Why This Matters

  • PREPARE FOR CAREERS IN MULTIPLE INDUSTRIES

    Political scientists are most closely associated with local, state, and federal government jobs, but they can also use their skills in areas like law, academia, non-profits, research, and more.

  • POLITICAL SCIENTIST JOBS INCREASING BY 5%

    A continued demand for political scientists who can analyze policies, conduct research, and manage regulatory issues is expected to contribute to employment growth for this profession through 2028.

  • 1,500 NEW COLLEGE PROFESSOR JOBS EXPECTED

    Employment of political science instructors in post-secondary settings is predicted to grow at a faster-than-average pace through the next decade. A master’s degree is typically needed for these roles.

Our Research

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, as well as 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.

  • 88 hours to write this article
  • 126 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 277 education programs we compared

The Top 10 Best Online Master's in Political Science Programs

Sam Houston State University

Intelligent Pick

Texas-based Sam Houston State University offers a comprehensive online Master of Arts in Political Science program designed for recent college graduates and seasoned professionals alike. One of the program’s unique factors is the choice between a non-thesis option (more coursework and written comprehensive exams) and a thesis option (less coursework and a written thesis). Opportunities that the program prepares students for include doctoral studies, law school, community college instructorships, and careers or advancement in nonprofit organizations. The program features small class sizes and faculty who are distinguished in their fields, including Fulbright scholars, authors, and researchers. In addition to financial aid, merit scholarships are available.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit:  $725.85 (in-state); $1,133.85 (out-of-state)
  • Credits required to graduate: 30 to 36
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 60%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 936-294-1971

Learn more

University of Nebraska Omaha

Best for National Security

Customization is the foundation of the University of Nebraska Omaha’s online Master of Science in Political Science. Students can add a specialized concentration or certificate to their master’s degree, including a concentration in international affairs or a certificate in intelligence and national security. The majority of students are working professionals who take about three years to complete the program part-time. In addition to highly accessible faculty, each student has a point person for advising and other needs. Some graduates go on to doctoral study, sometimes staying at Nebraska for their program. The university has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching as one of just 88 American higher education institutions classified as a doctoral/research university (out of the 4,000 academic institutions it categorizes).

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit: $375 (in-state); $617 (out-of-state)
  • Credits required to graduate: 30
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 50%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 402-554-2624

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Harvard University

Best in the Northeast

The Ivy League’s Harvard University offers a flexible Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies, Government through their extension school. A unique feature of the program is that it provides an earn-your-way-in opportunity. Admission is based on performance in three specific Harvard Extension courses students complete before applying. These three courses do not require an application and are in the areas of government and scholarly writing. Harvard’s program is interdisciplinary, and students can earn an optional certificate in American literature and culture, international relations, international security, nuclear deterrence, or social justice. The average age of students in the program is 35, and over 75% of them work full time while completing the program.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per course: $5,476
  • Courses required to graduate: 12
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 98%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 617-495-4024

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The Citadel

Best in the Southeast

The Citadel’s Master of Arts in International Politics and Military Affairs is a rigorous online degree program. It stands out for its goal of shaping practitioners in the political science field rather than academics or researchers. Students typically go on to careers as military officers, policy analysts, foreign service officers, international civil servants, and business leaders. Because of its small size, admission is highly competitive. Graduates must complete a written master’s thesis or guided internship, which may include service in the military, the Peace Corps, or a select business or organization. Full-time faculty are officers in the state militia or U.S. Armed Forces, with highly specialized research interests including multinational peacekeeping, political radicalism, and U.S.-China relations.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit: $695
  • Credits required to graduate: 36
  • Academic calendar: Quarter system
  • Graduation rate: 74%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 843-953-5072

Learn more

Johns Hopkins University

Best Faculty

Johns Hopkins online Master of Arts in Government is a hands-on and highly customizable degree program with three start dates a year. Students can choose a concentration in either democracy studies and governance, political communications, or security studies. There is also the opportunity to earn a dual Master of Business Administration degree or a certificate in Intelligence. The standard program typically takes 16 to 24 months to complete and is taught by permanent faculty members who hold doctorates in political science, history, and international relations. The program values experiential learning and so requires students to complete independent study and a thesis. There are also optional summer study abroad opportunities through the university’s Center for Advanced Governmental Studies.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per course: $4,405
  • Courses required to graduate: 12
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 92%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 844-417-0874

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Salve Regina University

Best PhD Track

Rhode Island–based Salve Regina offers an online Master of Arts in International Relations program that mirrors the school’s mission of promoting a harmonious, just, and merciful world. Graduates typically go on to doctoral programs in international relations or careers in federal and state government, private organizations, and global businesses. The program takes 18 to 24 months to complete, and applicants with an undergraduate degree in any subject are welcome to apply. Salve Regina is a Catholic, coeducational university founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1934. Within six months of graduation, 98% of the university’s graduates are employed or pursuing advanced degrees.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit: $645
  • Credits required to graduate: 36
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 70%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 800-637-0002

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University of West Florida

Best Advisors

The University of West Florida offers an online Master of Arts in Political Science that is writing and research-intensive. The program is synchronous in course delivery, and students are required to attend lectures in real-time video conferencing. It takes about two years to complete the program, and students have the option of completing a thesis paper or a comprehensive written and oral examination at the end. Graduates have gone on to doctoral study and careers as political scientists, high school and postsecondary teachers, and survey researchers. In addition to having a bachelor’s degree, applicants should have strong reading, analytic, and communication skills. A sample research paper is required with your application.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit: $384.60
  • Credits required to graduate: 33
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 55%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 850-474-2929

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Eastern Illinois University

Best in the Midwest

Eastern Illinois University offers a flexible Master of Arts in Political Science with an option in Public Administration & Public Policy. A unique facet of the program is that it can be completed in one year. The program prepares students for careers in government, nonprofit management, urban planning, public policy, and more. It embraces mentoring, so faculty are easily accessible via email, video chat, and phone. Internships and independent studies are also encouraged. Also distinctive to the program is that while Eastern Illinois is a public university, online students pay the same tuition regardless of in-state or out-of-state residency. Merit scholarships are available to all graduate students, including online and international.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit: $326.86
  • Credits required to graduate: 32
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 62%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 217-581-5114

Learn more

Norwich University

Best for Veterans

Norwich University — the first private military college in the United States — offers an online Master of Arts in Diplomacy degree featuring small classes and room for specialization. Students can choose from four relevant concentrations: cyber diplomacy, international commerce, international conflict management, and international terrorism. The program caps class size at 15 and features faculty who are subject matter experts in the diplomacy field. It takes 18 months to complete the degree, and there is one week-long residency on campus in Vermont at the conclusion. Merit scholarships are available for students with notable academic and professional achievements, as well as for active-duty service members.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit: $767
  • Credits required to graduate: 36
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 60%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 802-962-4330

Learn more

Virginia Tech

Best Electives

Virginia Tech’s online Master of Arts in Political Science program features close student-faculty engagement and opportunities for research. All faculty are active research scholars and many serve as editors or are present on editorial boards of major peer-reviewed journals, including Congress and the Presidency, International Political Sociology, Peace Studies Journal, and Telos. In addition to rigorous coursework, nine credit hours of research and a thesis are required for graduation. Specialized certificates are also available in environmental politics, political analysis, and policy. Graduates regularly go on to doctoral study, including Virginia Tech’s closely aligned Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT) PhD program.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit: Resident: $867 (in-state); $1,689.75 (out-of-state)
  • Credits required to graduate: 30
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 85%

More Program Information: 

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 540-231-8636

Learn more

Other Online Master’s in Political Science Programs to Consider

Best Online Master's in Political Science Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

While a bachelor’s degree can qualify you for many entry-level political science jobs, a master’s degree or even a PhD is usually required for more advanced positions. Students may use their master’s degree as a stepping stone towards doctoral study. If you are considering continuing on to a doctoral program after you complete your master’s, you should consider completing a program with a thesis requirement, as many doctoral programs require students to have documented research experience as a condition for admission.

Political science is a relatively small field, with approximately 6,500 working professionals currently in the industry. Although the job outlook for political scientists is good for the next decade, because of the size of the industry, competition for jobs will remain stiff.

An advanced degree will make you a more attractive job candidate, as will strong research skills, writing skills, and hands-on experience. Even if you are completing an online degree, it is to your benefit to seek out experiential learning opportunities in the form of internships or volunteer work. When researching programs, find out if they offer any kind of hands-on learning opportunities, and plan your schedule and budget accordingly to accommodate those experiences.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Master’s in Political Science programs:

  • Is this program available to residents in my state? Although distance learning programs are widely accessible, there are regulations in place governing how schools provide online education and to whom they can grant degrees. The National Council of State Authorization of Reciprocity Agreements is a good resource for learning more about whether an institution can grant a degree to someone in your home state.
  • How are online courses delivered? An additional consideration for distance learning programs is whether courses are delivered synchronously or asynchronously. In synchronous courses, students attend classes remotely, but at set weekly times. In asynchronous courses, the lessons and assignments are accessible at all times, and students can complete them on their schedule. Review the program’s course delivery method to confirm that it will meet your scheduling needs.

Once you have identified the programs that interest you, research their application deadlines and requirements. This information is typically available on the program’s webpage; you can also contact the program directly if you have questions.

Funding your graduate education is another important consideration. Ask the schools you are applying to about scholarship and financial aid opportunities. If you are currently employed, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits.