Political science is an academic area of study concentrated in the political theories and practices of different government systems. This multidisciplinary field also examines how wealth and resources have historically been ― and currently are ― distributed among populations of cities, states and provinces, countries, and other governmental jurisdictions, as well as the laws and policies that have guided and continue to influence these provisions. Subfields of political science include: comparative politics, or the science of weighing differences and similarities between governments; international or global relations; public administration; and public health. Political science often leans on other academic disciplines, including social sciences like history, sociology, anthropology, and economics, as well as law, criminal justice, and public policy.
What are the best political science programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||University of Central Florida||Orlando, FL|
|2||Florida International University||Miami, FL|
|3||Arizona State University||Scottsdale, AZ|
|4||University of Wisconsin La Crosse||La Crosse, WI|
|5||University of Illinois Springfield||Springfield, IL|
|6||University of Wisconsin Whitewater||Whitewater, WI|
|7||Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey||New Brunswick, NJ|
|8||Texas Tech University||Lubbock, TX|
|9||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|10||Indiana University Bloomington||Bloomington, IN|
Political science is one of the most popular areas of study among U.S. undergraduate students, and The Princeton Review ranks 'government/political science' as the third best college major. The bachelor's in political science will prepare students for a wide range of career paths in both the government (public) and private sectors. The curricula of these bachelor's programs is grounded in history, economics, political theory, social advocacy, and law. Many bachelor's in political science pathways culminate in a capstone experience, which typically entails a comprehensive research project that addresses a current trend or hot topic in the global political sphere. An internship may be required, as well. Many of today's students are choosing to earn their bachelor's in political science online. Web-based students follow the same rigorous curricula as their brick-and-mortar counterparts, leading to the same job opportunities after graduation. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format of most online bachelor's in political science degree programs is also a good fit for students with part-time jobs, childcare duties, and other commitments that potentially conflict with commuting to a college campus.
Learn more about what you can do with an online bachelor's in political science and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
- WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A POLITICAL SCIENCE DEGREE?
Graduates with a bachelor's in political science are prepared for many careers, including paralegal, political scientist, and public relations specialist. Read more here..
- WHAT JOBS CAN YOU GET WITH A POLITICAL SCIENCE DEREE?
Political science jobs include technical writer, fundraiser, and political scientist. Read more here..
- WHAT IS A POLITICAL SCIENCE DEGREE?
Political science programs focus on political theories and different government systems. It's a multidisciplinary field that covers how resources are distributed, laws, policies, and more. Read more here..
- IS A POLITICAL SCIENCE DEGREE WORTH IT?
Graduates with a political science degree are prepared for many positions that currently have a low unemployment rate, such as paralegal and public relations specialist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects many of these positions to grow. Read more here..
- IS POLITICAL SCIENCE A LIBERAL ARTS DEGREE?
No. Both programs are multidisciplinary, but political science has more of a focus on government policy, resource distribution, and law. Read more here..
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
A bachelor's in political science online degree will introduce students to the foundational theories and practices that have shaped modern politics, laws, and government systems.
Coursework will involve extensive study in both the U.S. government and the governments of other countries, often as part of side-by-side comparisons. Other courses will delve into social justice and advocacy, highlighting some of the defining social issues of the past and present. Capstone projects allow students to draw on the skills and knowledge they have acquired to create a comprehensive report, and internships prepare students for the realities of today's work environments.
WILL AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Bachelor's in political science online programs offer a flexible, easily-accessible alternative to traditional higher learning. Students can download course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with other students, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their own home. Current technology also enables them to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone and other portable Wi-Fi-compatible devices.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE?
Bachelor's in political science recipients are typically well-suited for jobs in law, policy, criminal justice, and other fields related to political theories and practices. In addition, many of these students find careers in occupations that require skills in leadership and communication, as well as a background in liberal arts, social sciences, and social advocacy. These include roles in fields like public relations, human resources, sales and marketing, social work, and community management. The bachelor's in political science can also serve as a stepping-stone toward a master's or Ph.D. in political science; a graduate degree is often the minimum educational attainment level for political scientists, as well as political science teachers.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online bachelor's in political science programs in the United States. Our ranking is based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence. If you are considering an online bachelor's degree in political science, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific requirements and offerings.
Accredited Online Bachelor's in Political Science Programs
University of Central Florida
|Orlando, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 73%||
UCF's bachelor's in political science program awards a BA and prepares graduates for entry-level careers and graduate study. The program features three concentrations: American politics and policy, international relations, and pre-law. All students must complete an exit exam to graduate.
Over 80% of UCF graduates find a career that aligns with their degree. Learners can prepare for professional success by accessing Handshake job-search software and cover letter critiques.
UCF offers three start dates per year, and admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED scores. Florida residents receive a significant tuition discount. New students need not submit a separate application to apply for one of UCF's Pegasus Scholarships.
Florida International University
|Miami, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
FIU's online bachelor's degree in political science requires courses in comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Students customize their curriculum by selecting six credits of political science electives; these may include independent study and internship experiences. Learners must maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA to graduate.
FIU helps students develop interview skills and search for job and internship opportunities. Many FIU undergraduates who complete an internship receive a job offer from their internship host after graduation.
The university's undergraduate admission requirements include ACT or SAT scores and transcripts, although standardized test requirements are waived for transfer students who hold at least 60 college credits.
Arizona State University
|Scottsdale, AZ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
ASU's bachelor's in political science program includes coursework in political ideologies, comparative government, and empirical political inquiry. Each course involves applying new knowledge and skills to practical scenarios.
ASU's career center provides a mentor network, InterviewStream, and resume critiques. Over 90% of ASU undergraduates enter graduate school or earn a job offer shortly after graduation.
First-year applicants must have a high school diploma and submit standardized test scores. ASU's Earned Admission Track allows transfer applicants who do not meet all application requirements to gain conditional admission. Out-of-state learners pay only slightly higher tuition rates than in-state students.
University of Wisconsin La Crosse
|La Crosse, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
Prospective students who already hold an associate degree can consider pursuing UW-La Crosse's online bachelor's degree in political science. The 30-credit major features courses in international relations, political theory, and research methods. Students who need to take general education credits can do so on campus.
UW-La Crosse's career advisors work one-on-one with distance learners, helping them explore careers and apply to internship opportunities. The university also provides an in-depth guide on how to write persuasive essays.
First-year admission requirements include ACT or SAT scores and high school transcripts or GED scores. The university requires a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA for transfer credit. Minnesota residents also pay in-state tuition at UW-La Crosse.
University of Illinois Springfield
|Springfield, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 51%||
UIS offers an entirely online bachelor's in political science program that includes courses in American political systems, international relations, and empirical political analysis. Students also complete a relevant internship. Motivated distance learners may qualify for the honors program.
More than 90% of UIS undergraduate alumni find a job or start a graduate program within one year of earning their degree. The university's career center promotes positive career outcomes by offering resume critiques, mock interviews, and standardized test study guides.
Students must complete at least 30 undergraduate credits with a minimum 3.0 GPA before applying to the political science program. UIS charges the same per-credit tuition rate to all online learners, even if they live out of state. However, learners must live at least 50 miles outside of Springfield to qualify for this program
University of Wisconsin Whitewater
|Whitewater, WI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Students who earn UWW's online bachelor's degree in political science can also pursue multiple minors, including paralegal and lobbying studies. Major courses include crises in American politics, law and society, and African American politics. During the program's capstone, learners complete a thesis, internship, or independent study project.
UWW's career center provides Handshake, Interview Stream, and an internship search guide. Approximately 98% of UWW's alumni find a job or enroll in another academic program.
The university admits new learners in the fall and spring semesters. Prospective first-year students should submit high school transcripts alongside ACT or SAT scores. Transfer students must have a 2.0 minimum GPA.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
|New Brunswick, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 80%||
Rutgers oversees a bachelor's in political science program that targets learners who already hold an associate degree or significant transfer credit. Core coursework includes the nature of politics, international relations, and comparative politics. Students who maintain a high GPA qualify for the honors program, which requires a thesis.
The university's career center provides career-interest clusters, Handshake, and industry mentoring programs. About 80% of recent Rutgers graduates have found a job or enrolled in graduate school.
In addition to transfer credit, admission requirements include an essay. Some applicants may also need to provide ACT or SAT scores. As New Jersey's flagship university, Rutgers provides a significant tuition discount to Garden State residents.
Texas Tech University
|Lubbock, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 60%||
TTU's online bachelor's degree in political science features courses in American public policy, administrative process, and comparative politics. Students can enroll in online classes or opt for a hybrid delivery format by taking some courses in person at one of several regional campuses.
The university's career center offers resume tips, interview guides, and salary negotiation best practices. Students who live near campus can also visit the Career Closet to pick up a set of professional clothes for free.
TTU admits new students at three points throughout the year and accepts first-year applicants with high school diplomas or GED certificates. All online learners pay the same per-credit tuition rate.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Liberty's 120-credit bachelor's in political science program features coursework in American exceptionalism, foreign policy, and political theory. The flexible curriculum features 12-14 elective courses, which may appeal to learners who want to pursue a second major. Liberty — an evangelical Christian university — also requires that all students take at least three courses covering the Bible and theology.
Nearly 75% of graduates find a job that aligns with the degree they earned at Liberty. Students can prepare for career success by participating in workshops, resume critiques, and one-on-one coaching sessions.
Prospective students must have a minimum 2.0 high school or undergraduate GPA. In addition to charging all students the same tuition rate, Liberty provides textbooks at no additional cost. Active-duty service members and veterans qualify for tuition discounts.
Indiana University Bloomington
|Bloomington, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 78%||
Aspiring community organizers and news analysts may be interested in IU's online bachelor's degree in political science. The program's asynchronous curriculum covers American politics, comparative politics, and political theory. Additional requirements include a senior seminar.
IU's career center has helped nearly 80% of recent undergraduates find a job or gain admission into a graduate program. Distance learners can access career coaches, internship opportunities, and career communities — groups of like-minded students who network with alumni and receive advice from industry professionals.
IU accepts applications throughout the year, and prospective first-year students should submit high school transcripts or GED scores. As Indiana's flagship university, IU provides Hoosier State residents with a significant tuition discount.
WHAT ELSE CAN I EXPECT FROM AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE PROGRAM?
A political science degree online is for students interested in politics and political theory. Political science graduates find careers in government, law, business, advocacy groups, teaching, and journalism. An online political science degree covers a broad range of topics.
CONCENTRATIONS OFFERED FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE
|American politics||This concentration focuses on analyzing and understanding the American political system using historical and contemporary case studies. The concentration typically looks at institutions, politicians, the public, law, the media, and diversity to try to understand how the political system has evolved and how to create change.||Governmental positions (local, state, and federal level), lawyer, advocate in the nonprofit field, lobbyist|
|Comparative/international politics||This concentration is similar to the American politics concentration but is expanded to analyze and compare politics at a global level. More focus is given to understanding and resolving conflict. A comparative politics concentration also spends time looking at why politics differ from country to country.||Governmental positions, international business, international legal positions, NGOs|
|Political theory||A political theory concentration (sometimes called political philosophy) focuses on the theoretical underpinnings of the political and legal system. Courses explore philosophical questions about the meaning of justice, the social order, and authority. Students who want a theoretical understanding of politics should consider this concentration.||Teaching, law, governmental positions|
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE
Political science degree online schools offer a range of courses that can vary between schools. Some sample online political science courses are listed below.
- The American political system: This course introduces students to how the American political system has worked historically and how it functions today. It also gives an overview of the field. Topics covered include institutional foundations of U.S. politics and activities of politicians, citizens, and organizations. This introductory course is helpful for students interested in any career dealing with politics or the government.
- Constitutional law: This course looks at constitutional law in the United States from a contemporary and historical point of view. The intentions of the founding fathers are considered while the role of the Supreme Court and changes in society over time are also examined. The three branches of government and their separate roles are discussed. Future lawyers and government workers benefit from this course.
- Political protest: This course examines the role of protest in either American or global politics. Topics include protesters, protest strategies, and response to protest from the government, the public, and the media. Students also analyze the way that protests and governmental responses to protest change depending on type of government and epoch. This course develops necessary skills for students interested in pursuing careers in advocacy and nonprofit groups.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE?
Factors affecting program length include the number of courses available each term, if a student attends classes full-time or part-time, and the number of transfer credits a student has when beginning the program.
Some programs give students the choice to go at their own pace, while others adopt a cohort learning approach. In cohort programs, students progress through the program together, taking the same courses each term. The cohort approach fosters a community of learners who support each other. Students who go at their own pace may have more flexibility in how many courses they take and when they take them. On average, it takes two-and-a-half to four years to complete a political science degree online.
Accreditation for Online Political Science Degrees
When looking at political science degree online schools, it's important to make sure the school chosen is accredited. Accreditation is a voluntary process in which a school is evaluated to make sure it meets minimum educational standards.
There are two types of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation agencies concentrate on specific geographic regions of the country. National accreditation agencies can accredit schools in any part of the country and typically work with for-profit and faith-based schools. Regional accreditation is more widely recognized, and regionally accredited institutions tend to accept transfer credits. By choosing an accredited school, students can be assured they will get a quality education. Many political science online degrees at the bachelor's level are not accredited separately from the school.
Two organizations play important roles in accreditation: the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The Department of Education (DOE) is a U.S. government agency that establishes policy and coordinates federal assistance, including student loans and grants. The DOE publishes a list of nationally recognized accreditors that students can trust. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is an organization of degree-granting American colleges and universities. Its purpose is to coordinate the accreditation process for higher education in the United States by ensuring the quality of accrediting agencies. For a list of all accredited schools, visit the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
JOB PLACEMENT: BACHELOR'S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE
The political science field is relatively small, and little to no job growth is projected in the coming years. Thankfully, this is not the only career option for those who earn a bachelor’s in political science; graduates ― particularly those with good grades and solid recommendations ― are well-positioned to compete for jobs in business, creative media, and social services.
Unemployment rates for political science graduates will vary by their specific job title. Using data from U.S. News & World Report, the table below looks at the current employment rates for some of the most common jobs among political science bachelor's recipients. Comparatively, the average unemployment rate for all occupations nationwide currently sits at 4.5%.
|Occupation||Unemployment Rate (2017)|
|Public Relations Specialist||1.1%|
|Market Research Analyst||3.1%|
|Interpreter and Translator||4.0%|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
EARNING A LIVING
Like unemployment rates and projected job outlook, the earning potential for those with a bachelor's in political science will often boil down to their experience level and current title, as well as the size of their employer and their city/state of employment. The table below features 20-year salary growth projections for five of common careers among those who have earned a bachelor's in political science.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Experienced Employees (10-20 Years)||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career Employees (20+ Years)|
|Public Relations Specialist||$41,877||$54,057||$60,563||$60,173|
|Public Relations Manager||$51,770||$67,115||$74,905||$75,446|
|Human Resources Specialist||$44,951||$50,430||$54,645||$61,124|
All five occupations experience salary growth of at least 36% after 20 years on the job. PR managers reported the highest growth rate: a 45.7% increase in earnings between the entry-level and late-career stages. Campaign managers ranked closely at second with 45.6% career salary growth, followed by PR specialists with 43.7% salary growth.
Those who earn a bachelor's in political science will be qualified for dozens of jobs in a wide range of industries, although individual eligibility may depend on their chosen concentration. Four popular career pathways in political science are outlined below.
Public Relations Specialists: Public relations specialists (also known as PR specialists) create a positive image for individuals and organizations in order to generate public interest. Their day-to-day duties include writing press releases, scheduling public appearances, coordinating interviews with journalists, and engaging in social media marketing on behalf of their clients.
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers: PR and fundraising managers design the materials used to promote and raise money for individuals, organizations, and social causes. PR and fundraising both play an important role in modern politics, and these managers often find work with elected officials, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations.
Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers: These managers develop and coordinate programs designed to generate public buzz about a person, place, or product. Those with a background in political science are well-suited for the data analysis, demographic research, community outreach, and communication that this job entails.
Human Resources Specialists: HR specialists are responsible for recruiting new employees, screening job applicants, conducting interviews, and providing orientation programs for workers when they begin work. The BLS notes that 14% of HR specialists are work for local, state, or federal government employers.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary||Projected Industry Growth (2014-24)|
|Public Relations Specialists||$56,770||6% (+14,900 jobs)|
|Public Relations and Fundraising Managers||$104,140||7% (+4,700 jobs)|
|Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers||$127,560||9% (+19,700 jobs)|
|Human Resources Specialists||$59,180||5% (+22,000 jobs)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to political science is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for political science professionals. These organizations host networking events, provide online trainings, maintain active job boards, and offer other services for career-ready college graduates. Resources like these often prove invaluable as you complete your degree requirements and prepare to enter the job market.
- American Political Science Association: Founded in 1903, the APSA today represents more than 13,000 members in 80 different countries. The association published four different peer-reviewed journals and hosts a handful of events, including an annual exhibition in a different major city each year.
- International Political Science Association: UNESCO established IPSA in 1949 to “support the development of political science in all parts of the world, building academic networks linking East and West, North and South”. Membership is offered at individual, institutional, and collective rates.
- International Association for Political Science Students: The IAPSS represents more than 1,000 students worldwide and publishes two peer-reviewed journals. Membership benefits include voting rights in general assembly meetings held each year, an invitation to join different committees, and complimentary magazine and journal subscriptions.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Political Science
Despite the relative affordability of online bachelor's programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and other sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
Students who pursue online degrees will be eligible for scholarships, grants and other financial aid that is unavailable to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Learn more about these financial opportunities for web-based learners.
Finance — the study of money and asset management — is one of the most popular degree concentrations for MBA students. Learn about the best schools for this area of study with our comprehensive degree guide.
Another popular specialization field for MBA students, human resources (or HR) focuses on hiring, new employee orientation and other administrative needs. Visit our guide to master's degrees in HR for more information.
Our page dedicated to resources for business students includes links to professional organizations, open courseware, industry publications, books and business-minded users to follow on Twitter.
Our career page for business degree graduates includes a state-by-state breakdown of business careers and academic options for business students, as well as popular job sites, professional organizations and continuing education opportunities for established professionals.