Entering the Job Market
A bachelor's degree in political science can lead to employment in a wide variety of fields, including business, government, media, non-profits, law, and higher education. These jobs use the analytical skills and communication abilities of political science majors.
To prepare to seek employment,
- Consult your professors and college careers office. Seek advice about opportunities and how your own skills and achievements can best be used. It is never too early to contact your college careers office and determine how to identify and prepare yourself to apply for jobs that interest you. Many universities and colleges offer online advice and information about on-campus recruiting.
- Prepare a resume. Emphasize broad analytical and communication skills. Highlight internship and job experiences. Ask an advisor or college career counselor to critique your resume. Make sure you have no grammatical or spelling errors.
- Put together a sample cover letter. While a cover letter should be tailored to the specific job to which you are applying, it can be helpful to write a sample letter. Cover letters should be no more than one page and are primarily an opportunity to show how your skills match specific job requirements. Be sure to show your skills, rather than stating them. (For example, instead of listing “team player” as a skill you could write about contributions you made to a successful team project.) Be sure to proofread your cover letters for spelling and grammar. Ask a professor or advisor to proofread and critique your letter, too.
- Seek an internship with an organization that interests you. Internships provide valuable work experience and potential professional references. APSA has internship resources to help you in your search.
- Begin searching online to explore potential job opportunities. Find questions to ask here.
- Tap into your networks. Alumni groups, acquaintances, and mentors can be valuable sources of career advice. Consider requesting informational interviews with acquaintances whose careers you would like to emulate. Professional networking sites like LinkedIn are also useful for researching potential career paths and contacts.
Many undergraduate political science majors continue to law school. Most colleges and universities have a pre-law advisor to assist students who are considering applying to law school. Further sources for information on legal careers and law schools include the American Bar Association, Law School Admission Council, and the National Association for Law Placement.
If you are interested in continuing your political science studies and would like to focus on a particular policy or issue area, consider pursuing a master’s degree. Master’s programs include broad professional degrees in public administration, public policy, and international or foreign affairs. There are also master’s programs which focus on specific policy issues such as security studies, political economy, international development, environmental policy, health policy, human rights, or urban planning. If you are interested in further in-depth study on a particular cultural or geographical region, consider a master’s degree in an area study such as Middle East studies, Asian studies, Latin American studies, or European studies.
To learn about these programs, consult with your advisor and political science faculty, especially faculty who specialize in the field or policy area(s) that interest you.
If you are interested in becoming a political scientist, then think about pursuing a doctoral degree. A PhD qualifies you to teach at the college and university level and certifies you as an expert in your area of specialty.
To successfully complete a PhD you will need to take coursework, pass comprehensive examinations, and write a dissertation on some aspect of original research. Some PhD students also serve as teaching or research assistants during their time in graduate school. Many individuals who purse a PhD in political science are interested in becoming university or college professors, though others use their PhD for careers in government, research, and non-profit sectors.
To learn about pursuing a PhD,
- Discuss your interest with your academic advisor and political science professors. Ask for guidance about graduate study and about the work of political scientists.
- Consider what area of specialty you would like to pursue. Research departments for information on graduate faculty and courses. If you decide to apply to PhD programs, your essays should ideally reference specific professors with whom you would like to study. You can find websites for most departments here.
- You do not need a master’s degree to enter a PhD program, but you will need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
- APSA publications provide further information about pursuing a doctoral degree. APSA also has online resources for graduate students here.
- When researching graduate programs, inquire about funding for PhD students, including fellowships and assistantships. For ideas about what questions to ask departments before enrolling in a graduate program, see APSA’s Graduate Student Questions to Ask.
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