The field of political science explores the relationship between political institutions and society, examining public policy, economics, and governmental systems in a variety of contexts. Graduates with an online bachelor's degree in political science can pursue careers as campaign managers, policy analysts, and political reporters.
In this article, we look at the core skills candidates gain by earning online political science bachelor's degrees, along with program admission standards and common course requirements. Prospective students also learn about high-demand career paths and salary information for professionals with a political science degree.
Overview of Political Science Degrees
Students earning online political science bachelor's degrees examine the connection between political theory and political institutions as they learn about the key events and movements that have shaped modern politics. A political science degree strengthens critical thinking and analytical skills, requiring candidates to support their arguments by drawing on both quantitative and qualitative reasoning.
In addition to gaining political knowledge, majors build solid research and writing skills that can help them pursue careers in government, politics, and business. Many political science majors go on to work as legislative and policy analysts, examining the impact of regulations and laws on businesses. Others take positions with government agencies, including the State Department.
Online political science bachelor's degrees may appeal to learners interested in current events, diplomacy and foreign relations, and government. Political science majors use analytical reasoning and conduct data-driven research, mastering skills that many employers seek in job applicants. Online options, in particular, help working professionals and individuals considering a career change. An online political science degree is flexible and accessible, making it easier for students to finish their bachelor's degree and maximize their job opportunities and salary potential.
During the application process, colleges and universities review candidates' application materials and determine if they should be admitted to a program. It is important to research each potential program's application process and ensure that you meet all deadlines and requirements.
Each school requests different application materials, but most require transcripts and standardized test scores. Applicants with few or no college credits typically submit high school transcripts, while transfer students provide college transcripts from every institution they have attended. Schools may set a minimum GPA for admission, and some request applicants' SAT or ACT scores. Colleges may waive the SAT or ACT requirement for students who have completed at least one year of college.
In addition to basic requirements, schools may ask applicants to provide essays and letters of recommendation. International students may need to submit proof of English language proficiency. Some programs also incorporate an interview with an admission adviser.
After gaining admission to a college or university, students may need to apply separately to the political science department. Before declaring a political science major, students may be required to complete prerequisite classes, meet a minimum GPA in their political science courses, and speak with an adviser about the major requirements.
What Will I Learn?
An online political science bachelor's degree introduces foundational political concepts and explores governmental and political institutions. Political science majors study the evolution of political systems, important events that shape politics, and political parties' role in government. They specialize in areas like American politics, political theory, and political economy, building critical thinking skills and knowledge for careers in government and politics.
A bachelor's degree typically consists of 120 credits of general education coursework, electives, and major requirements. Most political science majors take 30-36 credits divided between lower-division and upper-division courses. Most schools also require between 50 and 60 general education credits, including classes in English, history, natural science, and mathematics. Students then choose electives for the remaining credits, and sometimes gain specialized skills by adding a minor. Political science majors who plan to work as political reporters, for example, can minor in journalism.
Introduction to Politics
In this foundational course, students explore the interplay between politics and society, the role of government, and political movements in history. The course may also provide an overview of different political science specializations, such as political theory, political economy, and comparative politics.
Modern U.S. Politics
Modern U.S. politics classes cover the evolution of American government and politics, often from the early 20th century to the present day. Lectures may cover changes to the political party system, significant political movements and elections, and the impact of foreign relations on U.S. politics. Most classes also discuss current events and news.
This course introduces important theories about politics and government. Learners often read foundational thinkers like Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Locke, while examining political theories within their historical contexts. Upper-division courses may address contemporary political theorists and their impact on modern political developments.
20th Century Foreign Relations
Diplomacy and foreign relations courses look at interactions between governments on the international stage, including moments where diplomacy breaks down. Classes on 20th century foreign relations cover the world wars, the formation of the United Nations, and globalization's effect on foreign relations.
Students in a comparative politics class closely study and contrast foreign policy, domestic policy, and interactions between governments. Lectures may compare the ways in which different states react to political problems and how these reactions shape their institutions.
U.S. Public Policy
This course surveys public policy's effect on American society, population, and economy. Candidates gain a thorough understanding of both public policy implementation processes and the metrics used to measure their effectiveness.
What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Political Science?
After earning an online bachelor's degree in political science, graduates take positions at government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses. They analyze policy proposals, interpret laws and regulations, and advocate for policies. Political science majors also use their knowledge and analytical abilities to work as journalists or campaign managers. This section introduces the core skills political science students gain during their degree and potential career paths for graduates.
Throughout their studies, political science majors gain a broad variety of high-demand competencies and valuable, specialized knowledge that set them apart from other job-seekers. Students earning a political science bachelor's degree online study foreign and public policy, political theory, diplomatic history, and economics.
While political science majors gain field-specific knowledge, they also build broadly applicable skills and competencies that make graduates valuable in the job market. By analyzing political changes and studying governmental policies, candidates build strong analytical reasoning skills. They learn to examine and compile data and research regulatory changes over time in order to draw conclusions about effective public policy. These abilities help graduates excel in any analytical field, including policy, marketing, and business analysis.
Political science majors also master academic research and writing. They often conduct research on current events and political topics. Many programs culminate in a senior thesis, in which students demonstrate their understanding of the topical source material by writing a research paper. Effective writing and communication skills particularly aid graduates who wish to pursue careers in journalism or writing.
Potential Careers and Salaries
An online political science bachelor's degree can lead to fulfilling careers in government, business, and the nonprofit sector. With a versatile skill set that includes research, analytical, and writing capabilities, graduates qualify for a spectrum of positions, such as policy or legislative analysts. In these roles, professionals draw upon their political knowledge to interpret how laws and regulations impact organizations. They may also conduct research and promote new policies.
A political science degree also prepares graduates for careers as foreign service officers for the U.S. Department of State or intelligence officers for one of the country's many intelligence or defense agencies. Both types of positions require in-depth political understanding and strong analytical abilities.
Political science majors work in diverse fields, including journalism, education, and management. For example, some graduates become campaign managers for political campaigns or advertising promotions. Others pursue advanced degrees in law or political science to expand their job opportunities. The following list covers some of the most common career paths for individuals with an online bachelor's degree in political science.
Annual Median Salary: $56,132
Policy analysts work to promote public policies, regulations, and laws. They conduct research on current policies to determine their shortcomings and advise legislators regarding changes. Policy analysts may specialize in particular fields, such as foreign policy, energy policy, or healthcare policy.
Annual Median Salary: $84,691
Intelligence officers analyze intelligence information for the government or private contractors. They examine intelligence information to identify patterns in the data and reach conclusions, often as part of an investigation. They must maintain confidentiality while handling classified materials.
Annual Median Salary: $39,365
Journalists report news and current events through newspapers, television, websites, and the radio. They may also work as reporters or broadcast news analysts, investigating stories and conducting interviews and research, and write articles or broadcast scripts.
Annual Median Salary: $56,593
Legislative analysts help organizations understand laws and regulations. They study how current regulations affect their organization, forecast future legislation, and suggest operational changes accordingly. Some legislative analysts specialize in areas like healthcare, employment laws, or environmental legislation.
Annual Median Salary: $54,539
Campaign managers lead political campaigns and create promotional plans for their candidate. Some develop and execute advertising campaigns or promotional plans for companies. They must also analyze data to determine each campaign's efficacy.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Political Science?
Individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in political science qualify for many entry-level careers, including policy analyst, journalist, and legislative analyst. These roles provide graduates with valuable work experience, which may lead to career advancement.
A graduate degree, however, can present additional opportunities, particularly for professionals seeking mid-level, leadership, and specialized roles. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most political scientists hold at least a master's degree. Similarly, political science professors are typically required to hold a doctorate in their field to work at a university.
In many areas, professionals pursue other routes to career advancement that do not require an graduate degree. Significant work experience is often enough to qualify an individual for promotion. Analysts who demonstrate their professional experience may be eligible for leadership positions, although other sectors may demand additional qualifications.
Accreditation for Political Science Bachelor's Programs
Prospective political science students should always check a school's accreditation status before applying. Accreditation demonstrates that a college or university follows the best educational practices. To earn accreditation, schools undergo a voluntary, independent review administered by an accrediting agency. This review assesses the school's graduation requirements, faculty qualifications, and student learning outcomes.
Once accredited, institutions must undergo a periodic review to maintain their status. Accreditation benefits students by increasing the value of their degree. Accredited degrees meet more licensing requirements, and credits earned from accredited institutions are more likely to transfer.
Regional and national accreditation agencies review entire colleges and universities, while programmatic accreditation provides field-specific assessments at business schools, counseling programs, and other disciplines. Political science departments do not pursue programmatic accreditation, so prospective students should check for regional accreditation, the highest standard for colleges. Agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges offer regional accreditation in six regions across the country.
Political Science Professional Organizations
Professional organizations help students connect with resources in their field, including career advice, professional development tools, and career assistance. Student members may also qualify for scholarships or awards, keep up-to-date with research through organizational publications, and transition to the workforce through their association's career center. Many political scientists rely on these organizations to access research data, build a professional network, and stay current on new developments in their field.
American Political Science Association
APSA represents political science students and professionals, providing resources such as scholarly publications, professional development tools, and networking opportunities at an annual conference. The association's career center lists job openings and career information aimed at political science students.
Academy of Political Science
APS organizes conferences and events that allow political science students and professionals to discuss their area of expertise. The Academy also publishes the Political Science Quarterly, which includes current developments in political science research, book reviews, and scholarly books.
International Association for Political Science Students
IAPSS provides support for political science majors, including professional development resources, calls for undergraduate papers, and academic resources. The association also hosts study trips and political science-related educational opportunities.