What Political Scientists Do
Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems.
Political scientists typically work full time in an office. They sometimes work additional hours to finish reports and meet deadlines.
How to Become a Political Scientist
Political scientists need a master’s degree or Ph.D. in political science, public administration, or a related field.
The median annual wage for political scientists was $122,220 in May 2019.
Employment of political scientists is projected to grow 6 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Increased demand for public policy analysis in both government and non-government organizations will support employment growth for these workers.
Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.
Political scientists typically do the following:
- Research political subjects, such as the U.S. political system and foreign relations
- Collect and analyze data from sources such as public opinion surveys
- Develop and test political theories
- Evaluate the effects of policies and laws on government, businesses, and people
- Monitor current events, policy decisions, and other related issues
- Forecast political, economic, and social trends
- Submit research results by giving presentations and publishing articles
Political scientists usually conduct research in one of the following areas: national politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory.
Often, political scientists use qualitative methods in their research, gathering information from numerous sources. For example, they may use historical documents to analyze past government structures and policies. Political scientists also rely on quantitative methods to develop and research theories. For example, they may analyze voter registration data to identify voting patterns. Political scientists study a wide range of topics such as U.S. political parties, how political structures differ among countries, globalization, and the history of political thought.
Political scientists also work as policy analysts for organizations that have a stake in policy, such as government, labor unions, and political groups. They evaluate current policies and events using public opinion surveys, economic data, and election results. From these sources, they try to anticipate the effects of new policies.
Political scientists often research the effects of government policies on a particular region or population, both domestically and internationally. As a result, they provide information and analysis that help in planning, developing, or carrying out policies.
Many people with a political science background become postsecondary teachers and high school teachers.
Political scientists held about 7,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of political scientists were as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||48%|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||26|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||7|
|Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations||5|
Political scientists typically work full time in an office. They may work additional hours to finish reports and meet deadlines.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of political scientists.
For more information about political scientists and political science careers, visit
For more information about college programs in public affairs and administration, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Political Scientists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/political-scientists.htm (visited ).