Free Online Political Science Courses

Political science is the branch of the social sciences that examines the implementation and impact of government, legislation and bureaucracy at the local, state, federal and international levels. Political scientists often act as intermediaries between elected officials, lobbyists, diplomats and other figures within the political arena. They also administer polls and surveys to gauge various political interests among the general public, use historical documents to evaluate the current political climate in a given district and present their findings using formal reports and quantitative data. Students who are curious about this field should explore open courses in political science, which are instructed by professors and faculty members from higher-learning institutions across the globe and offered online free-of-charge.

In addition to people who wish to pursue a career in politics as elected officials, this field of study is suitable for historians, journalists and educators; many attorneys and legal professionals also study political science as undergraduates before applying to law school. Most undergraduate and graduate programs in political science take a glance at the political systems found in different nations and states, as well as the various functions of the branches of government.

Sample Courses

Most introductory political science courses (administered in the first two years of undergraduate studies) discuss fundamentals of the field, such as political theory, international relations, U.S. and world history and public policy. Upper-level political science courses will delve into specific areas of these core subjects, often focusing on particular periods of history or regions of the country/world, and will often incorporate academic and quantitative research into the curriculum.

Possible Specializations

Specializations in political science, common to graduate-level programs across the country, include: american politics, international politics/relations, political theory, public policy, and comparative politics (a field that studies the similarities and differences between political systems at all geographic levels). Some schools may offer additional specializations in political science unique to their institutions, such as the “Indigenous Politics” concentration, offered at the University of Hawaii.

Degree Types

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the master’s degree as the optimal credential for political scientists, but other positions can be attained with lesser degrees. Here is a look at the four most common degrees awarded to political science students:

Associate

An associate degree is usually awarded by community colleges, and emphasizes introductory courses in core math, science, English and history-related subjects. This credential is typically insufficient for obtaining anything more than entry-level employment, but political science courses at this level will expose students to the fundamentals of the field and help them decide if this path of study is right for them.

Bachelor’s

Bachelor’s-level political science programs generally cover a wide range of related topics, and some colleges allow students to earn double majors along with another field like economics or philosophy. Although aspiring political scientists are encouraged to proceed into a master’s program after finishing their undergraduate studies, a bachelor’s degree may help them secure employment with government agencies, political campaign or party offices, or non-profit organizations.

Master’s

Political science at the master’s level requires students to use statistics and research methods to monitor and evaluate political systems and policies. Many graduate-level political science programs additionally allow students to earn joint degrees in related fields such as public administration or public affairs.

Ph.D.

Doctoral programs in political science typically consist of two years of coursework and a political dissertation presented prior to graduation. This credential will be required for most professors and faculty members who wish to teach political science at the collegiate level, as well as researchers, theorists and other academics whose work is used to inform laws and political decisions both domestically and abroad.

Ideal Candidates for Political Science

Political science is a data- and research-driven field, so candidates should feel comfortable working with numbers and be willing to spend a lot of time in the library. Objectivity is also crucial, particularly when dealing with issues and policies that can encourage partisanship; successful political science majors must put their biases aside in order to produce high-quality, useful work and research. The political sphere is vibrant and socially driven, so networking and communication skills will come in handy, as well.

Career Pathways

The BLS notes that political scientists who have received a master’s degree earned a median salary of $102,000 in 2012. In addition to the high pay, the 10-year outlook for this profession is also promising. The BLS projects that political scientist jobs will grow 21% between 2012 and 2022, which is much faster than the estimated rate of growth for all fields. However, since the current field is only comprised of 6,600 individuals, this percentage figures to an increase of roughly 1,100 new positions; this means that “there will likely be many qualified candidates for relatively few positions.”

According to the BLS, political science teachers at the postsecondary level also earned high salaries compared to other professions; the average earnings for a professor in this field at a four-year university was $85,640 in 2011, while the average junior college instructor earned $62,630 during the same year.

Virtually every accredited college and university in the U.S. maintains an active student government and hosts a handful of student associations dedicated to political science, theory and activism. These groups are a great starting point for political science students who want to network with like-minded peers and build their political knowledge base. Volunteering with local campaigns can be another great foot-in-the-door, especially during election season.

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Get More Out of Your Online Political Science Courses

The 2014 spending bill that the U.S. Congress passed last week renders moot part of Justin Esarey’s recent grant application to the National Science Foundation (NSF). But Esarey, an assistant professor of political science at Rice University in Houston, Texas, couldn’t be happier.

Esarey was one of hundreds of researchers who tweaked their pending proposals to accommodate a directive from Congress that any awards made by NSF’s division of political science must foster national security or economic development. The language, crafted by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), was adopted last March as an amendment to a bill setting out NSF’s 2013 budget. (Like most policy “riders” to appropriations bills, it applied only to that fiscal year.)

In response, NSF canceled a grants competition planned for last summer, delayed making any new awards, and in November notified researchers that anyone seeking funding in the next competition should explain “[t]he relationship of the proposed research to these [two] goals.” The letter said NSF would also continue to apply its two traditional criteria—intellectual merit and broader impacts.

Jefferey Mervis, Science Insider
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Political Science in the News

Source: Science Daily

Our Favorite Political Science Blogs

Political Science Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • American Journal of Political Science

      This quarterly publication of the Midwest Political Science Association includes research across the political science spectrum including political methodology and theory.

    • American Political Science Review

      Peer-reviewed and rigorous, this academic journal includes articles and reviews from diverse political science fields including public policy, administration and comparative politics.

    • Journal of Politics

      This quarterly academic journal "publishes theoretically innovative and methodologically diverse research" in a wide range of fields including domestic politics and international relations.

    • Perspectives on Politics

      This double blind referred journal strives to provide a forum for a "broad and synthetic discussion" between the political science profession, academia and the public.

    • Political Studies

      Publishing quarterly, this peer-reviewed academic journal includes rigorous, original research across the discipline and theoretical and methodological frameworks.

  • Trade Magazines

    • Politico

      Offering "tough, fair and fun coverage of politics and government," Politico covers the latest in the political world and breaks issues up by topics including ...

    • The Nation

      Since 1865, The Nation has approached "political and social questions" critically and today covers the latest in political news from a liberal, progressive ...

    • The New Republic

      TNR "covers politics, culture and big ideas from an unbiased and thought-provoking perspective" that encompasses issues of global concern as well as domestic ...

    • The Week

      National and international news are covered with longer articles, must clicks, feature stories, photo blogs and links to the most popular articles.

    • The Weekly Standard

      American and global politics from the right are offered in this trade publication with contributions from notable conservative thinkers including editor Bill ...

Political Science Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship

      Deadline: January 13

      Award Amount: $19,500 + housing

      This fellowship funds recent college graduates during a year of working within a community "fighting hunger and poverty."

    • Carnegie Endowment Junior Fellows Program

      Deadline: January 15

      Award Amount: $37,000 + benefits

      This award supports graduates while they provide research assistance to scholars working with a Carnegie Endowment program.

    • Hayek Fund

      Deadline: Rolling

      Award Amount: $750

      This grant is available to students to cover a wide array of expenses including conference and application fees and travel.

    • Robert J. Dole Research Fellowship and Travel Grants

      Deadline: Rolling

      Award Amount: $750

      This grant helps defray the costs of travel to the Dole Institute for research and is open to undergraduate and graduate level students.

  • Scholarships

    • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship

      Deadline: March 14

      Award Amount: $5,000

      This funds undergraduate students, who "might otherwise not participate due to financial constraints" in study abroad and internship programs.

    • Boren Scholarships

      Deadline: February 5

      Award Amount: $8,000-$20,000

      This scholarship funds undergraduate students in programs that further the understanding of national security and who agree to NSEP Service.

    • Epilepsy Foundation: Behavioral Sciences Student Fellowship

      Deadline: Spring

      Award Amount: $3,000

      A fellowship for undergraduate and graduate students whose studies are related to epilepsy research or clinical care.

    • George C. Mitchell Scholarship

      Deadline: October 1

      Award Amount: Tuition, housing +

      Graduate students who have a demonstrated commitment to public service are eligible for this which funds a year of study at a college in Ireland.

    • Truman Scholarship

      Deadline: February 4

      Award Amount: $30,000

      Students who are nearing the end of their undergraduate studies and have demonstrated an interest in public service are eligible to apply for this scholarship.

Political Science Internships

Political Science Student & Professional Organizations

  • Student Organizations

    • American Student Government Association

      AGSA is dedicated to student governments and offers campus leaders opportunities for training, research and networking, including through its regional ...

    • Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration

      The NASPAA offers a wide variety of benefits to students including access to online resources and a job board, as well as links to internship and funding ...

    • Pi Alpha Alpha

      The global honor society PAA encourages scholarship and accomplishment in public affairs and administration through its local chapters where members network ...

    • Pi Sigma Alpha

      This "only honor society for college students of political science and government" in the U.S. has 700+ local chapters across the country and offers funding ...

  • Professional Organizations

    • American Political Science Association

      APSA offers mentoring, funding and networking opportunities through its regular meetings and organized sections as well as an online eJobs career center.

    • Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management

      APPAM fosters "excellence in research analysis and education" by promoting multi-disciplinary research and offering networking through its sponsored events and colleague database.

    • European Political Science Association

      EPSA promotes political science in Europe through post-graduate training and undergraduate teaching as well as professional networking at its annual general conference.

    • International Political Science Association

      IPSA was founded under the aegis of the United Nations' UNESCO and strives to develop political science globally, build international networks and foster collaboration among scholars.

    • Northeastern Political Science Association

      The NPSA offers networking opportunities through its annual conference, and members also benefit from its job placement service as well as subscriptions to its journal Polity.