setting is not overwhelming. Why is this the
case? Government jobs are not rare (especially at the state
and local levels), and plenty of political science majors
have productive careers there. But what makes this major so
compelling is that the lessons it imparts are highly
relevant to business, law, journalism, organizational work,
and other fields. Many majors may not work for government,
but their interactions with government (whether as a
criminal defense lawyer, a company manager, a reporter, or
as an officer in a charitable organization) are enhanced
greatly by their understanding of the structures and
processes of governance. Political science majors are
clearly attuned to the blur of human interactions that is
politics. It is a testament to the breadth and adaptability
of the major that they use their knowledge and skill from
their coursework in dramatically different ways.
are often heard to say, "What kind of job can I get with
my major?" Political science is no magic key into any
vocation, unlike majoring in technical fields (e.g.,
engineering, architecture). Students take many different
career paths after they leave college. Below is a sample of
some politics-related careers that you may consider pursuing
with a political science major immediately after college.
Additional coursework (e.g., graduate school) is noted to
give you a sense of what is necessary to get ahead in the
Consider working for
an agency (federal, state, or local) in the
administrative structure: personnel (human resources),
public relations/communications, budgeting. Certain
specialized jobs may be open to you (e.g., caseworker,
negotiator) after agency-sponsored training.
2. Legislative Staffer
An M.P.A. (Master
of Public Administration) is a desirable graduate degree
for those rising through the ranks of an agency. Higher-level jobs
may be available only to those with an M.P.A.
administrative jobs are advertised widely (there are
agency employment bulletins for federal and state
government) and are usually very competitive. For
federal-level administrative employment, consider this
site operated by the Office of Personnel Management (www.usajobs.gov).
scientists venture into the world of legislative
policy-making, beginning as entry-level staff for
elected officials and working their way up to become
policy analysts, communications directors, and even
chiefs of staff. The pace is hectic, the hours can be
very long, but the work is very rewarding.
3. Campaign Staffer
(especially in the U.S. Congress) take an M.P.P. (Master
of Public Policy) in health policy, education policy,
foreign policy, etc. along the way to help their
careers. Others get an M.A. in Public Affairs or get a
law degree (J.D.) to strengthen their resumes.
Many of these jobs
are not advertised publicly and are filled by word of
mouth. Having experience as a campaign volunteer or
working political connections can help. You may have to
start as an unpaid intern, but once you have proven your
reliability, then paid opportunities often follow.
Campaigns are havens
for political science majors, the "true believers" who
often aspire one day to be candidates for office themselves. Entry-level positions here are normally unpaid and
may involve lots of grunt work, but being a volunteer is
an essential "foot in the door" for higher positions.
4. Political Organization
Being a staffer
for one candidate is fine, but you may wish to be hired
by many over time as a campaign consultant (a very
lucrative profession these days). Consider graduate
study in the field of "political management" if you have
these aspirations. Traditionally, George Washington University
most comprehensive graduate program in this field,
but now Fordham University (New York, NY) and other schools are offering similar training.
Your career in
campaign management can begin as soon as you contact a
campaign office. You will revel in mundane tasks (e.g.,
sticking campaign signs in the ground) for no pay for a
while. If you develop a good reputation as trustworthy
and diligent, doors should open to greater things.
If you fashion
yourself as an advocate for a cause, you may want to
circulate your resumJ among political organizations
(interest groups, political action committees, "think
tanks," political parties). This path is good for anyone
who wants to one day be involved in: lobbying,
soliciting contributions, stirring up citizen support
for an issue, creating policy proposals, and the like.
Make sure you totally agree with the agenda of the
organization before you apply, as even behind-the-scenes
administrators are expected to be devoted to the goals
of the group.
Law/PR Firm Staffer
is different in its hiring practices, office management,
agenda, etc. Expect entry-level positions to be
labor-intensive (e.g., filing papers, going door-to-door
for donations or petition signatures), and some
organizations prefer to pay only those who have
previously volunteered their time. As with so many
political jobs, diligence can pay off if you wait out
the unpaid legwork.
is the best place to look for such work, as many
organizations have staffs of dozens in area offices.
Groups with an international focus are found mostly in
D.C. but also New York (to be near the U.N. and major
financial institutions). State capitals can also be good
locations, though many groups have skeleton staffs there
(a number of interest groups contract with law or PR
firms for lobbying in the states, thus eliminating the
need to have a local staff). National headquarters for
these organizations may be located anywhere, and they
are large operations, but the work may have little to do
with politics. Nevertheless, working on organizational
budgets, membership relations, publications, community
outreach, etc. is vital support for those at the front
line of the group's political activity.
Moving up the
ladder in these groups may be aided by an M.P.A.
(organizational theory/management is a big subfield of
public administration). An M.A. in Public Affairs or an
M.P.P. in the group's policy specialty may also be well
advised. Some schools have now developed graduate
degrees that are less technical but are definitely
geared toward preparing people for political employment:
a master's degree is available in "applied politics"
from the American University (Washington, DC); in
"professional politics" from Suffolk University (Boston,
MA); and several programs are highly specialized, such
as the M.A. in "international peace and conflict
resolution" from Arcadia University (near Philadelphia,
Advocacy jobs are usually advertised
just like any business-related opening. The
Washington Post and other big city
papers have extensive listings in their classified sections.
Many law/PR firms in
capital cities specialize in contract lobbying, in which
their lawyers are hired by interest groups to interact
with legislators and bureaucrats. These "hired gun"
lobbyists have long client lists and thus a big need for
staff support. One needs no official accreditation or
license to lobby, so you may find yourself with
responsibility for specific clients soon after you begin
work at the firm.
6. Teaching Political
lobbyists are lawyers, so pursuing a J.D. is wise if you
want to become a full-blown contract lobbyist in the
future. A few lobbyists have a Ph.D. or other advanced
degree, but the law angle is by far the most common.
These jobs are advertised in employment sections
of papers and journals, though
smaller firms may prefer to hire by word of mouth.
Those who wish to
teach social studies (which includes politics and
government) at the elementary or secondary level are
strongly recommended to major in Social Science (with
the teacher certification option).
7. Other Politics-Related
Teaching at the
post-secondary level requires at least a Master of Arts
(M.A.) in political science or closely related field.
Those with an M.A. may find work teaching at a community
college or junior college. Plenty of M.A.'s teach at
four-year universities, but they are adjunct faculty,
which means they have little control over the courses
they are assigned and they normally cannot be promoted.
college/university teaching and research positions
require (with very few exceptions) a Ph.D. in political
science or a closely related field. Most Ph.D. programs
are geared toward producing college professors, though
plenty of degree recipients end up in excellent
positions in government and politically-related fields.
* If you are
interested in getting a political science M.A. or
Ph.D., I (Dr. Brian Anderson) would be happy to talk
to you about how to prepare for grad school and what
is involved in a typical program.
relations: larger corporations have entire staffs
devoted to tracking legislative activity and
bureaucratic decisions from the headquarters, since
changes in DC and state capitals can affect their bottom
line. The higher-ups in these departments often double
as corporate lobbyists.
journalism: obviously, reporting for newspapers,
magazines and other media is mainly in the orbit of
journalism majors. Still, the larger papers, TV
networks, etc. need support personnel to collect
information and analyze/archive it. Internet journalism
is changing things as well, offering more numerous and
more varied opportunities for political reporting.
some political science grads have done with their degrees.