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How to Become a Political Scientist

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The field of political science covers a broad array of career possibilities. A political scientist is someone who excels at studying political systems, researching governments and their policies and analyzing political ideas and trends. Professionals in the field of political science tend to have strengths in administration, analysis and communication. Students can pursue a bachelor's degree in political science or graduate-level degrees, such as a Master of Public Affairs (MPA).

What does a political scientist do?

Political scientists typically work within a subfield, such as American politics or political theory. They focus on research and analysis of political subjects. Political scientists develop theories by studying historical documents, and they test those theories through quantitative methods, such as statistical analysis. Many political scientists monitor and evaluate current events, government policies and social trends. They use the results of their research to consult with and advise businesses, legislators and other groups on projected outcomes for future policy changes.

Political science jobs can be found in a variety of career fields, including public affairs, journalism, law, lobbying, high school or university education, corporate analysis, state and federal legislation, urban politics and many more. Political scientists can focus on local or domestic politics, or they can focus on international politics and relations.

Requirements to become a political scientist

The basic requirement to become a political scientist is a bachelor's degree in political science. Completion of undergraduate courses in writing and statistics may also be necessary. Job candidates with a bachelor's degree can expect to qualify for entry-level positions, such as a research assistant.

Most political science jobs require completion of a graduate-level degree program, such as an MPA. Applicants to these type of master's programs generally should have completed an internship or have related work experience. This experience can be gained by working for a research organization, a congressional staff, or another organization where the applicant is required to conduct research and write about policy issues. The coursework of a graduate-level program for political scientists typically covers a combination of disciplines and will include core courses in research methods, statistics, policy formation and program evaluation. Students may also choose to focus on one or two subject areas in their master's degree.

An individual wishing to pursue a career as a political scientist needs experience and skills in writing, statistics and research. The necessary experience and skills can be gained from an educational program in political science or public affairs, and it can be expanded upon through internships and entry-level research jobs. A background in political science can lead to a wide array of job possibilities in fields as diverse as law, education or government.

Learn about University of Texas Rio Grande Valley online MPA program.


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