As you contemplate choosing a major, you may wonder about the complexity of certain disciplines and whether they might be too difficult for you to take on. One such field that sparks this concern is Political Science.
Political Science is a broad subject area that delves into diverse themes like governance, law, public policy, international relations, and political theory. Consequently, it requires comprehensive skills in critical thinking, analysis, research, communication, and writing.
“The study of politics is messy and complicated,” says renowned Political Scientist, Dr. Condoleezza Rice. “There’s no easy answer. There’s no easy formula to solve things.”
The interdisciplinary nature of Political Science means that students have to grapple with various topics while maintaining an aptitude for connecting them coherently. But does this mean that Political Science is challenging beyond measure? Let’s find out!
This article aims at providing you with valuable insights into the reality of studying Political Science: its rigors, rewards, and everything in between. We’ll look at what makes it hard, potential career opportunities, strategies for excelling, and more. By the end, you’ll gain sufficient information to determine if Political Science is worth exploring further or not.
What Exactly Is Political Science?
Defining Political Science
Political science is a social science that deals with the study of systems of governance, political activities, and political behavior. It aims to understand and explain how individuals or groups come to power and make decisions that affect society as a whole.
The discipline employs various research methodologies, including quantitative methods such as surveys and statistics, as well as qualitative methods such as case studies and ethnography.
As an academic field, political science has several sub-disciplines, such as comparative politics, international relations, political theory, and public administration. Each of these sub-disciplines focuses on a specific aspect of political life, but they are all interconnected and build upon one another.
Scope of Political Science
Political science is a vast field of study that encompasses many areas of human behavior and decision-making. Some of the key topics covered in this discipline include:
- Government institutions and structures
- Electoral systems and behavior
- Public policy and administration
- International relations and foreign policy
- Political ideology and theory
- Social movements and activism
One of the most important aspects of political science is its ability to facilitate critical thinking and analysis skills. Students who pursue this major are trained to analyze complex concepts and arguments, evaluate evidence, and develop reasoned conclusions based on data.
“The goal of political science is not just to describe and predict political phenomena, but to use systematic analysis to better understand why things happen and what can be done to improve them.” – Dr. Caroline Tolbert, University of Iowa
While political science may seem like a challenging major, it can be incredibly rewarding for those passionate about politics and governance. Graduates of this field are well-equipped for careers in government, law, public policy, journalism, advocacy, and academia.
So is political science a hard major? Like any academic pursuit, it requires dedication, critical thinking skills, and a strong work ethic. However, with curiosity and perseverance, students can excel in their studies and make meaningful contributions to society through their knowledge of politics and governance.
Challenging Courses You’ll Encounter as a Political Science Major
Political Theory and Philosophy
If you’re planning on majoring in political science, you’ll likely find yourself taking courses in political theory and philosophy. This can be a challenging aspect of the major for some students because it requires them to think deeply about abstract ideas and concepts.
In political theory courses, you’ll study influential philosophers who have shaped our understanding of politics and government over the centuries. From ancient thinkers like Plato and Aristotle to modern theorists like John Rawls and Hannah Arendt, these courses will expose you to a wide variety of philosophical perspectives that can be difficult to grasp at first.
To succeed in political theory and philosophy classes, students must learn how to read complex texts carefully and interpret them with depth and precision. They should also be comfortable engaging in debates and discussions about abstract concepts and theories.
“Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein
Quantitative Research Methods
Another challenging course sequence required of many political science majors is quantitative research methods. This involves learning how to use statistical analysis and other mathematical techniques to analyze political data.
For some students, this can be one of the more intimidating parts of the major. Many people are intimidated by math or have had bad experiences with math in the past. However, if you approach quantitative research methods with an open mind, you might find that the material is much more accessible than you initially thought.
To excel in these courses, you need to be detail-oriented and analytical. You should feel comfortable working with numbers and equations, and you should be able to handle large amounts of data without becoming overwhelmed.
“Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.” – Paul Brodeur
Despite these challenges, many political science majors find that their hard work and dedication pay off in the end. They graduate with a deeper understanding of how politics works, both domestically and internationally, as well as a set of valuable skills that can be applied to a variety of different careers.
If you’re considering majoring in political science but are worried about whether or not it will be too difficult for you, remember that there is plenty of support available. Most universities offer tutoring services and study groups for students struggling with specific courses, and professors are usually more than willing to help students who are dedicated and passionate about their field.
Skills Required for Success in Political Science
Critical Thinking and Analysis
Critical thinking skills are essential to succeed in political science, which involves analyzing complex issues and evaluating various perspectives. Political scientists need to be able to identify biases, assumptions, and faulty arguments in their research, as well as develop logical and evidence-based reasoning to support their conclusions.
According to Dr. Charles Wheelan, a senior lecturer at Dartmouth College, critical thinking is one of the most important skills that students learn when studying political science: “Political science is really good training for understanding how to dissect an argument and figure out what’s right or wrong with it.” He also notes that good political scientists can “identify counter-arguments and potential rebuttals” to strengthen their own arguments.
In addition to critical thinking skills, political scientists also need to be proficient in data analysis techniques, including statistics and modeling. This helps them evaluate quantitative data and draw meaningful conclusions from their research.
Communication and Writing Skills
Political scientists must be excellent communicators and writers to convey their findings effectively to others. This includes being able to present complex ideas in a clear and concise manner, both verbally and in writing. In addition, political scientists must be skilled at engaging diverse audiences, including policymakers, journalists, and the general public.
“Being a great writer is pretty much mandatory if you want to succeed,” according to Dr. Wheelan. “A lot of this business involves communicating complicated things in a way that people who don’t have your background can understand.”
Writing skills are especially important for political science majors because they spend a significant amount of time researching and writing papers. The ability to organize thoughts and express ideas coherently is crucial for producing successful academic work.
Ethics and critical thinking are both important elements in political science, as well. “The crucial thing that we try to get across is the importance of informed citizenship,” says Dr. Wheelan. “Political scientists ask ‘why?’ questions about how society should function, or why things happen the way they do. And those types of questions have relevance beyond just what you’re studying in class.”
“Political scientists ask ‘why?’ questions about how society should function, or why things happen the way they do.” -Dr. Charles Wheelan
Success in political science requires a combination of critical thinking and analysis skills, as well as effective communication and writing abilities. By developing these skills, students can become more informed and engaged citizens who can contribute meaningfully to their communities and the world around them.
Job Prospects for Political Science Graduates
Political science is a popular major among college students, but many wonder if it is a hard major and what job prospects are available upon graduation. Additionally, with the growing political polarization in our society, there has been an increased interest in pursuing careers related to government and public policy. In this article, we will explore the job prospects for political science graduates.
Government and Public Service
A common career path for political science majors is to pursue jobs within the government or public service sectors. This includes working for federal agencies such as the Department of State or Department of Defense, working on political campaigns, or serving in government offices at the local, state, or national level. According to data from PayScale.com, the median salary for entry-level Federal Government employees with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science is $48,419. However, this number can increase significantly over time with experience and promotions. Additionally, having a political science background can be useful when seeking a position as a legislative aide, campaign manager, or lobbyist, which often require knowledge of government processes and procedures. For those interested in more specialized areas of government work, like foreign policy or intelligence analysis, a Master’s degree in International Relations or National Security Studies may also be necessary.
Non-profit and Private Sectors
Beyond government work, political science graduates have numerous opportunities in the non-profit and private sectors. Many advocacy organizations, think tanks, and NGOs rely heavily on individuals with political science backgrounds for research, analysis, and advocacy efforts. According to The Balance Careers, some of the top industries employing political science graduates include management consulting firms, law firms, media outlets, and polling organizations. Moreover, individuals who work in these industries tend to earn higher salaries than those employed in government positions. One reason for this is that political science majors possess a wide range of skills including research, critical thinking, and writing. These skills, along with knowledge of public policy, make them attractive candidates to employers in various industries. However, it’s important to note that job availability in these sectors can be highly competitive. Obtaining an advanced degree like a Master’s in Public Administration or an MBA may increase job prospects and earning potential in private sector roles.
“Political science graduates are trained as analytical thinkers, adept at problem-solving and well-versed in government policy-making processes—all valuable assets that can translate into successful careers across a variety of fields.” -Pat Melvin, Director of Career Services at American University School of Public Affairs
While political science may be considered a hard major due to its focus on theory and analysis, the skill set obtained makes individuals more marketable in many different career paths. The combination of technical and general skills obtained from the major means individuals find success not only in traditional government jobs but also within non-profit and private sectors.
How to Succeed in Political Science Despite Its Challenges
Develop Strong Study Habits
Political science is a challenging major, but with the right study habits, success can be achieved. One way to develop strong study habits is by setting aside dedicated study time each week. This will help ensure that you fully understand the material being taught to you in class and stay on top of your workload.
Another important aspect of studying effectively is taking notes during lectures and reading assignments. These notes will serve as an invaluable reference when it comes time to write papers or take exams. It may also be helpful to review these notes regularly, especially before exams.
In addition, consider forming study groups with classmates. Collaborating with others can make learning more engaging and fun, while also providing opportunities to ask questions and gain new insights into political science topics.
Get Involved in Extracurricular Activities
Getting involved in extracurricular activities can enhance your experience as a political science student. Joining clubs or organizations related to politics or social justice allows you to connect with like-minded individuals who share similar interests and passions. You may also have opportunities to participate in debates, attend conferences, and meet guest speakers which can help broaden your knowledge in the field of political science.
Additionally, pursuing internships or volunteer work is another great way to gain practical experience and build connections within your desired career field. Many political science majors end up working in government positions or non-profits after graduation, so gaining work experience in those areas can be particularly useful when searching for job prospects.
Build Professional Relationships with Professors and Peers
Building relationships with professors is crucial to succeeding in any major, including political science. They are not only a valuable source of knowledge and guidance but can also provide letters of recommendation for post-graduate opportunities. Be sure to attend office hours, ask questions in class, and participate in discussions to demonstrate your interest in the course material.
Developing professional relationships with peers who share similar interests is equally important. Study groups or clubs can provide opportunities to network and build connections that may lead to future job prospects or impressive letters of recommendation. Additionally, working together on group projects and assignments will help you improve your teamwork skills, a crucial skill often demanded in political science careers where collaboration plays a major role.
Explore Internship Opportunities
Internships are excellent opportunities for students interested in pursuing a career in political science. They provide practical experience while enabling graduates to develop new skills and build their resumes. Many universities offer an internship program through their Political Science department, which connects students with government offices such as non-profits, state legislators, and other organizations within the public sector.
In addition, there are several national level internships available that cater specifically to political science majors. Programs such as The White House Internship Program offer unique experiences and invaluable exposure to politics at the highest levels.
“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” -Malcolm X
Political science is indeed a challenging major, but developing strong study habits, getting involved in extracurricular activities, building meaningful professional relationships with professors and peers, exploring various internship opportunities, and opening up to every learning opportunity can open doors to success.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Political Science a difficult major?
Political Science can be a challenging major, but difficulty can be subjective. The course load requires critical thinking, research, and analytical skills. Students must also keep up with current events and understand complex political systems. Success in Political Science depends on dedication, time management, and effective study habits. It’s important to seek help from professors and peers when needed and utilize resources like tutoring and study groups. With determination and hard work, students can excel in Political Science.
What are the challenges of studying Political Science?
Studying Political Science presents various challenges such as analyzing complex political systems, navigating political ideologies, and understanding diverse cultures and perspectives. It also requires extensive research, strong writing skills, and critical thinking. Keeping up with current events and understanding their impact on politics can also be challenging. Additionally, Political Science courses may require a significant amount of reading and writing. Students must be prepared to manage their time effectively and seek help when needed. Overall, studying Political Science requires patience, dedication, and an open mind.
How much time and effort does Political Science require?
Political Science requires a significant amount of time and effort. Students must dedicate time to reading, researching, and analyzing complex political systems and theories. The amount of time required will vary depending on the course load, but students should plan on spending several hours each week studying and completing assignments. Effective time management is crucial to success in Political Science. Students should prioritize their workload, set realistic goals, and utilize resources like study groups and tutoring. With dedication and hard work, students can succeed in Political Science.
What skills are necessary to succeed in Political Science?
Several skills are necessary to succeed in Political Science, including critical thinking, research, analytical skills, and effective communication. Students must also possess strong writing skills and the ability to analyze complex political systems and theories. Keeping up with current events and understanding diverse cultures and perspectives is also important. Time management and effective study habits are necessary to succeed in Political Science. It’s also important to seek help from professors and peers when needed and utilize resources like tutoring and study groups. With dedication and hard work, students can excel in Political Science.
Are there any tips for excelling in a Political Science major?
To excel in a Political Science major, students should develop strong critical thinking, research, and analytical skills. Effective communication and writing skills are also important. Keeping up with current events and understanding diverse cultures and perspectives is crucial. Time management and effective study habits will help students succeed in their coursework. It’s also important to seek help from professors and peers when needed and utilize resources like tutoring and study groups. Participating in extracurricular activities and internships can also provide valuable experience. With dedication, hard work, and a passion for politics, students can excel in Political Science.