As a political scientist, you will work hard to study the origin, operation, and management of various political systems around the world as well as in your own country. You will research political ideas and their role in major governments, and you might determine current and future trends in politics, too.
To get a job as a political scientist, you will need to obtain a minimum of a master’s degree in Political Science. This field is fascinating and noble, allowing you to work with a broad range of people and in a variety of settings.
No matter what role you decide to pursue in political science, obtaining a master’s degree in political science is your first step toward success. This degree will provide you with the analytical, research, and communication skills necessary to study and influence governmental procedures.
What kind of political science degree should you get?
As you begin exploring the many political science degrees out there, you’ll want to think carefully about your own strengths, weaknesses, and life circumstances. In order to be admitted to a graduate program, you will likely need to have an undergraduate degree in a related area along with some level of work experience.
Perhaps you are already currently working, and hope to continue working as you pursue your studies. Earning a master’s degree in political science can be demanding, requiring several years of intensive coursework and practical hands-on learning experiences. Are you going to be able to find time in your busy schedule to pursue one of these degrees?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t stress quite yet. An online master’s in political science will be just as thorough and rigorous as an on-campus program – yet with few or little residency requirements that will make you leave your hometown or current job.
You can attend classes remotely, studying at the times that are most convenient to you, and obtain a highly respected degree without stepping foot outside of your house. If you’re interested in learning more about all of the online programs out there, be sure to check out our ranking of the Best Online Colleges and Universities.
How much money do people make with a degree in political science?
A degree in political science will prepare you for a wide variety of careers. Therefore, it’s difficult to say exactly how much money you will make. That being said, graduates with a master’s degree or higher tend to earn the highest starting salaries on average.
And if you work for the federal government or for a professional organization, you can expect to earn quite a bit. On average, these professionals earn over $126,060 per year – with individuals working in educational services or for religious or grantmaking services earning slightly less.
To make things even sweeter, these jobs can be found just about everywhere. Almost half of all political scientists are employed by the federal government. While these jobs have a growth rate of roughly 3%, professionals who have graduate degrees, as well as those working in social science, are in exceptionally high demand.
What are the requirements for a degree in political science?
Now that you know more about all the benefits of working in political science, it’s time to learn more about how to become one. You will need a minimum of a master’s degree in political science, public administration, or a similar field. In order to enter into a program of study, you will need a background in political science, statistics, and writing, usually obtained from prior work or college experience.
While you are enrolled in your degree program, you will take a variety of theoretical and hands-on courses. Typically, these span several disciplines, allowing you to explore topic areas like policy formation, statistics, research methods, and more. Many degree programs even allow learners to choose an area of specialty, like political theory or international relations.
What are the best degrees in political science?
If you’re hoping to find the best degree in political science, you’ve come to the right place. Before you start filling out your college applications, know that not all degrees are built the same. While you want to find a degree that matches your goals and lifestyle perfectly, you also want one that is going to offer high-quality training in political science.
As a political scientist, you will be tasked with the serious responsibility of analyzing our government and determining political trends. This kind of work requires exceptional skills in research, analysis, and communication – skills you can’t get anywhere else except through hands-on experience.
Look for a political science degree that will give you this kind of experience by matching you with highly trained faculty, extensive support services, and generous financial aid. The best programs in political science will be flexible enough to meet your current life situation but also rigorous enough to help you succeed.
When we look for the best schools, we ensure that they are the ones that will help you be successful. Our schools aren’t just high quality – they are the very best ones you will find. You don’t have to take our word for it, either – we created a thorough methodology page to give you a better idea of how we figure out the best online masters in political science.
Ready to get going? Scroll on to continue reading about the best online master’s in political science – and get your application ready.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
College Choice Score: 100
Average Net Price: $18,700
This public research college often referred to simply as Virginia Tech, is located in Blacksburg, VA and offers a dynamic Master’s in Political Science. A flagship university of the state, this university focuses on research and technology and allows distance learners access to a variety of hands-on online programs. Established in 1969, this political science program is one of the longest-standing degrees to offer an equivalent online degree in political science. The online version of this decree was launched in 1995 and is one of nearly a dozen different online graduate programs offered through Virginia Tech.
This program emphasizes both in-depth research methods as well as the role of social science in analyzing politics. It is relatively competitive, accepting only 60 to 70 students each year. The curriculum requires 30 credit hours of study, all of which are identical in structure and quality to those offered on campus. Upon graduation, students are prepared to work in government or academic or to pursue further studies. Required courses are offered asynchronously and include:
- Research Methods
- Collaborative Governance and Civil Society
- Contemporary Political Theory
- Alternative Perspectives in Political Theory
This degree is not only flexible, but it is also rigorous. Students can finish their studies in as few as four semesters by taking only three courses each term. While all students must complete a final thesis, learners can choose to pursue electives in various areas like transnational migration and global conflicts. While Virginia Tech is slightly less expensive for in-state students, it offers affordable tuition to out-of-state students, too. Tuition starts at just $818 per credit hour and financial aid is available to students who qualify.
College Choice Score: 99.82
Average Net Price: $17,030
Harvard University is one of the country’s oldest universities, founded in 1636. This university is one of the most prestigious institutions in the entire world and is comprised of thirteen different schools and institutes. The master’s in government is offered entirely online through the Harvard Extension School. With a retention rate of 97%, Harvard University offers some of the best academic programs and student support services to on-campus and online learners alike.
This program consists of 12 core courses, three of which must be taken on campus. After those three courses have been completed, learners may choose to study online or on-campus. Students will develop a theoretical and practical understanding of how the government operates, as well as how it varies among different cultures and systems. Students can choose to complete a thesis or capstone option, allowing for maximum flexibility after completing core courses such as:
- Global Ethnic Policies
- History of Human Rights and US Foreign Policy
- Transitional Justice and the Politics of Truth Commissions
- The Politics of Religion in Liberal Democracies
Despite its reputation as being a premier Ivy League institution, this program is both accessible and affordable. Tuition is just $2,840 per course, making the average cost of this degree only $35,000. This school is ranked as a Best Value School and a top National University by U.S. News & World Report, coming in second on both competitive lists. With an average student-to-faculty ratio of just 6:1, it’s no wonder why this school is often considered the best in the entire country.
University of Illinois at Springfield
College Choice Score: 95.36
Average Net Price: $12,054
As a public school established in 1969, the University of Illinois at Springfield is a relatively young university. Despite this, it offers over 1,600 online degrees, including a dynamic online masters in political science. Just 90 miles from St. Louis, the University of Illinois at Springfield is located within the state’s capital city, giving political science students the best level of access to hands-on learning opportunities even when they are studying from a remote setting.
This program can be completed entirely online, or in a hybrid format by taking several traditional in-person classes on-campus. All online classes are taught by the same instructors who teach on-campus, and they’re also asynchronous. This means that students can complete their assignments when it is most convenient for them. Requiring 40 credit hours of study, this degree includes core courses such as:
- Comparative Political Cultures
- Introduction to the American Political System
- State of the State
- Comparative State Politics
- Statistics for Social Sciences
This degree is unique in that it allows students to pursue specialty concentrations in topics like public law, political theory, international relations, and more. Some elective requirements can be completed via internship experiences, eight hours of which may be used for course credit. The degree includes a whopping 28 credit hours of electives, making this one of the most customizable degrees of its kind. Tuition starts at just $362 for distance learners – a major bargain when compared to other programs of this quality.
George Washington University
College Choice Score: 93.73
Average Net Price: $37,638
A private university founded in 1821, George Washington University has a main campus in Washington, D.C. An ideal location for individuals interested in studying politics, this school also offers a bustling online campus, too. With a broad variety of graduate offerings, many of these are offered within the Law School and the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. However, the Online Masters in Political Management is offered via the well-respected Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington.
This degree is perfect for people who are passionate about politics, offering them the training necessary to make a difference on both a domestic and global scale. It encourages learners to look at politics in a holistic way, asking them to move beyond their local communities to take action on a larger scale. It’s designed for busy professionals, including a hands-on curriculum that produces results every time. Core classes include:
- Political Data and Analytics
- Principled Political Leadership
- Fundamentals of Political Management
- Applied Political Communications
This program is taught by some of the top political practitioners in the country. The program includes optional D.C. and global residences so that students can network with key advocates, lobbyists, and politicians from all around the world. Graduates are supported by a broad alumni network around the world, with recent graduates serving in prestigious positions as elected officials, campaign managers, chiefs of staff, and key aides.
The University of West Florida
College Choice Score: 93.64
Average Net Price: $11,550
The University of West Florida is located in Pensacola, FL, right on the state’s scenic panhandle. The campus is idyllic, surrounded by a nature preserve, a bay, and two rivers. However, online learners don’t have to experience this location if they don’t want to – they can get everything they need from the digital classroom. The Political Science Master’s program is just one of many high-quality online degrees offered at this award-winning public institution.
This program requires 33 semester hours of study. All students will study a curriculum that focuses on public policy, comparative politics, and international relations, but they can also choose to specialize either in a generalist political science track or one in security and diplomacy. After meeting core course requirements, students can choose to complete a comprehensive examination or a thesis. Six core courses are required, including:
- Political Theory
- International Relations
- Comparative Politics
- American Politics
All coursework in his program is delivered synchronously, allowing students to interact with their peers and instructors in a face-to-face format. By studying in this manner, students benefit from small class sizes with an average student-to-faculty ratio of just 21:1. As a result of the attention given to student success and well-being at this university, the school is ranked as a Best Buy College by Forbes and a Best Southeastern College by The Princeton Review. It’s even recognized as a top National University by U.S. News & World Report.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
College Choice Score: 92.02
Average Net Price: $11,727
The University of Nebraska at Omaha is located in the Omaha metropolitan area and is just one of the many schools in the Nebraska state university system. In addition to offering on-campus learners a vibrant campus culture with plenty of academic programs and extracurricular offerings to choose from, the school also caters to thousands of distance learners around the country. The Master’s in Political Science can be completed entirely online. It is incredibly interdisciplinary, allowing students to explore their interests in other fields as well.
This 30-credit degree program is delivered asynchronously, allowing learners to complete work at the times that are most convenient for them. It is designed for students who are passionate about a variety of fields. Each learner can take up to twelve credits in other fields, like economics, social work, and communications. In addition, students will complete either a capstone project or a thesis after taking core courses and attending seminars such as:
- International Relations
- Political Science Methodology
- Political Theory
- American Government
- US Foreign Policy
This program is customizable, allowing students to pursue optional concentrations in topics like international affairs. Additional certificates are also available with the addition of a few extra courses, with options including national security, intelligence, and even global information operations. The availability of these certificates and the interdisciplinary nature of this program allows students to pursue careers in a wide variety of fields, such as journalism or law. All online students also receive access to personalized academic advising, career services, and online library services, too.
Sam Houston State University
College Choice Score: 90.14
Average Net Price: $11,742
Sam Houston State University is located in Huntsville, TX and is one of the oldest universities in the state of Texas. A member of the Texas State University System, this school is home to over 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university offers a supportive and extensive online community, too, with many learners who live on campus choosing to take online courses at the same time. The online master’s in political science is designed both for recent college graduates as well as people who are currently working in political science.
This degree requires 30 to 36 credit hours of study, depending on whether a thesis or non-thesis option is pursued. A bulk of the credits required in this degree can be completed through a variety of electives, allowing each learner to flesh out their degrees by studying the topics that interest them most. Required and elective coursework may include:
- American Politics
- Comparative Politics
- International Relations
This degree is highly affordable, with out-of-state graduate students studying online paying a tuition rate that is only slightly higher than the rate enjoyed by in-state students. Because this degree is offered entirely online, it makes it easier for students to pursue their passions without having to give up their current jobs, too. In addition to the stand-alone graduate program, the school also offers an 18-hour certificate program to meet professional credentialing requirements for high school teachers.
Johns Hopkins University
College Choice Score: 90.06
Average Net Price: $29,066
A private university founded in 1876, Johns Hopkins University is an urban campus that is divided into nine schools. Five of these schools serve both undergraduate and graduate students. A leading institution when it comes to research, exploration, and discovery, this university is known for its innovative thinking and a broad variety of course offerings. Many degrees, like the online master’s of political science, are also available entirely online.
The Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins is well-respected for its programs, which are theoretical, strong, and interdisciplinary. The master’s degree is designed for creative graduate students who are interested in contributing to a learned community of scholars. This school list top-ranked as a Best Value School and Top National University by U.S. News & World Report. It’s no wonder as to why – students learn alongside some of the most well-respected faculty as they pursue courses such as:
- Future of American Democracy
- Comparative Citizenship and Immigration Politics
- Theories – Comparative Politics
- Racial Capitalism
- Policy Dynamics
Through their studies, online learners work closely with faculty as they pursue independent research. Because this degree is interdisciplinary in nature, graduate students have the opportunity to collaborate with learners from all fields. Class sizes are remarkably small, with the average student-to-faculty ratio being just 7:1. Nearly three-quarters of all classes have fewer than 20 students, and with a retention rate of 97%, it’s clear that the academic and student life opportunities at this university are second-to-none.
College Choice Score: 88.61
Average Net Price: $26,954
Liberty University is a private university that was founded in 1971. With a total undergraduate enrollment of nearly 46,000, this school is comprised of 16 different colleges, each of which offers a range of online programs. In fact, the school enrolls a large number of its learners in its more than 280 different online degree programs. This Christian-centered university is a popular choice for both online and on-campus students. The online master’s in political science is exceptionally challenging and facilitated by top experts in the field.
Most students can complete this degree completely online in as little as 18 months. It incorporates a comprehensive study of politics, allowing students to build upon the fundamental skills necessary for careers in political science. The degree includes plenty of opportunities for independent research, allowing students to explore all of the major influences on government and politics in the modern age. Required classes include:
- Economics and Public Policy
- Political Philosophy
- Geopolitics and International Diplomacy
- Political Science, Public Policy, and Statesmanship
Liberty University, as a non-profit university, offers an online master’s degree that consistently ranks in the top 1% of more than 2,100 online colleges and universities. It is respected for its affordability, quality, and accessibility. In fact, tuition for this program has no increase in over four years – this despite the fact that almost every other online college has increased its tuition. Related online degree programs are available for students interested in pursuing graduate studies. Top choices include the Master of Public Administration and the Master of Arts in Public Policy.
St Mary's University
College Choice Score: 86.81
Average Net Price: $17,806
St. Mary’s University is located in San Antonio, TX and was founded in 1852. This small school has a robust online community. The online Master of Arts in International Relations at St. Mary’s is one of a kind, preparing learners to explore historical international relations events and to determine how those will implicate today’s society. The degree requires 36 credit hours of coursework and offers two concentration options completely online: one in Security Policy and one in Sustainable Development and Conflict Transformation.
This graduate-level program is both academically rigorous and flexible. It integrates top-notch instruction alongside the school’s mission of producing ethical leaders who will help to serve the common good. In addition to the Master’s in International Relations, the school offers a myriad of other online masters degrees. For the international relations program, students can expect to take classes such as:
- Ethical Issues in International Relations
- World Religions and International Affairs
- United States Foreign Policy
- International Relations Theory
- International Political Economy
This program is one of the most hands-on degrees in political science you will find It is holistic in nature, providing students with extensive interdisciplinary opportunities. Students will engage in internships and international study tours, allowing them to explore the wide variety of careers available to them in government, nonprofit work, business, and more. Summer study tours make it possible for even busy online learners to engage in one of these faculty-led trips and to gain even more hands-on experience.
American Public University
College Choice Score: 85.23
Average Net Price: $10,658
American Public University has a main campus in Charles Town, WV, and is one of the country’s top proprietary institutions. Founded only in 1991, this school was founded with the goal of providing training to the nation’s military and other public service professionals. As a result, the school offers quite a few relevant, accessible, and affordable online-only programs. Among them is the well-respected online Master of Arts in Political Science, which is housed within the School of Arts and Humanities. Courses are offered in both eight- and 16-week formats.
The Master of Arts in Political Science at American Public explores popular topics like American government theory and legislative behavior. The program is relevant, with an ever-changing curriculum influenced by feedback from industry professionals. Thirty-six total credit hours of study are required, with most students talking about two years to complete their online degrees as they take classes such as:
- Political Philosophy
- International Political Systems
- Public Policy
- Diversity in American Politics
- Research Design and Methods
With tuition starting at just $350 per credit hour, American Public offers one of the most affordable degrees in political science. It’s a popular choice for working adult students who want a more convenient method of pursuing their goals. This degree can be started at any point throughout the year with multiple monthly start points. In addition, learners can choose to specialize in a number of concentration areas, such as American politics and government, international relations, public policy, and more.
University of Southern Mississippi
College Choice Score: 83.59
Average Net Price: $12,506
The University of Southern Mississippi is located in Hattiesburg, MS and offers a superior online masters in political science. This school is a public university that was founded in 1910. It has an enrollment of fewer than 12,000 students, many of whom also take classes online. Originally a small teacher’s college, the University of Southern Mississippi now offers more than 180 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in six separate degree-granting institutions. The online Master’s in Political Science is designed for learners who want to be truly engaged and informed members of society.
This degree allows students to engage in extensive research opportunities. The school has a regular faculty and student research exchange with other regional universities, allowing learners to network with other political science professionals around the country. In addition, students will gain extensive hands-on experience in political science as they pursue fully online classes such as:
- Great Issues of Politics
- Comparative Government
- American Government
- State and Local Politics
- Religion and Politics
This program produces impressive results, with 80% of all qualified students receiving financial aid – usually in the form of graduate assistantships. The school is also in the top ten nationally for Ph.D. program placements, making it a great choice for candidates who are interested in continuing their studies at that level. Graduates can also go on to work for the local, federal, or state governments, as college instructors, or as higher education administrators, all of which are popular career outcomes for this degree.
Eastern Illinois University
College Choice Score: 78.98
Average Net Price: $14,107
Eastern Illinois University is located in Charleston, IL and was founded in 1895. A moderately-sized school with an undergraduate enrollment of under 6,000 students, this school offers over 25 graduate degree programs, many of which are available entirely online. The Master of Arts in Political Science with an option in Public Administration and Public Policy at Eastern Illinois is designed for students who want to work for government agencies or in public planning, research, or education.
This degree can be completed in just two semesters and one summer, allowing students to get a jumpstart on their carers. Alternatively, students who wish to study at a slower pace can take just a single class each semester, allowing them to start in the spring, fall, or summer terms. All online courses are taught by the same Political Science faculty who teach on-campus. Required classes include:
- Research Methods in Public Administration and Public Policy
- Environmental Politics and Policy
- Budgeting in Government and Nonprofit Organizations
- International Policy Issues
- Cities and Urban Policy in the US Federal System
This degree is not only immersive, but it is taught by instructors who care deeply about their students. All learners receive access to the same mentoring and networking opportunities available to students studying face-to-face. Students can contact faculty and staff via email, video chat, and phone, making it easy to stay in touch. Learners who live near campus can also mix and match their studies, taking some classes on campus if they so choose. Online students who are able to get to campus from time to time may also be eligible for graduate assistantships.