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What does a Political Scientist do?

By D. Jeffress
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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A political scientist is an expert on the history, development, and applications of public policies and international relations. Professionals usually specialize in a particular field, such as conducting research and surveys on public opinion, advising politicians and important government officials, or providing commentary on policy decisions. A political scientist might work for a specific government office, private research institution, university, or a nonprofit awareness group.

Political science is an exciting, ever-changing field that is appealing to professionals with many different interests. Many people choose to become political scientists because they want to improve current social and economic conditions. They may work in government agencies or nonprofit organizations to develop statistics and advocate public awareness. Experts design and conduct surveys and research projects to analyze poverty rates, pollution levels, water and food quality, the condition of roads and public structures, and the effectiveness of government initiatives, among thousands of other variables. They use this information to write reports, educate officials and the public, and promote change.

A skilled political scientist may work for a specific politician or official, conducting research and providing expert advice on political decisions. He or she might specialize in certain types of policies, such as international affairs, Homeland Security, health care, education, or business development. Professionals help lawmakers determine the need for new approaches to public policies and suggest ways to achieve success.

Some experts in the field choose to become print or broadcast journalists, where they can offer facts and opinions to the public about current affairs and political decisions. Others become very involved in categorizing and analyzing historical political information. In addition, a knowledgeable political scientist might choose to teach college courses either full- or part-time. Some experts with strong credentials and public appeal even run for office themselves.

To become a political scientist, an individual is usually required to obtain at least a bachelor's degree in the field from an accredited college or university. Many professionals pursue advanced degrees to improve their knowledge, credentials, and job opportunities. After graduation, most new political scientists work as assistants or interns for up to two years after graduation to learn the fundamentals of the job and hone their investigative and reasoning skills. Experienced political scientists in most fields enjoy ample room for advancement to senior advisor and lead researcher positions. Experts who wish to become professors at the university level are usually required to hold doctoral degrees and complete additional requirements to gain certification.

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Discussion Comments
By oasis11 — On Oct 31, 2010

Many political scientist jobs are found in newspapers as well as television.

Often experience running political campaigns or performing political research is necessary for any work on television.

People often like to see statistical data and if you have information like this in could be valuable to a television audience. Everyone likes a horse race and if you can translate this for the general public they will be engaged.

By sneakers41 — On Oct 31, 2010

Suntan12-The political scientist career is an exciting one especially if you get to work for a candidate. Constantly measuring statistical data is something that famous political scientists Dick Morris used to say of the Clinton administration.

Dick Morris served as a political advisor that counseled President Clinton. He had written many books and is now a Fox News Political contributor.

He has started a website in order to repeal the health care bill. That is the great thing about being a political scientist. People will follow your cause and this will create many jobs for political scientists starting out in the field.

Dick Morris often makes political news because he now supports many Tea Party candidates when he used to be a democratic political advisor for President Clinton.

By suntan12 — On Oct 31, 2010

Sunshine31- I could not agree with you more. For example, in college, I had a professor who specialized in Marxist ideology that taught Cuban history.

His account of the Cuban governments polices talked how the Cuban people were better served by eliminating most of their debts which the government would subsidize and offer soft currency that would replace the hard currency of the US dollar.

This limited the purchasing opportunities for the Cuban people because those retail stores and hotels were now served to tourist who had the hard currency needed to buy goods and services in these locations.

The extreme poverty that the Castro government caused was never revealed. This caused a significant flaw in his delivery of information because the people that did not know the other side of the story might assume that he was right when in reality there was a lot of negative information that he left out.

Political scientists have always been biased and always will. That is why people often say not to discuss politics in mixed company because there are always two points of view to every side and your life experiences shape your viewpoint.

By sunshine31 — On Oct 31, 2010

Some political scientists work in colleges and universities across the country. Political scientists make political assumptions based on data that they have obtained in their research.

Politics unlike other fields has two arguments and based on the political scientist’s leanings the result of their research will always be biased.

There is empirical information to support just about any argument which is important to keep in mind when you are taking college classes.

Unfortunately, some political scientists teach all about politics and political systems from one point of view-there’s. This leaves a student with biased information and not enough information to make up their own mind.

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