Political Scientists

Career, Salary and Education Information

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a political scientist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Political Science Jobs

  • Threat Assessment Case Manager - Gavin de Becker & Associates - Los Angeles, CA

    Case Manager: Required Qualifications • Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, or a related

  • Adjunct Faculty-Political Science - Barton County Community College - Washington, DC

    Adjunct faculty is a temporary employee who may or may not be continuously employed depending on instructional need. Job

  • Program Associate, Project on Middle East Political Science (POMEPS) - George Washington University - Washington, DC

    This position will support the project in all of its capacities so that the Elliott School may continue to receive grant funding for this project in

See all Political Science jobs

What Political Scientists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.

Duties of Political Scientists

Political scientists typically do the following:

  • Research political subjects, such as the U.S. political system and foreign relations
  • Collect and analyze data from sources such as public opinion surveys
  • Develop and test political theories
  • Evaluate the effects of policies and laws on government, businesses, and people
  • Monitor current events, policy decisions, and other related issues
  • Forecast political, economic, and social trends
  • Submit research results by giving presentations and publishing articles

Political scientists usually conduct research in one of the following areas: national politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory.

Often, political scientists use qualitative methods in their research, gathering information from numerous sources. For example, they may use historical documents to analyze past government structures and policies. Political scientists also rely on quantitative methods to develop and research theories. For example, they may analyze voter registration data to identify voting patterns. Political scientists study a wide range of topics such as U.S. political parties, how political structures differ among countries, globalization, and the history of political thought.

Political scientists also work as policy analysts for organizations that have a stake in policy, such as government, labor unions, and political groups. They evaluate current policies and events using public opinion surveys, economic data, and election results. From these sources, they try to anticipate the effects of new policies.

Political scientists often research the effects of government policies on a particular region or population, both domestically and internationally. As a result, they provide information and analysis that help in planning, developing, or carrying out policies.

Many people with a political science background become postsecondary teachers and high school teachers.

Work Environment for Political Scientists[About this section] [To Top]

Political scientists hold about 7,300 jobs. The largest employers of political scientists are as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 48%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 27
Educational services; state, local, and private 7
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 7
Self-employed workers 7

Political Scientist Work Schedules

Political scientists typically work full time in an office. They may work additional hours to finish reports and meet deadlines.

How to Become a Political Scientist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Political Scientists near you!

Political scientists need a master's degree or Ph.D. in political science, public administration, or a related field.

Education for Political Scientists

Most political scientists need to complete either a master's or Ph.D. program. To be admitted to a graduate program, applicants should complete undergraduate courses in political science, writing, and statistics. Applicants also benefit from having related work or internship experience.

Political scientists often complete a master of public administration (MPA), master of public policy (MPP), or master of public affairs degree. These programs usually combine several disciplines, and students can choose to concentrate in a specific area of interest. Most offer core courses in research methods, policy formation, program evaluation, and statistics. Some colleges and universities also offer master's degrees in political science, international relations, or other applied political science specialties.

Some political scientists also complete a Ph.D. program, which requires several years of coursework followed by independent research for a dissertation. Most Ph.D. candidates choose to specialize in one of four primary subfields of political science: national politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory.

Jobseekers with a bachelor's degree in political science usually qualify for entry-level positions in a related field, such as assistants or research assistants for research organizations, political campaigns, or nonprofit organization. They may also qualify for some government positions. Others go into fields outside of politics and policymaking, such as business or law.

Other Experience for Political Scientists

Entry-level jobseekers can benefit from internships or volunteer work through clubs and political organizations. These activities can give students a chance to apply their academic knowledge in a professional setting and to develop the analytic, research, and writing skills needed for the field.

Important Qualities for Political Scientists

Analytical skills. Political scientists often use qualitative and quantitative research methods. They require analytical skills to collect, evaluate, and interpret data.

Communication skills. Political scientists often collaborate with other researchers when writing reports or giving presentations. They must communicate their findings to a wide variety of audiences.

Creativity. Political scientists must continually explore new ideas and information to produce original papers and research. They must stay current on political subjects and come up with new ways to think about and address issues.

Critical-thinking skills. Political scientists must be able to examine and process available information and draw logical conclusions from their findings.

Political Scientist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for political scientists is $114,290. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,750, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $160,290.

The median annual wages for political scientists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Professional, scientific, and technical services $120,610
Federal government, excluding postal service 119,800
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 80,120
Educational services; state, local, and private 50,810

Political scientists typically work full time in an office. They may work additional hours to finish reports and meet deadlines.

Job Outlook for Political Scientists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of political scientists is projected to grow 2 percent over the next ten years, slower than the average for all occupations.

About half of all political scientists are employed by the federal government. Political scientists will continue to be needed in government to assess the impact of government policies, such as the efficiencies of public services, effects of budget changes, and advantages of proposed improvements.

Political organizations, lobbying firms, and labor unions rely on the knowledge of political scientists to manage complicated legal and regulatory issues and policies. Political scientists will be needed at research and policy institutes to focus specifically on politics and political theory. Organizations that research or advocate for specific causes, such as immigration policy, healthcare, or the environment, also need political scientists to analyze policies relating to their field.

Job Prospects for Political Scientists

Political scientists should face strong competition for most jobs. The small number of positions, combined with the popularity of political science programs in colleges and universities, means that there will likely be many qualified candidates for relatively few positions.

Candidates with advanced degrees, strong writing and analytical skills, and experience researching or performing policy analysis should have the best job prospects. Candidates who have specialized knowledge or experience in their field of interest will also have better job opportunities. Internships or volunteer work also may be helpful.

Employment projections data for Political Scientists, 2016-26
Occupational Title Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26
Percent Numeric
Political scientists 7,300 7,400 2 200


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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