Political scientists study all aspects of public policy and political systems, including their origins, development, and operations. Their research ranges across other fields as well. Those who specialize in international relations typically examine the relationship the United States has with other countries or the political systems and institutions within other countries. Other areas of political science involve looking at politics in small towns or large urban centers, researching the political life of various nations and the institutions involved, and even looking at U.S. Supreme Court decisions.
Political scientists use a variety of tools to analyze both the structure and operations of political entities and governments, be they federal, state, or local, including:
- Political decision making
- Public opinion
- Public policy
They gather data by interviewing public officials, analyzing elections, and conducting public-opinion surveys, among other methods.
Political Science Degrees and Career Training
Political scientists should have a firm grasp of mathematics, statistics, quantitative research methods, using computers to conduct research, as well as the latest research technology. Written and oral communication skills are typically crucial in order to communicate the results of their research to others. They should also have excellent critical thinking skills and the ability to analyze complex information.
It's often necessary to obtain master's or doctorate degree program in social science in political science, to launch a successful career in political science, especially if you want to teach at the post-secondary level. Bachelor's degrees can lead to a number of career opportunities including jobs in:
- Campaign management and polling
- Electoral politics
- Federal, state, or local government
- International organizations
- Nonprofit associations and organizations
- Pre-collegiate education
Political Science Career Prospects
Political scientists held 4,700 jobs in 2006, but only 5 percent job growth is predicted to occur by 2016. This slow growth is expected because most political science jobs are with the federal government and very few opportunities have previously existed outside of it. For example, in 2007:
- 2,320 political scientists worked for the federal executive branch.
- 580 political scientists worked in scientific research and development services
- 230 political scientists worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools
- 160 political scientists worked for local government
- 60 political scientists worked for state governments
Most of these jobs are obviously based out of Washington D.C., with other high concentrations in Virginia, Wisconsin, Washington, and New York.
Yet in spite of these numbers and percentages, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for political science research should begin to grow due to increasing interest in politics and human affairs. Political scientists should also be able to get involved in such hot topics as environmental policy and immigration. Social organizations and nonprofit groups may hire more political scientists as this interest grows, and political scientists may also become more important in political lobbying in order to further those groups interests.