With the analytical, evaluative and communication skills you learn in your political science department courses, you will be in high demand for employers in our increasingly service-based, post-industrial economy. Skills like these will give you a wide range of career options.
Explore political science and international relations careers
The career opportunities in the legal profession are numerous. Though a majority of lawyers are employed in private practice, a great many lawyers are salaried employees of corporations, labor unions, trade associations, and the government. Other law-trained individuals apply their skills to law practices in corporate management, public administration, or politics. Judges are also trained in law.
No particular course of study is a prerequisite for admission to law school. However, political science is one of the fields of concentration most frequently chosen by those who plan to go to law school.
The expanding population of the U.S. and the increasing complexity of government and business have combined to create a strong demand for law school graduates since the late 1950s. As undergraduate courses are chosen, certain goals must be kept in mind. A lawyer must be able to communicate effectively, understand human institutions and values, and develop critical thinking.
For more information on careers in law, explore Calvin's Pre-Law program.
- Government work
There are numerous job opportunities in the federal government, including jobs in the state department, civil service, the intelligence community, the military, consumer protection, and the foreign service. You could be an intelligence specialist in the CIA or an aide on the staff of a Congressional committee.
Because the federal government employs people in every conceivable occupation, it is not a requirement to graduate with a political science degree. However, a political science degree can be valuable if you are pursuing a job in the federal government in terms of the acquisition of specific skills and in terms of the insight it may give the employee into the overall political structure and environment in which you must operate. Courses in public administration or congressional behavior allow you to perceive and understand the larger political configuration in which you would operate.
Although jobs in the federal government and Congress will be more competitive in future years, political science majors should not be discouraged from making an attempt to gain these positions. Motivation, potential for future development in a governmental field, knowledge of math and statistics, and internship experience are all helpful prerequisites to federal government jobs.
Consult classified ad employment in Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, for political jobs both on and off Capitol Hill.
State and Local Government
A career in state and local government can involve a civil service position in a wide variety of fields, including consumer protection, highway safety, industrial development, welfare, and planning as well as elected positions such as governor, legislator, and mayor. Examples of possible job opportunities include positions working for Michigan Civil Service, Kent County, and the city of Grand Rapids.
If you are interested in a career in state and local government, you would benefit from courses in state and local government, urban politics, American intergovernmental relations, and public administration.
- Non-profit work
Political science graduates are well suited for careers with non-profit organizations. Non-profit organizations such as the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Bread for the World, and World Vision rely heavily on private financial contributions and generally provide "street-level" assistance for those in need. These organizations (sometimes labeled "third sector" or "non-governmental organizations") are rapidly growing in numbers and importance as people recognize their ability to meet human needs both domestically and internationally.
A career in journalism requires writing skills and the ability to comprehend the significance of events. Basic writing and reporting skills are required for journalism majors. In addition, an understanding of American society requires a broad liberal arts education with an emphasis on courses in political science, history, economics, and society.
Within the field of political science, you might focus on courses in state and local government, public administration, party politics, comparative government, and international politics.
The job market in journalism is very competitive. Within the profession of journalism, however, there continues to be considerable opportunity for movement and for rapid career advancement once you are placed. Practical experience can include writing for a college newspaper or interning at a local radio station or newspaper.
A large number of political science graduates have found employment in the business sector of the economy, with careers in marketing, personnel, advertising, and public relations. Others have obtained management training positions with public and private corporations.
An educational preparation for a career in business is varied for the political science undergraduate. You can focus on an undergraduate degree in political science with the goal of being accepted by a graduate school of business, or plan an undergraduate degree in political science around studying the interrelationship between government and business.
The job market in the business community is as good as the state of the American economy, but the number of available positions for social scientists in business is not likely to decrease. Their range my increase slightly as new opportunities open up for people skilled in policy analysis and consumer affairs.
- International organizations and policy institutes
In recent years, the opportunities and the demand for qualified men and women with an interest in international organizations and policy institutes has grown enormously. Jobs in this field include policy development, management and finance, writing, and much more. Job placement includes positions in international government agencies, policy institutes, international business, financial institutions, and international non-profits. Examples of specific placements would be at the United Nations, UNESCO, World Trade Organization, Organization of American States, Council on Foreign Relations, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Rockefeller Foundation, and World Vision.
Graduate degrees are useful in international studies with specializations in such subjects as economic development, comparative government, regional studies, and political analysis. Engineering, computer science, public health management, and business administration are degrees also in high demand. In addition, the knowledge of a foreign language is usually required for an overseas job.
Political scientists are typically required to obtain advanced degrees. Career openings may be found in colleges, universities, professional research organizations, survey research institutes, and foreign affairs research organizations that operate either privately or under the sponsorship of the government. In addition, some political scientists work on the staffs of committees of Congress or state legislatures and within a variety of governmental agencies.
Graduate schools do not require undergraduate majors in political science, but most undergraduates pursuing this career have obtained a major in political science. The acquisition of special skills in mathematics, statistics, and technology weigh in the candidate's favor.