Complete Guide to an Online Political Science Degree

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $19,905
Avg Salary: $87,870

This page provides information about online political science degrees at the associate, bachelor's, master's, 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 123 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 manually researched list of regionally accredited online master's in political science programs, or browse our top online college rankings for an online political science degree.

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Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Political Science Degrees (61)

Online Political Science Degree Overview & Career Information

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.

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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.

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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.

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Online Master's 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.

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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.

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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.

George Washington University

  • Annual Tuition: $50,435
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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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.

Johns Hopkins University

  • Annual Tuition: $48,710
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: MSCHE
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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.

Kansas State University

  • Annual Tuition: $23,429
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: NCA HLC
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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.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  • Annual Tuition: $29,129
  • School Type: Non-Profit
  • Accreditation: SACS COC
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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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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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