Careers in Political Science
What Can You Do With A Political Science Degree?
One of the most common questions that prospective students and their parents have is "what can I do with a degree in political science?" They know that they can go to law school or work in politics, but they are not sure what else. The question is also understandable. The student spends four years learning about different types of governments, how nations interact, how political leaders accomplish goals, how to analyze policies, and discussing the foundations of government and the best means to achieve the "good life" via politics. But political science graduates rarely go straight from college to serving as legislators, political executives, and aides to important political leaders.
So why should you major in political science and what can you do with it? You should major in political science because studying politics develops your leadership skills, refines your oral and written communication skills, teaches you how to research issues and solve problems, improves your interpersonal skills, and produces a greater understanding of the world in which you live. With these skills, you can pursue an exciting careers in the law, business, journalism, the ministry, intelligence and foreign policy making, teaching in high school or college, nonprofit organization, campaign management, policy analysis, government consulting, humanitarian relief, government management, and many other fields.
Careers in Political Science
While many political science graduates go to law school or work in politics, there are many career opportunities such as:
There are many civil service positions available in city, county, state, and the federal government. Employees for government agencies, like Homeland Security, FEMA, EPA, Economic Development, research and implement laws passed by the legislature and executive. Many of these heads of these organizations manage large budgets, issue reports, make recommendations for changes, and testify in open hearings.
Political science is the most common major of individuals who go to law school. Those with a law degree can prosecute criminals, work for corporations, help legislators write laws, protect the less advantaged, enforce the law as a federal agent (FBI, ATF, Secret Service, Homeland Security), resolve or mediate conflicts, make legal policy as government attorneys, serve as judges, etc. Many attorneys also use their skills to run nonprofit organizations, lobby the government, run for political office, etc.
Many businesses are beginning to see the relevance of liberal arts training like political science. Business schools are good at training people to do certain tasks but business today need employees with a broad perspective, ability to solve problems, persuade people, etc. They also need someone who understands the domestic and international political agenda to help them identify opportunities for expansion and growth and maintaining their competitive edge. Unsurprisingly, many CEO's have liberal arts backgrounds like Carly Fiorina (formerly of Hewlett Packard), Michael Eisner (formerly of Disney), Steve Case (founder of AOL), and Steve Forbes.
While politicians take center stage in a campaign, every successful campaign needs professionals working behind the scenes to elect them. They need someone to organize the campaign, poll for them, raise money, identify, contact, and mobilize voters, deal with the press, create and implement campaign strategies, etc. The campaign management industry is growing and the plethora of city, state, and local campaigns means there is always a job. Plus, many of these individuals go on to serve in government.
Many students vote for the first time while at college and other begins a life of political activism. Becoming a professor allows one to research political topics that interest you, teach the next generation of political leaders, and comment on politics for news organizations. There are few places where you can impact the world more than in the classroom.
Foreign Policy/Intelligence Analyst
Many political science graduates find positions in the Defense and State Departments, the many intelligence agencies (e.g., CIA, NSA), and international organizations (e.g., UN, NATO, World Bank). They can promote U.S. foreign policy interests as a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department, analyze intelligence to warn policy makers of emerging threats to protect the nation, help shape Defense policy, and work with representatives of other nations to improve the global political, economic, and humanitarian conditions.
Government Managers/Public Administrators
Government requires managers who manage the day to day operations of departments and agencies as city managers, department heads, and commissioners. With a background in public administration, you can see how government operates differently than other organizations, create and manage budgets, manage people, set goals and see them implemented, and respond to citizens and elected officials.
High School Teacher
Many political science majors first became interested in politics due to a teacher. As a high school teacher who teaches political science, you can impact a broad section of citizens by connecting them to their government, making them more politically aware, and identifying and mentoring people in their early years of political development.
Whether local, state, national, or global news, one of the primary foci of coverage is always politics. News organizations need individuals who understand the legislative process, campaigns, international trends, policy areas, etc. Political science can prepare you for a career in print and broadcast journalism by helping you to understand politics and teaching you to ask good questions, write and speak well, and interact with others so you can get the information you need.
Elected officials of all kinds need people to help them achieve their goals once in office. Aides research topics of interest to the official, communicate with constituents and concerned groups, help make and pass policy, and see that it is implemented the correct way. Many of these aides can eventually become leaders who hold important elective and appointed office.
Lobbyists persuade government officials to pursue their group's political agenda. Whether you are a corporation, union, professional association, interest group, or public interest group, you need someone, like political science graduates, who understands the arcane legislative process, understands the issues, can persuade officials to support your position, and communicate and mobilize members.
Most ministry positions require a Masters of Divinity so one of the best ways to prepare for Divinity School is spending your undergraduate years gaining a broader perspective of people and the world. Studying political science helps you understand general trends in society so you can better communicate the Gospel for the times, help you relate with people of diverse backgrounds as you discuss political ideas, and improves your communication skills as you learn to debate and discuss politics with others.
Nonprofit Organization Management
See a problem that others are ignoring? Create or run a nonprofit organization that solves humanitarian crises, helps the less advantaged, promotes important ideals, etc. Political science gives you the skills to run organization, use the press to your advantage, raise funds for your organization, recruit and manage people, etc.
Where do government officials get the ideas about how to improve budget, national security, welfare, tax, energy, and health care policy? From policy analysts, in government and think tanks, who evaluate existing policy to find problems and successes, develop solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and persuade others to adopt their recommendations. Political science teaches students how to analyze policy, write up report, and persuade others to support it.