What can you do with a political science degree? This is a question a lot of prospective poli sci students find themselves pondering. Although political science is a popular major at many colleges and universities around the country, career paths for graduates aren’t always clear-cut. Even so, it is possible to secure a lucrative position in the field when you know what your options are. In this article, we’ll explore the seven highest paying political science jobs.
Median Annual Wage: $120,910
Salary Potential: $208,000
What can you do with a political science degree? A common answer to that question is “lawyer.” These high-profile positions are often associated with academic backgrounds in law and political science. Also referred to as attorneys, lawyers rely on their extensive knowledge of the law and legal system in order to represent their client’s best legal interests in a variety of civil and criminal matters.
Lawyers and attorneys often specialize in a specific area of law. These specialty areas include family law, environmental law, tax law, corporate law, and more. The particular duties of a lawyer may vary based on their chosen specialty. Generally speaking, though, lawyers are tasked with conducting legal research, gathering facts on a case, writing legal briefs, advising clients, and providing legal representation in a court of law.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for lawyers and attorneys are currently growing at a steady rate. Still, there are more law school graduates each year than there are available positions, so competition will be strong.
To become a lawyer, students must complete a bachelor’s degree program in political science or a related field as well as a Juris Doctor (JD) program from an ABA-accredited law school. Prospective attorneys must also pass the bar exam in order to practice law officially.
For students interested in this potentially lucrative career path, the University of Missouri-St. Louis offers a flexible Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Political Science that can be completed on campus, online, or via a hybrid format. The program’s core curriculum is comprised of course titles such as Introduction to American Politics, Political Analysis, World Politics, and Introduction to Comparative Politics. Students must also complete a senior seminar in political science prior to graduation.
For those who prefer an online program, the University of Central Florida offers a complete BA in Political Science that can be completed entirely via distance education. Coursework for the program covers topics such as international relations, government, political theory, and policy, for example. Internships are also available to eligible students.
Postsecondary Political Science Teacher
Median Annual Wage: $83,370
Salary Potential: $175,110
Those pondering the question “what can you do with a political science degree” should carefully consider the role of a postsecondary political science teacher, especially if they’re interested in earning a handsome salary. Though these professionals work in an academic setting, they must have a high level of expertise in the field of political science. This expertise can be gained through formal training in a bachelor’s degree program as well as a postgraduate degree program in political science. Most universities require their political science instructors to hold a doctoral degree. Community colleges, however, may accept applicants with just a master’s credential.
No matter what school they’re employed by, the duties required of a political science professor go beyond classroom instruction. They may also be tasked with developing curricula in a sub-field of political science, advising students on academic and career goals, and conducting scholarly research in their field. Auxiliary duties may also be required, depending on the terms of employment.
Positions for political science professors are growing faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Prospects for part-time instructors will be strongest, however, and the competition for full-time employment in the field will be stiff.
The University of Illinois-Chicago offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science for individuals interested in teaching political science at the university level. Students enrolled in this terminal degree program have the option to choose from among five distinct specialty areas: comparative politics, American politics, urban politics, political theory, and international relations.
Students who want to teach political science in a community college setting may be interested in the Master of Arts in Political Science offering from Sam Houston State University. The program includes both thesis and non-thesis options as well as a credential-only track for students who already hold a master’s degree. Scholarships are available to eligible students.
Judges and Hearing Officers
Median Annual Wage: $99,850
Salary Potential: $169,640
Still wondering what can you do with a political science degree? Another obvious answer to the question is that you can pursue a career as a judge or hearing officer. These top legal professionals act as authorities in the courtroom and are tasked with objectively applying the law to myriad civil and criminal cases. Their responsibilities can include conducting in-depth legal research, presiding over court procedures, writing judicial opinions and decisions, and sentencing convicted criminals.
The path to becoming a judge or hearing officer is not always clear-cut, however. Most of these legal professionals have advanced degrees in law and/or political science as well as extensive work experience in the field. In addition, some candidates may have to pass examinations in order to become licensed to work in this capacity.
Moreover, competition for these positions is highly competitive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that positions for judges and hearing officers will be scarce in the foreseeable future, growing at a rate of just 3% over the next eight years.
Most judges and hearing officers hold a Juris Doctor (JD) degree. U.S. News & World Report has ranked Yale University’s Juris Doctor offering one of the very best in the nation. Once accepted into the program, students can choose an area of interest such as environmental law, human rights law, criminal justice, legal history, and international law, for example.
Students who desire more flexibility may want to consider the University of Dayton’s hybrid Juris Doctor program. Approved by the American Bar Association, the four-year program is comprised of weekly live-streamed classes as well as intermittent on-campus intensives.
Median Annual Wage: $117,510
Salary Potential: $164,200
Perhaps the most obvious answer to the question “what can you do with a political science degree?” is to become a political scientist. These professionals are immersed in politics, researching political concepts and theories and tracking political trends. Political scientists typically specialize in a specific sub-field of politics such as national politics, international theory, or comparative politics, for example. Some political scientists find work as policy analysts for political groups and government agencies.
Jobs for political scientists are growing about as fast as average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Competitions for these positions will be strong, however, as there are a greater number of projected applicants than job openings. Students who hold master’s degrees in political science or a closely related field will have the best chances for secure employment. Internships and volunteer work may also increase a candidate’s employability.
Students interested in pursuing a career as a political scientist may want to consider Florida International University’s undergraduate major in political science. Offered through the university’s Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs and the Department of Politics & International Relations, the comprehensive 120-credit hour program requires courses in international politics, political theory, and American politics.
A good option for students who wish to earn their political science credentials online is the University of Illinois- Springfield’s online Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. This robust offering mirrors the school’s on-campus program and can be completed entirely online. An internship is required but can be completed in the student’s local area.
Median Annual Wage: $62,270
Salary Potential: $124,480
Another career option for political science majors is the position of an arbitrator. Arbitrators act as objective third parties in legal disputes, helping the individuals or organizations resolve the issue without going to court. Their specific duties may vary from case to case but generally involve helping the parties communicate their concerns and expectations, negotiating settlements, interviewing witnesses, and preparing legal documents.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for arbitrators is currently growing faster than average, so job prospects for qualified candidates should be good. Still, applicants with advanced legal degrees or those with expertise in a particular legal field will fare the best.
Salisbury University offers a highly targeted bachelor’s degree program for prospective arbitrators. Its Bachelor of Arts in Conflict Analysis & Dispute Resolution is a multidisciplinary option that features three distinct tracks: International, Intergroup/Organizational, and Interpersonal. Students enrolled in the program will take courses such as Dynamics of Social Conflict, Studies in Conflict Analysis and Dispute, and Dispute Systems Design, for example.
The University of North Carolina-Greensboro offers a similar online option. Its BA in Peace and Conflict Studies uses an asynchronous content delivery model and can be completed entirely via distance education. Courses comprising the program’s curriculum include Introduction to Conflict and Peace Studies, Working Through Interpersonal Conflicts, and Managing Conflicts in Professional Contexts. Individual study options are available, and a senior seminar in Peace and Conflict Studies is required.
Urban and Regional Planner
Median Annual Wage: $73,050
Salary Potential: $114,170
“What can you do with a political science degree” you might ask? Another potentially lucrative career path for “poli sci” majors is the one that leads to a position as an urban and regional planner. These professionals help communities decide how to best use the land at their disposal, encouraging economic growth and community development. Their many duties include conducting research on economic and environmental issues, presenting development and land use plans, conducting meetings with public officials, and analyzing building codes and environmental regulations, for instance.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job prospects for urban and regional planners are currently growing much faster than average, so now is a good time to enter the field.
Because of the complex nature of their occupations, urban and regional planners are typically required to hold a master’s degree in urban or regional planning. Most have undergraduate backgrounds in political science or a closely related field, however.
The University of Arizona offers an MS in Urban Planning program that is accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB). Offered through its College of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture, the program is versatile, enabling students to concentrate their studies in sub-fields like environmental planning, real estate and urban development, heritage conservation, and urban transportation planning.
A similar online program is offered by the University of Florida’s College of Design, Construction, and Planning. This master’s in urban and regional planning option enables students to specialize in Sustainability or Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Required courses include Land Use Planning Law, Planning Research Design, Urban Land Economics, and Transportation Policy & Planning.
Median Annual Wage: $50,940
Salary Potential: $82,050
While some may think of the position of a paralegal as the last answer to the question “what can you do with a political science degree?” it actually has the potential to be a high-paying option for poli sci majors.
Paralegals assist lawyers and attorneys with administrative duties and case building in legal disputes. Their responsibilities may vary based on their employer and work environment, but they generally include conducting legal research, preparing official legal documents, writing legal briefs, and filing court documents.
The demand for paralegals and legal assistants is currently growing at a rapid pace, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Still, job prospects will be best for those individuals with strong computer and technical skills. Experience in database management is particularly desirable for employers.
To become a paralegal, you’ll need either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree as well as a certificate in paralegal studies. This formal preparation ensures that professionals have the legal background and skills necessary to perform their duties proficiently.
Liberty University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies. This 3 ½- year offering features course titles such as Foundations of Law, Criminal Practice and Procedures, and Family Law.
For students looking for a quicker route to a career as a paralegal, Keiser University offers an Associate of Arts degree program in Paralegal Studies. This flexible program can be completed on campus, online, or via a blended learning format.
Frequently-Asked Questions About Political Science Degrees
If you’re seriously pondering the question “what can you do with a political science degree,” then you’re likely to have a lot of other questions as well. After all, it’s wise to gather as much information as possible before embarking on such a big educational pursuit. Below, we’ll field some of the common inquiries we receive about degrees in political science.
Q: What kind of degree do I need to work in political science?
A: The majority of entry-level jobs in political science require just a bachelor’s degree, and a few are attainable with an associate’s credential. Some of the positions highlighted in this ranking, such as those in urban planning and postsecondary instruction, for instance, require an advanced degree.
Q: Are job prospects good for political science majors?
A: Yes! Most of the occupations featured in our ranking are growing steadily, faster than average, or even much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The only occupation not currently experiencing a boom is that of judges and hearing officers.
Q: Can I earn a political science degree online?
A: Yes. Many colleges and universities are offering political science degrees via distance education. It is possible to find online programs in poli sci at virtually every level of postsecondary education. Some of these offerings are highlighted in this very article.
Q: Will I make a lot of money with a political science degree?
A: As demonstrated in this ranking, it is possible to earn a six-figure salary with a political science degree. Not all positions in the field will yield such high earnings, however. Your exact salary will depend on your specific degree, employer, and years of experience in the field.