Best Master’s in Political Science Degrees

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If you are interested in pursuing a lucrative career that will allow you to study the many ways in which politics influence communities, economies, and trends, you should consider a masters in political science.

With a degree in political science, you will have the skills and experience necessary to analyze current events and politics from not only our own country and your local community but also on a global scale. You will be able to design research projects and measure the trends and larger impacts of public policy.

You aren’t limited to a bland, one-size-fits-all career, either. With one of these degrees, you can also specialize in multiple areas, like foreign policy, environmental politics, and more. The sky’s the limit when you receive a dynamic masters in political science.

Top 10 Best Masters in Political Science Degrees

Rank School Location
1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
2 Stanford University Stanford, CA
3 University of Florida Gainesville, FL
4 Columbia University New York, NY
5 University of Georgia Athens, GA
6 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
7 University of Rochester Rochester, NY
8 Binghamton University Vestal, NY
9 Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey New Brunswick, NJ
10 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI
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What kind of political science degree should you get?

You’ll want to think about the many features of a masters program before you decide on the best program for your needs. It can be tough to narrow down the myriad master’s programs in political science to find the best one for you, but thinking about pivotal factors like affordability, location, and overall quality will help you make your final decision.

No matter what kind of program you choose, earning a college degree can be demanding of your time and resources. It will require several years of commitment, so you want to make sure you choose the best possible program out there. Select a college that is fully accredited, which will ensure that your program meets the highest academic standards.

Beyond that, you’ll also want to consider the format in which the program is offered. Can you take some classes online? How big are the class sizes? While a masters degree will help elevate your resume to the top of the stack, making it a smart career move, you also want to make sure your degree provides you with plenty of hands-on experiences, too.

If you want to learn more about all of the programs that are out there, consider exploring an online degree program. You will want to take a look at our comprehensive ranking of the Best Online Colleges and Universities to give you a better picture.

How much money do people make with a degree in political science?

Because your specific job title will vary once you receive a degree in political science, your salary won’t be set in stone, either, with people in different careers enjoying different salaries. However, you can rest assured that, with a masters degree in political science, your average earnings will be much higher on average than they would if you only had a bachelor’s.

The average salary for political scientists was $117,570 in May, 2018. The highest earners – those working for the federal government – tend to earn salaries in excess of $126,000! Even those who earn the lowest salaries, which are workers in educational services, still earn impressive paychecks averaging $70,430 each year.

While the average growth rate across this sector is only 3% by 2026, which is slightly slower than the national average, the likelihood of you finding a job in this field will depend upon the industry in which you want to work. For example, professionals who work directly as social scientists are in high demand, enjoying a rapid growth rate of 11% by 2026.

What are the requirements for a degree in political science?

To apply for a masters degree in political science, it’s often required that you hold an initial bachelor’s degree in a related area. It doesn’t have to be in political science; a majority of programs accept students who have majored in topics besides political science, as long as applicants have some form of foundational knowledge in the discipline.

Some – but not all – programs will also require or prefer some professional experience. In many cases, this can give you a jump start on your degree, as some universities offer course credit for prior life experience. If you have experience in politics, government, or even campaigning, be sure to mention it when you apply.

While you are enrolled in your program of study, you will take classes that allow you to explore the relationship between the government and other societies, looking at how government influences (and is influenced by) a community. You may take courses in areas like research methods and statistics or even pursue unique electives like Global Politics based on your interest. You may complete a capstone, thesis, or comprehensive examination before graduating. Most students can complete a degree in two years or less.

What are the best degrees in political science?

Ready to fill out some college applications but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. Here at College Choice, we believe in giving you the most accurate, most helpful information to help you find the college of your dreams.

The best degree in political science will vary depending on your unique skills, preferences, and career goals. Therefore, we aim to provide you with a large variety of programs to help make the decision-making process a little easier.

When you begin working as a political scientist, you want to be armed with some impressive skills in research, communication, and policy analysis – these are skills you can’t get in any way except by engaging in hands-on experience and some rigorous coursework.

The best political science degrees that we’ve rounded up do just that, providing you with access to the skills you need for a successful career through courses taught by talented faculty, impressive support services, and generous financial aid. The schools on our list aren’t just good – they’re some of the best you will find.

Want to learn more about how we weed out the best schools for you to choose from? Take a look at our methodology page, which will give you a clearer idea of how we find the best schools for you.

What are you waiting for? Grab a pen to mark down your favorites and get to reading – these are the best masters in political science you’re going to find.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology is located in Cambridge, MA, and is one of the country’s premier private institutions of higher education. Founded in 1861, this school has a total population of 4,547 undergraduate students. The university specializes in scientific and technological research and is divided into five schools. The Master’s of Science in Political Science at MIT prepares learners to discover and utilize essential understandings about how 21st-century governments and societies work.

    Program Features

    This degree is a one-year program, allowing students to build proficiency in applied research so that they can move on quickly to successful careers. The school also houses a rigorous PhD in Political Science, which is geared toward learners who want to pursue teaching careers at the college level. Students will complete 66 units of study, with intensive preparation in a single field of study chosen by the student. Concentration options include:

    • American Politics
    • Comparative Politics
    • International Relations
    • Models and Methods
    • Political Economy
    • Security Studies

    Notables

    This program is unique in that it allows learners to finish their studies in just three semesters of study, usually broken down into fall, spring, and summer semesters. Summer tuition is subsidized by MIT to make attendance a bit more affordable. This university has multiple other top-ranking programs in political science as well, including a bachelor’s, a minor, a minor in Public Policy, a minor in Applied International Studies, and a five-year program in political science.

  2. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Stanford University is a well-respected private university located in Stanford, CA. With a total undergraduate enrollment of 7,062 students, this suburban university offers undergraduate and graduate degrees split up among seven different schools and myriad departments. Offered within the Department of Political Science at Stanford, the Master’s of Arts in Political Science requires learners to incorporate a variety of quantitative and qualitative research methods to increase their analytics skills. It prepares students for a variety of contemporary careers.

    Program Features

    The Master’s of Arts in Political Science at Stanford is designed to be pursued in combination with another doctoral degree from another department, allowing for an interdisciplinary program that will prepare learners for career success. For students seeking a stand-alone degree, the university also offers a Master’s in International Policy Studies. Otherwise, the political science program requires 45 units of study, with core courses taken in topics such as:

    • International Relations
    • American Politics
    • Political Theory
    • Comparative Politics
    • Political Methodology

    Notables

    This school is located just 30 miles from San Francisco and has an idyllic location in the heart of California’s Bay Area. This location makes the university not only a hub for intellectual development and discovery, providing students with unique research and career opportunities, but it also gives students access to some pretty spectacular off-campus learning opportunities. The school is home to a wide range of student organizations and support services, which is part of the reason why it was ranked as a top National University by U.S. News & World Report.

  3. University of Florida
    Location

    Gainesville, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in scenic Gainesville, FL, the University of Florida is one of Florida’s largest public universities. Home to over 35,000 undergraduate learners, the school has a vibrant population of graduate students, too. The University of Florida offers several Master’s of Arts programs in political science within the prestigious Department of Political Science. The stand-alone Master’s of Arts in Political Science is a top choice.

    Program Features

    Depending on the specific program of study chosen – and whether learners plan to include further studies leading to an additional certificate – candidates may be able to choose between a thesis, capstone, or final examination requirement. Many plans of study not only include the option for internships but also require them, usually completed in the summer between academic years. While enrolled, students will complete a range of intensive courses, including studies in topics such as:

    • Conduct of Inquiry
    • Political Data Analysis
    • Political Behavior
    • American Government and Politics
    • Comparative Politics

    Notables

    In addition to the Master’s of Arts in Political Science, the University of Florida also offers companion certificate programs in topics such as Political Campaigning and Public Affairs. A separate Master’s of Arts in International Relations is also popular for graduate candidates seeking a more globally-focused experience. The department also provides pathways for joint BA/MA and Juris Doctorate/Master’s of Arts completion, making it easier for students to progress toward rewarding careers without having to reapply or take unnecessary classes.

  4. Columbia University
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Columbia University is located in New York, giving potential political science students access to the hands-on learning experience of a lifetime. A truly urban school, Columbia is home to three undergraduate schools as well as multiple graduate and professional schools. The Master’s of Arts in Political Science at Columbia prepares students with the advanced training in political science research methods that they need to become disciplined in areas like formal modeling and quantitative methods.

    Program Features

    Although this degree is heavily influenced by research skills development, it also allows students to develop their own studies around a certain area of interest or subfield. After completing a major proseminar, learners can customize their degrees to the fullest, choosing from a range of classes that suit their interests. This one-year, full-time program allows students to choose from potential concentrations in topics such as:

    • American Politics
    • International Relations
    • Comparative Politics
    • Political Theory

    Notables

    Learners who choose Columbia for their masters in political science benefit from a strong emphasis on political science research and analysis. Graduate students can take PhD-level classes and get involved in the stimulating intellectual environment of the department. Candidates can take part in co-curricular workshops, research proseminars, and more. When applying, each student is admitted to a small cohort of only 20 students – this is the maximum number of students that Columbia will admit to the program each year. Therefore, all students receive individualized advising and one-on-one mentoring from department faculty.

  5. University of Georgia
    Location

    Athens, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Georgia is located in Athens, GA and was founded in 1785. This school is large, with a total undergraduate enrollment of nearly 30,000 students, and was the first public college in America. Today, the school is home to dozens of academic programs as well as a whopping 600 different student clubs and organizations. The Master’s of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs is offered jointly between the Department of Political Science and the Department of International Affairs at the University of Georgia.

    Program Features

    This program provides pathways for students who wish to develop the analytic skills they’ll need to become masters of the content. Learners can specialize in a discipline of choice, such as international relations, American politics, comparative politics, or political theory. Candidates also have a choice as to whether they would like to pursue a thesis pathway – which requires 30 credit hours of coursework – or a non-thesis option – which requires 33 hours of coursework. Regardless, all students will take classes such as:

    • American Government
    • Electoral Behavior
    • Applied Bayesian Modeling
    • Political Psychology
    • Introduction to Political Theory

    Notables

    The faculty who teach in this program are second to none and are regarded as some of the most productive in the nation. Instructors have won numerous awards for teaching and research. The two departments are home to 40 tenured and tenure-track faculty members who specialize in the areas of concentration listed above. There are multiple scholarship and graduate assistantship opportunities available. These offer learners full-tuition waivers, stipends, and work experience as a teaching or research assistant.

  6. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is just one of the multiple schools within the North Carolina state university system. This public university was founded in 1789 and has a large undergraduate enrollment of nearly 19,000 students – most of whom live on the 729-acre campus. Divided into multiple schools and colleges, UNC offers a dynamic degree in Political Science. This program prepares professional political scientists to perform political and administrative duties as well as those in research and education.

    Program Features

    Within the political science department, the university offers additional focuses in Latin American studies. The curriculum of this graduate degree exposes students to the problems, literature, and skills necessary for all academic components of political science. Students are required to defend their thesis, both orally and in writing,before graduation. Students will take a range of hands-on and theoretical courses with major consideration being given to the following topics:

    • Race, Immigration, and Urban Politics
    • Executive Politics
    • Political Economy I: The Domestic System
    • State Governments: Laboratories of Democracy
    • Mock Constitutional Convention

    Notables

    This program serves as an excellent gateway for interdisciplinary communication in and with Latin America. The department provides funding for students to engage in interdisciplinary working groups, as well as research workshops, study abroad, and summer fellowships. The university offers students multiple ways to succeed, such as through an honors program, groundbreaking research and study abroad opportunities in over 70 countries, and more. As a result, UNC is ranked as a top National University by U.S. News & World Report.

  7. University of Rochester
    Location

    Rochester, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    A private university founded in 1850, the University of Rochester is a suburban school in western New York. This school offers only 250 different student organizations and is ranked as one of the country’s top-tier research universities. Offering nearly 100 different graduate and undergraduate degree programs, this school receives top marks for its academic quality and student diversity. The Master’s In Political Science at the University of Rochester is designed to lead to doctoral studies in the PhD program in Political Science.

    Program Features

    This degree takes a unique approach to the study of politics. Students learn how to develop formal theory as well as how to analyze quantitative evidence. Students repeatedly review the discipline’s leading journals to find out more about how the field was revolutionized. Because class sizes in this discipline are small, students are both productive and successful. Students may customize their degrees by choosing three of six different areas of specialty:

    • American Politics
    • Comparative Politics
    • International Relations
    • Political Philosophy
    • Methods
    • Formal Theory

    Notables

    University of Rochester alumni are found all over the globe, working in varied industries like law, business, and government. Students receive some of the best career advising and networking opportunities through the Gwen M. Greene Career and Internship Center. The professionals at this center help to connect students with internships, research opportunities, and jobs. The political science department at the University of Rochester is ranked No. 4 nationally with respect to graduate placement and citations of graduate research.

  8. Binghamton University
    Location

    Vestal, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Binghamton University is located in Vestal, NY. A major university within the state university system of New York, this school is well-known for its retention rates and high-quality programs. With a 90% freshman retention rate, this school offers dozens of academic programs as well as plenty of things for students to do outside of the classroom. Binghamton offers both a PhD and an MA in Political Science. Both programs are highly interdisciplinary and allow students to collaborate with other departments, professionals, and students from all around the university.

    Program Features

    This program has two potential tracks. One requires the production of a master’s thesis, while the other entails a comprehensive exam. Both prepare graduates by supplying them with the advanced training needed for journalism, policy analysis, and other professional careers. Graduates go on to work for a research institute, private industry, government, academia, and more. Through the program, students will study topics such as:

    • International Relations and Foreign Policy
    • Human Rights
    • Political Parties
    • Campaigns and Campaign Finance
    • Religion and Politics

    Notables

    The Political Science degree at Binghamton University ranks No. 19 in the entire world. It offers both Master’s of Arts and doctoral programs to a field of bright, successful graduate students. This program has limited enrollment to keep class sizes small. This ensures extensive collaboration and interaction among graduate students and faculty. As a result, graduate students frequently co-author articles and conference papers with faculty. The department also has a strong alumni network, which allows for the easy facilitation of internships and permanent job opportunities.

  9. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
    Location

    New Brunswick, NJ

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey operates several campuses around the state. The Newark campus, however, offers an exceptional Master’s of Arts in Political Science through the Department of Political Science. This degree is designed for working professionals, with classes offered once a week in the evening hours. Rutgers, which was founded in 1908 and is located in New Jersey’s largest city, offers dozens of other academic programs as well as hundreds of different extracurricular activities to its large student body.

    Program Features

    This program requires 30 credit hours of study and prepares students with the writing and critical-thinking skills they will need to civically engage in a democratic society. It prepares students for careers or doctoral study in political science, public policy, administration, political science, criminal justice, and more. Students may choose from specializations in the American Political System or International Relations. Students will take classes such as:

    • Global and International Politics
    • Urban Politics and Public Administration
    • Public Policy
    • Comparative Politics
    • Research Methodology

    Notables

    In addition to the concentration options listed above, students in this program have the opportunity to complete an additional concentration in Women and Gender Studies. This degree can also be completed concurrently as a Juris Doctor/Master’s of Arts in political science that allows up to 12 credits in law courses to be applied toward the credit requirement for the master’s degree. As a result of its quality and affordability, this school is ranked as a Best Value School by U.S. News & World Report.

  10. University of Wisconsin-Madison
    Location

    Madison, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    The University of Wisconsin – Madison is located in Madison, WI and is just one of many schools within the state university system. This school was founded in 1848 and has a large undergraduate enrollment of just over 32,000 students. The Department of Political Science is a graduate program that leads to a doctor of philosophy in political science. This is a holistic program, admitting only students who intend to continue on to PhD studies.

    Program Features

    This program is widely respected by both the national and international communities. With high-quality faculty and a diverse spectrum of approaches to teaching topics in political science, this program is led by instructors who teach in other disciplines, too. This degree offers a minimum of 30 credit hours, with no final formal examination required. In addition to being given access to numerous professional development resources, students are expected to engage in classes such as:

    • Empirical Methods of Political Inquiry
    • Political Science as a Discipline and Profession
    • Independent Work

    Notables

    The Department of Political Science shares faculty with the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, the Law School, and the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs. Students also have access to such diverse centers and programs on-campus as the Center for Jewish Studies, the African Studies Program, and the International Studies major. This allows for intensive advancement of interdisciplinary approaches to student research. As a result, this school is ranked as one of the top National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.

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