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.