Political Scientist

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Political Scientist


Political scientists watch out for the public interest in the realm of government. Although they can't do much about getting the politicians to change their actions, political scientists are there to advise the public and legislators and they can advise people about what to expect in the future. They can demand that politicians take responsibility for their actions. And if they make a lot of sense, politicians might listen to them, and change their ways.

Along with monitoring the American government, political scientists watch foreign powers, regional organizations, and corporations, and can ask for their accountability when they've misbehaved. They also study political party evolution, elections, and social movements. They study past and present day political actions, political institutions, the methods used in political process and government, and the influences which shape government policy, practices, and organization. They examine all sides of an issue, and publish their results in reports, meet with journalists, or hold seminars or workshops with the public and students.

Because politics is a huge and diverse field of study, political scientists often specialize in particular areas, like political theory; comparative government; municipal, state, national or international government; public policy and administration; constitutional law; or international relations and strategic studies.

They may work for the politicians in power, and they may work against them. A good political scientist, though, refuses to take sides, and instead examines all ideas, events, and situations from a fly-on-the-wall perspective. They support positive political actions and denounce negative ones based not on loyalty, but on careful research, analytical thinking, and experience.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a political scientist? Political scientists need to enjoy politics. They need to be interested in America's political system, its history, and its future. They should also be interested in international political systems, and keep up with world events and international unrest. They should have an open mind, and be able to examine situations from all sides and perspectives. Political scientists must like doing research, and be analytical thinkers. They require above-average communication skills, including public speaking, and writing papers. They should be skilled independent workers, who do not mind taking the initiative and responsibility for projects. They must be able to work well under pressure. An interest in history, anthropology, psychology, and a knowledge of other languages is also helpful.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Analyze policies, legislation and activities of governments, corporations and regional organizations
  • Study political parties, elections, special interest groups, social movements, and international law
  • Collect, analyze, and interpret data
  • Publish research in academic publications, written reports, or through presentations
  • Provide media commentary on public policy and political issues
  • Teach political science
  • Conduct public opinion surveys and interviews
  • Advise governments and political groups
  • A typical day for a political scientist will probably be spent in an office at a university. There, the scientist will read about recent political events in their state in the US, or in the world. Depending on their research, they may spend some time in the archives, the library, meeting with politicians and other political scientists, or traveling to meet with foreign politicians, or international human rights groups. Most of each day, however, will be spent indoors, working alone.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Political scientists are most commonly found in universities or colleges, where they teach, tackle administrative duties, plan and implement community outreach, and do research. These professors work in offices and lecture halls, and may have to work around tight schedules and heavy workloads. They may travel to meetings and conferences.
  • Political scientists may work for the government. They can be connected to a specific party, or can be non-partisan, meaning they hold research positions (analyzing polls and surveys) or work as assistants to politicians, but are not connected to any one party. They can also work for a consulting firm, advising citizens' groups and corporations, and can work for advocacy groups (environmental watchdog groups, poverty-rights groups) monitoring political policies, or they may work as correspondents for the media.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Anyone trained in political science has many options open to them. After a few years working as a professor, a political scientist may choose to open a private consulting firm, write analytical and historical books, become a political journalist, or go back to school and become a political or constitutional lawyer. Political scientists can even become diplomats, representing the US in foreign countries.

  Educational Paths  
Political scientists are academics, which means they spend many years in training. The minimum requirement for political scientists is a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in political science. With this, a political scientist can work in a college or find work in the private sector. But anyone who wants to work in universities as a professor needs a PhD.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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