Political science majors study current events, analyze election results, and measure the impact of public policy on communities. They take courses in environmental politics, U.S. foreign policy, and political theory. Political science programs strengthen research, writing, and analytical skills to prepare students for career paths in growing fields. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects market research analysts, a field where a bachelor's in political science qualifies graduates for entry-level positions, to grow 23% by 2026.
Before applying to political science programs, prospective students should research several factors, including how to choose the best program for their career goals and interests, career paths available for political science graduates, and how to get the most out of a bachelor's degree in political science. This article outlines the process of finding the right program and succeeding with this degree.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Political Science?
A bachelor's degree in political science builds in-demand job skills, such as critical thinking, research, and analytical abilities. These skills help graduates succeed in a variety of fields, including working in politics, the government, and the corporate or nonprofit sector. Many career paths require a bachelor's degree, and a liberal arts major like political science helps professionals advance their careers and increase their earning potential.
While in a political science bachelor's program, majors may choose a concentration to deepen their knowledge in fields like foreign policy, global politics, or environmental politics. Some programs also help students gain hands-on experience through internships or require a senior thesis or final project to build research and writing skills. And many colleges and universities provide job placement assistance by offering career advisers and a job center.
After graduation, professionals with political science degrees compete for jobs as analysts, researchers, and educators. Many of these positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Graduates may also choose to pursue a master's or doctorate to advance their careers.
Before enrolling in a political science bachelor's degree program, prospective students must decide whether to complete the program on campus or online. An on-campus program may appeal to students pursuing their bachelor's degree straight from high school, or students with strong local colleges and universities. Online programs typically appeal to working professionals or people considering a career change. The flexibility and accessibility of an online degree also benefits students balancing school with family obligations.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Political Science?
Graduates with political science degrees pursue many career paths. Graduates qualify for entry-level positions in politics and the government, working as legislative assistants, researchers, and analysts. They may also work in the corporate sector as a market research analyst, enter the legal field as a legal assistant or paralegal, or pursue a teaching license to become an educator. Political science majors can also apply for graduate school to become a political scientist.
- Survey Researcher
Survey researchers work for polling organizations, research firms, political campaigns, and government agencies, designing and conducting surveys to measure public opinion. They also analyze survey data, writing reports about the survey's results. They need strong analytical skills, and a bachelor's degree qualifies applicants for many entry-level positions.
Median Annual Salary: $54,270*
- Market Research Analyst
Market research analysts research and study the market to gain information about the sales potential of a particular service or product. They need strong analytical skills, and a bachelor's degree in political science meets the entry-level education requirement. Market research analysts may also work for government agencies or political organizations.
Median Annual Salary: $63,230*
- High School Teacher
High school teachers educate adolescents, designing lesson plans and assessing student learning. A political science degree prepares graduates to teach in many states, though candidates may need some teacher training. Political science graduates can teach social studies, U.S. government, and civics.
Median Annual Salary: $59,170*
- Political Scientist
Political scientists analyze political systems, charting their development and researching political ideas and policies. They may also study political trends and work in government or for political campaigns. Many positions require a graduate degree in political science.
Median Annual Salary: $115,110*
- Legal Assistant
Legal assistants provide support services for lawyers and other law professionals, such as conducting legal research, writing documents, and organizing materials. Most legal assistants require a bachelor's degree, and professionals may decide to become paralegals.
Median Annual Salary: $50,410*
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Choose a Bachelor's in Political Science Program
Choosing the right political science program requires in-depth research of programs and schools. Prospective students should consider factors such as cost, location, and time to degree. For example, some students may be able to relocate to attend a particular program, while others with work or family obligations may prefer the flexibility of an online program. Cost can also help prospective students narrow their options; while in-state public institutions typically charge the lowest tuition rate, students should also research their scholarship, grant, and financial aid opportunities.
Several factors influence the length of time to degree, including specific graduation requirements like an internship or senior thesis. Transfer students can reduce time to degree by choosing a program that accepts most or all of their transfer credits. After researching a school's transfer credit policy, prospective students can contact an admissions adviser for a transcript review. A program with a generous transfer credit policy can cut a year or more off the time to degree. Prospective students may also want to learn about concentrations, major requirements, and the curriculum to narrow their choices.
Some students benefit from the accessibility of an online degree, particularly working professionals and students with family responsibilities. Online programs offer the flexibility to complete course requirements around other obligations, and many schools offer discounted tuition for online students. Interested students can research the top online political science programs to learn more.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's in Political Science Programs
The accreditation process ensures that colleges, universities, and programs follow the highest educational standards when conferring degrees. Schools volunteer for reviews from an independent regional or national accrediting agency, which involves creating an improvement plan, tracking student learning outcomes, and reviewing graduation requirements.
Regional accreditation remains the highest standard for colleges and universities. In addition, programmatic accreditation evaluates specific programs, such as business schools, teaching programs, and social work programs. In political science, there are no programmatic accrediting agencies; instead, political science programs hold regional or national accreditation through their institution.
Prospective students should check the accreditation status when researching programs. Regional accreditation meets certification and licensing standards, confers credits that are more likely to transfer, and qualifies students for federal financial aid. Some graduate programs only accept candidates with a regionally accredited degree. A regionally accredited institution helps graduates meet their educational and career goals.
Bachelor's in Political Science Program Admissions
The admissions process for a political science program evaluates prospective students on educational qualifications, relevant experience, and background. Each school handles the admissions process differently, with some requesting an essay or statement of purpose and others emphasizing test scores and GPA. The process can also vary depending on whether the program is on campus or online, with some online programs requiring a more involved process working with admissions advisers.
Students evaluating political science bachelor's degree programs should research prerequisites and required admissions materials to ensure they meet the program's requirements. Many students apply to multiple schools, with a mix of reach and backup options, to increase their chances of gaining admission and receiving financial aid. Students who do not meet all the prerequisites can reach out to an admissions adviser to learn about provisional admissions.
- Minimum GPA: Some schools set a minimum GPA for high school or college coursework, such as a 2.0 GPA. Political science programs may also set a minimum for the prerequisite courses to join the major. Students may gain provisional admission if they do not meet the minimum requirements.
- Application: Prospective students typically submit an online application, providing information about their educational history and relevant experience. A growing number of programs accept Common App, which allows students to complete one application to apply to over 700 colleges.
- Transcripts: Colleges require high school and college transcripts to evaluate a student's qualifications for their institution. Transfer students with a certain number of college credits may not need to provide high school transcripts.
- Letters of Recommendation: Many bachelor's institutions require two or three letters of recommendation from people who can speak to the candidate's academic qualifications, personal character, and background. Applicants should give their letter writers at least three weeks' notice.
- Test Scores: Many colleges and universities allow applicants to either submit SAT or ACT scores, while some schools make test scores optional. Students should check if their bachelor's in political science program requires the SAT with essay before taking the exam.
- Application Fee: Most schools charge an application fee of approximately $40 to cover the cost of reviewing application materials. However, some schools do not charge a fee, and most let students apply for an application fee waiver.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's in Political Science Program?
A political science degree lets students craft their program around their interests and career goals, with options to concentrate on areas like global politics, foreign policy, and U.S. politics. Each school designs its own political science courses and graduation requirements, so prospective students should research the concentrations, cost, and length of potential programs.
|Global Politics||A global politics specialty emphasizes the interconnected nature of modern politics. Students may concentrate on one region or a single country, such as studying the EU or China. The degree may involve international relations courses and include a foreign language element.||State department jobs, policy adviser, researcher|
|Public Policy||Public policy students study the development of government policy and its impact on communities and the nation. In addition to studying federal policy from the executive or legislative branches, students may also study state and local policy. The concentration also involves tracking public policy outcomes.||Policy analyst, legislative assistant, policy adviser|
|Comparative Politics||Comparative politics applies the comparative method to national governments. This may include the development of governmental systems, bilateral foreign policy, or comparative public policy. Students in this area may choose two countries to compare, or broadly compare different regions.||State department jobs, political analyst, political scientist|
|American Politics||Specialists in American politics study the development of government, public policy, and politics in the U.S. from the colonial period to today. They may focus on a particular area within American politics, such as presidential politics, diplomacy, or cultural politics.||Campaign researcher, government jobs, congressional aid, policy analyst|
|Environmental Politics||An environmental politics concentration examines the relationship between environmental movements and politics, including the evolving politics of environmental issues. Students in this concentration may focus on environmental politics in the U.S. or a global context.||Jobs with the EPA or environmental organizations|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Political Science Program
Each bachelor's in political science program designs its own political science courses based on its professors' strengths and the focus of the program. However, most schools include versions of the courses listed below, which covers many subfields within political science. Students can research the political science courses at their top bachelor's in political science programs.
- Introduction to Political Science
Introductory courses provide an overview of politics and government, with an emphasis on contemporary politics, current events, and different subfields within political science. These courses often require many sources, including books, newspaper articles, and government documents.
- Political Theory
In political theory classes, students study the evolving theory and philosophy of politics and government, often beginning with thought leaders such as Machiavelli, Kant, and Locke. Classes may also cover recent political theories and their application in different political environments
- Foreign Policy
Foreign policy classes cover the history of diplomacy, foreign policy, and war, often with an emphasis on the relationship between the U.S. and the world from 1900 to today. They typically examine major conflicts, such as World War II, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and 9/11 from a foreign policy perspective.
- Modern American Politics
Classes on modern American politics cover the history of U.S. politics and elections, including presidential elections, the role of Congress in politics, and major national events such as World War II and 9/11. In many classes, students also follow current events and discuss them in class.
- Environmental Politics
In an environmental politics class, students study the politics of environmental issues, political theories on the environment, and environmental movements and their impact on politics. The course may include public policy and its environmental impact, global environmental politics, and the relationship between corporations and environmental politics.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Political Science?
Most bachelor's of political science programs require 120 credits and four years of full-time study. However, several factors affect the length of a bachelor's degree, including any additional graduation requirements, such as a thesis or internship.
Students may finish their political science degree in less time if they transfer college credits earned through an accredited institution or if they choose a program that provides an accelerated degree option. Transfer students with most of their general education and introductory major requirements may complete their degree in a year. Alternatively, students balancing work or family obligations with school may prefer a part-time option, which can add several years to the degree length.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Political Science?
The total cost of a bachelor's degree varies depending on the institution and financial aid opportunities. Generally, in-state, public schools represent the least expensive option, charging an average tuition rate of $9,970 a year in 2017-2018, according to College Board. In comparison, out-of-state public schools cost an average of over $25,000 a year in tuition, and private schools can exceed $35,000 a year.
Tuition is only one part of the cost of a political science degree. There are also commuting, housing, and book costs to consider. These expenses may add thousands of dollars to each year of college. However, students can lower the cost of a bachelor's degree by exploring scholarships, grants, and fellowships, and by looking for less expensive options. For example, online students save on commuting, parking, and childcare costs.
Bringing in transfer credits also lowers the cost of a bachelor's degree. Students may consider completing college credits at a community college before enrolling in a bachelor's program. Community college tuition averages $3,570, College Board reports, making it significantly less than even in-state public tuition. Students enrolled in a bachelor's program can complete some or all of their general education requirements through a community college after ensuring that those credits will transfer toward their bachelor's degree.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Political Science Prepares For
- Certified Political Scientist
The Academy of Certified Political Analysts offers a certificate in political science for candidates with an accredited degree who have two or more years of experience in politics, government, or public service. Applicants must meet continuing education requirements.
- Certified Political Analyst
Also offered by the Academy of Certified Political Analysts, this certificate recognizes political analysts with a minimum of 18 hours of political science courses at an accredited institution with a 2.5 GPA or higher and two years of experience in the field.
- Certified Political Manager
Political science majors with a background in campaign work qualify for this certification if they have an accredited political science degree and two years of relevant experience. Candidates must agree to ethical standards and meet continuing education requirements.
- Certified in Public Policy
Public policy specialists can apply for this certification, which recognizes candidates who meet educational and work experience requirements. Applicants must pass all their political science classes with a minimum 2.5 GPA, complete at least two years of relevant work experience, and agree to ethical requirements.
- Teaching License
Political science majors may pursue a teaching license after graduation. In some states, an undergraduate degree in political science fulfills the educational requirements, while others may require additional teacher preparation training. Because the requirements vary by state, political science majors should research their specific state's pathway to becoming a K-12 educator.
Resources for Political Science Students
Offered by the American Political Science Association (APSA), the political science careers page helps majors identify internships and career paths. It also provides a job board with open positions.
The internship database at the APSA helps political science majors identify opportunities in the federal government, Congress, and other political agencies. It also includes resources on how to turn an internship into job opportunities.
Published by the APSA, the journal represents the premier venue for scholarly writing in political science. The journal dates back to 1906 and publishes scholarship in all areas of political science.
The national honor society for political science students, PSA offers scholarship opportunities, awards, grants, and student leadership opportunities for members.
With a focus on American foreign policy and global affairs since 1922, Foreign Affairs provides a print magazine, a website, and other mediums to read analyses of foreign politics. Foreign Affairs also publishes book reviews.
Professional Organizations in Political Science
Political science students benefit from joining professional organizations, which provide networking opportunities and professional development resources for students planning careers in multiple fields. These organizations often host an annual conference, provide resources geared toward students, and offer scholarship and award opportunities. Members also receive access to recent publications and journals to stay current in their field. Many professional organizations also host career centers with job postings in political science.