«Revised and expanded 6th edition Copyright © 2003 American Political Science Association All rights reserved. For noncommercial use only. No part of ...»
In recent years, the number of law school applicants has increased. Students planning to go to law school will need to know about admission requirements and the application process in general. The Law School Admission Council www.lsac.org annually publishes The Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools, which provides up-to-date admission profiles and program descriptions for the 183 accredited law schools in the United States. Each profile contains admission requirements and facts about tuition and financial aid. The Guide is available from pre-law advisors, some college bookstores, or the LSAC web site. Anyone seriously interested in studying law should read this book carefully.
The two most important law school admission criteria are undergraduate grade point average and Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score. The LSAT is a half-day standardized test given four times a year, which helps law schools make sound decisions by giving them a standard measure of reasoning skills that cannot be obtained by only looking at grade point averages. The test measures the ability to read and understand complex texts with accuracy and insight; organize and manage information and draw reasonable inferences from it; think critically; and analyze and evaluate the reasoning and arguments of others. There is no specific curriculum that will lead to high LSAT scores. You should choose courses that will sharpen analytical reasoning and writing skills and that will give you some understanding of what shapes human experience.
The test consists of five 35-minute multiple-choice sections and one 30-minute writing sample, which is unscored. The LSAT is an admission prerequisite at all American law schools approved by the American Bar Association. Many law schools advise that the LSAT should be taken in June or October (and they require testing by December) for admission for the next fall semester. Approximately 104,000 LSATs were administered in 2000. The primary official source of information on the LSAT is the LSAT/LSDAS Registration and Information Book, available for free at most colleges and law schools or from the LSAC web site. LSAC also sells a variety of other publications, software, and videos that may be ordered online or by telephone (215Most law school admission authorities, although placing substantial weight on Careers in Political Science college grades and LSAT scores, are interested in other factors as well. The quality of an applicant’s college or university, the trend of grades, and the amount of outside work or extracurricular activities undertaken while in college might make for greater understanding of the bare numerical record. In addition, it may be important that the applicant be a state resident, member of a minority or disadvantaged group, a legacy, or has an interesting background of graduate study or nonacademic experience.
Letters of recommendation and an applicant’s statement about his or her purpose for entering law school may also make a difference.
Many political science departments offer pre-law advice. You should contact the political science department at your college or university to learn if it has a pre-law advisor or special pre-law program. Placement departments and career advising offices in undergraduate colleges may be helpful in providing information to those who want to go to law school, but at most colleges the initiative in applying and in preparing an application and supporting papers rests on the individual applicant. The time to start thinking seriously about law school is as a college freshman—when the first steps are taken toward building a distinguished academic record. The American Bar Association has some valuable information for students thinking of law school on its web site, www.abanet.org. The National Association for Law Placement www.nalp.org has published Degrees of Difference: A How-To Guide to Choosing a Law School.
THE LEGAL JOB MARKET
According to the National Association for Law Placement, the legal employment market is somewhat cyclical, responding to economic conditions in much the same way as other professions. In the early 1990s, for example, economic recession affected the employment of recent law school graduates. The number of law school graduates has increased whereas the number acquiring jobs in private practice has decreased. Only about half of new lawyers enter private practice. Entry-level hiring in business and industry is also cyclical.
In contrast, anecdotal information from NALP suggests that the number of attorneys leaving law practice to pursue nonlegal entrepreneurial or business careers has increased dramatically in recent years. Law graduates also pursue public service careers and seek electoral office. Furthermore, NALP data show that more graduates are working in nonlegal jobs initially after law school and that there is a lot of movement by graduates among different sectors of the economy.
LEGAL ASSISTANTSMany large law firms now employ substantial numbers of persons as “legal assistants,” or paralegals. Legal assistants research legal matters, perform online and manual research/document searches, monitor legislation, and so forth. In some instances legal assistants specialize in one particular area of legal activity; in others they take on differing responsibilities on a case-by-case basis.
Some college graduates with an interest in the law will find these jobs attractive.
Legal assistants usually take a six-month postgraduate training program, but they are not required to have law degrees. Unlike beginning lawyers, legal assistants usually work fixed hours. Salaries compare favorably with other starting salaries for those holding undergraduate degrees. Some persons choose jobs as paralegals in order to sample the field of law, leaving open the option of going to law school at a later date.
More information is available on these web sites:
American Bar Association www.abanet.org National Association for Law Placement www.nalp.org National Federation of Paralegal Associations www.paralegals.org National Bar Association www.nationalbar.org.
International business analyst; corporate manager of environmental/regulatory affairs; health care benefits administrator; information manager, corporate planning department; corporate public affairs advisor; corporate proposal manager for federal government contracts; vice president, market research; corporate government affairs director; public affairs research analyst;
research director, advertising firm; director, political action committee; investment banking;
import–export manager; corporate legislative issues manager; director, cost containment, insurance company; issues analyst; corporate social policy division; manager, political risk division, bank.
THE NATURE OF THE CAREER
A large number of political science graduates have traditionally found employment in the business sector. You may begin a business career with a bachelor’s degree, and many graduates have chosen careers in marketing, personnel, advertising, public relations, banking, and finance. Others have obtained management training positions with public and private corporations. More nontraditional positions—such as working on proposals for federal government contracts, or health care benefits administrator—might not immediately come to mind. Although a lot of high technology and e-commerce businesses are in their infancy, many have wonderful opportunities for those just beginning their careers.
Private sector businesses can be large-scale, complex, bureaucratic organizations or they can be small “mom and pop” operations that are less formally structured.
When these enterprises interact with government through contracts or regulations, they often need employees or consultants who understand the complexities and the nuances of economic and regulatory policies as well as public administration.
Entrepreneurship is alive and thriving, even though most new jobs are currently Careers in Political Science found in existing firms. There are a lot of opportunities for the business-minded political science graduate to start or join small businesses in many fields. A few examples of positions are computer consultant for government agencies, compliance officer overseeing government regulations for a biotech company, or content provider for a web site.
Often employment and advancement in these enterprises are based, in large part, on achievement criteria. It is also advantageous when a business is involved in a wide range of activities and is able to provide an employee with exposure to a number of different types of job opportunities. You might find that many large businesses are interested in hiring bright students with general educations—and that they provide on-the-job training and may pay for continuing education.
EDUCATIONAL PREPARATION FOR A CAREER IN BUSINESS
If you want a career in business you must realize that you will compete with a very large number of college graduates with diverse undergraduate educations. You should, therefore, take some steps to ensure that you have the appropriate skills and know how to convince the employer that you are the person for the job. First, all graduates interested in business careers should be able to communicate easily in written English. Second, it is important that you have some familiarity with mathematical and economic concepts; at the least, it is important to be able to analyze elementary statistical data and to be able to read a balance sheet. Third, you should be able to make oral presentations in a competent manner.
The political science graduate offers potential employers in the business world a trained understanding of the intricate institutions and processes of the different levels of governments—local, state, national, and international agencies—as well as research analysis and other such skills. Governments, after all, most immediately affect business, financial, and commercial organizations. Long before products and services are marketed, they come under government scrutiny. Interacting with the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Environmental Protection Agency often requires specific governmental knowledge. Some products require government licensing; others might be subject to severe import controls or export incentives.
If you have studied state and local governments, you may take a job advising corporations on state and local regulatory issues. If you have focused on international relations or country/area studies, you may find opportunities in international business or trade. Employees who can analyze domestic and/or foreign investment environments—not just for the risks to the businesses they represent, but also for the opportunities that governments abroad provide the entrepreneur—are in relatively short supply and thus sought after. Fluency in a foreign language and an Business understanding of a foreign culture are increasingly valuable skills.
Some examples of strategies for those seeking a satisfying business career are:
You may plan an undergraduate degree in political science with the goal of being accepted by a graduate school of business. Those with graduate degrees (MBAs) in management, for example, are in demand even when there is a somewhat restricted job market. An undergraduate degree in political science, particularly when it is bolstered by minors or concentrations in economics (micro- and macro-), and by courses in calculus, accounting, statistics, and/or computer science, is a good qualification for professional business schools. We should note, however, that many business graduate schools today seek students who have some job experience, so taking some time off between undergraduate and graduate education may be a good option.
You may plan an undergraduate degree in political science around the concept of becoming a miniexpert in the interrelationship between government and business. Because all American businesses have extensive contacts with governments on local, state, and national levels, you may benefit from courses in governmental organizations, public administration, public finance, comparative government, decision making, organizational behavior, and the process by which political decisions are made about economic policy. An internship either in some aspect of governmental service or with a public or private interest group may be especially valuable.
You may be interested in specializing in a field of policy or analysis, some examples of which are environmental protection, statistical analysis, budgetary policy, and consumer affairs. If you are interested in taking this route, you ought to plan seriously to obtain a master’s degree in your chosen policy area. Internships or entry-level jobs in organizations will provide exposure to a specialty and may be useful in preparing you for graduate education and informing your career choice.
An undergraduate degree in political science, coupled with appropriate internship and work experience, can make a job seeker right out of college very appealing to a business. The skills you gain as a political science major—writing, analysis, argumentation, and knowledge about governments, institutions, and individual behavior—are extremely useful in business. As a matter of fact, a recent study shows that many businesses are hiring well-rounded liberal arts graduates instead of undergraduate business majors because of their skills, flexibility, and ability to profit from on-the-job training opportunities, which are myriad in the business world. Businesses not only provide their own training, but many provide tuition or tuition reimbursement for continuing education to valued employees.
Careers in Political Science There are many ways that a political science undergraduate can transform a strong social science background into a competitive advantage in the business job market. If the option you choose includes graduate schools of business, the best sources of information on MBA programs are the International Association for Management Education www.aacsb.edu and MBA Info www.mbainfo.com.
THE JOB MARKET
The job market in the business community is as good as the state of the American economy. Hiring patterns fluctuate as businesses expand and contract. The U.S.