Tips for Choosing to Study Political Science

Studying political science is integral to understanding your rights and responsibilities as a citizen and to acquiring an understanding of domestic and international affairs. Most secondary schools require courses in civics and government, and political issues in the United States and other countries are discussed in other courses such as history and social science. If political issues interest you, you can pursue that interest in virtually every college and university in the United States.

Undergraduate study of politics usually consists of courses on American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. These courses will introduce you to political concepts, political behavior, policy issues, and structures of government within societies and among nations. In addition to giving you new insight into the political process happening around you every day, these courses also provide valuable analytical and communication skills.

To pursue the study of politics further, you can take advanced undergraduate courses about specific institutions, policies, and aspects of political life in the United States, other nations, or at the international level. Political science majors should select courses that interest them and help prepare for careers that can be entered into with either a bachelor’s degree (for example, serving as a legislative assistant, or an aid worker) or a professional or graduate education (for example, law school, business school, or doctoral studies).

High School Students

Tips for choosing to study political science in college:

  • Talk to your high school guidance counselor and teachers about your interests.
  • Visit university and college websites to research the political science or government department. Look for descriptions of courses, faculty profiles, and requirements of the major.
  • Consider taking a community college, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate course in political science or government. Most bachelor’s degree programs give students credit toward their degree for successful completion of these advanced courses.
  • Review additional APSA career resources, including information on potential career sectors and APSA career publications.

Undergraduate Students

Tips for choosing the political science major:

  • Review information on objectives and requirements for the major. Consider any distribution requirements needed for the major. Many departments also now offer specialized “tracks” or “concentrations” within political science, such as pre-law, public administration, international studies, political economy, security studies, or area studies focusing on specific regions.
  • Talk with undergraduate advisors and professors about your academic and career plans. Developing professional relationships with mentors and advisors can be helpful for both short and long-term academic and career planning. If you would like help finding a mentor, consider using the APSA Mentoring Program, which is a service available to all APSA members as well as current students of APSA departmental members.
  • Studying or working abroad is one way to increase your knowledge about other cultures and political systems and potentially strengthen your foreign language skills.
  • Consider pursuing a minor or double-major. Minoring or double-majoring in a related social science or humanities discipline—such as history, philosophy, economics, or sociology—can complement the study of political science and broaden your career prospects. The same is true of interdisciplinary fields like environmental and sustainability studies, gender studies, health policy, urban planning, or race and ethnicity studies. Studying qualitative and quantitative research methods, computer science, and statistics can help strengthen your analytical and technical skills.
  • Consider an internship or service learning project. Your campus may provide opportunities for education through internships or service learning in local, state, and federal government agencies, political parties, campaigns, and other national or community-based non-governmental organizations. An internship can enhance your undergraduate education not only by helping you to develop career skills, but also teaching you to participate in public life as a career, volunteer, and citizen. Internships also offer insights into practical processes of politics and government, as well as training and contacts that can be helpful in career planning and future employment.

Learn more about what to do after completing a bachelor's degree >>>