Political Science major
"The political science major constantly challenges me, pushing me to grow and think outside the box. The professors genuinely care and want to help. It’s a hard major, but it’s worth all the work."
- General Information
- Federal Government
- State and Local Government
- Non-Profit Organizations
- Campaigns and Polling
- International Careers
The political science major, like most liberal arts major, is very flexible and provides a solid foundation in analytical, problem-solving, data skills with an emphasis on communicating in both written and oral forms. Because the major requirements are very flexible, students need to work closely with their advisors to build a strong mix of skills and knowledge areas. Students can make use of the supporting course requirements, electives (18 credits), and general education requirements to develop an appropriate mix of skills and content knowledge.
Skills that students might consider developing include statistical (consider taking STAT 100 or 200) and research skills (consider research methods courses, especially PL SC 308 and 309), communication (both written and oral), data analysis, and groups skills (working in teams, etc.). Students with an interest in international relations or comparative politics may want to consider going beyond the 12th credit-level in foreign language or think carefully about which language to study.
Political science majors are required to take at least one course from each of 4 subfields (American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory/methodology). However, most majors will concentrate their courses in either American politics or a combination of international relations and comparative politics, and students may want to supplement their major requirements with supporting courses in history, sociology, or other fields.
Students are also strongly encouraged to use their general education requirements to strengthen their background in the social sciences. For example, most political science majors would benefit from taking at least one course in economics (GS requirement) and a course in philosophy or ethics (GH). Political science majors would also benefit from taking a statistics course as one of their GQ requirements.
Students may also want to think about the kinds of experiences that will enhance their future career prospects. Experiences such as internships, study abroad, conducting research with faculty, and participating in student organizations like the Political Science Club, can provide contacts, develop skills, and further develop a student's interests. Student should also visit the Career Services Office starting no later than the beginning of their sophomore year to develop a resume and participate in interviewing and other workshops.
Students should also ask political science faculty about getting a free copy of Careers and the Study of Political Science, which is published by the American Political Science Association.
- Penn State Altoona Career Services Office
- Occupational Outlook Handbook
- JobSearch USA
- What can I do with this major? (Penn State Career Services)
- Political Science Career Links (Penn State Career Services)
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White House advisor; foreign service officer; ambassador; budget analyst; intelligence specialist, CIA; foreign affairs specialist; staff aide, congressional committee; program analyst, EPA; tax inspector, treasury department; researcher, congressional research service.
All of the above titles have been held by political science majors, many of whom have pursued further graduate or professional training.
The federal government is very large and varied, including the three main branches of the government (legislative, executive and judicial), as well as a variety of agencies and commissions. The majority of jobs are located outside of Washington D.C., including overseas. While there are a wide range of entry-level positions, some may require a master's degree in public administration, international affairs, or other specialized programs.
Each branch of government has a wide range of job openings, although the executive branch employs over 95% of all federal civilian employees excluding postal workers. Most of the hiring occurs through the civil service, where jobs are classified by grades, and the process is managed by the Office of Personnel Management (see Federal Government Jobs link below). In general, the higher the grade, the higher the qualifications needed in terms of education, experience, and technical training. Students with B.A. degrees are usually eligible for positions in grades 5 through 7, while grades 9 through 14 typically require advanced degrees or substantial experience.
A number of service agencies are exempted from the civil service hiring process. These include the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of State (Foreign Service positions), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Agency for International Development, the National Security Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the Postal Service. For information on jobs in these agencies go to http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/, or look up individual agency Web sites.
- Federal Government Jobs
- Federal Jobs Net
- Federal Courts
- Congressional Research Service
- Congressional Budget Office
- Central Intelligence Agency
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- Department of Homeland Security
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State and Local Governments
County Council Member; chief of staff; legislative coordinator, mayor's office; director, county economic development agency; city planner; city project coordinator; advisor to the chairman, state agency: commissioner, state department of human resources; deputy secretary to the governor; state chief purchasing officer.
Most jobs in state government are based on civil service or merit criteria, and deal in areas that directly affect the lives of citizens including education, welfare, economic development, pollution, and conservation. Jobs in local government have grown in the last decade, but the level of professionalism varies by state and locality.
Students interested in careers in state and local government can prepare by taking courses in state and local government, planning, public finance, and public policy. The ability to manipulate and interpret quantitative data is an increasingly important skill. Internships in state and local government can assist job seekers in gaining valuable experience, as well as making contacts. Students may also want to consider pursuing master's degree in public policy, public administration, or a specialized policy area.
- State and Local Employees
- State and Local Government on the Net
- Public Service Careers
- NASPAA Careers
- National Conference of State Legislatures, Jobs Clearinghouse
- National Association of Counties
- National League of Cities
- U.S. Conference of Mayors
- National Governors Association
- Council of State Governments
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Research analyst; field officer, Human Rights Campaign; manager, NRA; political director, AFL-CIO; director, federal environmental affairs; director, political action committee; program manager, National Resources Defense Council ; manager, international trade policy; director, regulatory affairs.
Citizens' groups - from the broadly based to those focused on a single issue - have grown rapidly in the U.S. over the past two decades. With growing interest in influencing public policy and/or its implementation, there is an increasing demand for employees who understand how governments work and who can analyze and assess public policy. There are over 25,000 national associations and 65,000 state, regional, local, and international associations in the U.S. with the highest concentration found in Washington, D.C, followed by New York and Chicago.
Clear writing, data analysis, and the ability to translate policy and legislation into understandable terms are prized skills in non-profit organizations. Political science students may want to consider internships either with non-profit organizations or in government to enhance their employment opportunities.
- The Encyclopedia of Associations (available online through University Libraries)
- American Society of Association Executives
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Corporate, criminal, or civil attorney; administrative law judge; assistant district attorney; legal counsel; CIA inspector general; juvenile justice specialist, state justice department; politician; corporate manager of environmental/regulatory affairs; labor relations specialist.
Political science has been the most popular major for applicants to law school for many years, although it is not a requirement. A majority of lawyers work in private practice, either alone or in firms ranging from 2 to several hundred lawyers. However, an increasing number of lawyers are salaried employees of corporations, labor unions, trade associations, non-profit organizations, and governments.
Students interested in careers in law need to be aware that starting salaries have fallen in recent years with median starting salaries of about $72,000, and many starting at $30,000 to $70,000 (see http://www.nalp.org/08saldistribution).
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Campaigns and Polling
Campaign manager; political director, campaign finance reform, Common Cause; Midwest regional coordinator, DNC; survey researcher; political reporter, CNN; fundraiser, Emily's List; executive director, political action committee; press officer for candidate; vice, president, direct mail marketing firm; issue analyst, Heritage Foundation; commissioner, Federal Elections Commission.
Careers in campaigns and polling can include working for political parties, individual campaigns, campaign consulting firms, political action committees, policy organizations, and political writing. Most campaigns have a variety of professional and volunteer staff and a good way to begin is by volunteering on a local campaign. There are also a wide range of jobs in non-electoral politics, including working for political action committees, policy organizations, polling firms, and various media outlets.
Students interested in careers in campaigns, elections, and polling should have a strong background in American politics, including courses on elections, political parties, and interest groups. Students should consider taking courses in statistics, research methods, and data analysis.
- American Association for Public Opinion Research
- American Association of Political Consultants
- Polling Report.com Job Bank
- Democratic National Committee
- Republican National Committee
- Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
- National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee
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Peace Corps volunteer; analyst, CIA; staff director, Senate Foreign Relations Committee; minister for development; bank vice president, international division; foreign services officer; press officer, U.S. embassy; strategic planning specialist, U.S. Army; director, international affairs, AFL-CIO; lobbyist, International Automobile Manufacturers Association;
Demand for qualified people to work in international business, banking, international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), and intergovernmental organizations has grown rapidly. Language training and data and methodological skills are critical for students interested in working overseas. The Peace Corps, Amnesty International, and Rotary Foundation may assist in providing internships aboard. Students should also consider participating in one or more study abroad programs.
- Overseas Jobs.com
- International Jobs Center
- Monster Jobs Abroad
- Foreign Policy Association Job Board
- Global NGO Network
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