Careers in Public Service and International Relations
Are you interested in a career serving the public, shaping laws or representing your country internationally? A number of jobs are available, and you can get started with just an associate’s degree, although more advanced degrees mean a wider range of jobs. Opportunities to take courses online are plentiful, too, so you can care for your family while continuing your studies.
Politics and Public Service
The most obvious careers for a political science major are politics, public service or public administration of some kind. When majoring in political science, you’ll gain in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the U.S. political process, from learning about the legislative process to voting behavior and polling methods.
Working as an aide or at another staff job for a politician is a good way to get started in politics. Becoming a lawyer can be a shortcut to elected office, too, because of the contacts you make during that career. Politicians usually start locally on the school board or town council and work their way up to the state level and possibly into national politics. Jobs that the American Political Science Association (APSA) cites as examples for political science majors are: campaign staff, congressional office staffer, CIA agent or analyst, city housing administrator, environmental policy analyst, federal government analyst, immigration officer, intelligence officer and policy analyst. Political scientists earned a median salary of $114,290 in May 2016, which means that half earned more, and half earned less.
Some political science undergrads go on to earn a master’s degree in international relations or international affairs. Are you a good negotiator or mediator? Fluent in a second language? Then consider a career as a liaison between a U.S. agency and a similar agency in another country. With a master’s, the APSA reports that jobs are available as a foreign service officer, international agency officer or as an international research specialist. According to Glassdoor, foreign affairs officers earned a minimum of $55,000 and an average of $94,898 as of January 2018.
Jobs in Media
Earning a degree in political science requires learning to be a good researcher and writer, whether you’re writing research papers or political arguments. Often, it also includes the art of healthy debate as students take sides on issues of the day and argue their points. These skills would be useful in media jobs such as political correspondent, political commentator, web content editor, and in communications and public relations. Earn a graduate degree in journalism or media communications to increase your chances of landing a media job. The median salary for reporters in May 2016 was $37,820 and $56,680 for broadcast news analysts.
Business, NGO and Non-Profit Sectors
The types of subjects studied and skills attained while earning a political science degree—research methods, finance, economics, and computer and social media competence—are valuable in jobs related to business, non-government organizations and nonprofits. Examples of jobs available, according to the APSA, are non-profit program manager, banking analyst, data scientist, labor relations specialist, management analyst, research analyst and mediator. As an example, the median salary for a management analyst in May 2016 was $81,330.
Teacher or Professor
If you’re passionate about political science or related issues and want to share your passion, consider teaching the next generation. Appropriate jobs could be as a high school government teacher or a university professor of political science or international affairs. High school teachers earned a median salary of $58,030 in May 2016, while college professors earned a median salary of $75,430.
With a bachelor’s degree in political science or international relations, you’ll enter the military as an officer. You can expect to work as an international affairs officer or in a similar position, usually stationed at a U.S. embassy in a foreign country. Typical work includes collecting, analyzing and reporting on information about the country, which will be used in military planning. The average salary for this job is $135,019.
A Matter of Degrees
You may have heard about a young maverick who had only a high school diploma who ran for and was elected to a local public office position based on passion and spunk. It happens. But your chances are better when you have some education or experience to back up what you say you can accomplish and the knowledge to help you get things done.
Many schools offer associate’s degrees in political science and international relations, which may give you just enough knowledge to get started in a related job or in public office. (Demonstrating that passion and spunk will help here.) These positions are highly competitive, however, so experts recommend getting a more advanced degree. Passing grades in your local community college’s courses should transfer to most four-year colleges, so an associate’s degree can get your foot in an employer’s door and a two-year head start on a bachelor’s degree.
You’ll fare even better with a master’s degree, whether it’s in political science or a specialty area, international relations, finance or whatever field you ultimately want to work in. According to the U.S. News and World Report’s list of the best graduate programs in political science, the top programs are at Ivy League schools. The reason they’re so highly ranked, however, is because they offer the opportunity to specialize in one area of politics. A local or less well-known school may have such programs, too, though—and at a lower cost—so look around for your own hidden gem.
School’s in Session in the Dining Room
Many quality schools offer online classes, enabling you to get your degree while working and raising a family regardless of where you live. So, if you live in Alaska and your heart’s set on a school in Alabama―no problem.
Some online schools have physical campuses, too, while others are strictly online. Be sure any program you choose is accredited by an organization that’s recognized by either the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
- American Political Science Association: Careers in Political Science
- U.S. News and World Report: Best Graduate Political Science Programs
- The Princeton Review: Politician
- Foreign Policy: The Top Ten International Relations Undergraduate Programs
- Guide to Online Schools: 2017 Accredited Online Political Science Degrees
- U.S. News and World Report: Accreditation of Online Degree Programs: Frequently Asked Questions
- Today's Military: International Relations, Linguistics and Other Social Sciences: Political Scientists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: High School Teacher
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Postsecondary Teachers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Reporters, Correspondents and Broadcast News Analysts
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Political Scientists
- Glassdoor: U.S. Department of State
Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.