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Pursuing a rigorous career as a political scientist

Wednesday, December 19, 2018
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Pursuing a rigorous career as a political scientist

As a political enthusiast, you may have graduated from an accredited university with an undergraduate degree in political science. Although a bachelor's can take you places in your career, you may need to pursue an advanced degree if you'd like to enhance your knowledge on the political sphere or pursue a career that requires a master's degree. Perhaps you have dreams of being a political scientist, professionally dedicated to the evaluation of government systems throughout history and the present. If this is your ideal path, find out more about the work associated with this career and discover what route you'll need to take to become a political scientist.

The job duties of a political scientist

A career as a political scientist isn't suited for everyone; candidates should be extremely passionate about researching and analyzing political trends, policies and other government-based actions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the typical functions of a political scientist as the following:

  • Gathering and interpreting data from public opinion surveys and other civilian-facing sources.
  • Researching political networks in the U.S.
  • Gaining succinct insight into foreign relations.
  • Test political theories and evaluate their effects on the population, economy and government sector.
  • Develop forecasts and projections for future social, economic and political movements.
  • Present research and analysis through published articles and presentations to fellow staff members and the public.

In order to succeed in their career, political scientists should be analytical, inquisitive and intellectual. In addition, they should have exceptional written and verbal skills in order to present their findings in a succinct way.

presenter standing in front of crowdPolitical scientists present their findings to their colleagues and to the general public.

Political scientist work environments

Typically, political scientists should expect to work full time in an office setting. Their hours are generally standard working hours, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but they should expect to extend their working hours when meeting strict deadlines or when monumental current events call for an increase in research from political scientists. For instance, before and during U.S. elections, political scientists should anticipate an influx in the development of presentations and reports, and more than a few all-nighters.

Political scientists may be employed by a variety of sectors in the U.S. The most common industry that calls for the employment of political scientists is, not surprisingly, the federal government. However, they might also be employed by professional organizations, educational institutions services or even the religious and civic sectors. A small percentage of political scientists are self-employed, working on their own time as consultants to news organizations, governments, nonprofits and other institutions.

Political scientist salary outlook

Political scientists have extremely important and interesting jobs, but their work is also quite lucrative. The BLS reported that the median salary for political scientists was $115,110 in May 2017. Individuals in the highest 10 percent of earners made salaries over $161,890. For someone eager to advance in this career, the payoff is remarkably worth it.

The industry in which political scientists produce their work is a contributing factor to their salaries. Each of the most popular political science sectors can be broken down with their median salaries as follows:

  • Federal government: $123,230
  • Professional, scientific and technical services: $118,320
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional and similar professions: $76,790
  • Educational services: $58,960

How to become a political scientist

To get a career as a political scientist, you may need to pursue a master's degree in Government/Public Administration or International Affairs. To increase your chances of being offered a competitive job, you may even want to pursue a Ph.D. program.

While an undergraduate degree in these fields can help you gain an entry-level position in the political sector, employers typically favor candidates who have taken on specializations during their master's or Ph.D. studies. Northwestern University's Department of Political Science allows students the autonomy to select a specialized subfield in the following areas:

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Methodology
  • Political Theory

If you are passionate about national or global political systems and want to pursue a career in which you can spread your knowledge on a wide scale, you may consider working toward an advanced degree in this area. There are plenty of incredible universities that can provide invaluable insight and experience in the political sphere. GraduateGuide.com can help you begin your search.

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