What is political science?

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When you think of the term political science, you might think of presidential campaigns, political parties, or policy analysis on the evening news. But political science also seeks to analyze and predict the critical issues that affect our daily lives, including globalization, terrorism, climate change, civil rights and diplomacy.

Political science generally refers to the study of governments, public policies, and political behavior in the United States and abroad, according to the American Political Science Association. And a political science degree can help you develop a wide range of skills that you can apply to many roles in many different fields.

What is political science?

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy reveals that the field of political science is a social science that dates back 2,500 years to the work of Plato and Aristotle, who defined it as “the study of the state” and interested in the greater good of their citizens. .

Dr Andy Tuholski and text Dr Andy Tuholski.Dr Andy Tuholski, an assistant professor of political science at Southern New Hampshire University, said this was also an area that has evolved over time. While the traditional definition of political science can be defined as the study of the state and its institutions, modern political scientists take a much broader view. Tuholski said they are also looking at the impact of race, gender, communication, public opinion and more.

“A political scientist aims to be a curious, objective and factual researcher, based on evidence and reasoning,” he said. “Political scientists can use the results of their research to improve understanding and raise public awareness of social issues, with the hope of influencing government action.”

In addition to being curious, other skills that political scientists find valuable according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics include:

  • Analytical skills
  • communication skills
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking Skills

“A political scientist should ideally possess a high degree of intellectual curiosity,” Tuholski said. “Good critical thinking, good writing and good communication are all highly valued, and different research methods are usually added to the knowledge base over time. “

What does a political scientist study?

Using a variety of tools and methodologies, political scientists examine the processes, systems and political dynamics of countries and regions around the world and how they affect their constituents, according to the American Political Science Association. Some might wonder why governments adopt particular policies or what issues cause citizens to vote. Some might develop polls to predict political opinions or analyze voting trends, while others may focus on statistics to analyze election results, the College Board notes.

Most political scientists in the United States conduct research in one of four areas, according to the BLS, including national politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory. Specific tasks may include:

  • Research of national political systems or foreign relations of a country
  • Analyze and evaluate policies or laws
  • Predict future political and social trends
  • Collection and analysis of opinion polls
  • Monitor news, political decisions and assess their impact

“Political science also cuts across other fields, including philosophy, sociology, history and psychology, among others,” Tuholski said.

The International Association of Political Science Students describes today’s political scientists as seeing themselves “committed to revealing the relationships underlying political events and conditions, and from these findings they attempt to construct principles. general on the functioning of the world of politics ”. For example, they could assess the financial impact of specific policies, such as health care reform, collect data from public opinion surveys to analyze what different subgroups think about a new law, politician or candidate; or even predict social trends based on historical data, according to BLS.

Is political science a good specialty?

The study of political science develops strong research, writing and analytical skills and opens the door to a diverse number of careers that are not exclusive to a role in government or politics. The Princeton Review suggests that to be successful in political science, your undergraduate program should emphasize the following knowledge and skills:

  • A good understanding of your audience
  • Ability to manage crises and problem solve
  • Writing and research skills
  • Public speaking and presentation skills
  • Mastery of social networks

As an undergraduate student, you can expect to take courses in the subfields of political science, including American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory, in addition to courses in liberal arts. These courses focus on political concepts, political behavior, political issues, and government structures in the United States and around the world, according to the American Political Science Association.

No matter what field of political science you study, the critical skills you develop in research, analysis, and communication can help you succeed inside and outside the political arena.

“The skills developed in the study of political science are transferable to a variety of career paths,” said Tuholski. “For example, the ability to read a body of existing literature, understand it, synthesize it, identify gaps and apply that knowledge to current circumstances can make an individual particularly valuable in the marketplace.”

What can you do with a political science degree?

A political science degree can open the door to a wide range of roles that allow you to apply your writing and analytical skills across a wide range of industries. If you are wondering, “Is a political science degree worth it?” “ consider the following potential careers in political science:

  • Political scientist – If you’re interested in researching policy topics, collecting data, or forecasting trends, a career as a political scientist allows you to work in government, education, or for a nonprofit, according to the BLS. . Political scientists typically specialize in one of the following areas: national politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory. They can use both historical documents and quantitative methods to develop theories about voting patterns and political thought, according to the BLS. A master’s or doctorate in political science, public administration or a related field may be required for certain positions, according to Payscale. The median annual salary of political scientists with graduate degrees was $ 122,220 in 2019, reports the BLS.
  • Policy Analyst – Apply your research skills as a Policy Analyst to assess current policies and events using opinion polls, economic data and election results. From these sources, policy analysts seek to anticipate the effects of the new systems, according to the BLS. Policy analysts often work directly within government or for non-governmental organizations that lobby for policy adjustments. Some for-profit companies use political analysts to influence political action. Payscale reports that the average salary for political analysts is $ 59,312 per year.
  • Legislative Assistant – Lawmakers need help during the law-making process, including appointment scheduling, research, and communications. As a legislative assistant, you would help create and analyze projects that meet legislative standards, follow legislation, and conduct research on legislative and policy issues, according to Payscale. A legislative assistant earns an average salary of $ 40,488 per year, Payscale reports.
  • Public relations specialist – Public relations specialists manage the public image of business, government, and nonprofit organizations. Many of them represent interest groups, associations or political campaigns. Political science classes place a strong emphasis on developing writing and speaking skills, which is beneficial for success in a public relations role, according to the American Political Science Association. According to the BLS, duties include responding to media inquiries, writing speeches, organizing events, creating social media campaigns and analyzing public opinion. The median annual salary for public relations specialists was $ 61,150 in 2019, reports the BLS.
  • Market analyst – Successful political campaigns and successful political decisions rely on good primary and secondary market research. As a market research analyst, you apply mathematical and analytical skills to examine the profitability of a product or service. In politics, you can use market research to help a candidate or campaign strategize. Market research analysts help organizations better understand what products people want, what segment of the population will buy them, and how they should be priced. In addition to collecting data through surveys and opinion polls, market research analysts interpret and forecast data for their organization or clients, according to BLS. The median annual salary for market research analysts was $ 63,790 in 2019, reports the BLS.

While these are some of the more common positions, there are many good choices for people with a background in political science. Before entering academia, Tuholski worked as a director of an environmental non-profit organization.

“A political science degree can serve as the basis upon which an individual can aim to work inside or outside of government in careers involving planning and development, research, campaigning, law, education, public policy, lobbying and advocacy, and administration, “he said.

Krysten Godfrey Maddocks ’11 is a writer and marketing / communications professional. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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