Political Science Degree for Careers in Campaigns & Elections?

Andreana writes an interesting post over on our Facebook Page today:

“This site continues to be AWESOME! I should have been a Political Science major instead of Journalism. I’ve always been fascinated by politics!”

Thanks for the compliments, Andreana; we’re glad you like our site. But don’t fault yourself for not getting a political science degree and instead choosing something a little more practical. To tell you the truth, I’d actually advise anyone thinking about getting into politics to steer clear of a political science major.

political science degree

There are a couple of reasons for this, and the first has strictly to do with employment prospects. A political science degree doesn’t really give you a leg up on the competition in any specific field when you get out of college and hit the job market. In the private sector, political science degrees are usually looked at as generic “I got a diploma” fields of study (much like an English degree, which I have).

For future employment and career advancement, a much more pragmatic degree would be in business, communications or pre-law . . . something that I always tell any politically-minded students who ask me about pursuing a political science degree. You might like the idea of being involved in politics now, but it’s nice to have something to fall back on if you lose your enthusiasm for campaigning.

Even if you’re thinking about making a full-time career in political campaigns and elections, a political science degree won’t necessarily make you any more marketable. As a former campaign manager and consultant, I can tell you that a lot of high-level political campaigns like to hire staffers with educations in other fields, since it adds some depth of experience to the team.

In fact, a political science degree is probably going to do little when it comes to actually getting your foot in the door for a paying election job. Campaign managers are looking to hire full-time staffers who have political campaign field experience, and the only way you can get that is by volunteering and working your way up the ladder. You can do that with pretty much any kind of college degree.

If you’re intent on studying political science in college, take my advice and make it your minor, not your major. You will still be able to mention on your resume that you studied political science in school, but you’ll have a much more marketable degree that will make you attractive to potential employers.

UPDATE: One of our readers has some more good advice regarding pre-law majors:

“Pre-law at most colleges is useless unless you are going to law school. I’m a lawyer, I researched pre-law before going to college because I knew I was going to law school. Don’t get a pre-law degree. In most cases, THAT is more of a joke than poli sci.”

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