Political Science: Learn to run the world at one of these US universities
Source: Stony Brook University

As the world grapples with complex issues ranging from climate change and international diplomacy to social justice and technological advancements, the demand for astute leaders and informed decision-makers has soared to new heights. 

Let’s not forget the unsettling reality that wars are still an issue in the 21st century. With conflicts unfolding and geopolitical tensions persisting, understanding the underlying factors, historical contexts, and diplomatic intricacies becomes paramount. Thankfully, choosing to major in political science is not just an academic pursuit but a pathway to understanding and potentially influencing the course of global events. 

Universities across the US are offering degree programmes that explore the ins and outs of such topics. These institutions not only equip students with the theoretical foundations but also foster critical thinking and analytical skills necessary for learners to understand and navigate the complexities of the contemporary political arena.

The Department of Political Science excels in preparing students for successful careers in government, academics, and the private sector. Source: Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University

Ranked 58th nationally and first in New York State, Stony Brook University is home to a  Department of Political Science that ranks 28th in the nation, according to US News and World Report. It stands out for putting equal emphasis on academic excellence and practical experience. The Master of Arts in Political Science is a prime example of the power of this combination.

Swift yet comprehensive, the one-year curriculum prepares students to unravel the complexities of political polarisation, understand how moral values shape political landscapes, and explore the nuanced differences in political opinions between liberals and conservatives. Courses are taught by top-ranked faculty in research and publications, including internationally recognised scholars. Practical skills in research design and statistical analysis are nurtured throughout, making it a valuable foundation for those contemplating a PhD or are just fascinated by political psychology, behavioural economics, public opinion, and moral politics.

Meanwhile, the Master of Arts in Public Policy caters to those interested in policy development, environmental politics and planning, administrative law, and health policy. It is distinguished by     seasoned public policy professionals with decades of career experience in their areas of expertise. It is a gateway to influential career paths in both public and private sectors, evidenced by the achievements of recent graduates landing key positions within the US Senate, US House of Representatives, US Department of Justice, and organisations like KPMG China and Viacom International.

Both programmes offer tailored experiences, allowing students to choose between internships for hands-on practice or supervised research theses for scholarly exploration. Experiential learning opportunities are not hard to come about, considering the Department of Political Science is strategically located on the north shore of Long Island — just 40 miles away from bustling New York City, which is easily accessible via a train that runs directly from campus.

This proximity positions students at the crossroads of academia and real-world political dynamics, offering unparalleled opportunities for internships, networking, and firsthand engagement with the epicentre of American politics and policy. To learn more, click here.

UT Austin’s Government faculty have secured grants from top funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Google Inc. and the Department of Defense. Source: University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin

The Department of Government at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin is home to a Government major, otherwise referred to as a political science major. It equips graduate students with the ability to dissect and evaluate political actions. The programme trains them how to analyse evidence, historical context, and comparative perspectives. Its graduates emerge versatile, well-prepared for careers demanding thought, analysis, and communication on complex organisational and public matters.

Hence, graduate Government majors at UT are not confined to a singular career path; they are taught to write business memos, understand and evaluate Supreme Court decisions, analyse chains of command, and comprehend the impact of government policies on public and private domains. This diverse skill set positions them as leaders in various fields, including law, government and non-governmental organisations, academia, media, the military, political parties, and numerous social and political movements.

The department’s strong relationship with the Law School, top-ranking area studies centres covering most of the globe (from Latin America to the Middle East and Europe to South Asia) and specialised centres like the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and the Rapoport Centre for Human Rights and Justice contribute to a rich interdisciplinary environment. These collaborations not only ensure funding for graduate student research but also provide access to faculty with expertise spanning diverse interests.

Many students from the Department of Political Science publish articles even before they graduate. Source: University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

The University of Illinois Urbana Champaign’s Department of Political Science has a highly selective graduate programme. Admitting a small group of applicants ensures that each individual can work closely with faculty members. This also means that many students have published articles — alone or in collaboration with colleagues or faculty mentors — while still in school. This kind of exposure and experience in a supportive and collegial environment is what makes this department’s programme ideal. 

There are plenty of research opportunities available for students. The university is part of the Consortium for Institutional Cooperation (CIC), which is made up of 10 universities and the University of Chicago. Membership means that students can take part in any programme  across all CIC institutions. Highlights include the Michigan/ICPSR summer methods programme and the Indiana University language programmes. There are even CIC video courses so that you can be in contact with faculty and students from other universities. 

Those interested in teaching should note that the school offers graduate students the unique opportunity to earn a Graduate Teacher Certificate and an Advanced Graduate Teacher Certificate. Students may also embark on the PhD programme to become college and university professors. PhD placements are maintained to ensure that you find the correct position once you receive your degree. Besides prestigious schools and top research universities, graduates have also gone on to public service or found employment in the private sector.

The Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science is one of the top political science departments in the US. Source: University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Berkeley

Ranked among the top political science departments in the US, The Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, has trained some of the world’s finest scholars and teachers in the field. 

“At the Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, we welcome open intellectual exchange and debate on these and many issues in our classrooms, our research, and our public engagement,” says Susan Hyde, professor and Department Chair. “We are proud of our reputation as a flagship public institution and one of the very best political science departments in the world.”

The department values theoretical diversity, intellectual breadth, analytical rigour, and scholarly excellence. Leading these values are over 50 faculty and lecturers, each performing research in one of the 11 subfields on numerous special topics. Students and faculty also work with over 20 specialised and interdisciplinary institutes and centres around campus. These mainly explore issues relating to political science and our world today. 

The PhD programme, in particular, has two phases: coursework and examinations and dissertation research and writing. These take about five to six years, which includes three years for candidacy and two or three for dissertation research and writing. Graduates from this department have been able to secure jobs or faculty and postdoc positions at the most competitive institutions in the US and abroad. 

*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International