Political Scientists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Take courses in government, American history, and civics to gain insight into politics. Math is also important because, as a political scientist, you'll be evaluating statistics, demographics, and other numerical data. English and composition classes will help you develop the writing and communication skills you'll need for teaching, publishing, and presenting papers. Take a journalism course and work for your high school newspaper to develop research, writing, and editing skills. Join a speech and debate team to gain experience researching current events, analyzing data, and presenting the information to others.

Postsecondary Training

Though you'll be able to find some government jobs with a bachelor's degree in political science, you won't be able to pursue work in major academic institutions without a doctorate.

The American Political Science Association (APSA) publishes directories of undergraduate and graduate political science programs. An undergraduate program requires general courses in English, economics, statistics, and history, as well as courses in American politics, international politics, and political theory. Look for a school with a good internship program that can involve you with the U.S. Congress or state legislature. U.S. News and World Report publishes rankings of graduate schools. Harvard University, Princeton University, and Stanford University are typically top-ranked in political science.

Your graduate study will include courses in political parties, public opinion, comparative political behavior, and foreign policy design. You'll also assist professors with research, attend conferences, write articles, and teach undergraduate courses.

Other Education or Training

The American Political Science Association (APSA) offers a Teaching and Learning Conference that features workshops and other educational offerings on integrating technology into the classroom, teaching research methods, professional development, and other topics. Contact the APSA for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for political scientists.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

You will need to gain considerable experience before becoming a political scientist. Internships and postdoctoral positions are a great way to build an impressive resume and gain knowledge.

Because you'll be compiling information from a number of different sources, you must be well organized. You should also enjoy reading, and possess a curiosity about world politics. People skills are important, as you'll be working closely with students and other political scientists. Other important traits include critical-thinking and analytical skills and a willingness to continue to learn throughout your career.