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

Many brick-and-mortar colleges offer online master’s in political science programs with the same highly experienced instructors and rigorous curriculum as their on-campus options. These programs are ideal for working professionals who want to advance their careers but don’t have the time to attend traditional classes. You should carefully review each program’s costs, concentration options, and other key details to ensure you choose the right school for your particular needs and goals.

Available concentrations

Online master’s in political science programs often allow students to focus on a specific subject area within this field. Some of the most common concentration options include:

  • Public Policy Analysis: Covers policy analysis and program evaluation, including the appropriate techniques for various stages of the policy-making process.
  • International Relations: Reviews cooperation in world affairs, including the balance of power and economic interdependence.
  • Political Campaigns: Examines the history, techniques, and trends in modern political campaigns, including what works and why.

Common degree curriculum

The curriculum for an online master’s in political science covers a wide range of subjects, with students receiving advanced training in political science theory, research, and methodology. Many programs are offered entirely online, but some require in-person attendance for testing or special events.

When comparing online programs, students should consider whether the program is offered through synchronous (taken simultaneously as other students) or asynchronous (self-paced) classes. Working adults often need asynchronous courses to schedule coursework around their professional and family commitments.

The exact curriculum will vary by school, but there are some core courses included in just about every online master’s in political science program, such as:

  • Public Policy: Examines the historical and political origins of social programs.
  • Policy Analysis and Implementation: Provides students with a deeper understanding of federal, state, and local public policy processes.
  • Intro to the American Legal System: Reviews how the American legal system works, including the fundamentals of criminal and civil procedure.
  • Seminar in American Politics: Addresses the American political system and its workings, including the three branches of government, elections, and political parties.
  • Political Science Research Methods: Covers the knowledge and skills needed to analyze applied public policy and public affairs research.

Certification and license preparation

After earning your master’s degree, you should consider continuing your education through professional certification programs. These additional credentials will allow you to show employers that you’re especially well-qualified to work in this field.

The Academy of Certified Political Analysts offers a variety of certification options, including Certified Political Scientist (CPS) and Certified Political Manager (CPM). To earn one of these designations, you’ll need a master’s degree in political science with at least 18 hours of political science and legal courses and two years of professional experience in politics, government, or public service.

Program accreditation

Only apply to schools 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 the faculty and curriculum of postsecondary education institutions to ensure they offer students a high-quality academic experience. If your school doesn’t have regional accreditation, you may have trouble accessing financial aid or transferring credits to another institution if needed. Whether or not your school is accredited also impacts your professional reputation and ability to find gainful employment.

Program completion timeframe

Most online master’s in political science programs require 30 to 40 credits, which takes full-time students about two years to complete. Those who want to earn their degree as fast as possible should look for an asynchronous program that allows you to progress through courses at your own pace.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Political Science Graduates

You’ll likely need a master’s degree to find work as a political scientist. Other occupations in this field tend to only require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level jobs — having a master’s in these cases will help you stand out from other candidates, get hired more quickly, and advance to management positions.

This degree offers the potential to earn an exceptionally high salary. For example, the top 10% of political scientists make over $176,280 annually.

A master’s in political science will also provide you with solid job security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of jobs in the United States is projected to increase by 3% over the next decade. Occupations related to political science are expected to grow faster than that, meaning plenty of positions should be available once you graduate.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)
Political Scientist Political scientists study the history, development, and operation of various political systems. They may research the effects of government policies within a specific region, whether domestically or internationally, and provide analysis to help plan, develop, and implement new policies. They may also work outside the government for organizations with a stake in policy, such as labor unions. $128,020 7%
Public Relations Specialist Public relations specialists create and maintain a favorable public image for the person or organization they represent, including crafting media releases and developing social media programs that impact public perception. In government, public relations specialists are often called press secretaries and inform the public about the activities of an official or agency, which usually involves public speaking engagements conducted by themselves or a government official using speech materials prepared by them. $67,440 6%
Fundraiser Fundraisers organize events and campaigns to raise donations. Job duties include researching potential donors and examining the records of previous donors. Political fundraisers work for new or incumbent candidates and must thoroughly know campaign finance laws. $61,190 5%
Public Relations or Fundraising Manager These professionals coordinate the activities of staff and volunteers on behalf of their employer, which may be a political candidate, elected official, advocacy group, or other entity involved with the government. $125,620 6%

Professional organizations

Professional organizations help students learn more about their chosen careers and allow recent graduates to connect with other professionals in the field. These organizations host networking events and often provide training opportunities, job boards, professional journals, and other valuable services. Some prominent organizations for political science professionals include:

Financing Your Online Master’s in Political Science Degree

While online programs are usually less expensive than on-campus programs, you will likely still need financial assistance. Online students typically qualify for many of the same grants and scholarships as traditional students. You may also be able to find awards that are offered exclusively to distance learners. Always start with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is required for grants and loans provided by the federal government.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

In addition to federal aid, many state-level agencies and private organizations offer financing options for college students. The resources listed below will help you determine your financial aid situation and save as much money as possible.

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Interested in a degree?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.