Last Reviewed: December 9, 2019

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Having a career in politics is not limited to just building a partisan campaign for a mayor, governor, or presidential position. There are a number of administrative tasks and duties to complete within the government itself, such as lobbying for policy, conducting research, or being a consultant.

Careers in Politics

Many higher education programs feature concentrations into the development and theory of politics, foreign policy, and civic engagement. Pay varies based on the level of government, with more federal opportunities receiving higher amounts, but more urban areas across the country can see significantly high payment.

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Johns Hopkins University AAP
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Drake University
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Aurora University
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University of Delaware
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Best Degrees for Political Careers

One of the most popular programs that undergraduates pursue when looking into a political career is a Bachelor of Political Science. The core subjects will include study within the government and how it operates, such as creating policy and regulations, as well as foundational skills in data analysis, communication, and political theory. Most of these programs will simply prepare students for an internship or the next level of education - a Master of Political Science, or a specialized curriculum within Business Administration, as this is typically required when applying to political science positions.

Because of the broad nature of a political science curriculum, and various electives that can be taken to customize the degree, a number of job opportunities are available. More entry-level positions include the legislative assistant, public relations specialist, and a staffer on a political campaign - duties include creating speeches, improving the candidate's footprint, recruiting volunteers, and more. Higher-level opportunities that require further education or certification include attorneys and political consultants.

Other degrees to consider are Bachelor's and Master's degrees in public administration, foreign affairs, and history. This education provides a pathway into becoming a political analyst or political economist, overseeing the international climate and how that is affecting our landscape. This type of education also looks at the best strategies or policies to implement through surveying current issues in the community and looking back at what has been successful and what has failed in previous campaigns.


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Typical Educational Requirements

When it comes to being a political candidate, there is not a requirement to hold any higher educational background. A number of candidates have successfully become a mayor or governor with a high school degree, having experience or connections within politics to further their career. Their goal is to win over the public vote by siding with the issues they are most passionate about. Political figures at the federal level, such as members in the House of Representatives, Senate, and US presidents, typically have a college degree. When it comes to political strategists and those working inside of a campaign, a college degree is typically required.

In order to be administered into a higher educational program, such as a Master of Political Science, students will generally need a Bachelor's degree (in the field of political science preferred) from an accredited university. Other submissions items that are typically needed for review are official or unofficial transcripts, a few letters of recommendation, an updated resume, a personal statement that details experiences and goals in politics, and an application with fee.

When looking for a higher education program, especially online, it is important to look at what universities have accreditation. The Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) has a peer-reviewed accreditation process that ensures the curriculum of a graduate program at a particular institution meets high standards in public service. Typically, requirements to get into an accredited Master's degree program are an undergraduate degree with prior work achievements and career goals. There are over 300 colleges around the world that have received this accreditation, and it requires annual overview of teaching capabilities and updating the curriculum to maintain high standards.

Recommended Coursework

An important aspect of a political career is thoroughly understanding government and law. Colleges will have areas of emphasis and electives in order to customize a degree to fit certain needs. For example, when pursuing a Master of Political Science through the University of Nebraska-Omaha, there is a concentration in American Government and Politics. There is a required overview seminar, courses in the legislative and judicial processes, and electives in specific demographic politics, such as urban areas, women, and LGBT communities.

Leadership and political theory are common categories and provide important historical insight when looking at the development of ethics and policies throughout modern history. This includes analyzing what exactly government is, leadership roles within politics, and the impact they have on society. As an example, Boston University provides specific courses in these areas, and in addition, evaluating domination and liberation, gender and sexuality, and the enlightenment.

Skills Needed

Common skills that are developed when pursuing higher education for a political career is research, critical thinking, and communication. Without question, understanding various research methods are important to succeed in any position. There must be a fundamental understanding on the needs of society and how to accurately collect that information. This data is used to create policies or to create an impactive campaign for a governor or mayor.

While gathering that information is important, there needs to be some analysis and critical thinking in order to fully understand complicated issues. Critical thinking requires looking beyond opinions and beliefs that are partisan and diving into evidenced-based research. For example, this provides an opportunity to gather more moderate viewpoints when creating a campaign message. It is vital to understand all aspects of a particular issue.

It is very helpful to have solid communication skills not only when gathering data through interviews and surveys for a campaign, but also when influencing policymakers and informing the media and public on these issues. Presentation skills are also needed in meetings, group functions, or other persuasive situations. This has evolved onto social media, learning to engage and connect with a growing number of people creating accounts and profiles. It is important to take into consideration the specific algorithm in Twitter or Facebook, such as benefiting with direct interaction and how it is tailored to specific users.

Political Career Opportunities


Survey researchers aim to provide their client specific data needed to run a particular campaign or to lobby for a new policy. Once all the information is gathered, surveying methods such as polling, interviewing, and focus groups are planned out to receive the quickest and most accurate information. This data is analyzed and fact-checked before returning to the client, which are often political campaigns and activist groups. At least a Bachelor’s degree is needed for this position as concepts and theory learned from higher education is recommended.

Campaign Manager

Oversees the entire operation of any political or advertising campaign, with numerous duties in determining the schedule and tasks required to meet goals, making sure the group is following budget restrictions, and assisting with any needs in a particular part of the campaign. Regardless of politics or marketing, the goal is to capture an audience’s attention and beating out the competition. This position is seeing an eight percent growth between 2018-28 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Political Consultant

Consulting firms provide an avenue for political campaigns to receive vital information for their campaign. While they can research and use data, this differs from market research as it can provide more structural support, such as what strategies or methods to use when building a foundation, and they typically work closer with the client, helping to interpret information more than distributing data.

Salaries in Politics

Political positions can hold fairly high salaries across the nation, with the largest salaries being represented by the President of the United States, Vice President, the panel of Supreme Court Justice, and lobbyists, with all positions making well over $200,000 annually. Governors and senators on average make around that mark with some deeper roles, like the Speaker of the House, making over the $200,000 salary point, but the governors’ pay can range significantly based on location.

For the larger portion of those within the political landscape, many state legislator and local officials that are working full time are making under the six-figure mark, and that falls even more drastically when reviewing part-time legislature positions. This is not always the case, however, as some of the major cities like New York City and San Francisco, California, see salaries above $250,000.