If you have a knack for public policy and want to advance your career in government, consider a degree in political science.
In this turbulent and rapidly changing political environment, you may wonder how you can make a real difference. Whether you work in nonprofit administration, policy writing, higher education, or another setting, a master’s degree in political science will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to make an impact.
If you’ve ever fantasized about working for a political campaign or running for office, a degree in political science is absolutely imperative. Earning one of these degrees will prepare you for an exciting career. Regardless of your previous work experience for undergraduate training, a master’s degree in this discipline will dramatically increase your earnings and prepare you for just about any job in the field.
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What kind of political science degree should you get?
Political science is a loose term that refers to the development, origin, and operation of political systems. As a political scientist, you could work in a wide variety of fields. However, regardless of the industry in which you choose to work, you will need a solid background in research and theoretical coursework.
Because this field is so broad, you should look for a degree that will allow you to pursue your exact area of interest. For example, if you are interested in international relations and policy, you should find a degree that will allow you to study abroad. You should also consider the learning format that will best help you in meeting your goals.
If you’re a busy student who is already working full time, you might want to consider an online degree. An online program will allow you to attend classes remotely and to earn your degree on a part-time basis. While you will still be able to network with faculty and peers, you will be able to pursue a degree on your own terms.
Earning a graduate degree is no small feat, and you should find a program that is just as committed to helping you achieve your professional goals as you are. Not sure that a degree in political science is the right choice? Be sure to take a look at our ranking of the Best Online Colleges and Universities.
How much money do people make with a degree in political science?
Because there is not just one career you can pursue with a degree in political science, average salaries across the industry tend to vary widely. The median annual wage for political scientists was $117,570 as of 2018. The highest-paid workers are those who are employed by the federal government, as well as those working in scientific, professional, and technical services, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That being said, individuals who work in lower-paying fields, such as grant-making or professional organizations and educational services, still earn impressive salaries – most earn well over $70,000 per year. What’s even better is that these jobs are expected to grow with an anticipated 7,500 new jobs created by 2026.
What can you do with a degree in political science?
You have multiple career options after receiving a graduate degree in political science. You might go on to conduct research in international relations, national politics, political theory, or comparative politics. You could also go on to forecast economic, political, and social trends and submit your research results in presentations and articles.
Political scientists can work for the federal or state government, or they can work as analysts for organizations that have a stake in policy making. For example, you might work for a labor union, political group, or nonprofit organization. You could even be self-employed! Regardless, your day as a full-time political scientist will allow you to explore all of the elements and factors that make a government function.
What are the requirements for a degree in political science?
To earn a master's degree in political science, you must first earn an undergraduate degree that includes coursework in writing, political science, and statistics. In many cases, you are more likely to be admitted to a graduate program if you have related work experience in political science. You will also be expected to have strong communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills.
After you enter your graduate program, you will take classes in topics like statistics, policy formation, research methods, program evaluation, and public policy. You may pursue coursework for related certificate areas such as international relations or public administration, too. With a graduate degree in political science, you will qualify for entry-level positions as well as higher-ranking research positions in research organizations, nonprofit organizations, and political campaigns.
What are the best degrees in political science?
When you’re looking for the best degree in political science, the most important thing to note is that not all degrees are built the same depending on your chosen area of specialty as well as the industry in which you hope to work, the best master’s in political science for you may not be the best degree for all others who are interested in the field.
This field is diverse and evolving quickly, and there’s no one best program for every learner. However, our top programs are ones that are nationally respected for their academic rigor and affordability. Many of these schools provide networking and other career services to help graduates get a leg up on the competition.
What these schools all have in common is that they each offer world-class training in a discipline that is vital no matter where you are in the world. And when we put together our list of schools, we make sure that we utilize the most effective research techniques and reasoning to make sure that only the best programs in political science are included on this list.
We don’t expect you to take our word for it. See for yourself! Take a look at our methodology page, where you can get a clearer idea of how we determine the most affordable online masters in political science.
Ready to learn more about how you can accelerate your career and make a difference in American government? Consider one of these ten most affordable online masters in political science today.
American Public University System
Charles Town, WV
American Public University is an accredited private university that operates as a for-profit institution. This school offers a range of programs that are available entirely online, and with over 36 different degrees to choose from, graduate students have plenty of choice and flexibility in designing their degrees. There are several master’s programs geared toward military-affiliated students in particular, such as National Security Studies, Criminal Justice and History, and, of course, Political Science. This degree is a great option for busy adult learners and allows students to graduate in two years or less.
This program is unique in that students can enroll in new classes every month, allowing learners to accelerate their studies by moving quickly through required courses. In addition to a series of core courses, all graduate students must also complete a final project to encapsulate their learning. This can take the form of an internship, practicum, or thesis. Thirty-six credit hours are required and multiple concentrations are available. Required courses include:
- Research Design and Methods
- International Political Systems
- Public Policy
- Political Philosophy
- The U.S. Presidency, Congress, & Bureaucracy
Students may choose to pursue various concentration options as they complete their studies, with options including general studies, comparative government and development, public policy, American politics and government, and international relations. This degree is one of the most affordable around, with special discounts available for military-affiliated students. Tuition for all students starts at just $350 per credit hour, making this degree not only a high-quality option but also one that is affordable no matter where you might be coming from.
The University of West Florida
Located in Pensacola, FL, the University of West Florida is a public university that was founded in1967. This school offers a range of majors at its main campus and additional locations in Florida, but it also has a prominent online school. In fact, over 25% of the university’s student body in 2018 attended at least one class completely online. There are over 25 different fully online masters programs, including the exceptional online masters in political science. This 33 credit program features two popular concentrations: security and diplomacy and political science.
In addition to choosing and completing concentration coursework, students will also cover core political science coursework like the study of politics and research methods in political science. Students will also choose to complete a thesis or a non-thesis final project, such as an oral or written exam. All courses are offered in an asynchronous manner, meaning classes are held at preset times each week and allow learners to interact in real time with faculty and other students. Required classes include:
- Seminar in Comparative Politics
- Seminar in International Relations
- The Study of Politics
- Seminar in American Politics
- Political Science Research Methods
Students have superior flexibility in this program and are allowed to choose their electives freely. Graduate students can also work up to ten hours a week to help offset the costs of attending school. Tuition is just $4,536 per year for in-state students, and because students don’t have to foot the costs associated with on-campus attendance, such as housing, the online version of this program is even less expensive than its affordable on-campus counterpart. There is extensive financial aid available to graduate students in the form of scholarships, assistantships, tuition waivers, military benefits, and more.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
The University of Nebraska at Omaha is the urban branch of the University of Nebraska System. Despite having a vibrant campus community of over 12,000 students, the school offers an equally engaging online community to distance learners. Founded in 1908, this university has a reputation for research and is a nationally recognized Carnegie Doctoral Research University. The online masters in political science consists of 30 credit hours and is highly interdisciplinary.
This program allows students to take nearly half of their required credits in other fields, like social work or communications. Optional concentrations and certificates are also available in areas like global information operations and national security. Students may choose freely between a final thesis or a capstone project to calculate their degrees. All classes are conducted asynchronously, meaning students do not have to be available at specific times to complete their course. Required and elective classes include:
- Seminar in Constitutional Law
- Seminar in Foreign Policy and National Security
- Seminar in International Relations
- Readings in Political Science
- Political Internship
Because this school is a member of the state of Nebraska university system, learners who live in-state pay lower tuition than those who reside outside of the state. That being said, this flexible program is still affordable with tuition starting at just $400 per credit hour and offers all distance learners ample access to exemplary resources like one-on-one academic advising, library services, and technical support. Transfer students can bring in up to 12 approved credits, which can reduce costs and optimize the experience even more.
Sam Houston State University
Sam Houston State University is located in Huntsville, TX and is one of the oldest universities in the entire state. Founded in 1879, this school is regarded as one of the most diverse and innovative schools in the state of Texas. Originally a teacher’s training college, the school now offers over 140 different majors. As a member of the Texas State University System, this school is large, housing over 20,000 students. Many of these layers also take classes online. The online masters in political science is designed for recent college graduates as well as working professionals.
This degree consists of 30 to 36 credit hours of study, depending on whether a thesis option is pursued. No campus visits are required, and students can fulfill many of their course requirements with free choice electives. This degree is designed for learners who want to pursue doctoral studies or law school as well as for educators seeking to improve their understanding of the discipline. Required courses include:
- American Politics
- International Relations
- Comparative Politics
This program is highly affordable and extremely flexible. Learners can begin their studies at any point throughout the year with three potential start dates. Tuition starts at just $387 per credit hour. As a result of this convenience and affordability, Sam Houston State is highly regarded by top-ranking publications such as the U.S. News & World Report and has received numerous accolades as one of the best National Universities.
University of Illinois at Springfield
The University of Illinois at Springfield is a public university that was established in 1969. The school offers a whopping number of online programs, with over 1,600 options for distance learners. The newest member of the University of Illinois University System, the school aims to provide convenient programs that do not require students to attend the main campus in Springfield. The online masters in political science can be completed both asynchronously and synchronously via Blackboard, with most lectures and other materials recorded so that students can access them at their own convenience.
The 40-credit masters in political science can be completed entirely online or with some traditional classes at the main campus in Springfield. Online learners receive the same instruction from the exact instructors who teach on-campus, but in an asynchronous format that is conducive to a busy schedule. Students may choose to satisfy their elective requirements via an internship. Other core courses include:
This degree includes numerous course concentrations including those in comparative politics/international relations, public law, and political theory. Whichever concentration is chosen, online learners pay the same tuition of just $362 per credit hour. Each student receives access to an academic advisor as well as other vital resources like the library and career services. Most students will take only two years to complete their studies, meaning this program is not only affordable, but it’s also convenient and flexible.
Sul Ross State University
Located in Alpine, TX, Sul Ross State University is a public university that was founded in 1917. The school has a small rural campus that offers on-campus and distance learners a wide variety of programs from which to choose. Students are supported by a dedicated faculty and staff along with modern laboratories, facilities, and classrooms. Sul Ross also offers one of the most affordable masters in political science entirely online. This degree is designed for learners who plan to teach political science at the high school or community college level, as well as those who intend to enter public service.
This program includes extensive coursework in all levels of political science, including case studies in public budgeting and financing, public administration, and government. The degree also includes substantial research in public policy and comparative government. Required courses include:
- Seminar in Comparative Government and Public Policy
- Public Administration Survey
- Readings and Research in Government
- Scope and Methods in Social Science
- Internship in Public Administration
This schools ranked as one of the top Regional Universities in the west by U.S. News & World Report. With small class sizes and affordable tuition that starts at just $483 per credit hour, it would be tough to find a more well-rounded degree program. This degree can be completed entirely online or in an on-campus hybrid format. Almost all Sul Ross faculty have terminal or doctorate-level degrees in their respective fields, making this one of the best schools from which to obtain your master’s in political science.
Eastern Illinois University
Located in Charleston, IL, Eastern Illinois University is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Eastern Illinois is one of the best-ranking schools in the United States, emphasizing both research and teaching in their many programs. In addition to a general master’s program in political science, the school also has a public administration and public policy program. The school prepares students with skills that will allow them to be successful in government, politics, or nonprofit work.
This program is taught by globally-recognized faculty members. These instructors are the same ones who teach on campus, and they make an effort to bond with online students just as they would those studying on campus. Students may pursue classes such as:
- Research Methods in Public Administration and Public Policy
- Environmental Politics and Policy
- Budgeting in Government and Nonprofit Organizations
- Human Resource Management in Public and Nonprofit Organizations
- International Policy Issues
This degree is affordable, charging just $289 per credit hour to in-state learners. Out-of-state learner’s pay slightly more, but still enjoy modest tuition rates and ample access to a myriad of financial aid resources. Most students will qualify for institutional and external scholarship opportunities along with grants, employment programs, tuition waivers, and military benefits. Students are successful at paying back their loans after graduation – the school fosters collaboration and industry partnerships, and many alumni have strong connections in the industry to help other graduates earn jobs.
A private university founded in 1636, Harvard University is one of the oldest schools in the country – and also one of the most selective. With a total undergraduate enrollment of fewer than 7,000 students, this Ivy League university is comprised of 13 schools and institutes that offer a range of graduate and undergraduate majors. The school offers a rewarding online Masters in Government. This program is prestigious and innovative, allowing learners to explore international methods in maintaining government systems.
This degree is offered as an extension program of the university and allows students to gain vital practical insights into government. The program features both a thesis and capstone option, allowing students to choose which final project they would like to complete. Harvard’s program in political science includes 12 courses, three of which are taken on campus. Students may take classes such as:
- Race, Film, and American politics
- International Conflict and Cooperation
- American Government – A New Perspective
- Introduction to Comparative Politics
While tuition is somewhat more expensive at this university – starting at $2,840 per course or a total of $35,000 for a graduate diploma – Harvard remains one of the premier educational institutions in the country. The school offers students a range of financial aid opportunities, including federal and institutional loans, grants, scholarships, and student employment programs. Students may add to the vitality of their degrees by choosing elective courses for certificates such as Nuclear Deterrence, Social Justice, International Relations, and American LIterature and Culture.
St. Mary’s University, known more formally as St. Mary’s State University of San Antonio, was founded in 1852 in the heart of San Antonio, TX. This small urban school has fewer than 2,500 undergraduate students and also operates a vibrant online learning community. St. Mary’s offers a dynamic Master of Arts in International Relations that is designed for students interested in the disciplines of political science, international law, geography, sociology, history, and more.
This program comes with multiple concentration options that are available both online and on campus. Learners can choose between specializations in International Development Studies, Security Policy, and International Conflict Resolution. All require 36 credit hours of coursework. Students will receive a range of hands-on opportunities and pursue internships and study abroad experiences as they take classes such as:
- International Relations Research Methods
- Topics in International Development
- International Relations Theory
- Topics in Security Issues
- International Political Economy
This university offers online learners the perfect compromise between high-quality academics and exciting community life. The school has over 20 disciplines to choose from and regularly leads students in research projects and civic engagement experiences. The university operates unique business immersion experiences, allowing learners to network with high-level leaders and to engage in site visits to nearby facilities. As a result, this school is top-ranked by U.S. News & World Report, receiving accolades as the second Best Value School and a top Regional University in the western portions of the country.