CampusCareers with a Major in Political Science

Students who major in political science have gone into careers in law, business, teaching, journalism, government and political activism. While the demand for lawyers may vary at different times, there is a constant need for able attorneys in a country like our own, and in some areas (for example, environmental and consumer law, international business law) that demand will inevitably grow. Projections indicate that the market for college graduates interested in business and government careers will remain steady. The demand for teachers varies as demographic trends change. After some years in the doldrums, teaching is again emerging as a desirable career with growing opportunities. The fields of broadcast and internet journalism are growing as well.

Students should consider majors not only from the standpoint of particular job options, but also in terms of their potential for psychological and intellectual enrichment. Five general points can be made in regard to seeking jobs in this era.

Law

Too often, laymen understand the legal profession in narrow terms. They may be aware that a majority of lawyers engage in private practice, either alone or associated with small or large law firms. But a great many lawyers are not in private practice. Rather, they are salaried employees of corporations, labor unions, trade associations, and government. Equally important are the numerous law-trained individuals who apply their skills to fields other than traditional law practice. Many of these are in corporate management, public administration, or politics. Also, of course, virtually all of our judges and teachers of law are trained in law.

Educational Preparation for Law: Political science, along with several other undergraduate majors, is a most appropriate preparation for law school. Currently, we estimate that about one-quarter of our graduating seniors in political science go on to law school. The analytical, reading, and writing skills developed in the political science curriculum are valuable preparations for law school. Political science develops a general understanding of the purpose of government and law, and in particular an understanding of the American form of government. Particular courses, such as constitutional law, civil liberties, and international law are especially useful, less for their specific content than for their training in the study of law in general.

Admission to a Law School: The two most important criteria for admission to law school are the undergraduate grade-point average and the score on the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). The LSAT is a half-day test given five times a year, and designed to measure certain mental capabilities considered important for the study of law. It is a prerequisite for admission to nearly all U.S. law schools.

The Federal Government

The federal government is so large and varied that it is impossible to catalog briefly the types of job opportunities available. A federal government job can be almost anything: a teacher of government in an overseas school for military or diplomatic dependents; a budget analyst in the Department of Transportation; an intelligence specialist in the CIA; a program analyst in the Environmental Protection Agency; a staff aide in a Congressional committee or a Congress member's office, and, of course, much more.

Educational Preparation for Federal Employment: The political science major aspiring to federal government employment should be aware that substantial skills in statistics and data analysis provide a boost in his or her employability.

Undergraduate education is more than preparation for obtaining a job, however. It is also background preparation for performing the job in a way that is satisfying both to the employer and employee, and enhancement of qualifications for advancement to higher decision making levels. In this regard, an undergraduate major in political science can prove most useful to a federal government employee; it is invaluable both in terms of the acquisition of specific skills, and in terms of the insight it enables into the over-all political structure and environment in which he or she must operate.

State and Local Government

One American worker in six is on the public payroll. State and local government is a promising employment area which political science majors might wish to consider in their search for potential careers.

State and local governments are hiring more persons because they are being asked to deal with a wider range of problems. The states are taking increased responsibility in such areas as equal opportunity, consumer protection, highway safety, water pollution, soil conservation, strip mining, the rehabilitation of addicts, industrial development, and manpower training. The attempt to deal with these problems has led to a large expansion of both the executive and legislative branches of state government. In turn, this expansion has opened new job opportunities for political science students.

Educational Preparation for a Career in State and Local Government: It is difficult to generalize about the relationship of specific courses to specific jobs in state and local government. No one interested in a career in state and local government could fail to benefit from courses in American politics, public policy, and urban politics. Beyond this, various courses enhance a student's background for various specific jobs.

Undergraduates planning to seek careers in state and local government should also seriously consider seeking a master's degree in a policy-studies area. These master's programs, usually interdepartmental in nature, train students in specific fields of public administration. A masterí»s degree is extremely valuable in the state and local government marketplace.

Public and Private Interest Groups

In the United States there are hundreds of public and private interest groups which work to influence governmental policy decisions. These interest groups are recognized powers in the United States; they function to transmit the demands of organized persons into the decision-making centers of the political system and to monitor governmental activities of potential concern to the groups. Most of the persons employed by these interest groups collect and analyze data before these data are relayed to governmental agents and agencies. Positions with interest groups can provide excellent learning experiences, and an internship with any of these organizations would bolster the student's resume when applying for employment.

Business

A large number of political science graduates--nearly one third--have found employment in the business sector of the economy. Many young men and women have chosen careers in the fields of marketing, personnel, advertising, public relations, and banking and finance. Others have obtained management training positions with public and private corporations. Business firms in the United States and abroad will continue to hire many young people trained in the social sciences. The number of positions available should not decrease, and may increase somewhat as new opportunities open up for persons skilled in policy analysis and consumer affairs. A growing emphasis in the business world is overseas "risk analysis," which calls for students well-trained in comparative and international politics, and Third World and post-Communist area studies.

Educational Preparation for Careers in Business: A political science graduate seeking a career in business must realize that he or she will be competing with a very large number of college graduates with diversified undergraduate educations. The student should, therefore, take some steps to insure that he or she will not be at a disadvantage in the job market. First, all graduates interested in business careers should be certain that they can communicate easily and persuasively in written English. Second, it is important that graduates have some familiarity with mathematical concepts; at the least it is important to be able to analyze elementary statistical data and to be able to read a balance sheet. Third, students should take courses in economics. Fourth, computer skills are increasingly important in the business world.

Formal minors in Business Administration are available to students in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Journalism

Today's 'global village" has an insatiable appetite for news. Every aspect of human behavior--social, political or economic--is a potential subject for reporters. What is reported, and how it is reported, defines the environment of large masses of people and the way journalists analyze and interpret what they report shapes peoples' understanding of their world.

Educational Preparation for Careers in Journalism: The basis of good reporting lies in the ability to comprehend events, and the ability to translate that comprehension quickly and with clarity into written or spoken words. Thus, the goals of a student interested in journalism are clearly defined.

The student seeking a job in broadcast journalism will need to focus his or her education in the same way as those interested in written reporting. In addition, those interested in broadcast journalism should learn how to operate some radio and television equipment, since stations may ask journalists to be able to do their own audio or visual recording. At Marquette, political science students may take second majors (or minors) in various areas of journalism; conversely, journalism students may take a second major (or minor) in political science.

Teaching

K-12 Teaching: An undergraduate interested in pursuing a career in teaching political science at the pre-collegiate level would do well to take courses in several disciplines. Political science and American or world history would be useful areas of concentration, because most social studies programs emphasize these particular subjects. Most government courses at the secondary level focus on American government; therefore, training that deals with the national, state, and local levels of this country's government would be valuable in preparing for this type of teaching career.

Teaching at the pre-collegiate level normally requires certification. This means that undergraduates with political science specialization must take several basic education courses in order to qualify. The College of Education at Marquette offers a "broad-field social studies" major for students interested in a career in elementary and secondary school teaching.

K-12 Administration: Market conditions for educational administrators generally are good, but the career requirements are also more extensive. While political science backgrounds may be somewhat more relevant than others for these careers, the emphasis is clearly on advanced training in educational administration.

Most school systems require both a bachelor's and a master's degree as preparation for a career in school administration. Aside from these degree requirements, most school administrators must be certified. In order to gain certification, at least three years of teaching or supervisory experience in schools and specialist degree in school administration are usually required.

University Education and Other Careers for those with Advanced Degrees in Political Science: For students who wish to pursue a career in the academic field of political science, most of the available jobs will continue to be in colleges and universities. An advanced degree in political science--virtually always a Ph.D.--is a prerequisite for these positions. Other job opportunities for professional political scientists in the public or private sphere also require the Ph.D. Such career openings may be found in professional research organizations or survey research institutes, or other funded organizations. In addition, there are opportunities for political scientists with advanced degrees in government to work on the staffs of committees of Congress and state legislatures, in agencies of the executive branches, and other governmental organizations.

Educational Preparation for Advanced Degrees in Political Science: Traditionally, graduate programs in political science require, or at least strongly prefer, students with an undergraduate degree in political science. Special skills acquired as an undergraduate in mathematics, statistics, languages, computers, economics, and/or demonstration of substantive expertise (urban planning, for example) may weigh strongly in the candidate's favor. Graduates seeking admission to the best graduate schools are expected to present outstanding undergraduate academic records. Admission to Graduate School: The American Political Science Association publishes annually A Guide to Graduate Study in Political Science, which is a useful source of information on the admission standards, programs, tuition, and financial assistance of most of the graduate programs in political science. You can consult this publication simply by asking the administrative assistant in the department office. The department also has prepared a pamphlet, "On Graduate Study" that should be of interest to those contemplating graduate school.

Political Activism

People who major in political science normally have a deep interest in the political aspects of their society. Most students of government are fascinated by the struggle to obtain power and the search for the common good; frequently, they have strong beliefs about politics. Usually, people trained in political science, whatever career paths they follow, retain these interests throughout their lives, and find ways to participate in the political process

There are millions of elected and appointed political offices, particularly at the state and local level. Many of these are not full time positions, but even at that they give an energetic person the opportunity to shape public policy.

Those not desiring to hold political office themselves can still work to help others achieve such positions. American political parties are dependent on an enormous number of people who are able and willing to staff local organizations, manage campaigns, canvass voters, and organize finance drives.

Finally, political science majors may find personal satisfaction working for community organizations, or in organizing political activities in general. The skills from a political science training can be employed on a volunteer basis, or through part time work, with various community groups dedicated to "good government."

More Information

For more information on careers for political science majors, consult with your political science advisor or with one of the political science department's career advisors. Some books and pamphlets are available in the Political Science Department Office.

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Department of Political Science

Marquette University
Wehr Physics Building, Room 468
PO Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
(414) 288-6842 (phone)
Visit the contact page for more information