Why Study Political Science?
The study of politics is both humanistic and scientific, and is centuries old. Aristotle called it the "queen of the sciences". The American Constitution reveals a joining of political theory with the pragmatic formation of political institutions and practices. Today’s political research involves highly scientific and rigorous attempts to understand human behavior and world events. The study of political science prepares one not only for employment, but for life as an informed citizen ready to participate in political activities within interest groups or political parties; related to community organization and political advocacy; or even service as an elected or appointed official.
The major in political science offers a solid undergraduate education
in the liberal arts and sciences. Such study prepares the graduate for
a variety of careers by emphasizing the acquisition of skills in communication
and analysis; and by encouraging independent thought, tolerance, and
informed interest in current affairs. The ability to define a problem
and contribute to its solution is highly valued in a variety of employment
settings, as are skills in writing, research, and evaluation. These
are the very elements that characterize a liberal arts education, like
that offered in the political science major at FSU. Today’s graduate
can expect to change jobs a number of times, and even to have more than
one career, and political science is excellent preparation for the flexibility
required in this modern employment market. More specifically, the study
of political science provides background for careers in government at
the local, state, and national levels; in international organizations;
political campaigns; interest groups and lobbying organizations; journalism;
business; and law.
The federal government is the country’s largest employer, using
a vast variety of employees in terms of the skills and abilities they
hold and their levels of responsibility. Advancement within the federal
government system is more likely than entering at a relatively high
position. Historically, job security, pay, and benefits associated with
federal employment are quite good. Agencies do not expect new employees
to enter with skills or knowledge specific to the job at hand. They
look for individuals who can learn quickly, work as part of a team,
and have basic understanding of the policy process and the operations
of the national government. Course work on the executive branch, Congress,
and the courts; on the policy process; on the activities of interest
groups and political parties; and on the role of the media can be valuable.
Local and state governments provide services in nearly every area of citizens’ lives. Increased professionalizing of appointments is apparent at the local and state levels. Courses on state and urban government, public policy, and public administration would be especially valuable. The skills acquired in statistics courses and the experience an internship can provide are highly applicable at the local and state levels.
Interest groups and associations (labor unions, churches, corporations,
grassroots organizations, etc.) are represented in Washington DC and
in most state capitals. Expertise in public policy formation and analysis
are especially prized, with many employees having a background in government
service. While experience is a key element in this field, students might
want to choose classes that will give them a full understanding of the
American political process, background on interest groups in general,
and an understanding of the public policy process.
International businesses and organizations offer a range of careers,
with a growing demand for those who bring with them an understanding
of the political and regulatory environment in which business is done.
Political science majors with this sort of career in mind should include
study in comparative politics, international relations and organizations,
public policy, political development, and interest group politics. Students
should choose elective courses or a minor that can train them in basic
economic, statistics, computer science, or international trade.
Careers in campaign management and political polling can be pursued in political parties, individual campaigns, or a consulting firm. A person interested in this sort of career should acquire a thorough understanding of the American political system, taking courses on parties, elections, public opinion, and voting behavior; as well as acquiring skills in writing and data analysis. Given that there are over half a million campaigns in the United States annually, entry level jobs with long hours, low pay, and enormous demands are numerous. A typical career would start with an individual campaign, move to a statewide or national campaign, and then to a consulting firm, where security and pay are considerably more comfortable.
Some lawyers engage in private practice on their own or in a firm with
dozens of attorneys; while others are employed by corporations, government,
and organizations. Some individuals with legal training work in other
areas such as corporate or public management. Primary factors for admission
to law school are the student’s undergraduate grade point average
and LSAT score. The content of their course work is important to the
extent that it prepares them for the activities law students and lawyers
undertake. Political science courses generally offer these experiences
in that they include critical analysis and experience in writing; and
some courses specifically deal with subject matter related to the law
and the legal process.
A career in journalism is focused, of course, on the ability to communicate, especially in writing. Beyond that, the understanding of society and individuals that a liberal arts education can impart is paramount. This should include course work in such fields as political science, history, economics, and sociology. Depending on an individual’s area of interest, courses in comparative government and international relations might be valuable; and certainly, a basic understanding of the American political system would be indispensable. Participation on the staff of a school or group newspaper or campus broadcasting would be excellent experience.