By Nathan Brickman

How can the government shut down? Who’s my congressman? Does my vote even count? Without an extensive knowledge of politics, it’s nearly impossible to understand anything that goes on in Washington. But the most important decisions that affect our lives are made in little rooms in the capital. If you’re intrigued by the political process and want to understand how the system actually works, consider taking up a degree in political science.

What You’ll be Doing

Politics affect everything around us. Don’t worry; you won’t just be learning policy and process through dusty textbooks. Political science professors constantly analyze current events to keep classes interesting and give you an idea of the controversies plaguing the country. Be ready to hone in on your communications skills (politicians love to talk). If speeches and research papers aren’t your forte, politics might not be for you.


1. “The thing I appreciated most about my political science courses was their applicability in my everyday life. While they weren’t always the most fascinating classes, they taught me to think critically about real-world topics – a skill I’ve taken with me outside the classroom and into the working world.” – Daniel Wasserman, University of Michigan, Class of 2014

2. “I now work for a government relations firm in Washington, DC, and my political science degree continues to serve me. While my understanding of political ideologies and the U.S. political process is advantageous, I am more reliant on the critical thinking, research, and analytical writing skills that the political science department’s dedicated professors required.” – Maura Fitzsimons, University of Michigan, Class of 2014

3. “I [want] to help close the achievement gap and ensure all students have access to a quality education. Ultimately, I hope to work in education policy, making changes to the educational system on a wider scale, so I think the political science background will be of more use to me then.” – Lindsay Melworm, University of Michigan, Class of 2011

4. “I really enjoyed my college major and I felt that I learned a lot of valuable everyday things within it. I do not work in political science or social policy, I work in the entertainment field. However, I do believe that my major has helped me greatly in being able to understand and fully absorb everyday political and social issues that are going on around us and discussed everyday.” – Brooke Fine, Michigan State University, Class of 2011


1. “There were some classes that were a bit dull at times (similar to classes in other departments). However, I did appreciate how many classes were cross-referenced with other departments. It allowed me to taste a number of new topics, and it brought in a multidisciplinary perspective.” – Maura Fitzsimons

2. “I do remember thinking that I was able to float through my classes in political science more easily than in other disciplines. As a result, I don’t think I was as well prepared for political science-related ventures post-college.” – Lindsay Melworm

3. “Some of the classes were a little dry but for the most part I had great professors that tried to make the material as interesting as possible.” – Brooke Fine

Career Opportunities

Not every political science student finds him or herself arguing before a judge. While having a political science background is definitely a plus for law school, there are hundreds of possibilities with this major.

  • Public Service – Since a thorough knowledge of politics is usually necessary for any government position, a student with a political science degree makes a great fit. Politicians love to talk and because you’ll acquire incredible communication skills, you could easily find yourself working with a local judge or even a congressman. Your finely-tuned people skills will attract non-profits as well.

  • Law – Many law jobs incorporate the understanding of American politics, use of analytical skills and the interpretation of political ideas. Many political science majors choose to continue their education at law school. Not to mention that according to U.S. News & World Report, lawyers earned a median salary of $114,300 in 2013, cha-ching!

  • Business – Students looking to enter business require exceptional analytical and critical thinking skills. Fortunately, a degree in political science teaches these skills. Don’t be scared away from these jobs just because you weren’t enrolled in an “elite” business program. Companies typically prefer candidates with a diverse background.

  • Academia – Many political science students will have the ability to teach after college. With such a diverse set of skills and tools, a degree in political science will give you a leg up in searching for a career in education.

  • Journalism – Political science majors with a strong grasp on language can always succeed in this field, especially when combined with the impeccable research and writing skills you’ll acquire over the course of your college career. Plus, political science majors always have an opinion. Translate all that political rage into great articles.