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A master’s in political science prepares students for many different careers, including political analyst, political consultant, legislative assistant, social media manager, and market research analyst. Not only that, but because the skills in this degree are transferable, graduates can also pursue jobs in business, advocacy, journalism, education, law, non-profits, international affairs, and more.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual pay for a political scientist in 2021 was $128,020, while market research analysts made an average of $68,230 per year. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a master’s program in the 2020-21 academic year was $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private universities. Students who study full-time can typically complete an online master’s degree in political science in two years, but online programs can sometimes be completed in less time.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Political Science Program

Choose your area of study

A master’s in political science is ideal for anyone who wants to understand political theory, domestic and international policies, and how governments work. However, since a political science degree is transferable to many different fields, it’s best if students have an idea of what they want to do after graduation when they start looking for a program.

Look for programs that allow you to customize your degree with courses and specializations that correspond to your chosen career path. For example, some programs may offer specializations in areas like political economy, political theory, political institutions, research methods, public policy, urban politics, social change, or human rights. Many programs provide internship opportunities such as congressional intern, campaign assistant, non-profit intern, research assistant, social media intern, or legal intern.

Research schools and programs

After you’ve determined your area of study, take the time to do some additional research. You may have narrowed down your preferences regarding concentrations and internships, but there are other things to consider as well.

  • What is the school’s graduation rate, and how successful are graduates in finding jobs in their fields? This information is often available on the university’s website.
  • What is the total cost of the program? Knowing what your budget is can help you eliminate schools that cost more than you can afford.
  • Where is the school located? While many programs are available entirely online, others have a hybrid option. This offers students opportunities to get to know their fellow students and instructors better, and they can also participate in on-campus events, student clubs and organizations, mentorship programs, and other activities.
  • How is the course material delivered? Is it synchronous, asynchronous, or a mixture? Are you able to attend live classes and lectures at fixed times, or would you prefer to have more control over your study schedule?
  • Will you be studying full- or part-time? Note that not all schools offer a part-time option.
  • What is the start date of the program? At some schools, online and on-campus programs begin at the same time. Others offer several start dates throughout the year for online students.
  • Is the university accredited by agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education? This impacts the quality of education, and it also affects what financial aid you’re eligible for, employment opportunities after graduation, and what other postsecondary programs you can apply to.

Prepare for tests and applications

Students must provide transcripts confirming that they completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Schools may also have minimum requirements for undergraduate GPA. Other common requirements include one or more letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal statement explaining why you want to earn this degree. GRE scores may also be required.

Select your program

When selecting a program, carefully consider all the features of each one. Decide which elements are most important to you, and make a list, in order of preference, of the programs you’d like to enroll in. It’s a good idea to submit applications to all the schools on your list. Then, from your letters of acceptance, choose the school that’s highest on your list.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Scholarships may be offered by the university or other organizations. The university may also offer financing, and you may be able to pay per course as you work your way through the program. Also, do some research to find out about federal and state loans and grants. Be sure to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). There may be work-study programs offered through the university or federal government, and if you have room in your schedule, a part-time job can help cover the costs as well.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Political Science Programs

Best Online Master's in Political Science Degree Programs

University of Illinois Springfield

Sam Houston State University

University of West Florida

Virginia Tech

Johns Hopkins University

Eastern Illinois University

Harvard Extension School

University of Nebraska Omaha

The Citadel

Liberty University

Regent University

Troy University

Texas A&M University at Commerce

Sul Ross State University

Kennesaw State University

Georgia State University

Fort Hays State University

Norwich University

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How We Rank Schools

We conducted our research by focusing on master’s programs in political science. As a social science-related field, political science programs usually award graduate students a Master of Arts (MA).

In order to ensure accessibility, we looked at programs that are delivered online. Some programs are also available on campus. Students may have the option of completing the degree through a combination of on-campus and online coursework.

All of the programs are offered by regionally accredited institutions. Regional accreditation signifies that the institution meets high standards of quality in postsecondary education. Credits and degrees from regionally accredited schools are generally more widely recognized by other institutions and employers.

Once we found the programs that meet these criteria, we evaluated each of them on the basis of outcomes, cost, flexibility, faculty, and reputation. We assigned each program an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Political Science Program?

Degrees in political science and government go by different names, depending on the university. Regardless of the specific title, you can expect to delve into such topics as political theory, American politics, international politics, research methods, civil war, international law, and energy policy. Many programs can be completed entirely online, with no on-campus classes required.

When taking an online degree program, students receive course materials via an online learning platform, like Canvas, Blackboard, or Moodle. This is also where students can access their course syllabi, submit assignments, and connect with fellow students and instructors through chat forums and message boards.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in political science degree program

  • Comparative politics. In this course, students compare and analyze different political systems. Similarities and differences of various governmental systems are considered as well as their structures and operations.
  • American politics. This course discusses the history and evolution of the American political system, from its inception in colonial times to modern-day practices. It covers the three branches of government and the balance of power between them, elections, political parties, civic engagement, and more.
  • Research methods. Students learn various philosophical and methodological approaches to applied research, skills which help them develop their analytical skills. They also learn how to analyze and critique applied research in public affairs and policy.
  • Political theory. The ideas of political theorists are examined in this course, such as Plato, Socrates, Cicero, and St. Augustine. Students learn how the concepts of justice, human nature, and religion have influenced political thought and governments throughout history.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Political Science?

Career outlook

The career outlook for individuals with an online degree in political science is diverse, offering opportunities in various sectors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of political scientists is projected to grow seven percent from 2022 to 2032, reflecting the continued need for expertise in political analysis and policy evaluation. The median annual salary for political scientists is $128,020, with potential variations based on factors such as experience, specialization, and geographic location.

Career paths

Earning a master’s degree in political science opens doors to a variety of impactful and dynamic career opportunities. With a deep understanding of political systems, policy analysis, and research methodologies, graduates are well-equipped to navigate diverse sectors. This advanced degree enhances critical thinking skills and positions individuals for influential roles that contribute to societal change and governance.

Here are some potential positions open to those with a master’s degree in political science:

  • Diplomat/foreign service officer — represents the government in international relations.
  • Intelligence analyst — analyzes political intelligence for government agencies.
  • Political journalist — reports on political events and analyzes their implications.
  • Political scientist — researches political systems and behaviors.
  • Human rights activist — works for organizations promoting human rights globally.

Government Affairs Specialist

Earning Potential: $75,230-$86,031 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in political science or a related field

A government affairs specialist plays a pivotal role in navigating the intersection of politics and business. They advocate for organizations by engaging with government entities, monitoring legislative developments, and shaping public policy. Responsibilities include building relationships with policymakers, analyzing proposed legislation, and strategizing to align organizational interests with government regulations. This role requires a keen understanding of political landscapes, effective communication skills, and the ability to influence decision-makers. Government affairs specialists ensure their organizations thrive within the regulatory framework, contributing to successful advocacy and impactful policy outcomes.

Policy Analyst

Earning Potential: $57,854-$73,858 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in political science or a related field

A policy analyst critically examines societal issues to formulate and evaluate policies. They conduct in-depth research, analyze data, and assess the potential impact of policies on various stakeholders. Employed by government agencies, think tanks, or advocacy groups, policy analysts provide evidence-based recommendations to shape effective and informed decision-making. This role requires strong analytical skills, a deep understanding of political systems, and the ability to communicate complex policy implications. Policy analysts contribute to the development of sound policies that address pressing social, economic, and political challenges.

Political Campaign Manager

Earning Potential: $58,247-$76,068 annually
Education Required: Master’s degree in political science or a related field

A political campaign manager orchestrates political campaigns. They plan, execute, and oversee every aspect of a campaign, from developing strategy and messaging to managing budgets and coordinating events. With a keen understanding of political systems, voter behavior, and communication dynamics, campaign managers work to promote a candidate’s platform. This role demands strategic thinking, leadership skills, and adaptability to navigate the ever-changing landscape of political races. Political campaign managers are crucial for translating political visions into actionable campaigns that resonate with the electorate.

Online Master’s in Political Science Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in political science degree program?

Generally, students can apply to an online master’s in political science program regardless of the type of bachelor’s degree they earned. While space limitations may constrain admission to campus-based classes, this is often not the case for online students.

Most political science programs require that applicants have a GPA of at least 3.0, and transcripts should be submitted along with letters of recommendation, your resume, and a personal statement if required. Those with a lower GPA may be admitted on a per-case basis. In any case, be sure to speak with an admissions counselor before applying.

How much does an online master’s in political science degree cost?

A master’s in political science can cost anywhere between $9,000 and $23,000. Expect additional expenses for books, software, and other technology-related items.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in political science degree?

A master’s in political science, depending on the school, requires between 30-40 credit hours, and most full-time students take one-and-a-half to two years to complete it. With part-time study, it can take up to four years. For online students, a program with fewer credits (30-32) may be completed in 15-20 months.

Is an online master’s in political science worth it?

Earning an online degree in political science is valuable for individuals passionate about understanding political systems and contributing to societal change. According to the American Political Science Association, graduates with a political science background possess critical thinking, research, and communication skills that are highly sought after in various professions.

The earning potential for individuals with an online degree in political science is competitive. Annual salaries tend to range from $45,000 to $125,000, depending on factors such as education level, experience, and the specific career path chosen. The diverse skill set acquired during the program, including research, analysis, and communication, positions graduates for success in roles that impact policy, governance, and public discourse.

One of the key benefits of earning a degree online is the flexibility it offers. Online programs allow students to balance their education with work or other commitments, providing access to quality education without geographical constraints. This flexibility enhances opportunities for career growth and advancement.

An online political science degree equips individuals with knowledge about political systems and cultivates critical skills applicable in various professional settings. Graduates are prepared for careers in government, advocacy, research, and more, making an online political science degree a valuable investment in both personal and professional development.

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