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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

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The Following Document Is Reproduced Here, With Thanks, From The University Of Missouri-St. Louis Political Science Department Gopher. For This Reason Some Passages Refer To Umsl Resources And Faculty. - Kunkel

The study of political science has value in several different ways. The Greek word for "idiot" was used in ancient times to refer to one who took no interest in the affairs of state. Today, no less than twenty centuries later, it is incumbent upon every useful citizen to learn something about the political system in which he or she will spend his or her life. One purpose of political science education, then, is to improve students' knowledge and understanding of political processes and public affairs issues so that they might be better equipped to perform their citizenship role in an enlightened and effective fashion.

Of more immediate, practical concern to students are the basic skills and specialized training relevant to career preparation that political science can provide. The political science curriculum at UMSL provides students with opportunities to develop specific skills of value to a wide variety of prospective employers, including data analysis, communications, decision making, and research competencies. UMSL political science graduates have gone on to careers in local, state, and federal government; business; secondary education and to law school or graduate study with later careers in law, college teaching, public administration, politics, business management, and international affairs.

Representative Job Titles Related To Major

Advocacy Market Research Analyst Archivist Political Campaigning Administrative Officer Probation/Parole Officer Federal, State, Program Developer County, Municipal Public Interest Group City Manager Staff Community Relations Public Relations Customs Officer Public Survey Interviewer Editor/Journalist Real Estate Agent/Broker Elections Procedures Advisor Research Assistant F.B.I. Agent documents/records Foreign Correspondent Researcher: Domestic and Foreign Service Officer International Intelligence Specialist Social Service Worker Legislative Aides Teacher Labor Relations Worker Urban Planner Lawyer Writer: Business, Trade Magazine/Newspaper Reporter Technical Publications

Representative Employers of Political Science Majors

Archives Labor Unions Business Corporations & Libraries Industries Magazines,Newspapers Educational Institutions & Periodicals Courts and Correctional Market Research Institutions Department & Firms Government Agencies: Professional & Agency for Internal Develop. Technical Journals Department of State Public Relations Firms Historical Societies Regional Planning Travel Agencies Councils & Associations Social Service Agencies

Career Options for Political Science Graduates

A few career options are described below, based on materials provided by the American Political Science Association.


Too often, people understand the legal profession only in narrow terms. Although a majority of all lawyers engage in private practice, a great many lawyers are salaried employees for corporations, labor union, trade associations, and government. Also, of course, almost all our judges and teachers of law are steeped in legal training.

No particular course of study is a prerequisite for admission to law school. Today's law students have undergraduate degrees in political science, English, history, linguistics, and a host of other disciplines. Some broad general recommendations about college preparation for law school, however, may be useful. The main guide to undergraduate study should be the student's own interests and talents. Successful study and practice of law can be based on many different college backgrounds, so students should feel free to study what interests them. Political science is one of the fields of concentration most frequently chosen by those who plan to go to law school.

As undergraduate courses are chosen, certain goals should be kept in mind. First, a lawyer must be able to communicate effectively in oral and written expression. Training for communications skills obviously must include mastery of the English language. A lawyer must be able to write well. Any discipline which requires a student to commit ideas or research to writing, submit the writing to rigorous criticism, and then laboriously rewrite to meet the criticism, is a course which will help prepare one for law school.

Second, the prospective law student needs a fair range of critical understanding of human institutions and values. Here, political science, economics, philosophy, and history come to mind. Undergraduate "law" courses are certainly not necessary for law-school admission, but such courses may well be helpful in providing an understanding of the place of law in society, and can give students a better basis for estimating their potential interest in law school.

Third, the prospective law student must develop creative critical thinking. A lawyer needs to reason closely from given premises and propositions to tenable conclusions. The ability to do this type of close reasoning may be developed in studying mathematics, physical science, logic, and advanced political and economic theory.

Graduate study or other experience after receiving a college degree is not required for admission to law school, but coupled with an excellent undergraduate record, it may obtain preference in admissions. Such students are often assumed to be more purposeful students and likely more perceptive lawyers after graduation.

The Federal Government

The federal government structure is so large and varied that it is impossible to catalog briefly the types of job opportunities available. A federal government job can be almost anything: a foreign service officer in the diplomatic corps; a junior administrative, budget, or personnel assistant at a U.S. overseas installation or in a governmental agency inside the U.S.; a physicist at the National Bureau of Standards; or a program analyst in the Environmental Protection agency. Federal jobs also may include a position as a junior aide on the staff of a Congressional committee or in the office of a member of Congress.

The location and nature of the job may depend on a number of random factors: the state of the federal employment market at the time of application; the particular vacancies for which the applicant's name is referred by the U.S. Civil Service Commission or a departmental personnel office; and the extent of the contacts of the applicant within the federal government.

Some federal agencies run systematic trainee programs for classes of new junior employees. These programs rotate the trainees throughout the agency for six months or a year so as to offer a full perspective of the agency's operations and the provide the trainee with an opportunity to make an informed job preference at the end of the training period. Most junior employees will go into a job where they will serve an apprenticeship term. They may advance in those original jobs as opportunities develop or they may look for other offices in the government if they do not like their first placement.

College students who choose an undergraduate major with the thought of eventual employment with the U.S. government should realize that the federal government employs in every conceivable occupation and with every possible variety of educational background. For graduates in the social sciences or the humanities, selection is likely to pivot on such indicators as motivation and potential for future development as government employees. The government will expect its new junior professional to learn the specific knowledge required to fulfill the particular job assignment. The government-bound political science student should know, however, that skills in mathematics and statistics will provide a considerable boost in seeking employment and any college work leading to mastery of the English language in written and oral communication will be an advantage.

Foreign language skills and a background in international/intercultural studies are obviously helpful to anyone considering an international career.

Anyone who is interested in working for the federal government would benefit from courses in the executive process, in the nature of bureaucratic operation and budgetary analysis, in the policy-making process and in government organization. Similarly, courses in law and the courts, in congressional behavior, and in interest- or pressure-group activity will have real value over the long course of a professional career.

State and Local Government

State and local governments are being asked to deal with a wider range of societal problems: equal opportunity, consumer protection, highway safety, water pollution, soil conservation, strip mining, the rehabilitation of addicts, industrial development, and manpower training. There has been a great expansion of both the executive and legislative branches of state government, and this expansion has opened new job opportunities for political science students. Moreover, the trend to more civil service positions and fewer patronage appointments at the state level has increased the attractiveness of state government to university graduates.

Similar opportunities also exist in local government. Counties, cities, boroughs, and townships are not only doing more, but they are being called on to work harder at their traditional functions. Housing, zoning, public safety, traffic control, and public welfare are representative of urban problems facing local governmental administrators. Today, even borough and township managers expect access to a professional staff. Today's college graduate would do well to consider these increasing job opportunities.

Anyone interested in a career in state and local government will benefit from courses in state and local government, in urban politics, American intergovernmental relations and public administration. Beyond this, some courses will enhance a student's background for specific jobs. A student with some background in accounting may have an advantage in becoming a budget analyst, and the student interested in environmental policy may have better offers if numerous courses in chemistry and physics have been taken.

In today's society the ability to handle quantifiable data is increasingly important-no matter what the job. Most departments of political science now offer courses in statistics and computer programming. Avoiding such courses could cause a competitive disadvantage in employment over the long run.

Undergraduates seeking careers in state and local government should also consider seriously a Master of Public Policy Administration degree, or a graduate degree in business administration, or urban or regional planning. Many master's degree programs train students in specific fields of public concern such as housing, economic development, and environmental protection and are extremely valuable in the quest for good jobs in governmental service.


Many political science graduates have traditionally found employment in business or industry, choosing careers in marketing, personnel, advertising, public relations, banking and finance. Others have obtained management training positions with public and private corporations. New opportunities will undoubtedly open up for people skilled in policy analysis and consumer affairs.

Many business enterprises are interested in hiring bright students with rather general educations and consequently take on the task of providing specific on-the-job training themselves. Political science graduate, seeking a career in business, must realize that they will be competing with a very large number of college graduates with diversified educations. To compete in such a job market, graduates interested in business careers should be certain that they can write well. It is also important to have some familiarity with mathematical concepts, to be able to analyze elementary statistical data, and to be able to read a balance sheet.

Undergraduate study leading to a career in business could follow any of the following paths:

* an undergraduate degree in political science with the goal of gaining acceptance into a graduate school of business; MBA graduates in Management, for example, are in demand even in the present restricted job market. An undergraduate degree in political science, especially with a minor in economics and courses in accounting, statistics and/or computer science, is quite acceptable to professional business schools.

* an undergraduate degree in political science focusing on the interrelationship between government and business. Courses in governmental organizations, public administration, public finance, decision-making, organizational behavior and the process by which political decisions are made about economic policy are but some of the study areas that would enhance a graduate's opportunities in a business career.

* specializing in a particular aspect of business or even in a specific field such as environmental protection or consumer affairs. Anyone interested in going this route ought to seriously consider obtaining a Master in public policy administration with emphasis on their special field of interest. Students interested in international business can benefit form coursework in international politics and foreign area studies.

Resources to Consult

The following is a list of resources to help students plan for their future after graduation from UM-St. Louis with a degree in political science.

1. The Faculty Many faculty members have contacts in the public or private sector which inform them as to opportunities for jobs and the skills that employers are looking for. If preparation for a career involves a second degree, the UM-St. Louis faculty are a great source of information since they themselves were trained at a variety of excellent institutions (as the listing in Chapter 2 of the Undergraduate Handbook indicates and as the listing on the last page indicates) and have colleagues in many others. Students are often shy about approaching faculty for advice, but the Political Science faculty are willing to give any help they can to students pondering what they might do in their life "after UMSL."

Faculty are usually very willing to write recommendations. Obviously, students should ask for recommendations from faculty who they have reason to believe know them best and for whom they have done particularly good academic work. Faculty can write much stronger recommendations the more detailed information they have about the student, so students seeking letters of reference should supply the reference with a brief résumé outlining key aspects of their academic record, extracurricular activities, community service, etc.

2. Publications

There are many books on the subject of training for and finding a job. Some are specific to political science, while others are more generic in nature. These are available in libraries, in campus career planning offices, or can be ordered from the publishers. Some that students might consult are:

Mary Curzan, ed. Careers And The Study Of Political Science: A Guide For Undergraduates (Washington, D.C.: American Political Science Association) -- latest edition is available in the Political Science Department office, 347 SSB.

College Placement Council, College Placement Annual (revised annually).

Howard Figler, The Complete Job-Search Handbook: All The Skills You Need To Get Any Job And Have A Good Time Doing It (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1981).

Christine A. Gould, Consider Your Options: Business Opportunities For Liberal Arts Graduates (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Colleges, 1983).

Tom Jackson, The Perfect Resume (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1981).

Guide To Careers In World Affairs (New York: Foreign Policy Association, 1990).

3. Resource Offices on Campus

The College of Arts and Sciences, 305 Lucas Hall, has a collection of university catalogs containing information on graduate programs throughout the U.S. The College's pre-law office can be contacted through 303 Lucas Hall. Students interested in international careers should contact the Center for International Studies, 366 SSB. The Counseling Service, 427 SSB, provides psychological counseling and other services related to careers and other concerns students might have. Most importantly, the Office of Career Placement Services, 308 Woods Hall, provides a wide range of services for all majors, including a career information library, workshops on résumé-writing and interviewing techniques, job listings and job search programs, on-campus recruiting visits by employers, and information on taking civil service, law school (LSAT) and graduate school (GRE) examinations.