Earning a Master's in Political Science Online

What You’ll Learn & What You Can Do After Graduation

Should I Pursue a Master's in Political Science Online?

Online students with a master's in political science benefit from lucrative and exciting careers across several popular fields and industries. From careers with government entities and nonprofits to research institutes and universities, professionals trained in this field enjoy fast-paced jobs in the public and private sectors. Many degree seekers, especially working adults and parents, choose online programs because of their scheduling flexibility.

Compared to students living on campus, distance learners often save time and money. Online degree seekers usually enjoy fewer miscellaneous expenses and lower tuition fees. Accelerated and self-paced programs may also allow some learners to complete degree requirements in less time. Successful online learners exhibit self-starter characteristics and can meet deadlines with little to no supervision. While professors may hold regular "office hours" to advise students, but online learners spend the majority of their time reading and writing alone.

Employment Outlook for Master's in Political Science Graduates

Master's in Political Science Salary

The following tables illustrate popular industries that commonly employ political scientists and the annual median wage in each area. Professionals with a political science master's degree enjoy salaries from approximately $40,000 to $123,000 and higher. On average, employees of the federal government make a slightly higher salary than political scientists working for professional, scientific, and technical businesses.

Salaries for Political Scientists by Industry

Industry Annual Mean Wage
Federal Government, Excluding Postal Service $123,230
Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services $118,320
Religious, Grantmaking, Civic, Professional, and Similar Organizations $76,790
Educational Services; State, Local, and Private $58,960

Master's in Political Science Careers

Depending on the program, master's in political science programs help prepare young professionals for specific careers over a more generalized position. In some cases, colleges and universities may offer a master of arts in diplomacy and political science or a master of military and defense studies. Whatever the concentration, successful political science master's students enjoy learning about politics, conducting socially driven research, the roles and systems of governing bodies in the U.S. or around the world.

Political Scientist

Annual Median Salary: $115,110

These professionals collect and analyze data, conduct research in politics and political theory, and forecast political trends. They typically work for the government, research institutions, colleges and universities, and political campaigns. Most positions in this area require a master's degree or higher.

Policy Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $56,446

Analysts work for the government or non-government organizations assessing public policies and laws. They try to influence current policies or implement new regulations to benefit their employer. Political analysts may specialize in one particular area, such as agriculture or renewable energy, or general political functions.

Data Analyst

Annual Median Salary: $58,942

Professionals in these roles conduct surveys and analyze data to figure out complex technical issues, political trends, and customer needs. Data analysts also develop and implement new ways of collecting, analyzing, and reporting data for virtually any type of industry that actively conducts market or consumer research.

Government Program Manager

Annual Median Salary: $88,860

Program managers employed by the government oversee projects and programs, the corresponding budgets, and meet organizational goals. They support their programs by organizing market research projects, building local and federal networking contacts, and ensuring their projects meet short- and long-term goals. Program managers may also assist in securing funding for particular programs.

Public Affairs Specialist

Annual Median Salary: $60,227

These professionals raise public awareness of their employers or clients, working directly with online and print media outlets to produce content for distribution. Public affairs specialists may work on their own or as part of a public relations team. Those who work for government representatives coordinate appearances and communications with political and popular media outlets.

Source: PayScale

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Political Science Program?

Online learners in political science master's programs can explore a variety of areas in the field, including comparative politics, public law, public administration, and political philosophy. Each program offers unique strengths that affect its course offerings. Be sure to locate a program a program that meets your educational needs and political science interests. The following list shows a sample curriculum of commonly offered courses for a political science master's degree.

Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Political Science

Introduction to Political Theory

This course offers foundational information on modern political thought concerning citizenship, authority, democracy, and identity. Students engage with texts and their classmates to discuss the broader themes and ideologies in the lessons. Learners also read about varying theoretical perspectives on central issues in political science, including feminist political theory and theories on globalization.

Politics in Eastern Europe

Students explore the essential historical, socioeconomic, and philosophical texts pertaining to political life in Eastern Europe. This work includes close examinations of Eastern European governments' structures, the dynamic of communism and communist politics, political change, and political identity. The course benefits students interested in pursuing careers as analysts in international politics.

Political Theory and History

Distance learners interested in teaching or who value understanding the history of political theory should choose this course. The class offers a survey of important theorists in the Western political tradition, including classical Greece and the Renaissance. Students examine early notions of citizenship, natural rights, and justice, with particular attention to the dominant themes and controversies related to politics that surface throughout history.

American Government

Students explore both state and local governments as well as smaller governing bodies in cities, counties, and school. Coursework covers institutional policies commonly found in the U.S. and variations in the system.

Campaigns and Elections

The course helps students analyze individual voting behavior, candidate strategies, and the role of campaign managers. Students examine the influence of social media, mass media, political action committees, and advertising on the election process, with special attention to communication strategies and campaign organizational methods.

Certifications and Licenses

  • Certified Political Scientist (CPS): Offered by the Academy of Certified Political Analysts and Certified Political Scientists, the CPS certification helps professionals in the field obtain the top jobs in news, education, and government. Applicants must possess a degree in political science with a 2.5 GPA or higher; two years of political, public, or governmental service experience; pass a series of exams; and agree to the ethics requirements of the society.
  • Certified Political Manager (CPM): Political science professionals interested in pursuing a career as a campaign manager or political analyst benefit from earning this certification. Candidates must have a degree in political science, experience in the field, and proof of continuing education classes or training.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Political science professional organizations present useful opportunities for students, new graduates, and seasoned professionals. Each field boasts at least one professional organization, and many feature multiple organizations focused on subdisciplines of political science. Annual conferences and events offer some of the best networking opportunities for political science students and recent graduates. The following lists contain links to some important organizations in the field, as well as useful online resources for students and professionals in the field.

  • American Political Science Association: Founded in 1903, APSA is a leading professional organization with more than 12,000 members in 80 countries. Political science master's students take advantage of diversity and inclusion programs, mentorship programs, dissertation workshops, and active job boards. Students and young professionals can also apply for grants and fellowships through the association.

  • International Political Science Association: IPSA offers its members special subscriptions to publications, academic coaching services, and networking events; discounts on books from numerous university presses; and access to an annual conference. Members can post their resumes and create a personalized profile for networking opportunities and job searches.

  • International Association for Political Science Students: IAPSS is a student-run nonprofit that seeks to support students interested in all areas of international political science. With six global chapters, students network and collaborate with their peers nearby and around the world. Members can attend important events including the World Congress meeting and an annual academic convention.

  • American Society for Public Administration: This interdisciplinary public service organization seeks to advance the teaching and practice of public and nonprofit administration. Its members come from diverse backgrounds and careers, including elected officials, researchers, scholars, nonprofit managers, civil servants, and city managers. Members benefit from online resources, an e-newsletter, and job listings.

  • Western Political Science Association: WPSA's annual meeting provides opportunities for students and professionals to present research, attend interest groups with their peers, and attend career building workshops. Members enjoy a subscription to the quarterly research journal, online publications, and awards for political science student papers and research projects.

  • American Political Science Review: As one of the top academic journals in political science, this publication offers peer-reviewed articles and essay reviews and helps students and professionals stay abreast of current research in the field. Primary topics in these publications include political theory, American politics, and public policy.

  • Journal of Political Sciences and Public Affairs: This site provides access to a free online political science journal with peer-reviewed articles. Students can search the database by keyword, author, or topic to locate articles in their area of interest.

  • The Coro Fellowship: This nine-month-long career development fellowship helps college graduates interested in government, business, political science, and nonprofits develop professional skills and accelerate positive change. Accepted students engage in cohort learning with 11 fellows; skills training programs take place in New York City, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, and St. Louis and come with housing, benefits, and a living stipend.

  • Political Resource Online: Established in 2000, this site offers excellent resources for professionals who work for political candidates, campaigns, and politically driven marketing or communications endeavors. Users can locate contact information for Democrat and Republican parties in each state and access current news topics in political science.