Career as a Political Scientist


Summary

A Political Scientist is someone who studies government, political processes and political issues in a scientific way, often within the context of an academic institution. This field of study encompasses many things besides the formal institutions of government. Formal laws are indeed studied, but so are things like public opinion, parties and economics. Political scientists study and analyse the ways in which governments and political systems are organized, and the relationship between government, society and the economy. They seek to resolve political problems through practical and theoretical means by offering advice to and commentary on the way in which governments operate.

They research elections, laws, political groups, write reports on their findings, contribute to media discussion on politics, liaise with international government organisations, and provide advice to governments, politicians, nongovernment organisations (NGOs), and other groups and individuals with an interest and stake in the political system. The field is diverse and includes many different subfields. Some political scientists specialize in the study of a single country's unique institutions, such as in the study of Indian government.

In an academic setting, the process often starts with curiosity about some observed fact. The political scientist asks intelligent and answerable questions, and then the process of gathering data or doing research begins. If the questions are more philosophical or historical, research might involve reading texts, either classic works by thinkers like Plato or more contemporary historical works. On the other hand, if the questions concern more practical matters like government economic policy, the researcher might spend time looking at statistics on recent budget deficits or the rate of inflation. The results of research are often published in academic journals or in book form.

Besides pursuing academic knowledge for its own sake, political scientists also engage in four other broad areas of activity: advice, commentary, government employment and direct political action. Political advice involves providing policy analysis and consultation to governments and corporations. Political commentary involves expressing opinions on the important issues of the day through various media, such as newspapers, television, radio, and blogs.

Government employment means working for some public entity or agency, whether at the national, state or local level. Finally, direct action could mean being an actor in the political process itself, either through holding an elected office or engaging in lobbying activity on behalf of a company or a cause.

Work Environment

Political Scientists work mostly in the offices of government departments, private research institutions, universities or non-profit organisations. They usually work regular business hours, but may be expected to work longer hours to ensure deadlines are met. Political scientists may be expected to travel to attend conferences or to research political systems or situations taking place interstate or internationally. Political scientists usually require direct access to those involved in the political system, such as parliamentarians, as well as to the media.

Entry Level Education

  • Bachelor's Degree for some entry-level positions.
  • Master's or Doctoral Degree related to Political Science.

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