Political scientists analyze political behavior, research public opinion, and determine the impact of public policy on businesses and groups. A master's degree provides graduate-level training in political science and prepares graduates to work as political scientists.
Earning a master's in political science typically takes two years for full-time students. Learners complete graduate coursework and specialize their training in a political science subfield. For example, most programs offer specializations in American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory.
The coursework during a master's program trains students in quantitative research methods, including designing surveys, collecting data, and analyzing the results. Master's students also learn to assess the impact of public policies and analyze political behavior. The degree strengthens analytical and critical thinking skills.
The growing field of political science offers high salaries and the potential for career advancement. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that political scientists earned a median annual salary of over $122,000 in 2019. Graduates from master's programs in political science work as survey researchers, policy analysts, political consultants, and campaign staff.
This article introduces the best master's programs in political science to help prospective students find the right fit.
1. Do you need a bachelor's degree in political science to get into a master's program for political science?
No. Most political science master's programs do not require a bachelor's degree in political science. However, most programs look for coursework in political science and a major in a closely related field.
2. What are some common specializations for political science majors?
Political science majors generally specialize in American politics, international relations, comparative politics, or political theory. Students may also specialize in public policy, political behavior, and public administration.
3. How long does a master's in political science take to complete?
Earning a political science master's degree generally takes two years for full-time students. Most programs also offer accelerated or part-time options.
4. Is a master's in political science a master of arts or a master of science?
Most master's in political science programs offer the degree as a master of arts, but some offer a master of science option.
The researchers and writers at Best Master's Degrees do not make recommendations based upon preference — we back our rankings with data. See below for a quick breakdown of how we organize ranking data:
- Finances (40%)
- Academic Rigor (35%)
- Student Gratification (25%)
Nearly half of the data used to score each ranking involves finances from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, Glassdoor, and PayScale. Financial data encompasses the cost of tuition and fees, the average price of living, access to financial aid and social services, and the projected annual salary acquired from degree outcomes and income for loan repayment.
The second-largest category of information involves the quality of education, how competitive degree applicants should be for consideration, and a program's overall exclusivity. The final 25% of collected data depends on student and alumni reviews from sources such as PayScale, Rate My Professor, and Students Review.
Best Master's in Political Science
1. Columbia University in the City of New York
One of the world's leading centers for academic excellence, Columbia plays an important role in creating leaders in many disciplines. In just one year of full-time study, the 30-credit political science master's program cultivates a new generation of journalists, businesspeople, civil servants, and other professionals.
All students complete at least five political science courses, including an MA proseminar and two political science colloquia or seminars. This core ensures an advanced understanding of the discipline and student mastery of at least one research tool. Enrollees build the curriculum with one of four subfield concentrations: American politics, political theory, comparative politics, or international relations. Alternatively, students may choose a specific area of interest.
Columbia offers activities through regional institutes and research centers, such as the Earth Institute and the Center for International Conflict Resolution. Participants need not complete a dissertation or thesis to culminate this MA in political science. Admission requires GRE scores.
2. Duke University
Duke routinely ranks among the nation's top 10 national colleges. About 9,000 graduate students attend the institution, most of them studying on campus in Durham, North Carolina. The 30-credit MA in political science prepares learners for research and teaching positions. About 10-13 full-time students enroll in the MA each year.
The curriculum offers many specializations, including political institutions, political behavior and identity, and normative political theory and political philosophy. Each specialization delves into specific areas of study. For instance, learners interested in political institutions examine topics such as voting and participation and media and information. Participants may also build their curriculum around a theme such as religion and politics. Other departments, including mathematics and public policy, provide supplemental coursework.
Students supplement classroom instruction with activities and resources available at institutes such as the Social Science Research Institute and Triangle Institute for Security Studies. Students choose a thesis or non-thesis option to culminate the MA in political science. Admission requires GRE scores.
3. Villanova University
Founded in 1842, Villanova emphasizes scholarship, moral grounding, and a global mindset. This Pennsylvania-based Catholic college offers a master's in political science that blends theory and practice. Students learn from faculty actively engaged in research funded by organizations such as the National Science Foundation and Council on Foreign Relations.
The 30-credit, full- or part-time curriculum requires a course on research concepts and approaches. Students begin to build the curriculum with a course in each of three concentrations: American government, political philosophy, and international relations and comparative politics. Learners use their remaining courses to specialize in one of these three concentrations. Degree-seekers may take up to six credits from outside the department.
Faculty cap classes at 15 students to facilitate discussion-based seminars. All students culminate the program with a capstone thesis or comprehensive written exam. Learners eyeing a doctorate can enroll in the research track and write an MA thesis.
Tuition payment plans and full-ride scholarships help students pay for tuition, as do assistantships. Admission requires GRE scores.
4. Case Western University
Located in Cleveland, Ohio, CWRU enrolls about 12,000 students, most of whom classify as graduate and professional. Department of Political Science faculty specialize in a variety of research areas, including constitutional law and the development and decline of nation-states. Students in the 30-credit MA in political science acquire a broad understanding of the discipline. The degree requires a mandatory examination of comparative politics, American government and politics, and international relations.
All students complete a course focused on research methodology. Participants use 18 elective credits to explore topics such as politics and money or U.S. intelligence and national security. Students may use up to nine elective credits for independent study. All enrollees culminate the degree with a comprehensive exam or thesis option. A joint JD/MA in political science enrolls ambitious students on a fast track to a law career.
Limited departmental funding may cover up to half of the MA's tuition. Admission requires a minimum 3.2 GPA and GRE scores.
5. Lehigh University
Considered one of the nation's top research colleges, Lehigh enrolls about 7,000 students in a comprehensive catalog of programs. Located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,the school offers an MA in political science that enrolls about 15-20 students each year. Full-time students typically complete the 30-credit MA in 12-15 months. The program offers two tracks: traditional and a community fellows track.
The 12-month community fellows program suits learners interested in civil service or nonprofit careers. Program participants serve as community organizers at a local agency, spending 15 hours on a project focused on community development. They receive academic credit to accelerate their learning and 21 credits of paid tuition for their participation. All students in the MA complete a research methods course and examine topics such as constitutional law and politics and comparative politics. Participants culminate the degree with a research project, thesis, or comprehensive examination.
While the department does not require GRE scores for admission, GRE scores bolster the application. Financial support includes teaching or research assistantships and the Community Fellowship.
6. University of Florida
With a robust catalog of more than 300 programs, UF is a regional academic powerhouse with a strong distance learning department. Aspiring political scientists immerse themselves in research methodology when they enroll in the on-campus MA in political science. The 36-credit curriculum requires two courses: conduct of inquiry and political data analysis. Students build the rest of the curriculum around this core, choosing courses from political science subfields such as comparative politics or political theory.
MA students may bolster their degree with one of five interdisciplinary certificates, including women's studies or global Islam. Faculty allow students to choose either a thesis or non-thesis option to culminate the MA in political science. UF undergraduates accelerate their master's program when they enroll in a dual BA and MA in political science, which allows students to apply up to 12 credits to both the undergraduate and master's. Ambitious students interested in law careers choose the combined JD/MA program.
Admission to the MA may not require the GRE because of the pandemic.
7. The George Washington University
More than 26,000 students attend GW, studying on one of three campuses and at academic centers in Washington, D.C. Students complete the MA in political science on GW's Foggy Bottom campus. In addition to American politics, the 33-credit degree emphasizes international relations and comparative politics. All students complete 15 credits in one of three tracks: American, world, or law and politics.
Course topics include judicial politics, politics of China I and II, military effectiveness, and constitutional law. Students supplement coursework with scholarly debates and projects that hone their statistical research techniques. All students culminate the degree with a comprehensive exam in their chosen track. Ambitious students may use the degree to enter GW's Ph.D. in political science.
The school's location allows enrollees to immerse in the District of Columbia's cultural life while a heartbeat away from job opportunities at federal and international agencies. Admission to the MA program requires GRE scores.
8. University of Georgia
UGA is one of the nation's oldest colleges. Students complete the 33-credit MA in political science and international affairs on campus in Athens, learning from faculty lauded for research and teaching. Faculty design the MA especially for students who want to enter doctoral programs. The curriculum, with thesis and non-thesis tracks, offers courses in five subfields. These options include international relations, American politics, and political theory. All students complete three classes that ensure they master the use of cutting-edge research tools and methodologies.
In exchange for work as a research or teaching assistant, MA students may qualify for a graduate assistantship that provides a full tuition waiver and stipend. The department notes that most recently, 25% of MA graduates secured full-time employment after graduation, while 56% enrolled in a graduate/professional program.
Degree-seekers save time and money through the Double Dawgs program, completing a bachelor's and master's in five years or less. Admission to the MA requires GRE scores.
9. New York University
Founded in 1831, NYU sustains a reputation as one of the world's most prominent and respected colleges. NYU's 36-point, hybrid MA in politics gives students sound theoretical knowledge and practical skills in political science. Students complete on-campus courses in the heart of Greenwich Village. Each enrollee must specialize in one of four subfields: American politics, political economy, comparative politics, or political philosophy and theory.
A proficiency requirement in a language other than English makes the MA stand out from similar programs. Enrollees supplement coursework with colloquia, seminars, and workshops. Learners acquire hands-on experience during an internship. They culminate the program with a research thesis that demonstrates curriculum mastery. Through a partnership with the Marron Institute of Urban Management, students may engage in applied research opportunities in the United States and abroad. Graduates leave the program with well-honed research, writing, critical thinking, and analytical skills. Admission does not require GRE scores.
10. Northeastern University
At Northeastern, a signature blend of theoretical and practitioner-oriented courses give learners a well-rounded education. The one-year MA in political science allows learners to enroll full time or part time on campus in Boston. The degree requires 32-24 credits and provides the foundation for entry into the school's doctorate in political science, or as training for careers in government, nonprofits, or the private sector. Learners specialize in one of five concentrations: security, public policy, comparative politics, international relations, or American government.
Students fulfill a required experiential learning component with an internship, thesis, capstone project, or directed study. Northeastern's alumni network, consisting of more than 255,000 professionals, and a vast network of employer-partners, give learners access to internship and job opportunities not always available to graduate students. Faculty offer some courses online for greater flexibility. The department encourages applicants with fewer than three years of professional experience to submit GRE scores with their application.
11. Marquette University
Marquette offers a values-based education rooted in the school's Catholic, Jesuit identity. Marquette's 68 graduate programs include a 30-credit MA in political science that students complete on campus in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Learners choose either a thesis or non-thesis track. All students complete a course surveying contemporary political research. They build a curriculum with coursework in American politics, comparative politics, international politics, or political philosophy. Nine elective credits allow students to pursue cognate courses from other departments, including economics or communication studies.
All students complete research papers that demonstrate well-honed analytical and methodological skills. The non-thesis track culminates in written and oral comprehensive examinations. The political science department and law school partner to offer a four-year dual program — the master's and juris doctor degree — for those interested in a career in law.
Marquette keeps tuition competitive and offers fellowships and scholarships. MA applicants need not submit GRE scores.
12. Saint Louis University
Established in 1818, SLU is one of the nation's oldest Catholic colleges. SLU operates campuses in Missouri and Madrid. The 30-credit MA in political science and public affairs enrolls learners with a bachelor's in political science or a related social science field. Enrollees specialize in political science when they choose one of three concentrations: international affairs, American politics, or public policy and administration. Some participants may prefer to build their own curriculum by selecting the general MA option.
Students diversify their learning by using up to 12 credits for coursework/activities outside of the department. This may include a six-credit internship at a political science-related organization to acquire hands-on experience. Some elect to complete a two-semester project that culminates in a thesis. All students complete an oral and written field exam in their concentration or individual topic of interest.
Fellowships and assistantships provide a tuition scholarship and health insurance. Applicants need a minimum 3.4 GPA and must demonstrate leadership potential.
13. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Tech enjoys a stellar reputation as one of the nation's top public research colleges.
The MA in political science gives learners expertise in all of the discipline's subfields. The 30-credit program enrolls 10-15 full-time students who study on campus in Blacksburg. All students complete nine credits of required coursework that covers research methods and contemporary political theory. Through elective credits, students examine issues such as electronic governance, industrial democracies, and global security.
Participants use the rest of the MA's credits to conduct research that culminates in a thesis. The department's small size facilitates more intense student-faculty interaction. Those interested in furthering their education in political science may consider Virginia Tech's ASPECT interdisciplinary doctoral program.
Graduate students benefit from all that Virginia Tech offers, including an extensive library and resources at the Graduate Life Center. Admission requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and GRE scores (recommended).
14. University at Buffalo
UB ranks in the world's top 1% of colleges and is one of the flagship institutions in the State University of New York system. Faculty devote coursework in the on-campus MA in political science to the scientific study of politics in all contexts. Students attend classes on campus in Buffalo, completing the 30-credit program in two years. Enrollees complete a required core that explores topics such as political inquiry, American politics, and statistics for social science.
Learners culminate the MA with a comprehensive exam, research thesis, or research project paper. Unlike many similar programs, UB allows students to transfer up to six credits into the MA. A limited number of fellowships and assistantships help qualified students pay for tuition.
Graduate students enjoy a vibrant life with access to a campus ministry, distinguished speaker series, and various arts events. UB designs life and learning workshops and study-abroad activities just for graduate students. MA applicants must submit GRE scores.
15. Loyola University of Chicago
Loyola administers a comprehensive catalog of graduate programs on campus in Chicago. The Jesuit college's 30-credit MA in political science ensures competence in core areas such as American politics, political analysis, and research methods. Students develop the rest of the curriculum with a mix of courses in four subfields: American politics, political theory, international relations, and comparative politics. Participants build professional expertise when they complete an internship at host organizations in the city.
Learners may use six elective credits to develop a thesis. All students sit for a comprehensive written exam. Through a combination of coursework and supplemental training, graduates leave the program proficient in research design and statistical analysis. In just five years, students may complete a BA and MA in political science, shaving off 12 months and one year's tuition.
Graduate students on a law school trajectory may consider the dual MA/JD degree, a partnership between Loyola's law school and the political science department. Admission to the MA requires GRE scores.
16. Syracuse University
A private college in upstate New York, Syracuse offers more than 200 advanced degrees. The MA in political science enrolls both students interested in pursuing a doctorate and learners interested in a terminal degree that gives them professional training. Faculty designed the 30-credit curriculum as a one-year program, though students may take more time if needed. Enrollees complete a required methodology course such as quantitative political analysis. They go on to specialize in a subfield such as American politics, international relations, security studies, or law and courts.
Learners can complete certificates that give them expertise in an area such as conflict resolution or civil society organizations. They may use six credits to write a thesis. Some students receive up to six credits when they participate in a discipline-related experience.
Degree-seekers may transfer up to nine credits into the MA. The MA/JD dual program allows enterprising learners interested in law careers to complete the degrees in less time. Admission to the MA requires GRE scores.
17. Texas A&M University
In 1876, Texas A&M University opened its doors as the state's first public college. Today, the research-intensive institution enrolls 59,000 Aggies on a 5,200-acre College Station campus. The 30- to 36-credit MA in political science offers advanced political science training to a select number of graduate students. Faculty designed the MA as a pathway to the school's Ph.D. in political science. Enrollees begin the MA with a sequence that examines political theory and statistical modeling. The rest of the curriculum focuses on American politics, comparative politics, political theory, international relations, or public administration/public policy.
Directed reading courses permit students to investigate specialized research topics under ongoing faculty mentorship. Learners acquire professional experience when they complete an internship. They culminate the degree with a thesis or comprehensive exam. The program's seminar-style courses, limited to 15 students, encourage personalized learning.
Texas A&M University's location in the heart of the Houston-Dallas-Austin triangle gives learners ample access to jobs in the public and private sectors. Admission requires GRE scores.
18. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Rutgers maintains distinction as one of the nation's top 25 public colleges. Thirty-six of the school's graduate degrees rank in the U.S. News & World Report's top programs. Rutgers' 200 programs include an MA in political science with a unique concentration in United Nations and global policy studies. Faculty train public servants who understand complex global policy topics and can successfully operate within international organizations, governmental organizations, and corporations.
The curriculum's 12 courses include a three-course core that examines the United Nations, global affairs, and a capstone seminar on the United Nations and global policy studies. Participants build the rest of the curriculum around one of five concentrations, including democracy, participation, and community; conflict resolution, counterterrorism, and cybersecurity; or development, environment, and public health.
Graduates leave the program with expertise in research and policy analysis. Financial aid for MA students include fellowships and stipends. An accelerated program allows learners to complete a BA and MA in political science in five years. Admission requires GRE scores, with waivers available for some applicants.
19. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Illinois nurtures a vibrant community of learners that includes students from 100 countries. The 32-credit MA in political science offers two concentrations: civic leadership and African American studies. The civic leadership concentration only enrolls students who complete Illinois' undergraduate civic leadership degree.
All students build a curriculum by choosing from a comprehensive portfolio of courses that cover topics such as democratic political institutions, research design and techniques, or comparative political behavior. Learners in the civic leadership program must complete a practicum that explores a policy issue such as international trade or healthcare. The African American studies concentration requires 24 credits examining topics such as problems in African American studies and current research trends.
Participants culminate the degree with a practicum/research paper or thesis. Learners interested in a law career may pursue the joint MA-JD option. Admission to the MA requires GRE scores.
20. American University
A Methodist-affiliated college, AU administers educational programs that focus on global leadership, public service, and experiential learning. The school, located in the nation's capital, offers a 33-credit MA in political science. Enrollees learn about public advocacy, how to analyze the political process, and manage campaigns. All participants complete two core courses: political analysis and quantitative methods in political science. Students build on these concepts with one of three concentrations: American politics, applied politics, or comparative politics.
Graduates also develop proficiency in empirical research design and quantitative methods. To exit the program, students complete a written comprehensive examination in their concentration. AU's prime location in the District of Columbia helps learners connect with experts on Capitol Hill, at think tanks and other organizations, and on the famed K Street.
Merit awards and scholarships help students pay for their tuition. Admission to the MA requires satisfactory GRE scores.
21. The Catholic University of America
The Catholic University of America continues a 130-year tradition of providing learners with a rigorous education in the Catholic intellectual tradition. Located in Washington, D.C., the school enrolls both working professionals and other graduate students in the MA in political science. Students pursue a research thesis or non-thesis degree plan. Faculty use a seminar-style environment to deliver the 30-credit curriculum. Participants choose one of three areas of emphasis: political theory, American government, or world politics.
All students must pass a comprehensive written exam in their concentration to exit the program. Faculty keep the classes at 10 students or fewer. With full-time enrollment, students complete the MA in political science in two years or less. Evening classes facilitate those who work, and some students pursue the degree part time.
Qualified applicants may benefit from a limited number of merit-based scholarships. Admission requires GRE scores.
22. Binghamton University
Learners from more than 100 countries attend Binghamton, a public college in New York. One of the four senior colleges in the State University of New York system, Binghamton offers an Ivy-caliber education at a fraction of the cost. The on-campus MA in political science develops professionals with subject matter and research expertise. MA enrollees work with faculty to develop a specialization in a research area such as human rights, political parties, international relations and foreign policy, and campaigns and campaign finance.
Students choose either a thesis or non-thesis track, the latter requiring a comprehensive exam. A notable feature at Binghamton allows graduate students to add on a certificate that complements their degree major. Options that may interest MA in political science students include Asian and Asian American studies or genocide and mass-atrocity prevention. Admission to the MA requires a minimum 3.0 GPA. Optional GRE scores bolster the application.
23. University of Delaware
One of the nation's oldest colleges, UD enrolls about 24,000 students on campus in Newark. UD's 38-credit MA in political science and international relations emphasizes global governance. Students begin the program with a methods sequence that includes an examination of scope and methods in political science and statistical analysis for political science. Participants build their degree around a primary subfield chosen from four options: political theory, American politics, international relations, or comparative politics.
Students use 15 credits to complete their primary track, acquiring expertise in domains such as democratic theory, environmental politics and policy, and international security. Learners who do not plan to pursue the school's doctoral program prepare a research paper.
All students in the MA pay the same per-credit tuition regardless of residency. Almost 80% of graduate students receive merit-based financial awards to help defray tuition costs. Admission to the MA requires GRE scores.
24. University of Iowa
Founded in 1847, UI is the state's oldest college and one of the nation's premier research institutions. Students study on a picturesque campus located along the Iowa River in Iowa City. The Department of Political Science boasts many distinguished scholars in the discipline. Faculty usually offer the MA in political science as a step toward the department's doctoral program.
The 30–credit degree offers thesis and non-thesis options. Students specialize in one of the department's five areas of research expertise, including American politics, political theory, or political methodology. MA enrollees work with faculty on research projects, thereby learning by doing. The department's size facilitates ample opportunities for research collaboration. After a first-year evaluation, faculty may recommend that some students complete the MA as a terminal degree. GRE scores, while optional, help bolster applications to the MA in political science.
25. Michigan State University
MSU consistently ranks among the nation's top public colleges. The Research I-designated college is home to leading political scientists and economists who teach the master of public policy, administered by the Department of Political Science. A small cohort of up to 25 students complete the MPP by taking classes in the evening. The 39-credit degree emphasizes policy analysis, policy feasibility, economics, and quantitative analysis.
Students complete a required core that covers topics such as quantitative methods, policy evaluation, and policy development and administration. Participants spend a year immersed in the development of a cutting-edge research project that culminates the MPP. Applied internships further hone learners' skills in their area of interest. Graduates leave the program equipped to pursue roles such as legislative analysts, policy analysts, and elected officials.
A limited number of incoming students may benefit from departmental assistantships. GRE scores bolster the application for the master of public policy.
What Do Political Scientists Do?
Political scientists research political behavior, the development of political systems, and trends in politics. Depending on their focus area, political scientists may analyze international relations, American politics, or political theory. Many political scientists closely monitor policy decisions and current events to understand political trends.
A political scientist's responsibilities include collecting data from a variety of sources, including public opinion surveys, census reports, and election results. They analyze data to find evidence that supports political theories or to evaluate the effect of policy decisions on people. In addition to quantitative research, political scientists also rely on historical documents, speeches, and government documents to understand politics.
Professionals specialize in many areas. For example, policy analysts evaluate current and proposed policies to understand their effect on businesses or political groups. They may work for labor unions, political parties, or private businesses. In government, they help shape policies and measure their effect on groups.
Most political scientists work for the federal government. They also work for political organizations, lobbying firms, and policy institutes. For example, organizations that promote policies around the environment, healthcare, and other causes rely on political scientists to analyze the impact of policies.
Political science professionals need strong analytical and communication skills. Political scientists use both qualitative and quantitative methods to research politics. Whether working in government, politics, or the private sector, political scientists must effectively collaborate with others and communicate their ideas. Creative thinking also helps political scientists address political challenges.
How Much Do Political Science Majors Make?
Political science degrees prepare graduates for high-earning careers in growing fields. For example, political scientists earned a median annual salary of over $122,000 in 2019, according to the BLS. A master's degree is the typical entry-level education requirement for political scientist jobs.
A master's degree in political science also prepares graduates for careers as advertising managers or public relations managers. These fields offer median salaries of more than $115,000 per year and faster-than-average job growth projections between 2019 and 2029. A focus in public opinion and polling can also lead to opportunities as a survey researcher.
Political science graduates who earn a doctorate can pursue academic roles like college professor, an in-demand field where professionals teach and conduct research. Political campaigns offer another avenue for master's students, with opportunities to work as a political consultant, pollster, or campaign manager.
Lowest 10%: Less than $60,960
Median Annual Salary: $122,220
Highest 10%: More than $164,210
Accreditation for a Master's in Political Science
Before applying to a master's in political science program, prospective students should always check the school's accreditation status. Accredited universities meet the highest standards for educating students and granting degrees.
To earn accreditation, schools undergo a rigorous review from an independent accrediting agency. During the review, the accrediting agency evaluates the institution's student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and academic mission. After earning accreditation, universities must regularly repeat the review process to maintain their status.
Regional accreditation is the gold standard for liberal arts and research institutions, including schools that offer political science master's programs. In contrast, national accrediting agencies generally award accreditation to vocational and trade schools. Prospective students can research regionally accredited schools in the U.S. Department of Education database.
Financial Aid for Master's in Political Science Students
Graduate students qualify for many of the same financial aid opportunities as undergraduates. For example, grad students can receive federal student loans by completing the FAFSA every year. Master's students automatically qualify as independent students for the purposes of the FAFSA, meaning they do not need to provide financial information for their parents. The federal government also supports graduate students through the work-study program.
The main financial aid sources for political science master's students include loans, grants, scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships. While some grants, like the Federal Pell Grant, only award funds to undergraduate learners, many states offer financial aid programs for graduate students, including need-based grants.
At the graduate level, fellowships and assistantships provide financial support for many learners. The Fulbright Program offers fellowships for international research and study. Universities also provide teaching and research assistantships to master's students, which often waive tuition and offer a stipend to cover expenses.
Professional associations and private organizations also support political science master's students through scholarships. The following section introduces scholarship opportunities for political science grad students.
Scholarships for Master's in Political Science Students
Graduate students in political science master's programs can explore multiple scholarship opportunities. Many organizations, including professional organizations, private foundations, and scholarly institutes, support political science students with scholarships and fellowships. Universities and political science departments also offer funding for graduate students in political science.
APSA Minority Fellowship
Who Can Apply: The American Political Science Association grants fellowships to political science students from racial and ethnic minority groups. Applicants submit official transcripts and two recommendation letters.
Gloria Barron Wilderness Society Scholarship
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports graduate students researching an aspect of wilderness, including topics like wilderness conservation, public policy, and climate change. Applicants must attend an accredited institution.
Who Can Apply: The Intercollegiate Studies Institute grants up to 15 graduate fellowships for students in the humanities and social sciences. Applicants provide a personal statement that demonstrates their commitment to teaching.
ISF National Scholarship
Who Can Apply: The Islamic Scholarship Fund supports Muslim graduate students with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Applicants must attend an accredited school and provide a resume, essays, transcripts, work samples, two recommendation letters, and a video introduction.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship funds students pursuing a graduate degree in the arts, humanities, or social sciences, including political science graduate programs. Applicants must demonstrate superior scholastic achievement and a history of receiving need-based financial aid.
Courses in a Master's Program for Political Science
A master's degree in political science builds strong research and analytical skills. During a master's degree, graduate students take classes in comparative politics, political economy, and American political thought. Many programs let students customize the program around their interests by offering specializations in public policy, international relations, or U.S. politics.
The curriculum introduces students to the theories, methodologies, and research skills necessary to complete a master's thesis or project. Some programs also incorporate a master's exam.
This section includes sample course descriptions for political science master's programs. Courses vary depending on the program and the student's focus area.
Public Opinion and Political Behavior
This course introduces learners to the study of people's political attitudes and behaviors. The course may cover theoretical approaches to understanding public opinion, experimental methodologies in the field, and the role of survey data to understand public opinion. The course's focus on research methods prepares students to effectively analyze data.
American Political Thought
Students explore the formation of political ideas in the U.S. and the relationship between political thought and culture. The coursework may examine notions of political obligation, governmental power, and the role of government in society. Learners also study theoretical frameworks to understand political thought.
Degree-seekers examine the development of government institutions in different national contexts. Graduate students may explore differences in political behavior, the role of political parties, and government programs from a comparative perspective. The course also includes training in comparative research and political theory.
Earning a Ph.D. in Political Science
After earning a master's in political science, students can pursue a Ph.D. As the field's highest degree, a doctorate in political science prepares graduates for careers in academia, research, and politics. For example, most tenure-track professor jobs require a doctorate. According to the BLS, political science professors earned an average wage of over $100,000 in 2019.
A doctoral program builds on the research and theory training of a master's in political science. During a Ph.D. program, doctoral students complete coursework requirements, pass comprehensive exams, and write an original dissertation.
Doctoral coursework covers topics like advanced research methodologies, political science theory, and specialized seminars in the doctoral student's research area. After meeting the coursework requirements and passing doctoral exams, doctoral candidates research and write a dissertation under their advisor's supervision.
A doctorate requires a substantial time commitment. Incoming students with a master's degree should expect to spend at least 3-5 years earning a Ph.D. Earning a master's degree before applying to Ph.D. programs can help graduate students gain admission to more competitive programs and potentially meet some coursework requirements with their master's coursework.
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