2017 Political Scientists
Median Pay: US$99,730
Entry Level: Master's degree
Political scientists study the origin, development, and operation of political systems. They research political ideas and analyze governments, policies, political trends, and related issues.

Political scientists typically do the following:

  • Research political subjects, such as the U.S. political system, relations between the United States and foreign countries, and political ideologies
  • Collect and analyze data from sources, such as public opinion surveys and election results
  • Develop theories, using qualitative sources, such as historical documents
  • Test theories, using quantitative methods, such as statistical analysis
  • Evaluate the effects of policies and laws on government, businesses, and people
  • Monitor current events, policy decisions, and other issues relevant to their work
  • Forecast political, economic, and social trends
  • Present research results by writing reports, giving presentations, and publishing articles

Political scientists usually conduct research within one of four primary subfields: national politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory.

Often, political scientists use qualitative methods in their research, gathering information from numerous sources. For example, they may use historical documents to analyze past government structures and policies. Political scientists also rely heavily on quantitative methods to develop and research theories. For example, they may analyze data to see whether a relationship exists between a certain political system and a particular outcome. Political scientists study topics such as U.S. political parties, how political structures differ among countries, globalization, and the history of political thought.

Political scientists also work as policy analysts, where they may work for organizations that have a stake in policy, such as government, labor, and political organizations. They evaluate current policies and events using public opinion surveys, economic data, and election results. From these sources, they can learn the expected impact of new policies.

Political scientists often research the effects of government policies on a particular region or population, both domestically and internationally. As a result, they provide information and analysis that help in planning, developing, or carrying out policies.

Many people with a political science background become postsecondary teachers and high school teachers.

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