Getting a bachelor’s degree in political science is a good investment into your future, as this is a versatile field with several possible career paths. Just make sure to choose your university wisely so that you do not go broke while hitting the books.
Studying political science opens doors to many possible jobs, but it can also lead to mountains of debt: an average, obtaining a poli-sci degree in the United States costs US$37,000-US$48,000 just in annual tuition alone. Added to that will be your living expenses and book costs.
In the UK there are universities charging tuition fees that go up to £18,000 a year, which is close to US$24,000. This all might make you wonder if a political science degree is worth it.
Well, here’s a little secret: Yes, it’s worth it but not all schools are created equal. Some universities definitely offer better value than others.
So what are these schools? And why should you study political science in the first place? In what fields are the job openings for political science majors?
Let’s find out together.
The basics of studying political science
The gist of political science studies is that you will research and analyze fundamental issues affecting how the world works, such as international trade, government policies and laws, economics and globalization. Political science looks at every aspect that impacts the wellbeing of nations, such as the education and healthcare system, and the general employment situation. This is a superb degree for people who are innately curious about the world and current events.
Career options and salary prospects
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a political scientist’s salary in the USA ranged from about US$47,000 to US$162,000 in 2015. This includes both entry-level political science jobs as well as posts that require a master’s degree.
Studying political science is a natural first step if you dream of going into politics. Entry-level jobs in the government include being a lobbyist assistant or a political campaign staff member, and then progressing onto a political campaign manager or a lobbyist. As per the BLS data, the 2016 median income of lobbyists was just over US$66,000.
Other possible jobs for political science majors right out of college include becoming a teacher, a journalist or a public relations specialist. Elementary school teachers earned a median salary of almost US$55,000 in 2015, according to the BLS. The salaries for journalists during that same year ranged from US$21,000 to US$81,000. Public relations specialists earned about US$57,000, on average.
Additional career options include going into business, as poli-sci graduates often have great communication skills and a thorough understanding of economics. A legal career is also possible, though becoming a lawyer requires continuing onto law school.
Keep in mind that these salary figures are just rough estimates of what you can expect to earn with a political science degree. They also only refer to jobs in the USA, so salaries elsewhere may be lower or higher, depending on the country’s economy.
Affordable political science universities
While studying in a university is always a big financial investment, there are luckily lots of bargains out there when it comes to political science degrees. Here are our top picks.
This is a bustling institution of 30,000 students, located in the famous Silicon Valley in Northern California. San José State University (SJSU) was founded in 1857 and is ranked among the top 200 American universities. Considering these facts, SJSU’s political science program is a bargain at US$16,306 per year.
In addition to other topics, the major includes instruction in political philosophy and theory, political parties and interest groups, and the politics of different countries. This international approach makes SJSU a particularly good match for international students.
Another solid US-based option is the Western State Colorado University (WSCU), located in the small town of Gunnison in Colorado. The school has about 2,500 students who hail from 15 different countries.
There are four possible poli-sci bachelor’s degrees to pursue. There is a basic option called “Politics & Government,” but the most international option is a program called “Politics & Government: Global Studies.” This is ideal for students who are interested in human rights issues and the social movement of people. A year at WSCU comes with a price tag of US$18,096, meaning you pay about half of what you normally would for college in the US.
Affordable political science programs can also be found just north of the US border, in Canada. The political science degree of Carleton University costs CAD$24,000, which is roughly US$18,600. Carleton’s students have the added benefit of the university being located in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. This means students can get a close look at national and international politics.
The university’s political science program is very comprehensive. It includes researching international relations, transitions to democracy, globalization and the culture of politics. Carleton also has a bachelor’s program called Global Politics, which caters to students interested in working for the United Nations or international NGOs. It focuses on the politics of war and peace, ethnic conflicts and environmental issues.
One way to save on tuition costs is to study on the old continent: the political science program at Middlesex University in north London costs just US$11,500 per year. The Times’ Good University Guide 2017 ranked Middlesex to be London’s top modern university. Boasting 145 different student nationalities, it’s also one of the most diverse institutions in the world.
The university’s poli-sci program focuses on the study of political institutions and philosophy, comparative government, public opinion and the politics of specific countries.
If you really want to study political science in the heart of it all, the centrally located London South Bank University (LSBU) is your place. The tuition fees are slightly higher than those of Middlesex at £12,900, translating to about US$17,200. However, the Sunday Times League Table 2016 ranked LSBU the best modern university in London for its graduate career prospects and the highest graduate starting salaries.
LSBU offers a bachelor’s degree in politics, which examines the key political issues affecting today’s global community. The program combines political science and theory as well as international relations.
About the Writer: Mirva Lempiäinen is a US-educated freelance journalist from Finland. After calling New York City home for about a decade, she now resides on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.