With concerns over job prospects and ROI on college degrees, some have questioned whether majoring in political science is a useless endeavor. But is this perception accurate when examining the skills gained and career paths available?
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick take: While a political science degree alone may not lead to a clearly defined career path, the skills developed around critical thinking, writing, research, data analysis, and understanding political systems have value for many different roles and industries.
In this comprehensive 3000 word guide, we analyze the common criticisms of useless degrees, evaluate the merits of political science skills and education, and explore the types of careers accessible to political science graduates.
Common Criticisms of ‘Useless’ Degrees
Concerns Over Job Prospects
One common criticism often thrown at ‘useless’ degrees, including political science, is the concern over job prospects. Critics argue that graduates with degrees in these fields struggle to find employment in their relevant fields, leading to unemployment or underemployment.
However, this criticism may not be entirely accurate.
According to a survey conducted by the American Political Science Association, over 80% of political science graduates find employment within six months of graduating. This statistic demonstrates that political science degrees do indeed offer viable job prospects.
While it may require some effort and networking to secure a job in the field, the degree itself is far from useless when it comes to job opportunities.
Belief That Skills Are Not Useful
Another criticism often levied against ‘useless’ degrees is the belief that the skills gained from these programs are not practical or applicable in the real world. However, this assumption fails to recognize the valuable skills that graduates of political science programs acquire.
Political science degrees provide students with a strong foundation in critical thinking, research, and analytical skills. These skills are highly sought after in various industries, including government, non-profit organizations, consulting firms, and advocacy groups.
They enable graduates to analyze complex issues, evaluate data, and communicate effectively, making them valuable assets in any professional setting.
Moreover, political science graduates often possess strong writing and communication skills, which are essential in many careers. From crafting persuasive arguments to effectively articulating ideas, these skills are highly transferable and can be applied in a wide range of professions.
Degrees Without Clear Career Pathway
One of the criticisms often directed at ‘useless’ degrees, including political science, is the perception that they lack a clear career pathway. While it is true that political science does not lead to a specific job title like medicine or engineering, this does not mean that the degree is worthless.
Political science graduates have a diverse range of career options available to them. Some pursue careers in politics, working as campaign managers, policy analysts, or government officials. Others find success in fields such as law, journalism, consulting, or academia.
Political science degrees provide a solid foundation for further education, including graduate and law school, opening up even more career opportunities.
It is important to note that not all careers require a specific degree, and many employers value the critical thinking and analytical skills that political science graduates bring to the table. The versatility of a political science degree allows graduates to adapt and thrive in a variety of professional settings.
While it is true that some degrees may have more clearly defined career paths, labeling a political science degree as ‘useless’ is an oversimplification. The value of a degree should not solely be determined by its immediate career prospects, but also by the skills and knowledge that it imparts.
Political science degrees provide students with a broad understanding of political systems, governance, and public policy, which are invaluable in today’s complex world.
So, before dismissing a political science degree as useless, it is important to consider the diverse career opportunities it offers and the valuable skills it equips graduates with. With the right mindset and determination, a political science degree can pave the way for a successful and fulfilling career.
Skills Gained from Political Science Programs
A political science degree equips students with strong critical thinking skills. Through analyzing political systems, policies, and ideologies, students learn to evaluate arguments, identify biases, and make informed decisions.
This skill is invaluable in various career paths, including law, public policy, and advocacy. According to a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, critical thinking is consistently ranked as one of the most sought-after skills by employers.
In today’s data-driven world, the ability to analyze and interpret complex information is highly valued. Political science programs teach students how to collect, analyze, and present data effectively.
This skill is particularly important in fields such as polling, campaign management, and policy analysis. The American Political Science Association provides resources and training opportunities for students to enhance their data analysis skills.
Research and Writing
Political science programs emphasize research and writing skills, which are essential in many professions. Students learn how to conduct thorough research, gather reliable sources, and present their findings in a clear and concise manner.
These skills are highly transferable and can be applied to careers in journalism, academia, and public relations. The Political Science Research and Methods Journal offers valuable resources for students looking to improve their research and writing abilities.
Understanding Political Systems
A political science degree provides a comprehensive understanding of political systems and processes. Students gain knowledge about different political ideologies, international relations, and public policy.
This understanding allows graduates to work in various fields, such as government agencies, non-profit organizations, and international organizations. The United Nations’ website provides valuable insights into global political systems and policies.
Relevant Careers for Political Science Grads
Government and Public Service
One of the most obvious career paths for political science graduates is within government and public service. With a strong understanding of political systems, policies, and governance, political science graduates are well-equipped for roles in local, state, and federal government agencies.
They can work as policy analysts, political advisors, legislative aides, or even pursue a career in diplomacy. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual wage for political scientists was $122,220 as of May 2020.
Law and Legal Careers
A political science degree can also serve as a strong foundation for a career in law. Many political science graduates go on to attend law school and become attorneys. The knowledge gained in political science, including critical thinking, research, and written communication skills, is highly transferable to the legal field.
Political science graduates may find themselves working as lawyers, judges, or legal consultants. According to the American Bar Association, the median salary for lawyers was $126,930 in 2020.
Policy and Social Research
Political science graduates often find opportunities in policy and social research fields. They can work for think tanks, research organizations, or non-profit organizations that focus on public policy issues.
These roles involve conducting research, analyzing data, and making recommendations to inform policy decisions. Political science graduates can also pursue careers in polling and survey research, helping political campaigns and organizations understand public opinion.
The Pew Research Center and Gallup are two authoritative websites that provide valuable insights into the field of social research.
While political science may not seem directly related to business, the skills acquired through a political science degree can be valuable in the business world. Political science graduates possess strong analytical and problem-solving skills, as well as an understanding of how political and economic factors intersect.
These skills are highly sought after in business fields such as consulting, market research, and corporate government affairs. Political science graduates can also excel in roles that require diplomacy and negotiation, such as international business or corporate social responsibility.
Journalism and Media
A political science degree can open doors to careers in journalism and media. Political science graduates have a deep understanding of political systems, policies, and current events, making them well-suited for roles as political reporters, news analysts, or commentators.
They can work for traditional media outlets such as newspapers, magazines, or television networks, or explore opportunities in digital media and online journalism. Political science graduates can combine their passion for politics with their excellent writing and communication skills to inform and engage the public on important political issues.
Ultimately, while some may question the value of a political science degree, the truth is that it can lead to a wide range of rewarding and fulfilling careers. The skills and knowledge gained through studying political science are highly transferable and can be applied to various industries.
Whether one chooses to pursue a career in government, law, policy research, business, or media, a political science degree can provide a solid foundation for success.
Maximizing Value of a Political Science Degree
Earning a degree in Political Science can be a valuable asset in today’s job market, despite some misconceptions about its usefulness. By taking strategic steps to maximize the value of your degree, you can enhance your career prospects and open doors to a variety of exciting opportunities.
Here are some strategies to consider:
Internships and Work Experience
One of the best ways to maximize the value of your Political Science degree is to gain practical experience through internships and work placements. These opportunities allow you to apply the theories and concepts you learn in the classroom to real-world situations.
They also provide valuable networking connections and can lead to job offers after graduation. Websites like Internships.com and Idealist.org offer a wide range of internships in the political science field.
Double Major or Minor
Another way to enhance the value of your Political Science degree is to pursue a double major or minor in a complementary field. For example, pairing Political Science with Economics or International Relations can provide a well-rounded skill set that is highly sought after by employers.
This combination allows you to analyze political systems from an economic perspective and understand the global implications of political decisions. It also demonstrates your ability to think critically and tackle complex issues from multiple angles.
Build Skills with Activities
Engaging in extracurricular activities and organizations related to politics and governance can help you build valuable skills and experiences. Joining a debate club, participating in a Model United Nations conference, or volunteering for a political campaign can develop your critical thinking, public speaking, and leadership abilities.
These activities not only enhance your resume but also provide opportunities for networking and connecting with professionals in the field.
Networking is crucial in any field, and political science is no exception. Attend conferences, seminars, and events where you can meet professionals in the political arena. Connect with alumni from your university who are working in politics or related fields.
By building relationships, you can gain insights into potential career paths, access job opportunities, and receive mentorship. LinkedIn is a great platform to connect with professionals in the political science field and join relevant groups to expand your network.
By following these strategies, you can maximize the value of your Political Science degree and increase your chances of landing a rewarding career in the field. Remember, a degree is just a starting point; it’s how you leverage it that makes all the difference!
Alternatives to a Full Political Science Degree
While a full political science degree can open doors to a variety of career paths, it may not be the right choice for everyone. Fortunately, there are alternative options that still allow individuals to gain valuable knowledge and skills in political science without committing to a full degree program.
These alternatives can be a great fit for those looking to explore the field or enhance their existing qualifications.
Minor in Political Science
For students who are majoring in another field but have a strong interest in political science, pursuing a minor in the subject can be a suitable alternative. A minor in political science offers a focused study on the fundamental concepts and theories of politics, government, and international affairs.
It allows individuals to gain a solid understanding of political systems and develop critical thinking and analytical skills. A minor in political science can complement a major in fields such as journalism, economics, or sociology, opening up career opportunities in areas where political knowledge is highly valued.
With the advent of online education, there is now a wide range of political science courses available on various platforms. These online courses provide flexibility and convenience, allowing individuals to learn at their own pace and fit their studies into their busy schedules.
Online courses cover a broad range of political science topics, from introductory courses to specialized subjects like comparative politics or international relations. Many reputable universities and educational platforms offer online political science courses, ensuring the quality and credibility of the content.
Taking online courses can provide individuals with a solid foundation in political science and enhance their understanding of the field, even without pursuing a full degree.
Another alternative to a full political science degree is to pursue an associate degree in political science. Associate degrees are typically two-year programs offered by community colleges or vocational schools.
They provide a comprehensive overview of political science, covering topics such as American government, political theory, and international relations. While an associate degree may not offer the same depth of knowledge as a bachelor’s degree, it can still equip individuals with essential skills and knowledge in the field, making them eligible for entry-level positions in government agencies, non-profit organizations, or political campaigns.
Additionally, associate degrees can serve as a stepping stone for individuals who wish to continue their education and eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Ultimately, the decision to pursue a full political science degree or explore alternative options depends on an individual’s specific goals, interests, and circumstances. It is important to consider the value and relevance of a political science education in relation to one’s career aspirations.
Regardless of the path chosen, a solid understanding of political science can provide valuable insights into the complexities of our world and contribute to informed decision-making and civic engagement.
While a political science degree alone does not lead to a clearly defined career path, the skills developed around researching, analyzing, writing, critical thinking, and understanding political systems have value across many industries and public service roles.
With strategic supplemental experiences like internships, skills-building, and networking, political science grads can showcase the merit of their degree and pursue meaningful careers in law, policy, business, journalism, research, and more.