Contrary to popular belief, majoring in political science does not mean that you necessarily need to work in politics. In fact, there are numerous career opportunities for political science majors across governmental, nonprofit, and private sectors. This is in large part because a political science curriculum fosters strengths in writing, communication, and research, all of which are highly in demand in the workforce. If you are a political science student exploring potential jobs or internships, here are a few career paths to consider.
1. Policy Analyst
Policy analysts research and evaluate different laws in order to influence public policy. Most policy analysts choose one area to specialize in, like cybersecurity or environmental policy. These professionals can work for the government, lobbying groups, nonprofit organizations, news outlets, NGOs, and more. Strong data analysis and written communication skills are important for this field, especially when writing reports and sharing an argument for or against the adoption of a new law or policy.
2. Legal Assistant / Paralegal
If you are interested in law, but you are not ready to apply to law school, working as a legal assistant or paralegal could be a good choice. Legal assistants and paralegals generally share the same job responsibilities, although you can also take the NALA exam to become a certified paralegal. Legal assistants and paralegals collaborate with lawyers to create and maintain legal files, conduct research, and draft legal documents. Political science majors are particularly well-equipped for this job due to their strong research backgrounds.
RippleMatch partners that hire for this role:
Gunderson Dettmer is the only business law firm of its kind—singularly focused on the global venture capital and emerging technology marketplace. With 270+ attorneys in nine offices Gunderson Dettmer represents 2,500+ high-growth companies and 450+ venture capital and growth equity firms. Gunderson Dettmer combines deep market knowledge and strong industry relationships with a unique practice experience to provide practical, business-oriented counsel designed for the needs of the emerging-growth company marketplace.
3. Public Relations Specialist
Public relations specialists can work on behalf of a political campaign, for an agency, or in-house for a company or organization to draft press releases, organize press conferences, and interface with the media on behalf of clients. Public relations specialists must be able to find compelling angles to a story in order to persuade a media outlet to publicize the story. PR professionals often pitch stories to the media over the phone or via email. The writing and research skills that political science majors develop are essential for success in this field.
4. Market Research Analyst
Like public relations specialists, market research analysts can work in politics, for a nonprofit, or for a for-profit business. Market research analysts use data to evaluate market conditions that will influence how consumers will respond to a company’s products or services. Market researchers might send out surveys or polls, run focus groups, or observe consumer reactions to current products and services. This is similar to how political science majors study surveys and opinion polls as they relate to the public’s perception of a political candidate or social issue. According to the BLS, jobs in the market research field are projected to grow by 20% by 2028 – much faster than average.
5. Grant Writer
Grant writers often work for nonprofits, schools, or government entities to write proposals with the goal of persuading funding organizations to award a grant for their cause, such as a major environmental study project. Grant writers must research the funding opportunities available for their organization, write a persuasive proposal, and supply additional information as requested by the funding organization. Working as a grant writer enables you to support organizations or causes that you care about, and also offers a lot of career flexibility. While some grant writers work in-house for an organization, others work on a contractual basis.
6. Political Campaign Staff
Political science students often choose their major due to a deep interest in political campaigns or a desire to make a difference in the political system. Working as political campaign staffer is a way to promote a positive image of a political candidate, which can be at the local, state, or national level. Political campaign staff members might draft press releases, write political speeches, run fundraisers, manage social media and events, or recruit volunteers.
Lobbyists are advocates who work on behalf of an organization, community, or group in order to persuade lawmakers to support legislation that would benefit their client’s cause. Lobbyists must be adept in written and oral communication, since their job responsibilities often include preparing press releases, news articles, or brochures; taking part in press conferences; and meeting with legislators to give presentations or share information about their cause. Lobbyists can work for any number of industries, ranging from education, to healthcare organizations, to financial services.
8. Foreign Service Officer
For political science students who are interested in international affairs, a career as a foreign service officer is a way to foster positive relationships between countries. Foreign service officers are employed by the U.S. Department of State and stationed in countries around the world. Foreign service officers usually follow one of five tracks: consular (protecting Americans traveling abroad), economic (facilitating economic partnerships and supporting U.S. businesses in other countries), management (running U.S. embassies), political (analyzing political events in the host country), or public diplomacy (explaining American values and policies to people in the host country). To become a foreign service officer, candidates must take the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT), pass an oral examination, and receive security clearance.
Journalists often have academic backgrounds that are more varied than English or journalism. More specifically, a political science degree prepares you for the writing, research, and subject matter knowledge necessary to work for a newspaper, magazine, or online publication. As a journalist, you can specialize in writing opinion pieces, news, political coverage, and more. This is also an excellent option if you’ve been involved in student publications before and enjoyed your experience.
If you care about educating students about our political system (or comparative political systems), a career as a social studies or political science teacher could be the path for you. Charter schools and private schools often do not require an education degree, although if you pursue a teaching certification, you can teach civics or government & politics classes in public schools. If you are interested in teaching political science or international relations at the college level, you will need additional credentials such as a master’s degree or a doctorate.
It’s clear that political science majors can put their degree to good use in a variety of industries. The best part is that this academic background is highly versatile, enabling you to use your skills to work for an organization or cause that you are passionate about.