Earning a master's degree in political science provides graduates with the skills needed to pursue an advanced career and increase their earning potential.

Some programs may offer concentrations, which allow students to acquire specialized knowledge and prepare for specific career opportunities. Many graduates begin careers in federal, state, or local government agencies, while others find work as policy analysts, teachers, and political scientists.

This guide provides information about common components of master's programs in political science, including program length, costs, courses, and career paths.

Learn More About Political Science Careers

What Are the Best Online Master's in Political Science Programs of 2020?

Rank School Location
1 University of Illinois Springfield Springfield, IL
2 University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
3 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA
4 Georgia State University Atlanta, GA
5 Eastern Illinois University Charleston, IL

What Is Political Science?

Political science is a social science focusing on systems of government at the local, state, federal, and international levels. It focuses on the analysis of various political ideologies, policies, processes, and behaviors. Success in political science requires in-depth knowledge of strategy, diplomacy, local and global laws, and the principles of war.

Should I Get a Master's Degree in Political Science?

Pursuing a master's degree in political science requires a significant investment of time and money. Before enrolling, it is important to consider all aspects of a program, including its costs, courses, and fieldwork requirements.

Earning an on-campus or online degree in political science helps learners hone research, analytical, and critical thinking skills. Students in political science master's programs also develop a strong understanding of local and global politics, diplomacy, law, and political theories.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 5% job growth rate for political scientists between 2018 and 2028. During that same period, the BLS also projects positive growth for similar occupations, including economists, historians, and urban and regional planners.

In these fields, some entry-level positions may only require a bachelor's degree; however, most political science professionals need a master's degree to advance their career and increase their salary potential.

What Will I Learn in a Political Science Graduate Program?

Students pursuing master's degrees in political science develop in-depth knowledge of current domestic and international political theories, policies, processes, and law. Learners also develop the research, writing, and analytical skills needed to effectively monitor trends and compare political systems locally and abroad.

Some programs offer concentrations that enable learners to focus their studies on a specific career path. The following sections describe a few common courses and concentrations found in political science master's programs.


Research Methods

Students in this course examine current data collection techniques, qualitative and quantitative research, ethics, and research design. This class prepares students to perform research in public administration, public policy, and nonprofit management.

Introduction to the Graduate Study of Politics

This course provides a foundation of advanced knowledge related to major subfields, theories, thinkers, and issues in political science. It typically serves as a prerequisite for other courses and requires extensive reading and writing.

Contemporary Political Theory

This course focuses on several topics in contemporary political theory, including the basic concepts of power, ideology, and rationality. Students may also explore major theories like communism, fascim, and social democracy.

Environmental Politics and Policy

Learners in this course study environmental, energy, and sustainability issues from the perspective of public policy. This class also explores popular policy models and the role that organizations, government agencies, and citizens play in developing effective policy.

International Politics

This course examines the theories of international organizations and the relationships between countries. Learners also study foreign policy, conflict resolution, and the global political economy.


International Affairs

This concentration explores international law, global security issues, and international relations. In some cases, students may focus on a specific region or country.

Public Policy

Students pursuing this concentration examine how policy decisions can impact the population socially, economically, and culturally. Learners evaluate public policy at the local, state, federal, and international levels.

American Politics

This concentration explores the history of American politics. Topics often include the development of political parties, elections, major events, and U.S. foreign policy. Some programs also examine contemporary politics and current events.

Political Theory

Students in this concentration explore the theoretical basis for politics and governments. This concentration also typically examines current and historical political thinkers. Coursework breaks down the connection between politics, law, and policy-making.

Comparative Politics

Learners pursuing this concentration study politics across cultures and contexts. Participants compare and contrast U.S. politics with political systems found in other countries and regions. Additional topics may include comparing historical government systems and foreign policy.

What Can I Do With a Master's in Political Science?

Entry-level positions in political science do not necessarily require a master's degree; however, advanced positions typically do. Furthermore, careers in this field tend to be competitive, so having a master's degree in political science may give you an edge over other candidates.

Below are several common career paths for political science graduates. For additional information, consult our political science careers guide.


Political Scientist

Political scientists study political, social, and economic trends to drive development of new policies, laws, and processes. This career relies heavily on strong research, analytical, and critical thinking skills.

High School Teacher

High school teachers with a political science degree typically teach a subject like civics or American government. Job responsibilities include developing lesson plans, assessing student progress, and preparing students for college.


Economists research economic trends, conduct surveys, and collect data to analyze conditions and forecast market trends. They typically work in government agencies or businesses to help develop solutions to economic problems.


Historians gather historical data, preserve artifacts, and develop educational programs. They provide an understanding of the past by creating books, articles, and exhibits. They tend to work for museums, research organizations, and historical societies.

Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners use environmental studies, site research, and current building codes to develop plans for public land use. They typically work with public officials, developers, and the public to ensure the proper use of funds.

How to Choose a Political Science Master's Program

Factors to consider as you research political science programs include admission requirements, program length, and costs. Distance learners should also find out if their program delivers coursework synchronously or asynchronously.

For more information, explore our guide on the top graduate programs in political science.

How to Get Into a Political Science Master's Program

Most graduate programs in political science require a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA.

Additional requirements may include GED scores, a personal statement or writing sample, and letters of recommendation. Exact requirements vary by school, so pay close attention to admission requirements before paying application fees.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Political Science?

The time it takes to earn a master's degree in political science varies by program. However, the average program takes about two years to complete. Schools may allow you to substitute some credits with qualifying work experience, which can help you graduate more quickly.

It is not necessary to pursue certification or licensure after earning a master's degree in political science unless you plan to teach. Some students elect to further their education beyond a master's, although many of these political science graduates opt to gain some work experience prior to pursuing a doctorate.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Master's in Political Science?

The cost of earning a master's degree in political science varies by program. Factors that impact cost include location and whether you attend a public or private school.

Pursuing an online master's degree in political science is often more affordable, as these programs eliminate additional fees like parking and facility costs.

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Best Online Bachelor's in Political Science Programs Best Online Master's in Political Science Programs Political Science Careers What Can You Do With a Political Science Degree?