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Career Benefits of Political Science Major
The advantages of majoring in political science are several.
- One is that students learn ways of thinking, a core aspect of liberal education. Students gain critical thinking, analytic and research skills that can be applied to understanding significant concepts, institutions, political actors and debates in American and international politics. In political theory, students use analytic and philosophical approaches to understand and think normatively about political and ethical concepts and debates that have been part of political life from the times of Plato and Aristotle to today.
- A second advantage is our emphasis on research and communication skills. At GVSU Political Science, our small class sizes enable us to emphasize writing, data analysis, research, and digital literacy. Students also develop verbal communication skills through class discussions, simulations, and debates. We give students opportunities to refine their skills.
- A final advantage is that political science majors have a variety of career paths that they may pursue, as we detail in the next section. Employers in the business, government, non-profit and education sectors all value communication and critical thinking skills.
The Future is Not Yet Written
How does one prepare for a career when many of the jobs of the future haven't yet been invented? Due to economic, political, environmental and social trends, the future of the economy is always in flux. Workers commonly switch careers over the course of a lifetime. Political science majors, due to their education, have the ability to be flexible in terms of future career options.
Some of the major career options available to political science majors upon graduation are in the following sectors: government, political campaigns, lobbying, law, business, non-profit, public policy, communications, and education.
Government is an increasingly large sector of the economy. Graduates may start out as a legislative aide or research assistant and progress from there, or seek a job in the government bureaucracy at the local, state or federal level.
Graduates with an interest in international politics may wish to take the Foreign Service exam and work for the U.S. Department of State.
Political campaigns are a great opportunity for students to get involved in politics and build their network of contacts. Lobbying firms provide opportunities for researchers, assistants and activists.
Many political science students attend law school and work as attorneys.
Businesses and corporations value the analytic and writing skills of political science majors, and are willing to train students in more particular, job-focused ways; certainly there are many connections between government and business, from compliance with regulations to international trade to lobbying. Businesses are sometimes willing to support students’ graduate study.
Non-profits often have a public focus and provide opportunities for graduates to work in grant making, fundraising, and administration. Americorps, Teach for America and other service jobs may lead into careers in the non-profit sector.
Public policy is a sector which straddles the government, business, lobbying and non-profit sectors and is another good fit for political science majors.
Graduates seeking to go into communications have the ability to help politicians and government communicate to the public, and assist the media to cover politics and government.
Some political science majors teach about government, civics and social studies; to teach at the college level usually requires a PhD, while teaching high school and lower grades usually requires an education degree.
Building Your Career Prospects
Grades matter a great deal to employers. If you need to bring some career motivation to your studies, you could try think about each class as an audition for a potential employer. Employers will be impressed by good grades in all of your classes, not just the ones you like. Show professional behavior and a strong work ethic in your interactions with your professor and your peers. Demonstrate your analytic, writing and verbal communication skills in the classroom and in your assignments. Keep in mind that you may need to count on your professors as references when applying for jobs or internships, so make an effort to introduce yourself and make a good impression in their class.
An internship is a great opportunity to build your resume, gain practical experience and strengthen your network of contacts while earning college credit at the same time. In fact, especially for those students who do not plan to go on to graduate or professional school, an internship or similar practical experience is increasingly indispensable in the job market. Internships are also a good idea because they can help a student determine if he or she is on the right professional track. It is just as useful to have a career goal disconfirmed as confirmed by doing an internship while still in college.
We send email to GVSU political science and international relations majors about current internships. We also have some special opportunities for internships in Washington, DC through our affiliation with the Washington Center.
For more information, visit our Internships, Jobs and Careers page.
Study abroad can help you to prepare to work in an increasingly diverse and international workplace, understand political science and international relations from an international perspective, expand your cross-cultural communication and problem-solving skills, broaden your academic horizons, and improve your language skills.
GVSU is one of the top-ranked U.S. universities in terms of percentage of students who study abroad, thanks to the Padnos International Center. There are many study abroad programs that do not require a language. Even a program with a short duration can add valuable depth to your resume. To get started, check out our Study Abroad Guide.
Extracurricular activities can give you practical experience, build your resume, help with networking, provide leadership opportunities, and demonstrate commitment and responsibility. In addition to options like athletics, Greek life and student clubs, some options related to political science at GVSU include:
International Relations Organization
There are many more. For more information, check out https://www.gvsu.edu/studentlife/
You could also pursue volunteer opportunities outside of GVSU. Volunteering for a cause or a group that you believe in shows passion and commitment, and gives you the benefits of being involved with an extracurricular activity.
Networking is a huge advantage in any job search. During your time at GVSU you have the opportunity to meet many people and form new and lasting relationships. You never know where a job opportunity may come from. Getting involved with a student group, meeting people in your residence hall, and getting to know your classmates are all great opportunities for networking. As you move into the professional sphere, seek out new mentors as well as new colleagues. Networking sites like Facebook and Linked In can be great ways to aid in networking, but be careful not to post anything that may reflect negatively on you.
There are so many career resources available to undergraduates that it can be a bit overwhelming. To get you started, we recommend that you take advantage of GVSU's Career Services office, and read two books. GVSU's Career Services site can be found at https://www.gvsu.edu/careers/
The Career Services office has a very helpful Career Guide available at this site that is mandatory reading for anyone at GVSU contemplating a career. The office offers practice interviews and assistance with building and refining your résumé. They also sponsor periodic career fairs, which are chances to meet directly with potential employers.
Helpful Career Books
What to Do with Your History or Political Science Degree. Sarah Dunham, Lisa Vollmer and the Staff of The Princeton Review. 2007. The Princeton Review.
This book contains chapters covering what you can do with your degree, opportunities for advanced degrees and fellowships, popular jobs for political science majors, how to choose a path that is right for you, how to land the job (advice on networking, résumés and interviews), and lists a variety of websites containing job, internship and career resources.
Careers in International Affairs. Maria Pinto Carland and Candace Faber (editors). 2008. Georgetown University Press.
This edited volume contains advice on how to obtain a job (networking, interviewing, finding a mentor), graduate school, and chapters on many different types of employers including the U.S. government, international organizations, banking, business, business-related organizations, consulting, international development and relief, non-profit, education, and university research institutes.
Graduate School & Law School
An undergraduate degree in political science gives you a number of options for graduate school, including pursuing a law degree (JD), Master's of Business Administration (MBA), Master's of Public Administration or Public Policy (MPA or MPP), Master's of International Affairs, or Master's of Education (MEd). If you want to become a political science professor, you should seek to be admitted to a top-ranked program in political science. Typically a master's degree alone will not be sufficient for a tenure-track professorship. For more information on graduate options, read the books mentioned above, look online at particular graduate programs, and talk with your faculty advisor. If you are contemplating law school, check out our helpful prelaw FAQ available via https://www.gvsu.edu/prelaw/
These three sites can link you to all the professional master’s degree programs offered in the public administration, international affairs, and public policy fields:
National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)
Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA)
Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM)
Finally, consider dual-degree programs where you can earn two master’s degrees (e.g., public policy and public health, or international affairs and business administration) simultaneously or over a shorter time frame than it would normally take.
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Stepan Loffelmann is busy with his summer internship at the Consulate of the Czech Republic in Chicago.
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Political Science Department Awarded 2022 Outstanding GVSU Department by the Office of Student Life
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Kyle Huisman wins the 2022 Excellence-in-a-Discipline Award for Political Science
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