A master’s in political science can lead those interested in careers in public administration to federal-level jobs, but also into areas like political firms, lobbyists and non-profit groups. Students wishing to pursue a higher degree while also maintaining full- or part-time work may find that fully-online programs are a good fit for them. Find programs, see what the master’s degree in poli-sci timeline looks like and learn more about possible career paths below.
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Best Online Master’s in Political Science Degrees:
OUR METHODOLOGY +
To be considered for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria:
Accredited at the institutional level
Private nonprofit or public school
Minimum of 1 online master’s degree in subject area
Schools were then scored on factors such as:
Cost & Financial Aid
Number and variety of online program offerings
Placement and support services offered
Academic/Career counseling services
Loan default rates
These factors were assembled for each school and rated using a peer-based-value (PBV) calculation. PBV compares the cost of a program to the cost of other programs with the same (or similar) qualitative score and cost. PBV denotes the overall value or “bang for your buck” of a college or degree program.
Some of the top colleges and universities in the United States offer quality online master’s degree programs in political science. Finding the right one for you can be a challenge, but considering several factors, including tuition and fees, academic services and graduate job placement, can help to aid in your decision-making. One place to start is by taking a look at some top-rated programs listed in the rankings below.
The master of arts in government program at Johns Hopkins University is designed for students who already possess specialized skills, but who want to pursue careers as leaders in politics and administration. The program offers three optional specializations. Permanent faculty members hold doctorates in international relations, history and science, and students will learn in the world's most politically connected city. Prospective participants are invited to attend an open house, an online open house, and a mix and mingle session. Students will complete a thesis, and will have opportunities for both individual study and international study.
Harvard University offers a joint degree in law and government through the Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School. Upon graduation, students will be prepared for careers as leaders in public service. Students have four years to complete both degrees. During the first two years, participants will enroll full time for one year in the Kennedy School and Law school, but it is up to the student which one comes first. The interdisciplinary degree combines instruction in law, public policy and government. Prospective students must first be accepted to both the Law School and Kennedy School.
The political science graduate program at Kansas State University culminates in a master of arts degree. The program was designed for three groups of students: students planning to pursue a PhD, students pursuing careers as teachers in high schools or junior colleges and working professionals who seek career advancement and further knowledge of the political system. Students must choose between one of four specializations. Graduate students will have a wide range of services available to them, including academic advising and research assistance, as well as access to the Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy.
The master of arts in international relations at St. Mary's University is a multidisciplinary program that incorporates geography, international law, anthropology, sociology, history and political science. Students can pursue the program both on campus and online. Although the online program only offers a specialization in security policy, on-campus students have several other optional concentrations. There is also the choice of a combined doctor of jurisprudence degree. Program participants have a unique opportunity to pursue an internship either in the United States or abroad, which fulfills as many as six elective credits.
Texas A & M offers a master of international affairs degree, which student may pursue through the Bush School of Public Service. The non-thesis program, which offers two tracks and several concentrations, is taught by multidisciplinary faculty with international experience in both academia and the professional world. Although the program does not entail a thesis, students are required to complete a capstone project, which involves conducting research for a real-world client. Graduates will be prepared for careers in both the public and private sectors. The program offers immersions and internships, as well as the potential for international study.
At the state capitol, students in the University of Illinois at Springfield, enjoy a political environment that allows them to see political science theories and practices in their real world applications. Students can choose to take their courses in a traditional setting on campus or completely online. The program is 40 credit hours long and includes courses that are designed to meet the needs of a diverse student body by combining academic and practical aspects of politics. Faculty members in the department bring real world expertise to the curriculum from their experience serving as legislative staff aides, congressional campaign managers, and policy consultants.
Political science and government-related careers are in high demand, so a degree in a related field is a wise choice. The master’s of arts in government from Regent University provides a theoretical and practical look at government, ethics, leadership, economics, and public service through a Christ-centered curriculum. The program can be taken online or on-campus. Areas of concentration include American government, healthcare policy & ethics, international relations, law & public policy, national security affairs, political communication, political theory, and religion & politics. Additional certification is also available in many of the same concentrations.
Students pursuing a transatlantic masters degree from the University of North Carolina will complete the program off campus with one or two semesters done at UNC-CH. Fall graduate fellowships are also available. The school awards several honors to deserving graduate students, hosts a graduate student recognition ceremony and invites new students to a graduate school orientation. The school is home to many clubs and organizations, including several specifically dedicated to diversity. There is a special student center for graduate students, and many resources are available to graduate students to help them succeed.
Through Troy University’s master of science in international relations program, students develop an understanding and appreciation of politics, history, culture, economy, and geography that affects world relations. This 12-course, 36-hour program prepares students for careers in international relations, whether they be in law, economics, finance, business, or other fields. Curriculum in the program fosters theorization, analytics, and problem solving for world events and issues that impact communities, nations, and the world as a whole. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in any subject from a recognized university, and may transfer as many as four classes towards the degree.
At the University of Southern Mississippi, students can receive either a master of arts degree or a master of science degree in political science through the departments of political science, international development, and international affairs. Theses departments at the university are student focused and produce graduates who are informed, engaged, and trained in modern research methodologies. The curriculum centers on the interaction of government, economics and culture. Graduate assistantships are available to competitive applicants and include a full tuition waiver, health insurance, and a stipend. Department clubs and student organizations also contribute to the student’s future success through networking and resume building experiences.
Search Online Master’s in Political Science Programs
In addition to a top-ranking list, a potential student may need to consider other elements when searching for the right online master’s in political science program. The search tool below is designed to let users refine their program search to better fit their own unique priorities and career goals.
The Online Political Science Master’s Degree Timeline
The online political science master’s degree timeline is designed to help students understand what they will encounter during each year of study. It’s important to remember, however, that the time required for any individual to complete his or her degree may differ significantly depending on the specific school chosen and other factors, such as full- or part-time study or time taken off for personal or employment obligations. While degree completion time can vary, an online master’s in political science, in most cases, will require between two to three years to complete. See what a two-year, full-time track with no summer semester timeline looks like below.
Another important step for prospective students wanting to acquire an online master’s degree in political science is to carefully think through the application process. The application process is where a student highlights previous academic success and qualifications. Although each program’s application process may vary, several consistent factors to consider are listed below.
Undergraduate Study and Bachelor’s Degree
Completion of a bachelor’s degree from a fully-accredited school and program is essential. It can be helpful if that degree is in political science, but most graduate poli-sci programs will accept other undergraduate majors if the student’s transcripts include a required minimum level of political science coursework.
Undergraduate Study and GPA
Most online political science master’s programs will require a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA for admission. Please review your desired program’s GPA requirements for specification.
The GRE is a general test of verbal and quantitative reasoning and analytical writing skills that most graduate schools require of their applicants. While many online political science master’s programs do not require GRE scores for admission, others do. Be sure to find out if your program requires GRE scores in order to meet any possible application deadlines.
Letters of Recommendation
Almost all online political science master’s program applications will require submission of one or more letters of recommendation. When seeking out individuals to write letters of recommendation, first consider using professors, employers, and those with connections to the political science field.
Often times, admissions committees will look for potential students who have experience in the political science field. Internships and volunteer work can help give you an advantage on your application. Interning with a local office holder or working on a political campaign are a few ways to fulfill this requirement.
A common mistake applicants make when applying to a graduate program is missing the application deadline. Don’t miss out on pursuing an online master’s degree by missing an application deadline.
YEAR ONE MILESTONES
Depending on the specific college and degree program, students may have the option of choosing between a thesis and non-thesis, or capstone, course of study. In either case, students should expect to spend their first year concentrating on core coursework and seminars.
Required Introductory Coursework
Students will complete courses on general political science topics as well as the foundation subjects of political theory, international relations, comparative politics, public policy and administration, and American government.
Specialization or Concentration
Political science master’s programs often require, or provide the option for, selecting an area of specialization or concentration. These areas of specialization and concentration often mirror the foundation subjects mentioned above. Students will likely be required to select a specialization or concentration either during or at the end of their first year of study.
Determination of Academic Future
It is not uncommon for first-year political science graduate students to consider continuing their academic career beyond their master’s degree. Many poli-sci master’s programs work closely in conjunction with their department’s PhD programs. Master’s students should have a clear understanding of the requirements and opportunities afforded to them if they plan to continue on to a doctoral degree program.
YEAR TWO MILESTONES
In their second year, political science master’s students will continue with coursework, particularly in their areas of specialization or concentration. Much of their attention, however, will be focused on completion of their thesis or capstone projects. They will also be looking toward future career and academic prospects.
Required Advanced Specialized Coursework
In most cases, students will continue with regular coursework on a more advanced level when compared to first-year courses. Classes and seminars related to one’s area of specialization or concentration are emphasized.
Most students will have the opportunity to explore individual interests by taking a number of elective courses. Most of these classes will be directly related to political science topics, but may also include less directly related subjects, such as mass media or statistical analysis.
Internship and Research Requirement
In most non-thesis programs, students will be required to complete a capstone project prior to graduation, which will likely be based on an internship with an outside organization, a research project with a faculty member or another acceptable demonstration of practical experience.
Students should plan to spend significant time and effort on graduation preparation. Preparation will typically be some combination of the following events: completion of thesis or capstone project, taking and passing comprehensive exams, and planning for the future beyond academia.
Student opting for a thesis track will be heavily focused on thesis completion. In most cases, students will be required to have their thesis proposal submitted early on in the term. Once their thesis topic is approved, students will complete a specified number of credit hours toward that thesis, culminating in its presentation and defense.
For non-thesis candidates, degree study culminates in the completion of a capstone project. As with a thesis, capstone projects often require a student presentation and defense in front of designated faculty members.
In addition to completion of a thesis or capstone project, students must have maintained a specified minimum grade point average over the course of their graduate studies. In most cases, that minimum GPA will be 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
Comprehensive examinations may or may not be a requirement of graduation. Most thesis-track students will not take them, while exams are often mandated for capstone-track students.
After Your Degree: What to do with a Master’s in Political Science
Acquiring a career in political science is often the next step after finishing your online master’s degree. A master’s degree can typically lead to a more prominent job title, more responsibilities and a higher salary. Career choices for master’s in political science graduates can be found in government and with political parties, lobbying groups and non-profit organizations. Although these jobs often cultivate strong competition, having a master’s degree can provide a substantial advantage over job seekers without one. Discover career statistics for a few popular job titles for graduates with a master’s degree in political science below.
BROWSE MASTER’S IN POLITICAL SCIENCE CAREERS
Political Science Professor
Political science professors teach courses in political science and related subjects, such as international relations, government and political history. Professors are typically engaged in research as well as teaching.
Mean Annual Wage $88,680
Growth Potential 10%
Political scientists research and analyze political systems in areas like government, party politics and issue-related organizations. They design and conduct political surveys, analyze issues, supervise political campaigns and advocate for specific positions taken by political parties, candidates, private interests and non-profits.
Mean Annual Wage $99,730
Growth Potential -2%
Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
Public relations managers in the political science field create written and visual materials to promote an organization’s agenda or a candidate’s campaign. Political fundraising managers are responsible for promoting and collecting contributions for political causes and candidates.
Core Principles and Skills Learned in an Online Political Science Program
Master’s in Political Science
Analytical skills are essential to a career in politics. Political science master’s graduates should be able to quickly digest and understand complex problems, synthesizing themes and conceiving relevant points of view from emergent issues. Developing cogent positions and responses based on analyses of organizations, agencies and candidates is a crucial skillset to acquire for this field.
Political science graduates should possess a strong ability to communicate ideas verbally, visually and in writing. Graduates should be able to tailor effective presentations to specific audiences, both public and private, in support of issues and positions taken by their organizations. Specific skills include public speaking, critical listening, persuasion and negotiation.
Political science graduates should be able to organize thoughts and ideas into practicable policies. They should be able to organize groups of individuals in order to motivate and mobilize them to take action and effectuate political change.
Poli-sci graduates should possess solid skills in research methods employed in the development of research models and designs. They should be able to gather and analyze statistics and data, discerning between what is relevant and irrelevant, and use their findings to develop logical solutions to problems.
The following online resources offer information and help for students and others interested in careers in political science:
The APSA is a nonprofit professional organization advocating for the study of political science. Included on its site is a page specifically for political science students with information on the association’s Graduate Student Connection group as well as research funding and internship resources.
The APPAM is a professional association that seeks to advance public policy and management through the growth and networking of researchers, analysts, and educators. Its site features pages with career advice, job postings and information on education for public service careers.
Founded with the backing of UNESCO in 1946, IPSA’s goal is to support the development of political science in all parts of the world. Student membership offers access to an array of publications, research services and association events.
Pi Sigma Alpha is the national honor society for college and university political science students in the U.S. It provides a number of programs and events for its members, including awards, scholarships, lecture funding and a newsletter. It also publishes the Undergraduate Journal of Politics, a peer-reviewed publication for work by undergraduate students.
USA.gov is the federal government’s official web portal. It acts as a clearinghouse of government information of all kinds, including access to sites for federal careers for recent graduates, public service and volunteer opportunities.
Whether you’re looking to earn your online degree or you’re a parent looking for answers, you can find all of your questions covered here. Explore these resources to help you make informed decisions and prepare for whatever is thrown your way.