Political Science Major Guide

Political Science Major Guide

The Political Science Major concerns the study of government, civics and the political process. As a student in political science, you’ll study topics like world history, civil rights movements, and race relations.

Based in the social sciences, political science touches on subjects like international relations, socioeconomic structures, forms of government, social justice, and much more. This interdisciplinary degree could lead to an array of exciting career paths in law, public administration, activism, and even elected office.

If you’re ready to earn your degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Political Science.

Or read on to find out what you can expect as a Political Science Major...

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5 Reasons to Major in Political Science

1.Political Science majors bridge the sciences and humanities.

Political science concerns the way that governments function (or fail to function). This is a matter of great complexity, touching on theoretical concepts in areas like history, philosophy, and sociology, as well as incorporating practical subjects such as public survey, demographic analysis, epidemiology, and more. Your political science education will provide an enriching interdisciplinary experience.

2.Political Science majors understand how government works.

The best way to change, improve, and contribute to the functionality of your government is to understand it. As a political science major, you’ll learn how local, state, and federal governments intersect, how electoral politics work, and how legislation is created. This knowledge could provide you with the tools to take part in policy development, run for elected office, or at the very least, to become an informed voter!

3.Political Science majors learn valuable communication skills.

Political science is all about ideas—both how you present and receive them. This requires strong communication skills. As a political science major, you’ll have numerous chances to delve into historical texts, work on your writing, and practice public speaking. Political science incorporates elements of debate, rhetoric, and persuasion, all of which will serve you well in any future workplace setting.

4.Political Science majors learn how to conduct critical analysis.

Political science reveals an almost infinite number of views and philosophies on what constitutes good governance. Just a quick glance at electoral politics in the U.S. reveals how sharply divided we can be on these views. Political science majors develop the intellectual, rhetorical, and research tools to provide critical analysis of governments both in theory and in practice. This, in turn, can more firmly root you in a well-informed perspective on the behavior, policies, and practices of your own government.

5.Political Science majors are influential.

Governance is a function of both leadership and public representation. Those who understand and participate in governance have a chance to impact the lives of many through meaningful research, positive leadership, socially conscious activism, and more. Today, top influencers in political science are breaking new ground in critical areas, such as the relationship between public opinion and political behavior, U.S. foreign policy, the fight against corruption in state building, and much more.

Find out who the Most Influential People are in Political Science today!

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What Kinds of Political Science Degrees Are There?

Political science is something of a gateway major. How far you advance in your education will depend on a combination of personal interest and professional goals. Many opportunities are readily accessible if you hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution. However, there are ways to improve your opportunities for professional advancement and higher earning potential with an advanced degree. Common political science degrees include the following:

  • Associate in Political Science: This two-year degree can be earned at most community colleges. The associate’s degree will provide you with introductory courses in political theory and civics. This degree can prepare you to work as a legislative assistant, a campaign assistant, or a legal secretary. This associate’s degree in political science can also provide an affordable and accessible jumpstart on earning your bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution.
  • Bachelor of Political Science: Typically a four-year program, the bachelor’s in political science is a popular degree that can provide access to a multitude of opportunities directly in the fields of politics, public administration, government, and beyond. You’ll study various forms of governance as well as subjects such as international relations, racial relations, women’s issues, and more. Depending on your concentration, a bachelor’s degree in political science can qualify you to work as a political journalist, campaign manager, press secretary, political advisor, legislator, and much more.
  • Master of Political Science: This advanced degree can be earned in roughly two years, and will significantly improve your candidacy for leadership roles in the fields of politics, governance, and social justice. You’ll also have a chance to hone in on an area of specialization such as geopolitical affairs, public health, civil rights, and more.
  • PhD in Political Science: Typically a three-to-five year engagement, your doctoral degree in political science qualifies you to work in the fields of political research and policy analysis, as a full college professor of political science or civics, or even as a top government official.

Thinking of a graduate degree in political science? Check out What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Political Science? for more information on obtaining a graduate degree in this field.

*Note: Many, but not all, degree programs offer the choice between Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Likewise, many, but not all, advanced degree programs offer a choice between Master of Arts, and Master of Science degrees. In most cases, the primary difference is the diversity of course offerings. “Science” degree courses will focus almost entirely on the major discipline, with a deep dive into a specific concentration, including laboratory, clinical or practicum experience. An “Arts” degree will provide a more well-rounded curriculum which includes both core/concentration courses and a selection of humanities and electives. The type of degree you choose will depend both on your school’s offerings and your career/educational goals. Moreover, there are sometimes numerous variations in the way that colleges name and categorize majors. The degree types identified here above are some of the common naming variations, but may not be all-encompassing.

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What Are Some Popular Political Science Concentrations?

Your “concentration” refers to a specific area of focus within your major. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides a complete listing of college degree programs and concentrations (Classification for Instructional Programs), as sourced from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). According to IPEDS, which lists Political Science concentrations under the Social Sciences umbrella, the following are among the most popular Political Science concentrations:

  • Political Science and Government, General
  • American Government and Politics (U.S.)
  • Canadian Government and Politics
  • Political Economy
  • International Relations and Affairs
  • National Security Policy Studies
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What Courses Will I Take as a Political Science Major?

Your concentration will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a Political Science major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as the History of Western Civilization and Macroeconomics. However, you will also have the freedom to select an array of courses that most interest you. As a Political Science, you’ll have the chance to craft a well-rounded educational experience that ultimately furthers your professional goals.

Common Political Science courses include:

  • Introduction to Political Theory
  • U.S. Government and Civics
  • Law, Politics, and Justice
  • Modern Political Thought
  • Religion, Politics, and Society
  • Race Relations and Politics
  • Democracy and the State
  • World Politics
  • Political Activism and Protest Movements
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What Can I Do With a Major in Political Science?

Majoring in political science is a great starting point for a number of different career paths. Governance touches on everything in our lives, from economics, education, and environment to security, history, and health. Your degree in political science could give you a chance to contribute to the public well-being in any of these areas. Top jobs from political science majors include the following:

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Student Submitted Questions on Political Science Majors

Bentley asks, “How competitive is the field of political science?”

Dr. James Barham’s answer: This will depend on the specific career you want to go into. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, political scientists and lawyers (two of the most common political science careers) can expect to earn a median salary of $128,020 and $135,740 a year, respectively. Both of these careers are experiencing faster than average job growth as well.

Isaiah asks, “What types of internships or extracurricular activities should I consider if I want a career in politics?”

Dr. Jed Macosko’s answer: Interning with a local, state, or federal government agency would give you great exposure to how our government and public administration works. Political campaigns, think tanks, or research institutions would also provide you an excellent opportunity to learn about political communication, campaign strategy, and policy analysis. Political consulting firms and legislative offices are also great opportunities.

Bekah asks, “What are the most popular current research areas or hot topics in political science that will be covered in my program?”

Dr. James Barham’s answer: This field is ever-evolving as governance, policies, and international relations change. Some of the key areas in political science today include globalization and its impact, climate change and environmental policy, political polarization, and technology and politics. I would check your specific program’s website to see which areas will be covered or which concentrations are available.

Curious how far you could go with a major in political science? Start with a look at the top influencers in the field today!

Deciding on a college program can be challenging. We help to guide you in what to major in to help you focus on what to study in college.

Thinking of a graduate degree in political science? Check out What Can I Do With a Master’s Degree in Political Science? for more information on obtaining a graduate degree in this field.


Check out The Most Influential Schools in Political Science and get started on your path to a Political Science degree.

And if you’re shopping for the right college, be sure that you’ve reviewed our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!

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