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    Political Science Major Overview

    By Lisa Freedland

    Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: April 9th, 2024
    Political Science Major Overview

    Interested in how governments work, or perhaps planning on going into politics yourself? Then, you might want to consider pursuing a political science major. Studying political science will not only give you a sturdy background in political theories and related topics. It will also give you impressive analysis and research skills, which you can put to good use even if you choose to pursue a profession outside of politics.

    So, keep on reading to learn more about the political science major, including typical political science coursework, how to determine if it’s the right major for you, and what you can do with a degree in political science!

    What is a political science major?

    Political science is a social science field requiring those who major in it to study governments and politics, both in theory and in practice. Covering a large range of topics including political theory, comparative politics, and international relations, political science majors should develop the skills and knowledge to approach research questions themselves by the time they finish their degrees. After graduating, political science majors have many options – not being limited to political science-related careers. If they wish, political science majors can go onto graduate or professional school to study law, international relations, or even seemingly unrelated fields like medicine. Alternatively, they can go on to teach or go into business, but we’ll get more into career options later. For now, let’s see what type of coursework you should expect while studying political science in college.

    See Also: Top political science scholarships

    Coursework to expect

    Although specific major requirements may vary by school, there are a few requirements and courses anyone can expect. For one, you should know that you will likely have to take classes and explore topics from across the field, rather than focusing on one particular part. This is even true for those at universities which mandate that you pick a subfield within the major, as each major typically requires that students pick courses from a variety of subfields. Further, you will likely still be taking the same or similar core classes as those who were not required to pick a subfield. 

    As you progress further into the major, you may start exploring more niche topics, such as international law, energy policy, or even civil war. And, as with many social science fields which partake in research, you may be expected or encouraged to take a statistics course. Taking a statistics and/or research methods class will be helpful if you’re interested in getting involved in research at your school (which will then help out with grad school admissions!). Alternatively, if you have some extra time and you aren’t interested in research, you may even consider doing an internship in a campaign office or law firm, as some schools will offer course credit for these (and they will look impressive on your résumé!).

    Opportunities after graduation

    While the number of positions are somewhat limited if you’re only looking at political science-related careers, there’s more than you think if you look beyond! Here’s just a few career options that you can pursue with a poli-sci degree (including those that aren’t specifically related to the field!): 

    • Political Scientists
    • Diplomats
    • Budget Analysts
    • Survey Researcher
    • Policy Analyst
    • Journalist
    • Legislative Assistant
    • Researcher (requires a Ph.D.)

    And that’s just a small sliver of the available positions for those with degrees in political science! As you can see, many of the careers are not related specifically to politics. A poli-sci degree gives you communication and critical thinking skills that are largely transferrable to other fields.  These include business, journalism, law, and even academia!

    Also see: Top reasons to become a lawyer

    Salaries in political science 

    As a political science major, you’ll be preparing yourself for a wide variety of potential careers. Because you will acquire skills in writing, communications, and problem solving, you will be a versatile part of the workforce. As you may have realized by now, the career options available with a political science degree vary widely. So, the salaries vary quite a bit as well. But to help give you an idea of how much you may make, we can provide you with a few average salaries of poli-sci related jobs. Just remember, the listed salaries are all median pay, so they will probably be higher than your starting salary out of college.

    1. Political scientist

    Political scientists study the origins and workings of political systems. They can work for thinktanks, other NGOs, campaigns, or universities. This job typically makes use of a high level of theory and of quantitative analysis.

    2022 Median Pay: $128,020 per year
    Projected Growth (2012-2032): 7% (Faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    2. Survey researcher

    Survey researchers help to design surveys and analyze their results. This can involve looking at previous similar surveys and coming up with a goal for the new information you hope to collect. It’s a very delicate art to write a good survey that does not skew results.

    2022 Median Pay: $60,410
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): -4% (decline)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    3. Public relations specialist

    Public relations specialists can work for a broad variety of employers. These can include individuals, corporations, political figures, and more. You’ll be in charge of managing the public image of an entity and providing the best possible spin for its actions.

    2022 Median Pay: $67,440 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 6% (Faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    4. Lawyer

    Becoming a lawyer will put your debating skills to the test. Similarly to PR specialists, lawyers can represent any entity. You’ll be tasked with researching and building a case, and sometimes even trying it, to settle a legal dispute.

    2022 Median Pay:$135,7400
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 8% (Faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

    Despite these numbers, we still recommend that you go into a profession because you find it interesting. Don’t choose a profession purely for salary-related reasons! Otherwise, you may end up leaving a high-paying salary in a short span of time as you were not happy in that position.

    Also read: Guide to double majoring

    How do I know if a major is right for me?

    If you’re considering a major in political science, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Do you find politics interesting?
    • Are you a strong debater?
    • Are you entertained by discussing political concepts in-depth?
    • Do you enjoy research?
    • Are you a strong writer and speaker?

    If you answered yes to most of these questions, then a political science major could be right for you! Ultimately, whether you’re interested in careers in public policy, law, or anything in the political realm, political science might be the right major for you. If you are not sure, do some reading on how to choose a major. We wish you luck in your future endeavors, and don’t forget to apply for all the scholarships you qualify for!

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