The world of political science is well-suited to those interested in studying not only the principles and practices of politics, but also various political structures, governmental operations, political trends, and current events. Ideal candidates for political science also have an interest in building their analytical and critical-thinking skills, and during the course of their studies may develop a particular fascination with other subjects closely related to political science, like the economy, sociology, anthropology, or even market research. Political science degrees are available on-campus as well as online, and professional political scientists may find a broad range of career possibilities to showcase their skills. Graduates of a master’s degree program are well-versed in advanced political science research methods, various perspectives in political theory, and international politics, and they also study advanced cultural analysis and discourse.
Why a Master’s Degree?
A master’s degree in the minimum requirement for a top career in political science, although some entry-level jobs in closely related fields may be possible with a bachelor’s degree. Candidates with a master’s degree in political science are eligible for careers as political scientists, and this degree also qualifies them to teach community college, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Because achieving the highest possible positions in this field requires at least a master’s degree, pursuing an online master’s degree in political science may be a more convenient way for non-traditional students to advance their education. Many students pursue a Master of Public Administration (MPA), Master of Public Policy (MPP), or Master of Public Affairs degree, each of which incorporate courses in research methods and policy, evaluation methods, and statistics, as well as introduce the option of specialty political science topics through electives courses.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
Master’s degree programs vary by school. Generally, a diverse range of student experience and prior education is considered as part of the application process:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
- Some schools require a minimum GPA and/or GRE score
- Application including statement of intent and/or application fees (as applicable, according to school)
Inside a Master’s Degree Program
Embarking on a master’s degree in political science requires a commitment of two years of focused study in this subject. Course topics in the master’s program may include in-depth study of comparative politics, constitutional law, war and the military, and international relations, among others. As is typical of most graduate degree programs in political science, students identify their preferred major from a short list of primary categories in this field, including American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory. The master’s program also sharpens research, writing, survey, and analytical skills, for practical application after graduation.
For the convenience of busy or working students, many online master’s political science programs are available. While the convention of on-campus programs in this subject continues, more schools are bringing awareness of the benefits of an online master’s program, which not only offers the same high-quality education as traditional degree, but also features exclusive Internet resources and work-from-anywhere access. Through a Web portal built specially for e-learners, students retrieve assignments, complete course work over time and at their leisure, communicate with peers, instructors, and tech support, and have access to streaming multi-media resources, all online. Some schools also offer a “fast-track” option for students to complete their undergraduate course work online, before becoming eligible for online graduate studies.
What’s Next for Political Science Master’s Degree Holders?
While securing a top career in political science can be quite competitive due to the popularity of this major, students are wise to pursue a graduate education in political science. The BLS reports that a master’s degree is the minimum requirement for candidates hoping to advance to senior positions in this field. A master’s degree in political science provides the skills a candidate needs to become a political scientist, possibly earning $102,105 a year, which was the annual average salary of political scientists in 2010, according to the BLS. Those holding a master’s in political science are also qualified to teach at the community college-level, though teaching positions at upper-level colleges and universities often require added experience or a research-based doctorate in a closely related subject.