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Complete Guide to an Online Political Science Degree

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: There is no programmatic accreditation for this degree
Available Degrees: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Certificate
Avg Tuition: $19,959
Avg Salary: $104,372
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This page provides information about online political science degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and certificate levels. Students of an online political science degree program will study the history, development, and operation of policies and systems. Political scientists conduct research on many different subjects related to political science, such as decisions made in the United States Supreme Court, the policies of governments, and the political atmosphere of different nations. The 149 degrees on this page offer a wide variety of degree focuses, including international relations, military studies, and public affairs.

There is no specific programmatic accreditation agency focused on political science degrees. However, as with all subjects, it is important for prospective students to verify the institutional accreditation status of any school they are considering attending in order to ensure their degree meets the high standards that future employers will expect. The types of jobs you can secure will vary with the level of your degree. Most careers in the field require a master’s degree or a doctoral degree in political science. See our list of regionally accredited online master's in political science programs.

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Comprehensive List of Colleges & Universities for an Online Political Science Degree

Overview of Available Online Political Science Degrees

The bachelor's in political science is an entry-level requirement for many positions in this field. Graduates can become policy analysts, research assistants, or administrators in public, private, and non-profit organizations. During the degree program, students spend four years studying general education requirements, as well as major classes like macroeconomics, microeconomics, American history, American government, comparative politics, foreign policy, and legal writing.

There are several master's programs that can lead to a career in political science. Both the Master of Public Administration and the Master of Public Policy degree programs typically focus on the professional skills needed to analyze and create policy, such as research methods, statistics, and program evaluation. The Master of Arts in political science provides training in political science research methods. These programs allow students to specialize in a particular area, such as international relations, public law, and comparative democracy.

The PhD in political science is required for some high-level positions in this field, such as political scientists, economists, and regional planners. Possible employers include the federal government, think tanks, political lobbying groups, and colleges and universities. The doctorate requires about four to six years of study, and students specialize in a particular political science area. To graduate, students complete a research project in their focus area and write a dissertation on their findings.

Online Associate Degrees in Political Science

If you have a keen interest in learning about the behavior and impact of political systems and governmental affairs, an associate degree in political science could help you access tools and knowledge in the industry. The program requires two years of full-time study and contains between 60 and 64 credit hours. Qualified candidates should have a high school diploma or equivalent. Associate degree programs in political science give students a broad overview of the field. Students explore the history of political systems, as well as current trends and concepts. Additionally, they develop skills in critical analysis, public speaking, and written communication.

Common classes include international relations, comparative politics, political philosophy, government and policy, statistics, writing, US government, and global conflicts. Students must take a number of courses in the social sciences as well. Associate degree holders often become legal assistants, political fundraisers, campaign workers, and fundraisers after graduation. They may work in numerous settings, including non-profit organizations, government facilities, law offices, and labor organizations. Many of them also join professional organizations that support their career development, such as the American Political Science Association. Professionals who want to advance into positions with more authority and responsibility should enroll in bachelor's degree programs in this field.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Political Science

Bachelor's degrees in political science take four years to complete. Most applicants have high school diplomas and have studied history and government, but no prior study is required. Most schools require that students complete prerequisite courses before beginning the standard political science curriculum. All undergraduate students begin their studies by taking a broad range of general education classes. Depending on the school, students might study math, science, English, history, and psychology, and take electives in the humanities and arts. Once they begin their political science curriculum, students will take courses in mass communications, statistical analysis, government structure, political theories and methods, economics, and business.

Many political science undergraduate students complete internships. They can volunteer for lobbyist organizations or work at non-profit agencies. Some students travel abroad or to Washington, DC, to complete their internships, and many schools offer school credit to those who do. People who earn bachelor's degrees in political science must carve their own career paths. Actual political scientist positions are typically reserved for those with master’s or doctoral degrees. However, many political science graduates go on to law school, where there are opportunities for all kinds of careers. Those who have bachelor's degrees typically work for polling companies, news organizations, non-profits, or lobbyist organizations.

Online Master's Degrees in Political Science

To qualify for a master’s degree in political science program, students must hold bachelor's degrees. Many schools also require applicants to submit resumes detailing their relevant job, internship, and volunteer experience. Applicants must also submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. Earning a master’s degree in political science requires two years of coursework, or 30 units.

Students typically begin their degree program by taking courses in communications, political theories, political structures and methodologies, sociology, business, law, the criminal justice system, and elections. Most students specialize in a certain area of political science and structure their curriculum around their chosen concentration. Most political science master’s programs have a thesis requirement. Students spend many months choosing a topic, developing their research processes, and working with professors to write and edit their thesis.

Graduates qualify for political analyst careers. Analysts work for government agencies and individual politicians on the federal and state level, as well as for private companies. Many political scientists work for news organizations, making appearances on cable news networks and consulting or even writing for major newspapers and magazines. Others who earn these degrees become politicians themselves, usually starting out in local politics.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Political Science

A doctorate of political science is the most advanced degree a scholar can earn. Students must complete three to four years of coursework, most of which is based in reading, writing, and discussion. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree, though not necessarily in political science, and some relevant experience. Most schools prefer applicants who also have master's degrees in political science or a related field. Earning a doctorate requires completing a dissertation, and some students create their own research projects. The goal is to create an academic piece on an original topic that demonstrates a student's mastery.

Students will take courses in research methods, statistics, political analysis, media, communications, and political theory to earn their degrees. Most students participate in research studies or hold internships or part-time jobs to help them build strong resumes and to directly apply what they are learning.

Many top political analysts and operatives have doctoral degrees in political science. They are the top experts in their fields, and politicians, political agencies, and news organizations seek their advice and opinions. Other doctors of political science become professors at universities and colleges, teaching undergraduate and graduate classes and writing and publishing academic material.

Online Certificates in Political Science

A certificate in political science is offered by some universities and community colleges as a chance for people who are interested in learning more about political science to do so without committing to a full degree program. A certificate in political science can take anywhere from a couple of months to an entire year to earn, depending on the program. Many certificate programs are not accredited, so students will not be able to transfer any credits earned through these programs to full-fledged degrees. Students who are interested in transferring should choose to complete a two-year associate degree at a community college instead.

A political science certificate is a short-term experience, and course offerings will be limited. Most programs will expect that applicants already have a base of knowledge to build on, so instructors do not have to repeatedly go over the basics. Most programs have a highly structured curriculum with classes that explore current issues and topics in domestic and world affairs, as well as law and business.

Opportunities for people who have only a high school education and a certificate in political science will be extremely limited. It may be beneficial for someone working in a political science position and is looking to advance his or her career, but such people nearly always already have bachelor's degrees or, at the very least, associate degrees in some other area that is unrelated to political science.

The Importance of Accreditation

Accreditation is a designation awarded to a school on the condition that the school meets certain academic and proprietary standards. This process holds schools accountable and many students are comforted by the fact that accredited schools undergo regular auditing processes that are designed to protect them from fraud or substandard education. Also, only accredited schools may offer federal financial aid, which helps many students with educational costs. Students can check the accreditation status of the schools they are considering through the database maintained by the US Department of Education.

Non-Profit, Regionally Accredited Online Master's Degrees in Political Science

In contrast with for-profit institutions which give revenue to investors, non-profit schools return revenue back to the school. Therefore, non-profit schools tend to focus more on students' interests and educational excellence than their profit-driven counterparts. The ten non-profit schools listed below were selected because they provide quality educational opportunities and prioritize student learning.

  • Annual Tuition: $47,343
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: MSCHE

The George Washington University Online offers two online master degrees in political science: the Master of Professional Studies in Political Communications & Governance and the Master of Professional Studies in Political Management. The Master in Political Communications & Governance, offered entirely in Spanish, aims to train Latin American and Spanish students for careers as government officials, party leaders, campaign staff, politicians, CEOs and NGO leaders. Classes are taken once a week online, and students gather for two weeks on campus in order to build relationships with international organizations located in Washington DC. Coursework focuses on political propaganda, campaigns, elections, and conflict and crisis management in Latin America, with a final capstone project on the subject of strategic governance. Prospective students for the Political Communications and Governance master can apply for the autumn, spring, or summer semesters. GWU also offers the more traditional Master of Professional Studies in Political Management, a 36-credit-hour online program for working professionals to enhance their political strategy and policy implementation skills. This online master's program connects students with influential government officials and politicians from its campus in DC. Students learn to run strong campaigns, influence public opinion, and advance legislative goals.

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  • Annual Tuition: $45,470
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: MSCHE

The Johns Hopkins University MA in Government is a 12-course online degree program that combines the theory and practice of government, politics, and policy-making. The program hires political science, history, and international relations professors from within its Washington DC network. Students can pursue generalized studies or choose to specialize in one of three fields: Legal Studies, Political Communication, or Security Studies. The program curriculum is made up of three core courses, eight electives and symposia, and a final research and thesis course. Online students who participate in Leadership for a Democratic Society, an affiliated program of deeper study of the U.S. Constitution and 21st century policy design for senior executive service members, can transfer these credits towards their MA in Government. Applicants to the MA program must have a minimum average 3.0 GPA from their undergraduate studies and submit a research writing sample.

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  • Annual Tuition: $21,530
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: NCACSTHLC

Kansas State University's online MS in Education offers the Teaching Civics and Engagement specialization for K-12 teachers who wish to advance their understanding of political ideas and how to teach them. The MS in Curriculum and Instruction requires a total of 31 graduate credit hours, which address all aspects of the K-12 curriculum including teaching and learning, diversity, educational technology, research, and scholarship. Students are required to supplement core offerings with an additional 15 hours of specialization courses as well as a master's project course. Electives offered as part of the Civics specialization include Teaching the Theoretical Foundations of Constitutional Government, Teaching the Bill of Rights, Engaged Citizens: Public Policy Issues and Processes, and Teaching Political Ideas. As a final course, online students can choose between the master's report or the master's thesis. Applicants must have a minimum average 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Applications are accepted at all times throughout the year; international students can apply for fall, spring, or summer enrollment.

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  • Annual Tuition: $15,838
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: SACS COC

Regent University's Robertson School of Government offers an online MA in Government for future public service leaders. Some of the various degree specializations include American Government, Political Theory, Religion & Politics, and Political Communication. Applicants to the online master's program must earn a minimum 3.0 GPA from their undergraduate studies and have taken either the GRE or the LSAT. The MA degree requires 30 credits; full-time students can usually complete the degree within 18-24 months, while part-time students may take between three and five years to complete the program. A final thesis project is not required for graduation, but is recommended for those considering pursuing a doctoral degree in the future. Regent University also offers joint degrees between the Robertson School of Government and the School of Law, reducing the overall credits required between the two degrees and allowing online students to earn an MA in government and a Juris Doctor simultaneously. The master's degree also offers a summer study abroad program in partnership with Oxford University in England. The Robertson School of Government is founded in Judeo-Christian values and has received regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

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  • Annual Tuition: $28,884
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: NEAS CIHE

Southern New Hampshire University's online MS in Political Science combines political history with contemporary research in a 12-course, 36-credit program aligned with the American Political Science Association's (APSA) Principles for Graduate Education in Political Science. The MS program offers specializations including American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Public Law, Public Policy, and Political Theory. Elective courses include Campaign Management, Strategic Messaging, and Judicial Politics. A final capstone course applies coursework to a current political issue. No GMAT or GRE is required for admission to this online program, and applicants will be notified of their acceptance to any of the five graduate terms within days of submitting materials. This online degree can be completed in as little as 15 months, with two courses per 10-week term. SNHU holds regional accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

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Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $16,498
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: NCACSTHLC

University of Illinois Springfield campus offers a master's degree in Political Science which can be completed online or on-campus with the same requirements and tenure faculty. Located in the Illinois state capital of Springfield, the university can connect campus and online students with a variety of internships in local and state government, lobbying and campaign organizations, and non-profit organizations.The program requires 40 credit hours of core and elective courses, eight credit hours of which can be completed outside of the Political Science Department. Core courses make up 12 credit hours of theory and research classes. Online students can choose an optional area of emphasis, consisting of at least 16 credit hours, in American National and State Politics, Comparative Politics/International Relations, or Public Law. A maximum of eight hours of internship work can also be applied as elective credits towards the master's degree. A final closure exercise is required of all master's level students; this can be completed as a master thesis, participant/observer case study, or a comprehensive exam. Applicants to the program must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, but GRE scores are not required.

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Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $16,890
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: NCACSTHLC

The University of Nebraska Omaha campus offers an online Master of Public Administration with an area concentration in Local Government, the first online MPA program to receive NASPAA accreditation. This concentration prepares online students to work in local government in positions such as chief administrative officer, city manager, urban planner, or policy analyst, among others. Required courses include Public Human Resource Management, Municipal Administration, and Administrative Ethics and Leadership. Upon admission to the online graduate program, every student is assigned an adviser according to his or her chosen concentration. Internships, networking opportunities with city officials, and urban studies courses are available to students through the program, and online students have full access to online library resources. A thesis is not required for graduation; instead, students complete a capstone project. Applications to the online MPA are accepted for fall and spring terms, and GRE scores are required. Scholarships through the School of Public Administration and the College of Public Affairs Community Service (CPACS) are available for online students who live out-of-state.

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  • Annual Tuition: $15,024
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of Southern Mississippi Online offers a MS in Political Science with an emphasis on international development. Online students will study the interaction of government, culture, and economics from both international and domestic perspectives. The degree requires six credit hours of research methodology as well as coursework in political theory, American government, international relations, comparative politics, public administration, and public law. Specific courses include Women and Politics, Southern Politics, Political Theory Plato to Machiavelli, African Politics and Culture, Politics and Protest, and International Law, among others. A joint online master's degree in political science and library and information science is also available. Applicants must have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and submit GRE scores no more than five years old. A writing sample is also recommended for application. Online students qualify for resident tuition.

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  • Annual Tuition: $19,238
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of West Florida's online MA in Political Science offers specializations in Political Science, Public Administration, and Security and Diplomacy. The program is administered by the Department of Government within the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities. Courses are delivered via live lectures on Scopia, the university's free video conferencing service. The 33 semester hour program is affiliated with a consortium formed by the U.S. Navy and several civilian graduate schools, from which students can transfer up to 15 credit hours. Pending adviser approval, up to nine credit hours can be completed in disciplines outside of political science. Online students can choose to write and defend a thesis or to undertake a comprehensive written and oral exam in its place. Those who choose to write a thesis are required to dedicate six semester hours to it. In either case, a grade of B or higher is required across all 21 core credits. Applicants to the online master's program must supply a writing sample, have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and submit a GRE or MAT score in the top 50th percentile; the graduate admission test scores may be waived for applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.25 or higher.

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Online Master's Degrees (1)

  • Annual Tuition: $27,211
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Regional Accreditation: SACS COC

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, also known as VirginiaTech, offers an MA in Political Science which can be completed either fully online, through an accelerated hybrid program, or on campus in Blacksburg, VA. The program accepts just 35 master's students, allowing it to maintain a 1:7 faculty/student ratio. Accepted students will work directly with the Director of Graduate Studies to determine a plan of study, with specific courses including Contemporary Political Theory, Public Policy Analysis, The Executive Branch, Research and Thesis, Electronic Governance, among others. At the end of two years of research methodology, theory, and practical courses, all students must submit an independent research project. VirginiaTech also offers online graduate certificates in Environmental Politics and Policy, Foundations of Political Analysis, Information, Policy, and Society, and Security Studies. Assistantships are offered to graduate students based on academic merit, providing monthly stipends for assisting faculty in teaching or research.

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Online Master's Degrees (1)

Career Specializations for Political Science Graduates

Students in political science degree programs study history, communication, administration, policy, and a number of other subjects that are applicable to jobs in both public and private organizations. These liberal arts programs discuss the function of government and how public policy is created. The interdisciplinary nature of this degree prepares graduates for a variety of careers. Here are just some of the careers that political science graduates can work toward:

  • Administrator: Graduates are well equipped to enter administrator or assistant administrator positions in local, state, and federal government agencies. Others can become managers in healthcare settings, community service organizations, non-profits, or the private sector.
  • Campaign Organizer: People running for political office hire teams to help them organize their campaigns and get elected. This staff gathers useful information about voter issues, responds to media, schedules events, and makes sure that the people running for office get their message out.
  • Journalist: An understanding of geopolitical issues can be very useful for becoming a politics or news reporter. The political science background also focuses on reading and writing skills, which are obviously vital for journalists with newspapers and news magazines.
  • Lawyer: Practitioners of the law benefit from a foundation in political science in order to provide history, context, and expertise in the nature of legal ideas.
  • Policy Analyst: Policy analysts work in government agencies, non-profits, and private organizations to keep track of legislative and judicial action and to analyze the effects of particular policies. Analysts also investigate new policy proposals to predict the effects of new legislation.
  • Political Organizer: Political organizers spread the word about a particular political movement or issue. They canvas communities to rally support, organize volunteers, and monitor news breaks to stay on top of developments related to their cause.
  • Political Scientist: These academic experts work in policy analysis, and the majority of them are enlisted for work by the federal government.
  • Public Official: Many senators, congressmen, and other governmental executives and legislators have studied political science academically to prepare for their careers.

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