Earning a Master's in Political Science Online

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Completing a master's in political science online propels graduates into exciting roles related to U.S. government and international affairs. National interest in politics has risen dramatically in recent years, making this degree particularly timely for those who see themselves working in legislative affairs, education, consulting, or other industries that rely on political scientists. A graduate degree in political science can also yield a lucrative annual median salary of $117,570.

To learn more about salary potential, available careers, funding opportunities, degree requirements, and professional organizations, keep reading.

Why Get a Master's in Political Science?

Pursue Deeper Knowledge and Specialization

While a bachelor's degree provides students with the foundational knowledge needed to succeed in entry-level roles, master's in political science online programs build nuanced skills in specialized areas of the discipline, such as political theory, foreign policy. Graduating from these programs helps individuals become experts and leaders in the field.

Career Advancement Opportunities

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), political scientists must possess at minimum a master's degree. Those with bachelor's degrees typically work in support or assistant roles. Learners who commit themselves to an additional 2-3 years of education stand to earn larger salaries and qualify for roles with higher levels of responsibility and leadership opportunities.

Online Learning Technology

In the last decade, technology has become a driving force in the political science landscape. Policy analysts use online polls to gauge public reaction to bills, and campaigns use social media to disseminate their candidate's platform. Online students benefit greatly from access to the latest education and communication technologies, which can help give them a leg up for other jobs.

Prerequisites for Master's in Political Science Programs

Master's in political science online programs require dedication, focus, and a demonstrated ability to perform well academically. When looking for potential students, programs set a number of prerequisites to ensure anyone admitted is prepared for the rigors of the degree. Prerequisites vary by school, but those highlighted below give a sense of common requirements.

    • Bachelor's Degree From an Accredited College To receive admittance, all programs require learners to possess a bachelor's degree conferred by an accredited college. Some schools look for students who possess degrees in political science or a related subject, while others accept students from unrelated disciplines (who may need to take classes in areas of political science and statistics).
    • Minimum GPA When looking at potential schools, less competitive programs tend to require GPAs of 2.25-2.5, while more competitive programs look for GPAs of 3.0 or higher. Applicants with lower GPAs may be able to offset this requirement with an impressive GRE score, but they should speak with the admissions department to learn more.
    • GRE Scores GRE scores give departments a metric for evaluating potential candidates alongside one another. Score requirements vary based on the competitiveness of the institution. Some programs may waive the GRE score requirement if a student possesses a particularly strong GPA.
    • Work Experience The majority of programs do not require applicants to possess experience in political science, but they may prioritize candidates who worked in a professional setting after completing their bachelor's degree. Even if not in political science, these experiences can help build awareness and professionalism.
    • Writing Sample Because so many careers in political science rely on strong analytical writing skills, it is not uncommon for programs to request writing samples that demonstrate your abilities. Most programs want to see either an undergraduate thesis or paper on a topic related to political science or another liberal arts subject.

How Much Can I Make With a Master's in Political Science?

Individuals with a master's degree in political science can earn salaries well above the national average for all occupations. According to the BLS, political scientists in the bottom 10% of earners brought home less than $59,300 in 2018. Those in the 90th percentile earned in excess of $164,200. Factors affecting salary include level of experience, title, location, and industry. Degree level also plays a significant role, as higher education promotes a broader set of marketable skills.

Potential Careers

Careers Stats Description

Political Scientist

Median Annual Salary: $117,570

Political scientists work in areas of national politics, international relations, comparative politics, and political theory to understand how political systems function. Some may work primarily in research and analysis roles; others use their knowledge of political trends to help elect candidates to local, state, or national office.

Political Science Professor

Median Annual Salary: $78,470

These professionals work at colleges and universities to impart their knowledge on future political scientists. They prepare and give lectures, answer questions, create assignments, grade papers, oversee examinations, advise students on plans of study, write letters of recommendation, and present papers and research reports at academic conferences. Most four-year schools require a Ph.D. for this position; community colleges may hire those with a master's degree.

Survey Researcher

Median Annual Salary: $57,700

Survey researchers use their advanced skills in statistics, analytics, and data collection to understand public opinion and trends. They create surveys, develop interview strategies, and collect data before analyzing it through statistical software. After translating their findings into accessible information, they present reports to clients.

Paying for an Online Master's in Political Science Program

Paying for a master's in political science online program requires much planning for the vast majority of students who cannot cover the expenses right away. Outside of funding options, students should monitor several factors to determine price. Institutions where learners pay in-state tuition are typically cheaper than those with out-of-state or private tuition rates. Schools with accelerated degree paths often allow students to save money and graduate more quickly. Plenty of political science-specific financial aid, grants, and scholarships also exist to offset costs.

Scholarships

Though the cost of higher education continues to rise, scholarships can save students from significant loan debt. Aside from those listed below, check with prospective schools; local, state, and federal government initiatives; professional organizations; private foundations; and corporations.

What to Expect From a Master's in Political Science Program

Before enrolling in a master's in public science online program, most students want to know how long the degree takes. The easy answer: timelines vary based on number of credits, thesis requirements, and part- or full-time enrollment. Accelerated programs take as little as one year, while more extensive degrees require three years. Online degree seekers use learning management systems, such as Blackboard, to watch lectures, discuss topics with peers, turn in assignments, and take examinations.

Major Milestones

Students can expect to hit several milestones over the course of their degree. We highlight some of the most common in the following section.

  1. Capstone Coursework

    Some programs require students to complete a culminating project that pulls together all the concepts they learned throughout the degree into an expansive and comprehensive capstone.

  2. Internships/Apprenticeships/Job Shadowing

    Students looking to gain practical experience in the political arena often take part in a semester-long internship or apprenticeship. Some may use their summer break to meet this requirement.

  3. Thesis and Defense

    Individuals hoping to work in areas of academia or research often select master's in political science online programs that mandate theses so they can continue building their research and writing skills.

  4. Intent to Graduate/Completion Confirmation

    After meeting all coursework and thesis requirements, degree seekers must signal their intent to graduate by alerting the registrar's office, paying any outstanding fees or fines, and ordering a cap and gown.

  5. Application to Doctoral Program

    Individuals who plan to continue into doctoral study often apply while in their final year of a master's program. This process includes asking for letters of recommendation, compiling writing samples, and creating statements of purpose. They may also visit prospective schools.

Coursework

In addition to core coursework common in all master's in political science online programs, learners may specialize to set themselves apart from other job candidates.

Modern Political Theory

This survey course looks at the modern Western roots of political theory, with special emphasis on Machiavelli, Marx, and Weber. Topics include power, political consciousness, constitutionalism, domination, and community.

State and Local Government

Students in this class look at the similarities and differences present in American state and local governments, with an understanding of how cities, counties, school districts, and states vary in their governance. Learners also cover how state and local governments interact with one another.

Race and Politics

This class looks at historic and modern racial and ethical issues present in politics, with particular focus on voting rights, suppression, and public policies that disenfranchise particular communities. It also considers how social movements impact such issues.

Mass Media and Politics

Students in this class look at the role mass media plays in the political arena and how that role has shifted and evolved over the previous century. Learners consider how television, social media, and other digital platforms influence political discourse.

Latin American Relations

Part history and part political science, this class helps students understand the layered and complicated relationship between the U.S. and Latin American countries, with emphasis on reforms, revolutions, influence, and contemporary foreign policy frameworks.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Plenty of national, regional, and local political science professional organizations exist, and for good reason. These associations and societies provide a place for students, recent graduates, and seasoned political scientists to network, continue growing their knowledge, and participate in annual conferences. Some even offer scholarships and/or discounted student memberships. Research the organizations below, but also find local chapters in your area or at your school.

  • American Political Science Association: APSA serves members by providing access to annual meetings, teaching and learning conferences, journals, industry reports, job postings, grants, continuing education opportunities, and teaching resources.
  • International Political Science Association: Political scientists join this association to take part in research committees, conferences, world congresses, summer school programs, in-house publications, awards, and active social media pages.
  • Southern Political Science Association: In existence since 1929, SPSA provides a great example of regional political science associations. Look for this in your area. Special member benefits here include annual meetings, legislative advocacy, policy access, and continuing education programs.
  • International Association for Political Science Students: IAPSS welcomes undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate students across the globe to take part in world congresses, academic publications, regional groups, academic conventions, summer schools, and think tanks.
  • Association for Political Theory: Since 2000, APT has supported scholars, students, and practitioners working in political theory and philosophy. Member services include annual conferences, announcements of new books, member directories, a job board, and industry news.