“What can I do with a major in Political Science?” is probably the most frequently asked question by students whose interests in politics or government is piqued in an introductory course. Many students think that if they're not interested in going to law school, there's not much else they can do with a major in Political Science.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. The most important thing to consider in choosing a major is their interest in the scope and content of the subject matter. A liberal arts education that teaches students to think critically and analytically, to express themselves effectively in writing and orally, to solve problems, and to understand and participate in the community in which they live and work is valuable in itself regardless of the student's major field of concentration.
Beyond that, a degree in Political Science opens doors to opportunities in many careers.
Government employment offers a number of opportunities for initial entry and advancement up a career ladder to increasingly responsible positions. The federal government is the nation's largest employer; directly or indirectly, it employs nearly 3.1 million civilians and there are approximately 100,000 new hires each year. There are opportunities to work in the congress or the courts as well as the executive branch. It is difficult to generalize about state and local governments because they are so numerous, but as the trend to shift responsibility for programs and services from the federal to state and local governments continues, opportunities to work at the state and local levels will increase accordingly.
By tradition, many political science majors build on their substantive knowledge of public policy making and of constitutional change, and pursue careers in the law and advocacy. While political science is not the only route to obtaining a graduate law degree, many successful careers in law have started in political science programs. Courses on courts, administrative law and regulatory practice, and on international legal practices are an excellent preparation for the substance and skills that are developed in law school programs.
Private interest groups and associations are located in every state capitol as well as Washington, D.C.. While it is sometimes assumed that most Washington lobbyists are lawyers or former government officials, or both, a recent study of several hundred interest group representatives found that while about one-third had law degrees, only one-fifth were practicing lawyers and nearly one-third had other kinds of advanced educational training. Strong backgrounds in the social sciences are certainly valuable. By a considerable margin, political science was the most popular undergraduate major. Writing skill is also highly prized.
In recent years the opportunities, and the demand, for qualified men and women with interest in international business, banking, or overseas voluntary agencies, have grown enormously. The range of the careers available within these international organizations is very great. There are growing international employment opportunities for persons trained in political science because so many social and economic problems require political intervention, in the form of public policies, outlays of public funds, regulations enacted and enforced by political and governmental bodies, and the involvement of citizens.
A large number of political science graduates --some studies suggest one-third-- have traditionally found employment in the business sector of the economy. The person who majors in political science offers potential employers in the business and banking worlds a trained understanding of the intricate institutions and the processes of governments. It is governments, after all, that most immediately affect business, financial and commercial organizations.
Political parties, individual campaign consulting firms all offer opportunities for careers in campaign management and political polling. Someone interested in a career in campaigns should have a solid understanding of how the American political system works; the understanding is one outcome of a major in political science. An internship is often a "foot in the door" for all these career opportunities. Students gain valuable experience practicing use of the knowledge and skills learned in political science courses, and they make important contacts as well.
Finally, many political science graduates find careers in journalism and the media. There is a continuous demand for individuals who have the skills required to keep pace with fast changing political developments, who are able to “translate”; these changes for the general public, and who have an appreciation of the significance of political developments in the US and overseas. The substantive knowledge from a political science degree, along with the writing and analytic skills of such a program, are highly prized in the field of journalism.
The Department of Political Science offers a wide range of internship opportunities. For more specific information contact the Department of Political Science.