What Is Political Science?

Young political science student taking notes on a phone call.

Do you prefer watching news channels instead of sitcoms? Are you more likely to pick up a newspaper than play games on your smartphone? If you’re attuned to current events and fascinated by the political scene, you may have the makings of a political scientist.

You may be wondering, What is political science and what can you do with a political science or government degree? Read on to learn more about this dynamic field and begin planning your own career pathway.

In This Article: 

What Is Political Science All About?

If a group of people were to become shipwrecked on an island for an extended period of time, they would likely begin setting up a rudimentary form of government. They would need to designate a leader to make the major decisions, decide how to distribute resources, take care of one another, and each individual would assume responsibility for various tasks. Government is necessary for the smooth functioning of daily operations, whether it applies to a group of stranded survivors or a nation of millions — or even a group of nations working together.

Political science is defined as a social science which focuses on government, public affairs and the political activity of a city, state, country or group of countries. Political science involves both the theories of politics as well as its practical applications. Political scientists may study the broader political systems themselves, as well as politics-related culture and behavior.1

This is a highly multidisciplinary field. As such, a political scientist would benefit from an understanding of topics as diverse as economics, history, psychology, sociology and law, to name a few.1 Furthermore, there are multiple subfields within the political science field, including but not limited to comparative politics, international relations, political theory and political economy.

Why Study Political Science?

There are a number of reasons why a student may decide to become a political science or government major, each of which allow graduates a leg up in future careers in both politics and government:

  • It assists in the pursuit of a future as an elected or unelected positions in government in which you can become an advocate for your community
  • You will develop several transferrable skills for greater career flexibility
  • Graduates are better prepared to be active, responsible citizens

Many undergrads continue on to graduate school to study more specific topics like law or public administration.

What Can You Do With a Political Science Degree?

It can be helpful to have at least a rudimentary idea of what your desired career path looks like before you choose a degree program. So, what can you do with a political science degree? Political science and related degrees like government can be remarkably versatile.

With a political science degree, you may have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of potential careers to pursue. You should also keep in mind the transferrable nature of the taught knowledge and skills. Because it is a liberal arts degree, a political science program will typically teach transferrable skills such as the following:

  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork and collaboration
  • Critical thinking and analytical reasoning
  • Research and writing competencies
  • Professional responsibility and ethics

These competencies are important for many different professions across various industries and sectors. Even if you ultimately decide that becoming a politician isn’t the right choice for you, you could potentially apply your degree to another field. Political scientists often work for governmental agencies, as well as nonprofit or professional organizations. They study political systems and ideas, including the origins and development of systems. Political scientists apply analytical reasoning skills to evaluate governmental policies and political trends. They may also do any of the following:

  • Evaluate current events and forecast future political or social trends
  • Analyze public policies and their effects on people, businesses and governmental agencies
  • Conduct public opinion surveys and analyze the results
  • Publish their research and give presentations at conferences

Here are some political science career options:

Policy Analyst

As the job title suggests, a policy analyst specializes in evaluating proposed and existing governmental policies. They study how laws, policies and regulations affect people, organizations and systems, and evaluate the potential results of proposed policy changes. This line of work involves a great deal of research, such as collecting and analyzing data.

Some policy analysts may choose to specialize in a particular area. For example, you might pursue a careers in health policy, foreign policy or environment policy.

Legislative Assistant

A legislative assistant works in the legislative branch of government. They serve as aides to elected officials, such as senators and representatives. A legislative assistant may work at the state or federal level.

Legislative assistants can perform a broad variety of tasks, depending on the day-to-day needs of the elected official for whom they work. It’s their responsibility to understand the issues that affect the elected official’s constituents and the general opinions of those constituents. Legislative assistants may conduct research, take phone calls from constituents, coordinate meetings and draft reports. Some assistants may be tasked with drafting speeches and press releases.


Although some students who major in political science or government may go on to pursue jobs in government, others may decide to take an alternative path. A political science, government or public administration degree can provide a foundation for pursuing further education at law school.

There are many types of lawyers. Some exclusively represent defendants accused of criminal violations, while others seek justice in civil courtrooms for clients who may have been wronged by another individual, business or government entity. Some law school grads decide to become corporate attorneys who advise company decision-makers on legal issues.

Public Relations Specialist

Another career path to consider after earning a political science degree is that of a public relations specialist. A public relations specialist may choose to specialize in working on political campaigns, or they may opt to represent other types of clients, ranging from business executives to Hollywood celebrities to star athletes.

Public relations specialists are responsible for liaising with the media, helping their clients ace interviews and, in general, promoting the best possible public image for their clients. They may also draft press releases and respond to public image crises.

Explore GCU’s Government Degrees

Someone who is interested in studying political science may pursue a bachelor’s degree in political science, public administration or government studies. All of these degrees are closely related.

However, a degree in government may focus more on governmental structures and functions, such as the legislative process and the procedures of the judicial system.2 A political science degree usually emphasizes political theory, whereas a public administration degree tends to explore the practical applications of political theories.3

No matter which specific degree you choose, you’re likely to examine political science theory, the workings of government, history and law, as well as ethics.

If you’re interested in pursuing a political science-related career, you can build a strong foundation for the future at Grand Canyon University. The Bachelor of Arts in Government with an Emphasis in Public Administration degree program teaches core competencies in political science and public administration for future leaders. Fill out the form on this page to learn more about our available bachelor's and master's government degrees.


1 The International Association For Political Science Students. (n.d.). Political science. The International Association For Political Science Students. Retrieved August 22, 2023.

2 The Princeton Review. (n.d.). Government major. The Princeton Review. Retrieved August 22, 2023.

3 Best Colleges. (2023, January 20). What can you do with a political science degree? Best Colleges. Retrieved August 22, 2023.


Approved by the assistant dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences on Sept. 26, 2023.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.