CHOOSING A CAREER / SEP. 30, 2014
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How to Become a Political Scientist in the US

Political Scientist

Political scientists study all aspect of politics; how it has evolved, how it has influenced and been influenced by other aspects of society with a view to advising and shaping current governments. The job mostly involves research, writing and staying updated on the latest in politics. It is a career that is characterized by passion, influence and self-drive because it requires focus and patience to succeed.

What Does a Political Scientist Do?

  • Analyze political systems, public policy and their influences
  • Seek theoretical and practical solutions to problems facing the state, government and political institutions
  • Research and collect data on any number of topics that are of interest to them with a view to coming up with conclusions supported by logical reasoning and evidence obtained through scientific methods
  • Influence the politics of the day through their findings presented in articles, journals, interviews, commentaries and other forms of media
  • Study and critique public decision-making, examine ideologies and conduct public-opinion surveys to bring out the true state of politics in the country
  • Direct political action through lobbying and taking up advocacy offices

Qualifications

Political scientists are thinkers and researchers, so academic qualifications are vital for this job.

  • A Bachelor’s degree with a major in political science or other related discipline such as public administration, history, psychology or any other social science
  • A Masters degree and ultimately a PhD if you wish to work in a think tank, head an advocacy initiative, lecture or work in a high-level political advisory position
  • Experience and great aptitude in the field. This involves writing articles to express your views, taking up philanthropic and advocacy work, working on campaigns and such other experiences that demonstrate your potential to excel in the field
  • Up-to-the minute updates on political occurrences and matters that affect public interest
  • Intellectual curiosity, research, writing, analytical and creative problem-solving skills are critical in this profession
  • Excellent interpersonal skills but also the ability to be a leader
  • Impeccable communication skills and this includes the ability to be a great orator
  • An open-mind and the ability to synthesize large amounts of information from multiple perspectives

 

Salary

The salary of political scientists varies primarily based on their expertise. The median average annual wage of an experienced professional is more than triple that of an entry-level one.

Entry level

 

$49,290

Mid career

 

$102,000

Successful

 

$155,490

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Work Environment

Political scientists spend most of their time in offices, regardless of whether they work in the public or private sector. From time to time you will be engaged in discussions, attending various meetings but for the most part, your work will be conducted indoors, poring over documents to enhance your knowledge.

Career Prospects

Political scientists usually work for thinks tanks, advocacy and lobby groups and even government as senior advisors. However, given the fluidity of their work, they have opportunities to earn revenue from various others sources such as consultancies, lecturing, speaking engagements, written opinions and so on. There are also numerous sub-fields that political scientists can branch into such as political economy that deals with foreign policy and trade and comparative politics examining the differences between the systems of various countries. These sub-fields offer opportunities for growth in an otherwise limited profession.

This job is not for those lacking in ambition, as you need great levels of self-drive to remain engaged and relevant in the field.

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