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Most schools have rolling admissions and financial help so you can start your degree in a few weeks!

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 Statistics, the median annual pay for a political scientist is $128,020. And according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition for graduate school is $12,596 at public universities and $28,017 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

As a social science-related field, political science programs usually award graduate students a Master of Arts (MA). Many programs allow you to select a concentration and focus your studies on a particular niche in this field, such as public policy, urban politics, or human rights. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for programs that closely match your specific career goals.

Research schools and programs

You should only apply to institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Other questions to ask include:

  • 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.
  • 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.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. Students will usually need to 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.

Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

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 to improve your odds of acceptance.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Are you only interested in 100% online programs, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a few in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Scholarships may be offered by the university or other organizations. Also, be sure to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for federal loans and grants. There may be work-study programs available, and if you have room in your schedule, a part-time job can help cover the costs. Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

Be sure to speak to financial aid counselors at the schools you’re interested in for the most accurate and specific information about program cost.

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

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 for 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, such as Plato, Socrates, Cicero, and St. Augustine, are examined in this course. 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

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:

  • Political scientist — Research political subjects, monitor current events, and provide analysis to organizations such as government agencies, political parties, and labor unions.
    • Median annual salary: $128,020
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New job openings projected: 600 annually
  • News analyst, reporter, or journalist — Research topics, conduct interviews, and write stories to keep the public updated on noteworthy information.
    • Median annual salary: $55,960
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): -3%
    • New job openings projected: 6,000 annually
  • Historian — Research, analyze, and write about historical figures and events.
    • Median annual salary: $64,540
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New job openings projected: 300 annually

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. 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 to $23,000 in total tuition. 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 30-40 credit hours. Most programs take one-and-a-half to two years to complete for full-time students. With part-time study, it can take up to four years.

Is an online master's in political science degree worth it?

Earning an online degree in political science is valuable for individuals passionate about understanding political systems and contributing to societal change. Graduates are prepared for careers in government, advocacy, research, and more.

The earning potential for those with an online degree in political science is competitive, with many professionals in this field earning six-figure salaries. 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.

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