How Much Does a Political Scientist Earn Yearly?
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A political scientist is interested in political systems and how they work to serve the needs of citizens. In that regard, they study different types of political systems, how different types of political systems develop, and how different types of political systems are operated.
Additionally, workers in this field examine issues related to politics to determine how public opinion, government policies, laws, and so forth, impact the functioning of government. Also of interest to political scientists is how political systems change over time.
To think that political scientists simply research and talk about politics is selling the job duties of these workers very short. Though political scientists primarily study political systems, the manner in which they do that – and the purposes behind this kind of research – are quite varied.
Some of the questions that political scientists are interested in answering are:
To answer these (and many other types of questions), political scientists engage in constant research, including the collection, analysis, and interpretation of an incredible amount of data. For example, a political scientist that wishes to compare how democracy and communism developed would use historical texts to develop a timeline of the development of each system.
Within their studies, the political scientist would seek to identify things like the contextual forces that led to the development of each system (i.e., democratic values being proposed in ancient Greece or the dissatisfaction with the Russian Monarchy in the early 1900s).
But not all political scientists are interested in past political processes. Instead, many political scientists are more concerned with what’s happening now in the political world. For example, political scientists often use public opinion surveys to determine things like the popularity of a government official or whether or not the voting public supports a proposed law. Using a current example, political scientists constantly survey voters to generate approval ratings of the U.S. president and other high-profile political figures.
Still another area of focus for political scientists is the future of politics. This is perhaps the most well-known area of political science because it is this branch of this field that seeks to predict political trends. To do so, these future-focused political scientists hone in on topics that include, but are not limited to:
Not all people that are trained as political scientists work as a political scientist, though. With a background in this field, other careers are an option, including teaching social studies in a public or private secondary school, being a professor of political science at college or university, or serving as a policy analyst for a political group, like a labor union, non-profit organization, or lobbying firm.
When considering the most influential political scientists of all time, there are a variety of names that come to mind. Some of the most important are:
Rousseau was an Eighteenth Century philosopher whose ideas on politics had a great influence on the French Revolution and the democratization of that country. Rousseau had an impact on the framers of the American Constitution as well, and there are many similarities between Rousseau’s thoughts on the purpose of government and the role of citizens in the writings of Thomas Jefferson.
Tocqueville’s most salient contribution to political science is his Democracy in America, which was an analysis of the establishment and expansion of the democratic order in the West. He believed that democracy was a fine balance between of the principles of equality and liberty. In other words, his view was that people should be able to enjoy freedom and individuality, but at the same time, respect the rights of others.
John Locke was by far one of the most influential political minds of the Enlightenment Period. Locke is perhaps best known for his social contract theory, which stated that citizens give up some of their freedoms in order for the government to protect others. This theory strongly influenced political thinkers of the time, including Rousseau, Voltaire and the Founding Fathers, who incorporated many of his political ideas into the Declaration of Independence.
Regarded as one of the most influential people in history, Karl Marx is responsible for developing his theory of Marxism, which posited that class struggle is at the center of the development of societies, economic systems, and politics as well. For Marx, capitalist systems cause conflicts between the ruling classes and the working classes, the solution to which is to develop a communist system in which there are no ruling or working classes to begin with.
By far, the most common place of employment for political scientists is in government. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that nearly half (48 percent) of political scientists work for government entities. Another popular workplace for political scientists is in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector. This includes working for private companies that require expertise in politics to operate, like a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.
To a far lesser degree, political scientists work in the education and non-profit sectors, with approximately seven percent of workers represented in each. An additional seven percent of political scientists are self-employed according to the BLS.
In a typical political science degree program, students can expect to learn about a variety of topics. This includes, but is not limited to:
The formal education requirements to be a political scientist begin with an undergraduate degree. These four-year degrees are intended to give students a broad overview of important concepts in political science, as well as serve as an introduction to generalist studies.
Typically, of the 120 credit hours that are generally required for an undergraduate degree, half are in general studies like math, science, and social studies, with the remaining half focused on the major, in this case, political science.
The next step to becoming a political scientist is to obtain a master’s degree. These programs are not as long as undergraduate studies - they’re usually one to three years in length - but the level of coursework is more difficult and much more focused. That is, rather than continuing with generalist studies, students hone in on their specific major area.
In this instance, coursework might include political theory, political economics, political methodology, and political identity. Master’s programs often require students to complete a thesis, which serves as a capstone research project on a very specific topic within their major area.
To be as attractive as possible to employers, it’s often advisable for political scientists to continue their education with a doctorate. Again, this involves yet another step up in terms of academic rigor and focus on more specific topics of study. Most often, that means studying in one of four major areas of political science: comparative politics, political theory, national politics, or international relations.
Doctoral programs in political science require anywhere from three to five additional years of study after the completion of a master’s degree.
Studying online is a popular means of getting a political science degree, especially for bachelor’s degree studies. Online programs offer similar coursework as on-campus programs, but pair that with the convenience of studying from home. This flexibility means that online studies are an attractive option for people that have a full-time job that makes it difficult to attend on-campus classes.
Many online degree programs are designed to give students much more freedom with their studies. For example, students that wish to complete their degree faster might be better equipped to do so by taking online courses. What’s more, online studies can be less expensive than on-campus studies, simply because there’s no cost associated with commuting to campus, parking, on-campus housing, and so forth.
Political scientists must possess a strong set of skills, traits, and personality qualities in order to be successful in this line of work. Though there are dozens of skills and qualities that prove beneficial, among the most important are:
Being a political scientist is a tough job, but one that has many different benefits. Among some of the more important benefits of a career in this field are:
The job outlook for careers in political science is satisfactory. According to a 2021 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this line of work is predicted to see a six percent growth over the next several years.
The slow growth can be attributed, in part, to the fact that many political scientists stay on the job for a very long time, meaning that there are fewer positions to be had for new political scientists to be filled. And since political science is a very popular program of study in colleges and universities, there is often very stiff competition for the available jobs in this field.
That being said, workers that have an advanced education (i.e., a master’s degree or above) and/or a solid amount of work experience are more likely to find jobs – and higher paying ones, at that. Political scientists that specialize in a particular field (i.e., public policy analysis) are more likely to procure employment as well.
The primary means by which advancement can be made in this field is to obtain a doctoral degree in political science. A doctoral degree may open up many more doors for workers because of the advanced studies that are required to complete a doctorate.
As noted above, a key element of completing a doctoral program is to specialize in a specific area. The expertise that arises out of specialization makes political scientists with a doctorate a hot commodity.
Furthermore, other opportunities to extend one’s education will serve political scientists that seek to advance their careers very well. For example, post-doctoral studies like a fellowship allow students to gain further knowledge and understanding of topics that are critical to political science.
For example, this might involve spending a year working with a voter registration non-profit to explore the methods that are most effective at getting women to register to vote. Once the fellowship is over, the political scientist can use the expertise they gained as a means for making themselves more attractive for advanced positions.
Naturally, gaining experience in this field is critical to finding opportunities for advancement. That is, a political scientist that’s fresh out of college will not typically have the same advancement opportunities as one that has ten years of experience under his or her belt.
Sometimes, even where one works can lead to advancement opportunities as well. For example, a political scientist that’s employed by a government agency might begin work in a junior position, and then as the years of service add up, they might advance to higher positions with more responsibilities and better pay.
Since political science is part of the larger realm of social sciences, there are a number of other professions that offer a similar work experience studying human behavior and the performance of human systems. These include:
An economist seeks to understand how the public consumes goods and services and how companies and organizations produce those goods and distribute them to consumers. This includes evaluating historical economic trends, analyzing current economic data, and making predictions about how the economy will fare in both the near-term and the long-term.
Sociologists are interested in the way that groups behave on various levels. This includes examining human behavior in small and large social groups, organizations, cultures, social institutions, and even nations as a whole. Topics of interest to sociologists include religion, economics, politics, and social constructs by which people organize and identify themselves.
The work of a historian is to explore historical data for the purposes of analyzing and interpreting it to build a better understanding about the past. Many historians specialize in a specific type of historical studies, like American history, 20th Century history, aviation history, the Bronze Age, and so forth with the aim of improving understanding of that time period and preserving knowledge about history for future generations.
An anthropologist studies ancient peoples in an effort to understand their origin, development, and behavior. In addition to examining archaeological evidence, anthropologists also study skeletal remains, cultural items, and even languages to shed light on peoples and cultures of the past.