Best Online Master’s in Political Science Programs of 2021

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Published on May 7, 2021

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Graduates with a master's in political science enjoy a positive career outlook. The demand for highly trained political scientists continues to grow as domestic and international public policy expands and evolves. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 6% growth in employment for political scientists between 2019-2029, which is faster than the average projected growth for all occupations.

Furthermore, many related professions that political science majors can pursue also boast above-average growth. This page highlights some of these career options, along with an in-depth look at common political science classes. Readers can also find more information in our master's in political science program guide.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Political Science Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Blacksburg, VA
#2 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, IL
#3 The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
#4 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, TX
#5 Citadel Military College of South Carolina Charleston, SC
#6 Eastern Illinois University Charleston, IL
#7 Regent University Virginia Beach, VA
#8 Liberty University Lynchburg, VA
#9 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, NE
#10 Sul Ross State University Alpine, TX

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2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Political Science Programs

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University View School Profile Blacksburg, VA

Virginia Tech offers an online master's in political science that emphasizes social science research methodologies and prepares students for careers in government, public policy, and academia.

Students begin the program with core classes focused on research methodologies and contemporary political theory. They may then choose from electives in subjects, such as the branches of U.S. government, public policy analysis, international politics, human rights, and global conflicts.

One popular course on electronic governance examines how governments apply information technology. Students consider technology's effects on citizens in terms of security, privacy, and gaps in access to digital resources.

Online students complete all coursework virtually through an asynchronous format. All students complete a research project and dissertation that they present to faculty and peers before graduation.

University of Illinois at Springfield View School Profile Springfield, IL

Students in the UIS's online master's in political science program can tailor their studies to their interests, background, and career goals. The program prepares students for careers in politics, public policy, academia, and law.

The 40-credit curriculum features elective courses in areas like political philosophy, LGBTQ+ law and politics, the American legal system, and international relations. A course on political psychology explores how the media, stereotypes, social identity, and other factors influence individuals' political decisions.

At the end of the program, students may choose to complete a comprehensive exam, a thesis, or a participant/observer case study.

Online students learn from the same tenure-track faculty members as their on-campus counterparts. They take all classes virtually and learn through an asynchronous model. Online students also benefit from a reduced e-tuition rate.

The University of West Florida View School Profile Pensacola, FL

UWF's online master's in political science program focuses on analyzing current events, international governments, and public policy. These experiences prepare students to serve as policy analysts, policy researchers, strategic advisors, nonprofit organizers, and government officials.

Students may choose from a thesis or non-thesis track. The thesis option includes nine credits of electives and a faculty-advised thesis paper. The non-thesis option features 15 elective credits.

All students take several required courses on comparative politics, American politics, research methods, and political theory.

Non-Florida residents may seek a waiver of up to 90% of out-of-state tuition, making their tuition only slightly higher than the in-state rate. Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

Sam Houston State University View School Profile Huntsville, TX

Featuring small class sizes and access to highly qualified instructors, SHSU's master's in political science prepares students for careers in politics, public policy, education, and the nonprofit sector.

Students may choose from a 30-credit thesis option or a 36-credit non-thesis option. Elective courses cover topics, such as women in politics, the U.S. presidency, and political attitudes and behavior. One class explores the formation and evolution of today's Democratic and Republican parties in the U.S., along with former major parties that once dominated American politics.

While students can take all their required courses online, they may also opt for some in-person experiences at the school's campuses in Huntsville or The Woodlands, Texas. Students may begin the program in the fall, spring, or summer.

Citadel Military College of South Carolina View School Profile Charleston, SC

The Citadel's master's degree in international politics and military affairs prepares students for careers in the U.S. military, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, large corporations, and various other sectors.

The program takes a comprehensive view on economic, political, and social issues that affect nation-states across the globe. At the same time, students build their communication, critical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills.

Students in this master's in political science program can choose from various electives, including South Asian affairs, U.S. foreign policy, conflict studies, and international law. A class on international political economy looks at how economic issues influence countries' political behaviors and vice versa.

Before graduating, students must complete either a guided internship or a thesis paper. All students pay the same tuition regardless of residency.

Eastern Illinois University View School Profile Charleston, IL

EIU offers an online master's in political science that gives students the option to focus on public administration or public policy. The program prepares students for careers in state, local, and regional government agencies; public policy research; government relations; nonprofit management; and human resource management.

Although students may take all courses online, those who live close to the EIU campus in Charleston, Illinois, may opt for some in-person classes.

In one course on environmental politics and policy, students take a political science-based approach to examining energy, sustainability, and ecological issues. Another class looks at urban and city policy from the perspective of the U.S. federal government.

At the end of the program, students submit a capstone project that represents a culmination of everything they learned through their studies.

Regent University View School Profile Virginia Beach, VA

Regent's online master's degree in campaigns and political leadership helps students become experts at developing winning campaigns, driving voter turnout, and influencing public opinion.

The 33-credit program takes a Christian approach to campaign management, finance, compliance, and administration. Students explore principles of federalism, political parties, fundraising, and data analytics.

While students take most of their classes online, they may need to take part in select in-person experiences at Regent's Virginia Beach campus. Students may concentrate their studies on information studies/data analytics, leadership and ethics, marketing and communication, or policy studies.

All online master's in political science students pay the same tuition, even if they live out of state. Graduates of the program go on to work as campaign managers, political consultants, nonprofit directors, and polling analysts.

Liberty University View School Profile Lynchburg, VA

Featuring entirely online, eight-week courses, Liberty's online master's in political science allows students to learn concepts and principles they can quickly apply to their careers in politics and public policy.

Students learn about how various factors combine to influence government and politics in the U.S. and abroad. They take courses in economics, political philosophy, and public policy research.

A course on geopolitics and international diplomacy takes a Judeo-Christian perspective on foreign policy, international relations, and the role America plays on the global stage.

The 36-credit master's in political science program takes about 18 months to complete. All online students pay the same tuition no matter where they live. At the end of the program, students complete a thesis project with a faculty advisor.

University of Nebraska at Omaha View School Profile Omaha, NE

UNO's students can enroll in an online master's in political science program that features ample opportunities for interdisciplinary learning and collaboration. Students may choose from concentrations in international affairs and American government and politics.

Students take classes on political theory, comparative politics, international leadership, and public opinion and polling. A course on LGBTQ+ politics focuses on how members of these communities have operationalized political power to achieve civil rights victories over the years.

The program serves many mid-career professionals looking to take the next step in their political, public policy, education, or public service careers. It also prepares students looking to seek a Ph.D. after graduation.

Applicants do not need to submit GRE scores.

Sul Ross State University View School Profile Alpine, TX

Located in Alpine, Texas, Sul Ross offers an online master's in political science designed to help students interested in careers in academia, politics, government service, and postsecondary teaching.

The program features classes in public administration, comparative politics, intergovernmental relations, public management, and public budgeting and finance. A course on local government administration gives students an in-depth understanding of how small cities, counties, school systems, metro areas, and other public entities operate, particularly in Texas.

Before they graduate, all students must pass a comprehensive oral exam. They must also take 9-18 credits of additional graduate coursework to supplement their studies in political science.

Students may also engage in an internship for credit.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Political Science Program?

In addition to an interest in public policy, political scientists usually possess strong communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills.

In addition to an interest in public policy, political scientists usually possess strong communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills. Most master's in political science programs run for approximately two years and feature 30-45 credits.

Most master's in political science programs award an MA or an MS, though a few schools offer a master of applied politics (MAP). These degrees all offer similar core training, and employers value all three options. The MA tends to focus more on political theory, while the MS usually emphasizes research. Both of these options prepare learners for further study. The MAP is a practical option that hones in on real-world applications.

Program structure differs between degree paths, as well. Some programs require a thesis, while others feature a project-based practicum.

Students may be able to choose a concentration, which can expand their career options or strengthen their skills in a subdiscipline. Popular specialization options include American politics, political theory, nonprofit management, and political economics. If students are interested in a specific field of politics, they should consider programs that offer a concentration in that area.

Admission Requirements for Online Master's in Political Science Programs

To gain admission into a master's in political science program, candidates need a bachelor's degree. Some programs set GPA requirements, such as a minimum 3.0. Applicants may also need to submit GRE or GMAT scores.

Other admission requirements may include professional recommendations, writing samples, statements of purpose, and interviews. For more information on applying to a master's program, check out our graduate admissions guide.

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What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Political Science Program?

The classes students encounter while pursuing an online master's in political science can vary considerably depending on the school, program, degree type, and concentration. While the exact titles and descriptions may differ, the following list highlights common courses found in political science programs.

International Relations

International relations courses delve into the core institutions of international politics and the interactions and intersections between them. Students may look at major instances of war and peace, economic policies, and other monumental international affairs. Other topics covered in these courses may include international trade, human rights, and international law.

Gender and Politics

Gender and politics courses examine the ways in which identity politics have evolved throughout history. Students learn how political institutions view gender and how laws and public policy have been shaped by identity politics. Some courses may look at international viewpoints on the topic, along with historic events in this sphere.

Immigration Policy

Immigration policy courses explore immigration laws and rhetoric throughout history. Learners look at diversity politics and major contemporary debates in the U.S. Coursework may highlight various institutions and how they have influenced the current state of and stance on immigration policy.

Political Theory

Courses in political theory explore the leading theories and research in public policy and political discourse. Students study some of the core political movements in history and examine the thinking and motivation behind them. They also look at the evolution of major political ideologies.

Global Economy

Global economy courses teach students about the economies of other countries and the accumulation of national wealth. Learners look at the various institutions, structures, and events that impact capital and national growth, including labor markets, laws, political institutions, and policies.

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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Political Science Degree?

After earning a master's in political science, graduates may qualify for an array of professional opportunities. They can pursue various social science careers, such as political scientist or sociologist. These positions pay median annual salaries of $122,220 and $83,420, respectively, according to the BLS.

While the competition for social science positions in the government and at major public institutions may be stiff, master's degree-holders can also pursue related positions, such as economist and research analyst.

Learn more about political science careers to see how far you can go with a master's in political science.

Political Scientist

Political scientists research and analyze political systems, institutions, and issues. They get involved in foreign relations, provide information to governments on various issues, and investigate and forecast different trends. According to BLS occupational data, 48% of these scientists work in the federal government and 26% work in professional, scientific, and technical services.

Sociologist

Sociologists study various groups, institutions, and organizations to gain a clearer perspective on society. They collect information through research, surveys, and interviews, using this information to investigate social theories and sociocultural behaviors. They also use sociological data to assist policymakers. According to the BLS, 38% of sociologists work in research and development, 16% work in educational services, and 15% work in state governments.

Survey Researcher

Survey researchers create surveys to gather information, then analyze the data. They may work for organizations to generate data on employees or consumers. Alternatively, they may work for various political institutions to gather information from voters and constituents.The BLS projects these positions to decline in the coming years, so this field may be particularly competitive.

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts examine markets for organizations looking to provide goods and services. These analysts help determine consumer demand and price points for various products and services. They also assess risk and opportunity. According to BLS employment data, 11% of analysts work in management, scientific, and technical consulting services and 10% work in finance and insurance.

Economist

Economists study the movement of goods and services, research economic trends, and provide forecasts and analysis based on data. These professionals typically deliver their findings to businesses or governments. They may also delve into healthcare, education, or environmental issues. BLS employment dataindicates that 23% of economists work for the federal government and 18% work in scientific research and development.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Political Science Programs

Is a master's in political science worth it?

A master's in political science can qualify graduates for attractive careers. The BLS projects employment in life, physical, and social sciences to grow by 5% between 2019-2029, which is faster than the average projected growth for all occupations. The median annual salary of $68,160 for these positions sits nearly $30,000 higher than the median income for all workers in the U.S.

What can I do with a master's in political science?

With a master's in political science, graduates can pursue advanced positions in social science, such as political scientist, sociologist, or economist. They may also advance into management or continue their studies in order to qualify for careers in research and academia.

What are the most popular jobs with a master's in political science?

Popular jobs for graduates with a master's in political science include political scientist, sociologist, campaign manager, and journalist. Many graduates work for the government as civil servants and diplomats, while others work on political campaigns. According to the BLS, more than 20,000 professionals were employed as economists in 2019, making it a popular choice in the social sciences.

How much money can I make with a master's in political science?

With a master's in political science, graduates can earn high salaries depending on their career choice. For example, political scientists make a median annual wage of $122,220, economists make a median annual wage of $105,020, and sociologists make a median annual wage of $83,420.

What are the highest-paying jobs I can get with a master's in political science?

Among the social sciences, political scientists enjoy the highest pay. BLS employment data shows that these professionals make a median annual wage of $122,220. The top 10% in the field earn more than $164,210 annually.

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