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In most cases both the professor who directs your dissertation and your department’s placement director will work to help you find an appropriate placement.
Public ServicePOSSIBLE CAREERS
School Board member; justice of the peace; county supervisor; member, U.S. House of Representatives; state legislator; city council; town mayor; state judge; township official; senator;
delegate to a national party convention; alderman; governor; community activist; political volunteer; member, League of Women Voters; U.S. President.
THE NATURE OF THE CAREER
provide great personal satisfaction. These types of positions range from small-town mayor to school board member, from stuffing envelopes to stop the local factory from dumping chemicals in the groundwater to get-out-the-vote campaigns during an election.
In vocational elective office, the hours may be quite long and the duties quite wide ranging, but most people who choose this career say that they get immense satisfaction from their work. Running for office may be expensive and is always time consuming; however, it can be lots of fun and very exciting. You need to raise money, encourage others to work on a voluntary basis, and actually campaign—make speeches, give talks, discuss a campaign platform with voters, and so on. Once you get into office, the work may be hard, but is generally very rewarding.
EDUCATIONAL PREPARATION FOR CAREERS
IN PUBLIC SERVICECivic education is extremely Civic education is extremely important to a democimportant to a racy. In order to thrive, democracies must have democracy.
knowledgeable citizens who take an active role in government. Twenty-first century democracies need to be open, representative of the populace, responsive, accountable, and subject to reform and change. Political science students know that it is these attributes, rather than any one arrangement of governing institutions that characterize democracies.
Political science students also know that democratic forms of government need to recruit informed and skilled people to run for elected positions and need informed and skilled citizens to maintain democracy. Also, students of political science are well trained in the theories and practice of governance and thus make excellent politicians, activists, public servants, and political volunteers.
THE JOB MARKET
There are literally countless political jobs and tasks to be done. We have a democracy that is also a federal system of government—power is divided between the state and national governments—so there are hundreds of thousands of governmental positions filled by popular elections.
Local offices—those in township, village, city, county or parish, etc.—are by far the most numerous and quite varied as to jurisdiction and power. State positions also vary widely. Many of these positions, especially at the local level, are part-time positions that may be coupled with full-time employment of another sort.
Although many local and, to a lesser degree, state offices are low paying, they provide direct access to the political system and can help you acquire political skills Public Service and networks for further political influence and advancement. However, some pay quite well; others are on a strictly voluntary basis.
Representative democracy in the United States has been strengthened, and people from diverse backgrounds and communities are shaping public policies differently because of the active pursuit of elective offices. The growth of women in electoral offices in the United States is associated with recent generations of women becoming involved in politics through issues that concern their families and communities, as well as increasing equality and opportunities. The civil rights movement and increasing immigration are important reasons for the growing numbers of African Americans, Latinos/Latinas, Asian Americans, Lesbians and Gays, and the disabled who are competing in and winning elections.
THE MECHANICS OF JOB PLACEMENT
If elective office is your goal, you should be active in university and college politics:
running for class president or student government, sitting on a university committee or volunteering with the local school board, asking the local branches of political parties for volunteer opportunities, and talking with elective officials to find out what they do, how they do it, and how you might follow in their footsteps.
Earlier chapters of Careers and the Study of Political Science cited the increasing flexibility of work hours and locations. The new context for work and for building careers offers even more opportunities for electoral office—at a point in your life, as a stage of your career, or as committed professional work—to people interested in politics and in shaping public policies.
The key to a future in elective office may be a valuable internship, in which one may combine the professional study of politics and public office. David E. Price, U.S.
Representative from North Carolina’s Fourth Congressional District and former professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, started his political career in just this way. In The Congressional Experience, second edition, he
“By the time I ran for Congress, I had amassed a good deal of political experience. Senator E. L. “Bob” Bartlett (D-Alaska) hired me as a summer intern in 1963, and I returned to his staff as a legislative aide for the four succeeding summers, eventually doing interviews out of his office for a doctoral dissertation on the Senate.” He later became chair of the Democratic Party of North Carolina and then ran successfully for U.S. Congress.
RESOURCESGetting elected is a complicated process and beyond the scope of this book. There Careers in Political Science are numerous books and web sites that will help one figure out how to run for
office. Among them are:
“How to run for local office and get elected” www.winelect.com Democratic National Committee or your local party committee www.democrats.org Republican National Committee or your local party committee www.rnc.org How to Run for Local Office: A Complete, Step-By-Step Guide That Will Take You through the Entire Process of Running and Winning a Local Election by Robert J. Thomas, Doug Gowen How to Win Your 1st Election: The Candidate’s Handbook by Susan Guber.
Volunteering opportunities are huge and varied. You may volunteer while in school; as a matter of fact, many high schools now require some volunteer or service
activities prior to graduation. A few places to start looking include:
Volunteer Match www.volunteermatch.org The Corporation for National Service www.cns.gov Women in Community Service www.wics.org The Center for Civic Renewal www.civicrenewal.org Yahoo Community Service and Volunteering dir.yahoo.com/ Society_and_Culture/Issues_and_Causes/Philanthropy/ Community_Service_and_Volunteerism League of Women Voters www.lwv.org.