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«Revised and expanded 6th edition Copyright © 2003 American Political Science Association All rights reserved. For noncommercial use only. No part of ...»

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Careers and the Study of

Political Science

A Guide for Undergraduates

Revised and expanded 6th edition

Copyright © 2003 American Political Science Association

All rights reserved. For noncommercial use only.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written

permission from APSA.

ISBN 1-878147-30-7

Table of Contents



Choosing a Career

Federal Government

State/Local Government




International Careers


Campaigns and Polling

Precollegiate Education

MA/Ph.D. Careers

Public Service

iii Careers in Political Science iv Preface One of APSA’s most important functions is the identification of career opportunities for political science students. Ours is a diverse and dynamic discipline, through which one may become a teacher, researcher, practitioner, scholar, pundit, professor, public servant, elected official, political staffer, journalist, lawyer, businessperson, advocate, and good citizen. I hope that this career guide encourages you to enter political science as a field of study and, once you have finished your studies, helps you to find a career that fulfills your aspirations.

Political science majors enjoy a versatility of skills and a marvelous range of exciting careers. This guide should provide the direction you need to craft for yourself an imaginative and rewarding life course.

The careers featured in this monograph were selected because of their direct connection to the study of political science. All of the possible variations and combinations of career opportunities could not be covered in a monograph, but the career sectors highlighted are the most prominent and most likely options for undergraduates with political science majors and minors. The sections deal with law, positions in federal, state, and local governments; business; international organizations; nonprofit associations and organizations; campaign management and polling; journalism; precollegiate education; and electoral politics. There is also a section on pursuing an academic career in political science for those students with a scholarly bent.

In addition to this guide, APSA has two other career resources for students and advisors: a video, Career Encounters: Political Science, and the brochure, “Political Science: An Ideal Liberal Arts Major.” Information on ordering these resources and selections from them may be found on

–  –  –

vi Acknowledgements Careers and the Study of Political Science was conceived and designed for the American Political Science Association in 1974 by Mary H.Curzan, Ph.D. Careers was the first publication for students and their advisors of the then newly established “Division of Educational Affairs,” made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Since then, more than 325,000 copies of the first five editions have been distributed. This sixth edition adapts and augments the content of the previous editions. The first two chapters are expansions of the foreword and introduction that served as the first chapters in past editions. A new chapter has been added on careers in electoral politics. The discussion of the importance of political science to civic knowledge and engagement is incorporated into the second chapter. The sixth edition also provides web sites and other updated references with information about specific training and employment opportunities. Moreover, this new edition—in a new century—recognizes the far greater mobility across career sectors and flexibility in work settings in the United States and the rest of the world.

Several of the chapters in this edition rely on the work of contributors to the fifth edition put together by Sheilah Mann. Michael Brintnall again provided most of the information on careers in the federal government. Joseph La Palombara contributed to the international chapter. Candice Nelson contributed to the campaign management chapter. Robert Salisbury also contributed to the chapter on interest groups. A notable portion of Mary Hepburn’s examination of the connection between political science and pre-college education careers is retained from the fifth edition. The wise advice from Albert R. Hunt,

vii Careers in Political Science

Wall Street Journal, and Stephen Hess, the Brookings Institution, about the importance of political science undergraduate degrees to journalism continues to be applicable to electronic as well as print journalism. Mike Davis, WBNS10TV in Columbus, Ohio, helped us update the sections on broadcast journalism. Alan Rosenthal’s analysis of the importance of recognizing the connection between elected representatives and their constituents also remains important.

Several people worked on the new edition of this booklet. Catherine E. Rudder, former APSA Executive Director, recognized the need to move quickly to publish a new edition and invited Allison Porter to consult with APSA, using references from APSA staff to experts in the field, to assure reaching this objective. Allison Porter prepared the revised chapters on careers in law, government, nonprofit associations, and journalism. She drew upon exchanges with APSA staff and interviews and material contributed by Lynne Weil for journalism; Gisela Rots, Director of Member Services, Women in International Security (WIIS) at the University of Maryland, for international nonprofit associations (thanks to Elizabeth Loy, WIIS, for the referral to Gisela); and Jim Thurber and Sarah Brewer both of American University, who offered information about campaign management Also as noted, Michael Brintnall’s new, detailed information about public service careers in the federal government expanded this chapter. Allison Porter amplified these interviews with her own research.

Sheilah Mann revised the first two chapters on career planning and the transferable skills associated with studying political science and the chapter on careers in precollege education. Sue Davis revised the chapters on international careers and campaign management and polling. Sue Davis and Sheilah Mann provided references for Allison Porter and updated the chapters on careers for students with graduate degrees in political science and electoral politics and reviewed and made additions to all of the chapters. Other APSA staff members contributed to assuring the quality of and timely publication of the new guide. Jeff Biggs, Director, APSA’s Congressional Fellowship Program, reviewed the chapters on careers in electoral politics and in the federal government. Blake Brunner copyedited this sixth edition of Careers and the Study of Political Science. Polly Leonard Karpowicz managed its production, pricing, and advertising. Undergraduate student interns at APSA also reviewed the manuscript.

Pamela S. Cubberly of Cubberly and Associates designed and executed the layout, while Polly Karpowicz designed the cover for this edition. The APSA logo was designed by Hung Nuygen. The cartoon on the inside cover is provided by permission of the Williams College Record and was drawn by Ted Mann.

viii Choosing a Career How you develop and apply your skills and for what purposes you do so are issues that you are likely to question not only when you are a student, but throughout your life. Over time you will discover different interests and goals and perhaps find yourself in jobs that, as a student, you did not anticipate. Nonetheless, this is the right time to think about what you value, what you do well, what interests you, and in what situations you are productive—all in the context of employment opportunities in the United States and, increasingly, around the world. You should look forward to acquiring new skills and finding new opportunities and anticipate holding several different jobs and even changing careers. You may begin to plan for attractive career options by analyzing yourself and the characteristics of different types of careers.


Consider these questions about your aptitudes and preferences:

Am I happy working with other people? Do I work best by myself?

Am I skillful at organizing people? Do I explain things well?

Do I enjoy research? Examining and solving problems?

Do I write well?

Do I enjoy statistics and mathematical analyses?

Questions about your preferred lifestyle are equally important:

What standard of living is important to me? What level of income do I seek in the long run?

Would I rather work a specified number of hours a day, or do I prefer the indefinite hour commitments and irregular schedules of some professions?

Careers in Political Science What commitment to family life and community service is important to me?

How would this affect my choice of jobs?

Do I have geographical preferences for where I will work? Am I prepared to move to follow opportunities or my family?

How important is social companionship from the people I would work with and meet on my job?

Is job security important to me?

What kind of benefits package do I need to make me feel comfortable? (i.e., health care, vacations, pension plan, paid family leave, etc.)


Consider these questions as you seek professions suited to your personal needs and


Is this a good profession for a loner? Does this profession require people to work with others? What is the size of the organization, and what is the distribution of authority?

Is this a profession that offers opportunities to control or change work hours?

Is this a profession where you will acquire new skills and knowledge? Are there opportunities for professional advancement?

Can this profession be pursued in different types and sizes of organizations?

Is this a profession that requires research skills? Quantitative skills?

And, most important, does this interest me? Will I find the work challenging, rewarding, and meaningful?

These questions are a guide to knowing yourself and what you want out of life and your career. It may take you some time to answer all of these questions in full.

Our advice to you is that you read the questions and keep them in mind as you read through this booklet.

Your teachers and counselors will have resources and advice to assist you. You will learn a great deal from your peers by exchanging insights and ideas about career goals and opportunities, and the friendships and networks you formed as an undergraduate will be personally and professionally important throughout your life. Seek information from people in the professions that attract you, as most people who value their work are pleased to talk about it with students and recent graduates. In addition, there are associations that offer career advice and services. Finally, the Internet gives you direct access to information from professional associations, as well as advice about preparing for and conducting a job search.

Choosing a Career Careers and the Study of Political Science gives a brief overview of major types of careers. The chapter for each career describes why political science is valuable background for the career, what additional education and skills are prerequisites, and the outlook for jobs. Selected web sites with excellent additional information are listed in each chapter. You will be able to use this guide generally to compare careers and specifically to identify one or more appealing careers. As you read, you will find the following advice relevant to all careers for graduates of liberal arts and sciences


Experience reinforces formal education. Experience reinforces You should seek internships and volun- formal education. You teer activities to explore the careers that should seek internships interest you. You should regard each work and volunteer activities experience you have, at whatever level, as to explore the careers an opportunity to develop “people skills” that interest you.

and to demonstrate your abilities. Many part-time or summer jobs will also give you some specific training and knowledge about an enterprise.

There is considerable mobility across categories of economic sectors—profit, nonprofit, and public. You will be able to transfer training and experience from one sector to another.

Fluctuations occur in the rate of economic growth. Nonetheless, there will be jobs for college graduates and for people with postgraduate training in a postindustrial society. An “educated workforce” will always be a necessity, due to generational and demographic changes. When you graduate with an education, good work habits, and discipline, you will have opportunities.

Your liberal arts and sciences education prepares you for lifelong learning and gives you core communication and adaptation skills that will be valuable in any career.

In the modern workplace, most jobs require interpersonal skills and, even those, such as research analyst, that entail less interaction with others, demand that you be able to work in teams. Equally, even jobs that place a premium on working effectively and continuously with others, such as legislative aide or lobbyist, require a high degree of self-direction and considerable autonomy. It is important to keep in mind these and other skills that you will acquire as a political science major and be able to use them in writing cover letters and resumes that will help you get the job you want.

You should keep in mind that education alone is not enough in today’s job market. You also need experience. Experience can come from volunteering, from Careers in Political Science


Skills that a political science major helps you to develop that are

applicable to any job:

–  –  –

Methods and Research:

Interpret and analyze data Discern good information from bad Perform basic quantitative analysis Use summary statistics Understand the basics of a reliable sample survey Employ effectively a variety of research sources, including the Internet Use computers with facility Design research Summarize findings Test theories and hypotheses.

Analytical ability:

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