If law, politics, and policymaking are of interest to you, then you may be interested in pursuing a career in a political science field. Political science degrees are often the starting point for attorneys, lobbyists, and public relations professionals. Students learn how to address questions of power and injustice in the modern world while deepening their political literacy and communication skills. Here is a closer look at the doors that are opened to you with a degree in political science.
What Do You Study in a Political Science Program?
Politics is about more than just political campaigns. Politics is deeply integral to our society as a whole. Understanding politics is vital to understanding governments, law, strategy, and even diplomacy. This is what political science students study.
A political science program includes courses on government structure and political behavior. Students study how people gather power and how they retain it. Ethics are also a strong part of a political science program. Students learn about law and business and how the government affects these.
What Can You Do With a Political Science Degree?
Many people assume that political science is designed primarily for those going into politics. While a career in the government is certainly possible with this degree, that is just one career path. There are many other careers, including careers in law and public relations, available to those who study political science. Here is a closer look at the options open to political science majors after graduation and beyond.
A bachelor's degree in political science can be one of the first steps on the path to law school. While attorneys will need additional training before they can take the bar for their license and practice law, the foundations provided with a political science degree can be a good starting point. After receiving a bachelor's degree, potential lawyers will either move on with a master's degree in law or political science or head straight to law school. The degree requires four years of undergraduate study and three years of law school. Many states require a Juris Doctor degree before a lawyer can take the bar exam.
Working as a lawyer offers a high average income. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for lawyers in 2019 was $122,960 a year. Those in the top 10 percent earned over $208,000 a year. Working for the federal government earns the highest average wage of $144,300. Demand for lawyers is growing at a steady rate—about a 4 percent rise in the number of lawyers by 2029. One benefit of working in this field is the variety of opportunities offered. Lawyers can specialize in one particular type of law, or they can have varied practices.
2. Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists work to protect the public image of their employer. This is a common need in politics, which requires individuals to have a positive public image in spite of what could be repeated attempts to pull down that image. Public relations specialists may also work for companies to create materials that connect target audiences to the company's brand. Sometimes public relations managers will work in nonprofit fundraising, helping organizations or politicians bring in the funds and donations they need to do their work.
Working as a public relations specialist requires a bachelor's degree. There are credentialing options, including the International Association of Business Communicators certification and Certified Fund Raising Executive Program, but these are not required to start working as a public relations specialist.
The BLS estimates the average annual wage for these professionals to be $116,180. Those who work in scientific and professional industries earn the most at $133,480 a year, while those who work in advertising and marketing earn around $128,870 a year.
3. Policy Analyst
Policy analysts help lawmakers implement, adjust, or change regulations, policies, and laws. They work for the government or lobbying organizations. A deep knowledge and understanding of the law and how it relates to the public is helpful in this role. Policy analysts may also be employed by organizations to monitor and evaluate pending legislation, so companies can determine how that legislation may impact their work.
Policy analysts and other political scientists earn an average of $122,220 a year, according to the BLS. This field is expected to grow by 6 percent by 2029. To get started in this area of specialization, students need at least a master's degree in political science.
4. Legal Assistant/Paralegal
For students who have a passion for law but who do not wish to tackle the rigors of law school, a career as a paralegal is a good fit. This requires a minimum of an associate degree in the field, but a bachelor's degree could be preferred. Paralegals assist lawyers in the research and organization surrounding cases and publications. They will also file exhibits, briefs, and appeals with the courts and opposing counsel.
The average estimated income for paralegals and legal assistants, according to the BLS, is $51,740 a year. The demand for these professionals is high, and the BLS anticipates a 10 percent growth by 2029, which is much faster than average.
5. Political Consultant
Political consultants offer public relations help to public figures and politicians. They may also work with business leaders and private businesses. They know how to take public situations and present them in a way that creates a positive spin and image for their clients. They may connect with journalists and media to protect the image of their client in the general public.
Political consultants are a specialized type of public relations specialist. The BLS estimates the average salary for these professionals to be $61,150 a year. Those in the top 10 percent earn an average of $115,430 a year.
A journalist digs into political events and happenings to inform the public about those events. News journalists may publish articles, or they may work for radio and television news stations. A political science degree helps prepare students to analyze news and political events to frame the story.
The average salary for a journalist is going to vary significantly based on where the journalist is working. The BLS estimates the annual average to be $46,270. Some journalists work on a freelance basis, rather than an annual salary, which provides flexibility but makes pay more varied. The highest 10 percent of income earners earn over $117,000 a year in this field.
Lobbyists represent private individuals, the public, and organizations in the political world. They are good at persuasion and spend time talking to elected officials and policymakers about legislation and how it will affect their clients. They work to sway politicians to one view or another in order to benefit those they represent.
The average pay for a lobbyist is going to vary. Some will work part-time because they are passionate about the particular issue they are fighting for. Others will make a full-time career out of their work. Lobbyists are a type of public relations specialist, and the average pay in 2019 for this role is $61,150.
Sometimes a degree in political science creates an unexpected career path, and some graduates will end up working as teachers. Secondary teachers can teach government and history after exploring political science in their education. They may need additional training and student teaching experience, but a background in the subject area helps. The average salary, according to the BLS, for a high school teacher is $61,660 a year. Those who earn a master's degree in political science can teach on the postsecondary level and potentially earn an average of $79,540 a year.
9. Community Organizer
Community organizers help people and institutions work toward a common goal. They solve social problems and help their companies learn how to work in the community in a positive way. A degree in political science helps these professionals understand how their organizations impact the world around them. This can be a highly motivating career path because these professionals help bring positive change within their communities. The average salary is around $40,116 a year, and the job growth rate is quite steady at 13 percent.
Get the Education You Need
If one of these careers in political science is appealing to you, start with the right degree. JWU offers an online political science degree that can help you make your mark. This bachelor's degree program can open the door for a career in law and politics after graduation.