Overview

If you find government, politics, and international relations fascinating, you might thrive in a graduate program in Political Science and Government. Political Science, or "Poli Sci," deals with all aspects of politics, both in the U.S. and around the world. While a graduate student’s research will typically focus on a particular area within Political Science such as Comparative Politics, American Politics, Political Philosophy, etc., all graduate students will be expected to understand issues of Political Science in a broader context.

Studies will include the American government in all its aspects—the Presidency, the justice system, political parties, and legislation. But your studies will also focus on political systems around the globe—you’ll study the similarities and differences between governments and politics of China, Latin America, Europe, and Africa, to name just a few.

Graduate studies in Political Science will also deal with International Relations—a topic more pertinent now than ever. You’ll learn theories of international relations, as well as history. You’ll learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. government’s international diplomacy efforts, as well as the international endeavors of other countries.

Though much of your study will focus on current and historical governments and public policy, you’ll also study political philosophy—the meaning of justice, for example, and how the meaning of liberty has changed. You’ll study the controversies and difficulties various governments have faced, and how laws have been either upheld or subverted.

Degree Information

The M.A. and Ph.D. are two options for the student pursuing graduate work in Political Science and Government. The M.A. generally takes around two years to complete and may or may not be linked with the Ph.D. While it is most common for students to pursue both the M.A. and the Ph.D. simultaneously (most Ph.D. students will earn a M.A. by default after their second or third year of study), some students do pursue a M.A as a terminal degree or as a joint degree with degrees in law or journalism. A few schools offer a M.A. for working professionals, which is intended for those who want to pursue a higher degree to supplement their work experience.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • How conducive is the program’s geographic location to independent research? (If you want to research the federal government, for example, Washington, D.C. would offer distinct benefits over a rural setting in the West.)
  • What sort of research is being done by faculty and graduate students? Does it interest you?
  • How connected is the program to local government, industry, and business?
  • What are the career goals of the graduate students? What have the graduates of the program gone on to do?

Career Overview

Graduates of Political Science and Government go on to pursue a wide range of careers. Not everyone with a Poli Sci degree becomes involved with politics, though many do; an understanding of governments and political systems is vital to a successful political career. Many others go on to careers in law, which is also a logical and practical way to use the skills and knowledge gleaned from the major.

Less obvious career paths include business, public health, social work, and journalism. Still others—especially those with a Ph.D.—begin careers in college teaching and research. As with most other fields in the social sciences, Political Science gives students skills that are valuable to almost any career—the ability to communicate effectively, write well, analyze critically, and think "outside of the box."

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no specific licensing requirements for careers in Political Science.

Salary Information

Because of the wide spectrum of careers available to Poli Sci majors, a good estimate for a starting salary is difficult to make. Most graduates of a M.A. program can reasonably expect to earn anywhere from $25,000-$40,000, though this number can vary significantly depending on type of employment, location, and previous work experience.

Related Links

American Political Science Association
The American Political Science Association has over 10,000 members in more than 70 countries and offers its members the benefit of shared knowledge, professional advice and advancement, and a supportive environment conducive to the professional study of politics.