What Can I Do With My Political Science Degree?

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When you hear “politician,” you may think of an older man caged in his office by a mountain of papers, or someone lobbying in the street, debating on television or pestering you for your vote.

You may think of controversy, debates, disappointments, disagreements. A major in political science is much more than this; you study the law and morality, question the status quo, and attempt to better it.

Just how much can you do with political science degree? A lot.

For starters, take a look around campus and get involvednow. Your campaign begins long before your job search does. The student council doesn’t have to be your only obvious choice while at school.

  • Join the debate team and read up on philosophers to polish your argument and style.
  • Take a course in logic to refine the structure of your approach.
  • Stay glued to the news channel and newspapers, and look into current court cases to become familiar with the laws and rules set in place around you.
  • Be aware of international politics and events, even history, to better understand neighbours outside our borders.
  • Sign up for a humanities retreat through your school or a charitable organization.
  • Study a second language or two.

Political science can open the doors to City Hall, the Parliament Buildings and even 24 Sussex Drive.

“I can offer the politician I work for solid advice because I spent so many years learning the system, and I know this job will serve as a launch for a successful career.”
Michael Smith, political science graduate

But a political science student has so many options to consider pertaining not only to job but to location as well: Do you want to work with the government? With your local government, or abroad? Do you want to defend Canadian rights, or human rights?

If a typical political career isn’t for you, keep in mind that political science is a major that applies everywhere. Every citizen could benefit from understanding how his or her government works and the rules and traditions behind it. You have a solid mind that has swapped blind acceptance for wise assessment. Your skills in refined argumentation, critical thinking, oral presentation and communication are invaluable to many careers. You have an understanding of how the world works and the cultural differences in international politics—and don’t forget your big heart that seeks to protect and better the lives of those around you. Now, here are some suggestions for your life.

Related jobs: business secretary, industrial research specialist, journalist, lawyer, legislative analyst, market research analyst, organization and methods officer, politician, prime minister, professor, tax specialist

 

Related fields: business, education, international affairs, journalism, marketing, municipal/provincial government, public relations

Christopher Leite

PhD student, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa

BA (Hons.) in Political Science with a minor in French, McMaster University
MA in Political Studies, University of Ottawa

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in politics in some way, thanks partly to my dad pushing my brother and I to really think about politicians and the media early on. When I first started in Ottawa for my MA, I was planning on getting out and working for the government or an NGO right away, but I realized that not only did I actually really like doing independent research but I could actually make a life out of it.

The ideal job would be to get hired by a university right away as a tenure-track professor, in which case I not only need to finish the program I’m in but I have to produce a few publications of my own before I finish. That being said, I would be more than happy to work at a think-tank or research institute that would allow me to research and write full-time, or I still wouldn’t mind doing some work for the government. The extra years of school kind of put me in a position where I can weigh a different set of options that I otherwise would not have had.

I have a few professors who went on to work as mediators for large corporations, but I’m genuinely not that interested in pursuing a career that pulls me away from politics, so I guess I’m fairly interested in staying within my chosen field. While my current program is definitely preparing me for the academic side of life as a professor, I’ve been actively taking some courses on teaching through our resource centre here at uOttawa. So much about life as a professor is about teaching and running classes, which I’m not getting any formal training on as of yet, although a few supervisors of mine have been particularly helpful in this area.

Michael Smith

Intern for MPP Dave Levac through the Ontario Legislature Internship Programme

BA (Hons.) Specialization in Political Science, University of Western Ontario
MA in Political Science, University of Victoria

I’ve always wanted to contribute to the discussion about what Canadians want their democracy to look like and I thought the best way to do that was to understand why and how our leaders make decisions. My BA gave me a detailed understanding of the Canadian political process, and then I was able to use that knowledge to develop my own ideas in my MA.

The Ontario Legislature Internship Programme is an opportunity for recent graduates to get first-hand experience with the political process. 10 interns are selected from a competitive application process and they spend 10 months working for both Government and Opposition politicians. I applied while still completing my MA, and I believe it to be the best entry-level experience a political science graduate can have, as you get to see how politics works from both sides.

I think it would be very difficult for me to do my job if I did not have the knowledge I gained from my degree. Politics is fast-paced and requires a thorough understanding of how different parts of society relate to each other. I can offer the politician I work for solid advice because I spent so many years learning the system, and I know this job will serve as a launch for a successful career.

Alison Hopkins

Articling Student, Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP.

BA (Hons.) in Political Science, University of Victoria
LLB Law, Dalhousie University

I studied political science because I believe in the importance of good public policy, which is also the reason I studied law. In both undergrad and law school, my courses focused on public policy and the current debates in certain areas, particularly health care and international development.

My current career is typical of a recent law graduate as I am meeting my requirements to be called to the bar in Ontario. How I ended up at my firm is the typical story of the on-campus recruitment process. However, my decision to move to Ottawa was based on my interest in the government and that Ottawa firms generally focus on interactions with government and government policies.

My current job is definitely related to the broad law and broad policy elements, however it does not focus in the areas that I am especially interested in like health care and international development. My law degree was clearly focused on my current career and my poli sci degree taught me a few important things—I am a better writer because of that degree and I am able to think in a very analytical way thanks to some of my courses in undergrad, particularly my honours thesis.

Click here to find out what you can do with your degree.

Photo credit: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear by cliff1066™ on Flickr
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About the author

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).