Prospects Good for Political Science Majors

Good news for political science majors: The job market isn’t all doom and gloom for those interested in public policy and foreign affairs. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the job market is improving for political scientists working in academia, especially at the assistant-professor level.

In the academic year that just ended, there was a 17% increase in assistant-professor positions in political science departments when compared with the previous year’s numbers for that same level. Numbers also show that close to half (49%) of graduate students looking for employment found permanent academic work; another 24% found temporary work; 19% found postdoctoral work; and 9% found work outside of academe.

The statistics were provided by the American Political Science Association, which noted that political science appears to be faring better than other disciplines, such as history, in this difficult economy. The rise can be attributed to the lifting of hiring freezes at universities, as well as a growing demand in political science majors – thus adding more jobs to those departments.

The increase in assistant-professor positions was especially encouraging in terms of job growth in the field, as it speaks to the employment prospects of graduate students and junior faculty, the study noted. The figures were based on the Association’s Graduate Placement Survey, and its own job advertisements of 1,212 positions.

That’s not the only bright note for those thinking of pursuing or already studying political science. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market is expected to grow this decade in the political science and sociology fields. By 2018, research forecasts a 21% growth in jobs in those areas from 2008, much faster than the average growth for all occupations.

The cheery outlook is attributed to the growing importance of public policy and research, as well as increased interest in politics, foreign affairs and public policy, and an anticipated rise in the retirement of political scientists at the government level.

The prospects are encouraging, but, of course, it’s not an even playing field for applicants, and those who have attained higher education have the best prospects. A bachelor’s degree is pretty standard for jobs in policy, research, grant writing, marketing, and with civic groups. For positions at the university level or in the federal government, a Ph.D. is de rigueur.

Given all that hard work, the salaries aren’t too shabby, either. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage of political scientists in May 2008 was $104,130; the middle 50% earned between $74,040 and $124,490; the lowest 10% earned less than $47,220; and the highest 10% earned more than $146,880.

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