What Is a Political Scientist? (With Skills and Job Options)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 January 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Political science is a social science field that is concerned with the broad study of different political aspects involving the operations of governmental and nongovernmental systems. It evaluates and analyses things like political economy, public administration, foreign policies and international relations. Understanding the different aspects of political science may help you make an informed decision about pursuing a career as a political scientist. In this article, we can find out what is a political scientist, what they do, how to become a political scientist and some careers you can pursue with a political science degree.

What is a political scientist?

A political scientist is a researcher, analyst and forecaster of how political theories and trends apply to political systems. Political scientists work in private and government sectors to study local, national and international governance, political policies and power systems. By gathering and evaluating data on political decision-making, political ideologies, public policies and public opinions, they can gain insight into political systems and government structures and operations. They may also make informed recommendations to government institutions, research agencies, media companies and others directly affected or influenced by political happenings.

What job can a political scientist do?

A political scientist can do many jobs in the political field that may require research, analysis, evaluation and recommendations. They may work with a college or university, a nonprofit organisation, a political lobby group, a research think tank or a business. Their jobs can include working as an academic, archivist, translator, analyst, planner, intelligence expert or foreign correspondent in areas like:

  • Social policy

  • Public affairs

  • Public administration

  • Public planning

  • Foreign affairs

  • International relations

  • Diplomacy

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What does a political scientist do on a daily basis?

Political scientists often work in an office environment for up to eight hours a day. They may work alone or with a team, and they can have a wide range of daily duties, including:

  • Researching national and international political concepts, systems, events and functions

  • Gathering data from surveys, censuses, polls, election results, interviews, reports and other resources

  • Using statistical analysis and other quantitative methods to extract information from relevant data

  • Discovering political trends and theories that influence and shape public discourses

  • Using past political and economic trends and patterns to forecast future occurrences

  • Preparing well-researched and detailed reports on relevant political issues

  • Developing political theories and ideas and evaluating them for implementation

  • Working as a political consultant to government officials and government agencies

  • Influencing public opinion by publishing blogs, articles, reports, papers and books

  • Conducting public lectures and presentations to inform people about political processes

  • Evaluating the effects of policies and laws on ordinary people, businesses and government agencies

  • Monitoring current political events and staying updated on implemented government policies

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What skills does a political scientist need?

To thrive as a political scientist, it's important to develop the following skills:

  • Intellectual curiosity, flexibility and self-confidence

  • Emotional stability, maturity and calmness

  • Leadership, management and problem-solving skills

  • Communication, interpersonal skills and diplomatic abilities

  • Capacity to manage challenges and handle criticism

  • Methodical approach to organising and analysing information

  • Understanding of the socioeconomic impact on politics

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How long does it take to become a political scientist?

It can take eight or more years to become a political scientist, depending on the educational qualifications you want to obtain. You can likely find work in the political science field with a three-year bachelor's degree or a two-year master's degree in political science, public administration or a related area. To qualify for higher-level work positions, you may complete a three-year Ph.D. in more specialised political science fields. Practical work experience may also be beneficial for this profession, which you can gain by doing volunteer work or having a part-time job in the field while pursuing your education.

How to become a political scientist

You can become a political scientist in the following ways:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree

The bachelor's degree programme takes three years to complete and the eligibility criterion is passing the 12th Higher Secondary Certificate (HSC) exam from the art, commerce or science stream with at least 50% marks. Each college or university may issue its own cutoff list for admission. Some institutions may conduct political science entrance exams, such as the Lovely Professional University National Entrance and Scholarship Test (LPUNEST), Christ University Entrance Test (CUET), Delhi University Entrance Test (DUET) and Sharda University Admission Test (SUAT).

2. Acquire a B.Ed. degree

The Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) political science programme takes two years to complete and the eligibility criterion is a bachelor's degree in political science or another subject from a recognised university. You may also be eligible if you have a B.Com. or B.Sc. degree. Admission may be merit-based or based on scores from entrance exams, such as the Uttar Pradesh Bachelor of Education Joint Entrance Exam (UP B.Ed JEE) or Delhi University Bachelor of Education (DU B.Ed) Entrance Exam.

3. Earn a master's degree

The master of arts in political science programme takes two years to complete. You must have a bachelor's degree in political science or any relevant stream with at least 45 –⁠55% marks to be eligible. The admission may be merit-based or based on your performance in entrance exams like the Banaras Hindu University Postgraduate Entrance Test (BHU PET), Jawaharlal Nehru University Entrance Examination (JNUEE), Delhi University Entrance Test (DUET) or Indraprastha University Common Entrance Test (IPU CET). You may also have to complete a group discussion round, a written ability test and a personal interview.

4. Obtain a doctorate degree

A Ph.D. in political science can take up to three years for full-time students to complete and up to five years for part-time students. To be eligible for this program, you need a master's degree in political science or an associated discipline with at least 55% marks. Admission may be merit-based or based on entrance exams like the National Eligibility Test (NET), Junior Research Fellow (JRF) scheme, Combined Research Entrance Test (CRET), Research Entrance Test (RET) and Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Services Selection Commission's Preliminary Eligibility Test (UPSSSC PET). Some institutions may conduct personal interviews with candidates as well.

5. Gain work experience

You can gain practical work experience in the political field with volunteer work or part-time jobs with political parties, organisations and news media companies. With a bachelor's degree, you can qualify for entry-level positions in government organisations, media companies, research institutes, consultancy firms and others. A master's degree may enable you to work in higher administrative and research jobs. A Ph.D. can allow you to apply to college and university teaching positions or political scientist positions in research institutions.

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6 political scientist careers

With a degree in political science, you may be able to pursue the following jobs:

1. Assistant political science professor

National average salary: ₹5,14,803 per year

Primary duties: Assistant political science professors work in colleges and universities where they assist professors in teaching political science courses to students. These assistant professors may complete political science research work and participate in scholarly activities. They may also carry out administrative duties and help in raising fund for their department.

2. Political consultant

National average salary: ₹6,06,675 per year

Primary duties: Political consultants help politicians get elected by organising, managing and promoting political campaigns. They gather poll surveys, report on trends, offer political advice, manage the social media accounts of politicians and their parties, handle the media and use digital and traditional advertising to spread their political message. They generally work as part of a team for political parties and government agencies.

3. Data scientist

National average salary: ₹8,28,031 per year

Primary duties: Data scientists typically work with government agencies and businesses where they collect valuable data from various data sources. They may process, analyse and transform data into actionable insights. Using these insights with algorithms and predictive models based on political practices, statistics, mathematics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and analytics, they may determine potential problems and create plans to solve these problems.

4. Intelligence analyst

National average salary: ₹8,31,994 per year

Primary duties: Intelligence analysts work for government and business agencies where they gather, examine and evaluate information from a wide array of national and international sources. They use the data to develop unbiased assessment reports and make oral briefings. They must also understand and comply with national security protocols in their work.

5. Policy analyst

National average salary: ₹12,82,012 per year

Primary duties: Policy analysts work for political and government agencies to examine and analyse past and present political policies. Using that information, they undertake the strategic planning of new agendas to meet required political goals. They may set work objectives, formulate policies, form evaluation criteria, create and amend policy drafts, monitor implemented policies and devise alternative plans. They may also influence political events and raise public awareness about them.

6. Political affairs officer

National average salary: ₹13,13,316 per year

Primary duties: Political affairs officers monitor, analyse and write reports on political events, developments, trends and policies. They draft speeches, correspondence, papers, notes and talking points. Additionally, they recommend political strategies and measures. They may also participate in conferences, manage political programs, conduct staff planning and budgeting, plan and implement operations and brief superiors, representatives and the media.

Please note that salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing.

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