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What Political Scientists Do About this section

Political scientists
Political scientists often present their findings.

Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.


Political scientists typically do the following:

  • Research political subjects, such as the U.S. political system and foreign relations
  • Collect and analyze data from sources such as public opinion surveys
  • Develop and test political theories
  • Evaluate the effects of policies and laws on government, businesses, and people
  • Monitor current events, policy decisions, and other related issues
  • Forecast political, economic, and social trends
  • Submit research results by giving presentations and publishing articles

Political scientists usually conduct research in one of the following areas: national politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory.

Often, political scientists use qualitative methods in their research, gathering information from numerous sources. For example, they may use historical documents to analyze past government structures and policies. Political scientists also rely on quantitative methods to develop and research theories. For example, they may analyze voter registration data to identify voting patterns. Political scientists study a wide range of topics such as U.S. political parties, how political structures differ among countries, globalization, and the history of political thought.

Political scientists also work as policy analysts for organizations that have a stake in policy, such as government, labor unions, and political groups. They evaluate current policies and events using public opinion surveys, economic data, and election results. From these sources, they try to anticipate the effects of new policies.

Political scientists often research the effects of government policies on a particular region or population, both domestically and internationally. As a result, they provide information and analysis that help in planning, developing, or carrying out policies.

Many people with a political science background become postsecondary teachers and high school teachers.

Work Environment About this section

Political scientists
Political scientists work in a variety of organizations that have a stake in policy, such as government, labor, and political organizations.

Political scientists held about 6,300 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of political scientists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service 57%
Professional, scientific, and technical services 16
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 12
Educational services; state, local, and private 5
Self-employed workers 3

Work Schedules

Political scientists typically work full time in an office. They may work additional hours to finish reports and meet deadlines.

How to Become a Political Scientist About this section

Political scientists
Political scientists learn to analyze quantitative and qualitative data.

To enter the occupation, political scientists typically need at least a master’s degree in political science, public administration, or a related field.


Political scientists typically need to complete either a master’s or Ph.D. program to enter the occupation. Applicants to a graduate program should have completed undergraduate courses in political science, writing, and statistics. They also may benefit from having related work or internship experience.

Political scientists often complete a master of public administration (MPA), master of public policy (MPP), or master of public affairs degree. These programs usually combine several disciplines, and students can choose to concentrate in a specific area of interest. Most offer core courses in research methods, policy formation, program evaluation, and statistics. Some colleges and universities also offer master’s degrees in political science, international relations, or other applied political science specialties.

Some political scientists also complete a Ph.D. program, which requires several years of coursework followed by independent research for a dissertation. Most Ph.D. candidates choose to specialize in one of four primary subfields of political science: national politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory.

Jobseekers with a bachelor’s degree in political science usually qualify for entry-level positions in a related occupation, such as assistants in research organizations, political campaigns, or nonprofit organizations. They may also qualify for some government positions. Others work outside of politics and policymaking, such as in business or law.

Other Experience

Entry-level jobseekers can benefit from internships or volunteer work through clubs and political organizations. These activities can give students a chance to apply their academic knowledge in a professional setting and to develop the analytic, research, and writing skills needed for the field.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Political scientists often use qualitative and quantitative research methods. They require analytical skills to collect, evaluate, and interpret data.

Communication skills. Political scientists often collaborate with other researchers when writing reports or giving presentations. They must communicate their findings to a wide variety of audiences.

Creativity. Political scientists must continually explore new ideas and information to produce original papers and research. They must stay current on political subjects and come up with new ways to think about and address issues.

Critical-thinking skills. Political scientists must be able to examine and process available information and draw logical conclusions from their findings.

Pay About this section

Political Scientists

Median annual wages, May 2021

Political scientists


Social scientists and related workers


Total, all occupations



The median annual wage for political scientists was $122,510 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,480, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $172,490.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for political scientists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service $134,760
Professional, scientific, and technical services 99,640
Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations 79,440
Educational services; state, local, and private 73,120

Political scientists typically work full time in an office. They may work additional hours to finish reports and meet deadlines.

Job Outlook About this section

Political Scientists

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Political scientists


Social scientists and related workers


Total, all occupations



Employment of political scientists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 600 openings for political scientists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Increased demand for public policy analysis will support employment growth for these workers. Political scientists will continue to be needed in government to assess the impact of public policy and proposals, such as service efficiencies, budget changes, and other improvements. 

Political organizations, lobbying firms, and labor unions rely on political scientists’ knowledge to manage complex regulations. Political scientists will be needed at research and policy institutes to focus on politics and political theory. Organizations that research or advocate for specific causes, such as healthcare or the environment, need political scientists to analyze policies relating to their field.

Employment projections data for political scientists, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Political scientists

19-3094 6,300 6,700 6 400 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about political scientists and political science careers, visit

American Political Science Association

American Association of Political Consultants

For more information about college programs in public affairs and administration, visit

Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration


Political Scientists


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