What does it mean to become a political scientist? In the broad sense, a political scientist is like any other social scientist. They research and study the principals, processes, effects, and applications of their given science. In the case of a political scientist, their niche is society and government, becoming experts at understanding how polices are determined; why governments do what they do; how the public reacts or is affected; and how decisions impact the world we live in.
The political scientist is a trained professional in their field. They often hold master’s degrees or PhDs. The broad study of political science is narrowed down at these levels, and most scientists will choose a specific career path once they reach this stage of their education. There are many areas of study political scientists can choose from.
Some political scientist will work with politicians helping with campaigns or after elections with ongoing political decisions. Others work in non-profit settings using their skills to benefit the organization’s goals such as protecting the environment or solving societal problems of homelessness. Most work for the political scientist is found among government institutions. There are positions available in corporate settings as well, however.
One of the hallmarks of the political scientist’s work is research. It is their responsibility to study data, read historical accountings, and examine current affairs in order to report their findings with proper due diligence. Without the efforts of the political scientist, many government policies, decisions, and laws might be left to chance. It is the scientist’s job to examine the facts and present it in a way that allows politicians and other leaders to make beneficial decisions affecting the populations they serve.
Other roles a political scientist may engage in are specific areas of study such as the environment, social issues, or voting behaviors. Narrowing their field allows the scientist to become an expert in a specific sub-field of political science. While restricting their expertise may reduce their career choices, it also makes them highly desirable as a skilled employee.
Political scientists are considered experts in their field. As such, students will earn an undergraduate degree in political science at minimum. Most often students will continue on to grad school earning a master’s or a PhD in political science.
The course of study for the political scientist involves a general understanding of how societies are governed and impacts of policies set forth. The courses also include study of:
Depending on the level of education a student seeks, they will likely need to include research, internships, fieldwork, and job experience into their education plans. Starting as early as possible with practical experience can benefit the student throughout their education.
The general status of all work in the political sciences remains healthy with growth upwards of 22% until 2018 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS has determined that this career field is growing at an above average rate. The competition among future employees is robust and competitive; therefore, any advantage a jobseeker can offer will be in their favor.
The starting salary of the political scientist depends on which area of employment a student chooses. The median annual wage for the field as a whole is $107,000 according to the BLS. The top wage earners enjoy an annual income over $150,000 not including any perks.