The field of politics is broad, and there are so many things you can do with it. One of the most obvious career choices is to become a political scientist as they can take on many roles. They spend a lot of time studying, researching, and analyzing political trends, political ideas, and so on.
If this sounds like an exciting career path and you’re wondering whether it’s worth it, this article will show you everything a political scientist does and how you can become one.
What Is a Political Scientist?
A political scientist is a multitasker as they do a little bit of everything. They are researchers, analysts, and forecasters. The process of a scientist involves an investigation paired with a curiosity to gather information and come to a conclusion. If you think about it, a political scientist’s roles are similar. They tackle a particular issue, collect data, process it, and then develop a helpful solution.
Additionally, political scientists use their expertise to understand how laws and policies affect government, citizens, and business. However, it’s essential to know that the field of politics tends to be objective and systematic. This is not to say that a political scientist can’t be subjective and offer opinions, but the area requires that their conclusions are based on facts and evidence.
In other words, political scientists analyze the structure and theory of government and pursue practical solutions to political issues.
What Does a Political Scientist Do?
As you’ve come to learn, political scientists conduct in-depth studies regarding the origin or development of political systems. They analyze the federal government structure; utilize surveys, public polls, election results, economic data, and other documents to conclude and predict new policies.
They also work as policy analysts for the government, political groups, and labor unions. Political scientists provide helpful information and analysis after researching the effects of government policies on a specific region or population.
Some other duties of a political scientist include:
- Research political subjects (foreign relations, U.S. political system)
- Collect and analyze data from public sources like surveys, polls, and election results
- Create and test political theories
- Predict political, economic, and social trends
- Submit research results by publishing articles and giving presentations
- Teach political science
- Provide advice to government officials, research agencies, civic bodies, political parties, and the media
- Prepare legislative proposals for the government
- Do a media commentary about political problems and public policies
In addition to these duties, political scientists often use qualitative methods in their research when gathering information from various sources. For example, they can rely on historical documents to analyze former government structures and policies. However, they also use quantitative methods when developing and researching theories. For example, they usually analyze voter registration data when they need to identify voting patterns.
With research and analyses, political scientists concentrate on five main areas:
- National politics (American politics) – the study of the political processes in the U.S.; research and analyze the strategies, effects, and results of state and local governments, national institutions, etc.
- Comparative politics – their expertise is comparing political systems outside of the U.S.
- Public policy – they focus on the development and effects of laws and public policies in the U.S. and abroad.
- Political theory – they research and analyze political ideologies (equality, justice, rights).
- International relations – they research and analyze the political relations between nations, meaning how diplomacy, international policy, and conflict resolution work across countries.
Skills a political scientist needs
To be a qualified political scientist, one needs to have:
- Analytical skills – when collecting, evaluating, and interpreting data.
- Communication skills – crucial for writing reports, collaborating with people, and giving presentations.
- Critical-thinking skills – essential for examining, processing information, and coming up with logical conclusions from the collected data.
- Creativity – a must when searching for new ideas, information, and staying updated on political issues; coming up with ways to address and solve problems.
How Do You Become a Political Scientist?
As it happens with all careers, there are specific steps you need to follow, and becoming a political scientist is no different. Some entry-level positions require only a bachelor’s degree, but most jobs demand higher degrees such as a master’s or a Ph.D.
As a first step, candidates who want to pursue a career in political sciences should start with a bachelor’s degree. To meet the qualifications for acceptance into graduate school, you need to complete an educational program in political science. This program is crucial in preparing you with the basics of political science while also helping you with statistics, writing, and economics.
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Most bachelor’s political science programs take up to four years of full-time study and 120 credits. However, other factors affect the length of a degree, such as internships, a thesis, etc.
If you’re interested in a bacherlor’s degree in political science, check out our program at BAU.
Once you complete your undergraduate degree program, you can gain hands-on experience by applying for internships in nonprofit organizations as research assistant, campaign assistant, or in legislative and congressional offices. These roles are helpful as they help you gain valuable experience in the field of politics and build a portfolio that can boost your employment prospects in the future.
Next, to complete your graduate degree, you need a master’s degree in a field related to political science. Many political scientists decide on specific roles such as public administration, public policy, international relations, and public affairs.
A master’s program for political science includes several study topics during your coursework, such as research methods, statistics, policy development, program assessment, evaluation, etc.
After you’re done with your education, it would be best if you considered paid internships, volunteer work, or any role to gain experience. If you gain experience, you’re more likely to find a job. Additionally, after earning your master’s degree, you can qualify to work as a political scientist for different organizations.
If you want to advance your education, you can also pursue a Ph.D. This is especially important if you’re looking to pursue a career as a professor at the university level. Apart from this, you can also find high-level career opportunities in political consulting and national government, but a Ph.D. isn’t necessary unless you’re working in academia.
What Is the Job Outlook and Salary of a Political Scientist?
Considering the effort they put into research, policies, and such, it makes sense for political scientists to earn a decent amount of money. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average median pay for a political scientist is $122,510 per year, which is estimated to be $58.90 per hour.
On average, around 700 openings for political scientists are projected every year. Additionally, job growth is estimated to increase by up to 9% in the next ten years in the U.S. So, if there’s ever been a better time to pursue a political scientist career, now it’s your chance.
The job of a political scientist may look challenging if you’re not used to working in various workplaces. Many political scientists work in private corporations as writers, policy analysts, and commentators, while others may work with the government, television, and so on.
To be a successful political scientist, you must be curious, rational, analytical, creative, and logical. If politics are something you’re interested in, you’ll be happy to hear that you can also become a political scientist with some time and effort.