It isn’t always easy to find a career that represents the perfect balance between personal interests and abilities, education, and salary goals. The man or woman who is able to strike this balance can consider themselves quite lucky. Although not a profession with numerous workers, political science jobs attract men and women with an interest in politics and government, and most of these workers have long careers in which they are able to fulfill their goals both in terms of professional development and earnings.
The political scientist works in somewhat of a niche market. The individual uses his or her specialized education to perform research, analysis, and evaluation. That being said, there are many options open to these professionals. Although many political scientists end up working for the government, it is an interesting characteristic of this profession, that many of the workers can tailor their careers, often working as lobbyists or researchers at political institutes, occupying a role that may involve influencing the politicians they formerly worked with.
Political Science Jobs - Outlook and Duties
The political science jobs have received increased intention in recent years as lobbyists and other government influencers have come under increasing scrutiny. Many lobbyists come from a political science background, not only because experience in government work is an advantage for the lobbyist, but also because a successful career as a lobbyist requires an understanding of how government bodies work, what the forces at work are, and who the important players in government are.
Not every person interested in political science jobs becomes a lobbyist. There are many roles that are open to a man or woman with a background in political science, with many going on to work as consultants for non-governmental agencies or in education. It should not come as a surprise that non-governmental agencies or other groups that interact with the government, like labor unions and religious organizations, require political scientists as these groups often need government funding, or require someone with an understanding of government to help them adhere to government regulations.
The first question anyone should be asking is the obvious one: what is a political scientist? Political scientists study the operation of government and research policies and trends within the government. Education in this area poises someone to work for the government, as they have an advanced understanding of its working, or to help organizations that interact with government. Finally, an education in this field does prepare a worker to be capable of assisting an organization in influencing the government, so many political science jobs do involve some lobbying.
Of course, one of the main criticisms of the lobbying industry is that it may not always be clear who is a lobbyist and who is not, as a consultant or advisor at a political institute may officially have a research or policy analysis role, when in actuality their role may involve interacting with officers of government, or providing information designed to aid one political party or position over another.
There are many factors that impact the decision of which career path to follow, of which the political science salary is one. Another important deciding factor when choosing to go for political science jobs is whether the job duties align with your personal interests and career goals. Naturally, many men and women gain a better understanding of what their interests and goals are after they have already spent some time in the college setting, but there are some qualities that jibe well with a career in this industry.
Some important qualities for someone aspiring for a political science career include:
These skills are important because many political science jobs do not involve the completion of rote functions, but involve coming up with research ideas, interacting with people on the street, or otherwise coming up with new ideas, working independently, or performing research. Although some people may prefer having a job with clear-cut duties, many people that are interested in government and politics have an interest in fields of study that involve creative thinking, analysis, and idea generation.
There are not a huge number of political science jobs in the labor market of the United States, but the future political scientist can look forward to several options with regards to the type of employer they would like to work for or their desired work setting. At present, there are about 7,300 working political scientists in the United States and by far the largest percentage of these work for the government at 48%. Others work in education, for various professional, religious and scientific organizations, and some are self-employed.
It is important to have an understanding of the duties that a political scientist will be expected to perform when deciding to pursue political science jobs. The duties of the political scientist should not be too surprising considering the skills that potential entrants should have and the large number of them that end up working for the government. Many of the duties of the political scientist involve research and analysis.
Here are some common tasks expected of these professionals:
These duties may seem somewhat general, so an example of a specific research or analysis task of a political scientist would be to analyze population trends in voter registration in a particular area in order to make predictions for future government policy or lobbying purposes. Again, this is an example of the slippery slope in the political science field between merely providing research and perhaps attempting to influence politicians or the political process.
One could argue whether or not political science should actually be called a science. Like other fields that are considered a science, the minimum requirement for work in this field is a bachelor’s degree. Numerous colleges and universities across the United States have departments of political science, and study in these departments has long been popular both for people interested in a career in government, and those who choose to obtain a background of study in government for use in other careers like finance.
In reality, many jobs in the political science field require a master’s a doctoral degree. This is not too surprising as many of the jobs for political scientists include working for the government or working for institutes or organizations that interact with the government. It is also typical for careers that involve a significant amount of research and analysis, like this one, to prefer graduate degrees as undergraduate education often does not provide adequate preparation for high-level research.
That being said, workers in this field are often able to find employment with a bachelor’s degree. Political science jobs that employ holders of bachelor’s degrees include political campaigns, research institutes, not-for-profit groups, and even some government jobs. Although many holders of political science degrees pursue political science jobs, many go on to obtain other advanced degrees in business or law.
When going for a doctoral degree, students of political science or international relations often specialize in a given area.
Common areas of specialization for political science Ph.D.’s include:
There are many master’s degree programs available in areas that fall within the sphere of political science, or overlap with it, such as public policy, public administration, and the likes. Certifications and licenses are not an established requirement in this field as possession of a graduate degree is typically sufficient.
Political Science Salary
The median wage for political science jobs in 2016 was $114,290, which is on the high end for salaries in industries that overlap with this one. Like salaries in other professions, this median exists within a range, and the range for this industry is about $57,000 to $160,000. As mentioned previously, the largest employer of political scientists was the federal government, and their salary compared well to that offered by private organizations. The lowest paying jobs in political science industry was in the education sector where workers averaged about $50,000.
The most important factors influencing salary were level of degree held and years of experience. Workers with a bachelor’s degree earned well below the median while those with 20 or more years’ experience or advanced degrees owned closer to it.
Political science jobs are an attractive choice for anyone interested in a role where they can gain a greater understanding of government operation and policy, and potentially serve in a role where they can influence government. These workers can earn well into the six-figures range, even when working for the government. Although job growth is expected to be below average, this should not deter potential entrants into the field or affect the political science salary.