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Political Scientists

At a Glance

  • Study a wide range of subjects
  • Have good research and analytical skills
  • May work alone or on research teams
  • Usually work for government agencies, research firms, or businesses
  • Have at least a master's degree

Career summary

Political scientists study political systems, political behavior, and public policy.

#No alternate titles CJ

Political scientists study a wide range of subjects including:

They may specialize in the relationship between the United States and other countries. Others specialize in national institutions, including the presidency and Congress.

Political scientists use a variety of methods to collect information including:

They write reports that interpret their findings or outline their theories. Their reports may be used to make recommendations to government agencies and other organizations.

Many political scientists teach at colleges and universities.

Related careers

This career is part of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to political scientists.

Common work activities

Political scientists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, political scientists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Political scientists frequently:

It is important for political scientists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for political scientists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Political scientists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a political scientist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Almost all political scientists have a master's degree or higher in political science. However, research assistants usually need only a bachelor's degree. As a student you study different areas of political science such as government, political theory, and economics. You also study math and statistics.

To teach political science at a university, you need a doctoral (PhD) degree. Most colleges and universities offer degrees in political science.

Work experience

Working as a research assistant for a political scientist is good experience for this field.

On-the-job training

Some students complete an internship while in school. Look for a school that can provide you with experience working for a state legislature or the U.S. Congress.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be international relations officers. While this is not the same as being a political scientist, many of the skills transfer between jobs. You need at least a bachelor's degree to enter this military occupation. The length of training depends on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum (external link) may be different from your state's graduation requirements (external link).

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups (PDF file) that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Most employers require at least a master's degree in political science. Colleges or universities usually require a doctoral degree (PhD). Universities choose candidates based on their area of research and the quality of their published articles.

Employers look for political scientists who have excellent communication skills. They also look for applicants who are comfortable using computers to analyze data.

Costs to workers

Workers must pay for association dues, reference books and journals, and college classes to keep up with changes in the field.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Political scientists (SOC 19-3094)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $23.92 $28.13 $36.86 $50.52 $66.32
Monthly $4,145 $4,875 $6,388 $8,755 $11,493
Yearly $49,760 $58,500 $76,660 $105,080 $137,940
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $23.78 $28.42 $36.19 $48.97 $62.45
Monthly $4,121 $4,925 $6,272 $8,487 $10,823
Yearly $49,459 $59,103 $75,280 $101,863 $129,894
United States Hourly $28.51 $41.45 $56.52 $71.61 $78.94
Monthly $4,941 $7,183 $9,795 $12,410 $13,680
Yearly $59,300 $86,220 $117,570 $148,950 $164,200

Wages vary by the political scientist's experience and educational level. Those who have a master's degree generally earn less than those who have a doctoral degree (PhD).

Full-time political scientists generally receive benefits. Typical benefits include sick leave, paid vacation, and health insurance. Some employers also offer a retirement plan. 

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings. 

Political Scientists (SOC 19-3094)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 111 14.4% 16.1% 14
    King County 97 20.6% 19.6% 13
United States 6,200 4.8% 5.2% 800

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Growth for this political scientists will be about average. Almost half of political scientists work for the government. Demand may increase as there is growing interest in public policy and politics.

Competition will be strong as this is a very small occupation with few job openings. Opportunities will be best for those with a master's or doctoral (PhD) degree. 

The employment and outlook data does not include political scientists who teach at colleges and universities.

Other resources

American Political Science Association (external link)
1527 New Hampshire Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20036
Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management (external link)
1100 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 650
Washington, DC 20005
Careers in Political Science (external link)
(American Political Science Association)
International Political Science Association (external link)
National Academy of Sciences Interviews (external link)
National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (external link)
1029 Vermont Avenue NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005
Women's and Gender Studies: A Guide to the Collections of The New York Public Library (external link)
Women's Studies/Women's Issues Resource Sites (external link)
This site contains several different areas of women's studies. It also contains links to women's studies programs worldwide.


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupation

Holland occupational cluster