Political Science and Liberal Arts – Liberal Studies Programs with a Concentration in Political Science

Political science students on stairs

Politics is a dirty word for some people, and definitely a dirty business the way it has been practiced in the United States in recent years. But that makes the study of political science more important than ever.

And politics, as a process, can’t be ignored or vilified. It’s the inevitable result of having to convince individuals and groups to pull together to find a consensus in the face of different opinions, interests, and preferences. It’s a complex process that frequently results in all participants ending up unhappy with the result, but it’s a necessary one in any democracy.

There is no part of modern life that isn’t touched by politics.

From taxes to building codes to marijuana legalization to immigration policy, society and culture are shaped by what happens in the political process.

A liberal studies degree with a concentration in political science offers insights into why politics is so important along with the knowledge you need to influence that process, from local city council races to the presidency.

The Liberal Arts Approach to Critical Thought and Enquiry is Exactly What the Political Scene Needs

Woman protesting streetsUnlike many liberal arts concentrations, a focus on political science comes with a very clear career path: it’s a preferred degree for anyone looking for a career in politics. That can range from aiming for elected office to work as a high-priced campaign consultant to those candidates.

Work in politics can be exciting, adrenaline-packed stuff. If the popular conception of liberal arts jobs is boring, dry, theoretical stuff, political science graduates get jobs that turn all that right on its head. Campaigns come with deadlines and take place in full view of the public, with scandals and controversies a preferred part of the process. It’s a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them!

And liberal studies offers the perfect set of tools for understanding modern politics and the political process. It’s a process that is driven by culture, and the cultural prism that comes with a liberal arts education is the perfect instrument for decoding politics today.

A Liberal Studies Program with a Concentration in Political Science Blends Philosophy and Pragmatism

Man speaking to publicOne of the classic observations about politics is that the theory is all about idealism, but the reality is mostly cynicism. If watching legislation being crafted is like watching sausage being made, then a political science concentration to a liberal studies degree is your chance to take apart the meat grinder and see how it works.

Your core liberal studies courses will be invaluable when you get down into the sausage of political science. Although they don’t explicitly talk about politics, you will find that they do a pretty good job of explaining all the mechanics of how politics happen. You’ll learn all those pieces in classes such as:

  • Communication and rhetoric
  • The basis of knowledge
  • Information literacy
  • General knowledge

Because politics can touch on any subject, the multidisciplinary approach of a liberal arts degree gives you all kinds of perspectives on political science.

The rest of your classes will get into the juicy business of poli-sci and related details. It’s a broad field, with electoral processes forming only a part of it. You’ll also have the opportunity to study subjects such as:

Foreign Relations

Politics, despite Senator Arthur Vandenberg’s well-meaning assertion, doesn’t stop at the water’s edge today. Geopolitics is an important part of governance, but American politics is also heavily influenced by foreign policy positions. Understanding the world we live in is always a goal for liberal arts majors, but for poli-sci students it is mandatory for success in the political process.

Constitutional Law

Politics has a rulebook, and the core tenets come from the American Constitution. Students need to understand not just the text and intent of the document, but also the processes and forces that shaped it. They are stamped indelibly into the fabric of the nation and continue to effect American political practice to this day.

Administration and Organization

Politics is played as a game by many politicians and operatives, but at the end of the day, it’s about accomplishments. Many political science students are aiming for jobs in governance. To do that effectively, they need to understand how organizations operate and how to administer public agencies and works.

Policy Analysis

Politics isn’t all flash and showmanship. People want to hear how politicians plan to get things done, and crafting solid policy is how you gain their support. You’ll learn how to interpret polling and other public research data as well as looking at how government and industry work together to develop achievable policy goals.

Political Theory and Ideology

One of the major advantages for liberal studies students in the realm of politics is the ability to draw in understanding from the worlds of arts, culture, and history to understand why politics works the way that it does. Different kinds of political systems are investigated and the reasons behind the prevalence of current systems are explored.

Poli-Sci as Part of an Undergraduate or Master’s-Level Liberal Arts Curriculum

Online programs in liberal arts with political science concentrations are getting easier and easier to find these days. The flexibility you get in attending class and engaging with students and professors makes them an easy choice for campaign staff on the go or even just students who find a program with a good fit that is nowhere near home.

Bachelor's Degrees in Liberal Studies with a Political Science Concentration Get You Into Campaign Work At All Levels

Campaign offices every fall are full of bright-eyed, energetic workers who have just graduated with poli-sci degrees and a boatload of idealism to bring to the table. You can be one of them with a broader perspective on the role of politics in society and a sharper eye for policy and messaging than most.

A bachelor’s degree isn’t just your ticket to ride the campaign trail, though. Many legislators are looking for liberal arts grads for office roles in research, constituent services, and the daily buzz of public service.

You will also find a lot of non-profit and industry groups with political lobbying interests who need your particular blend of insight and creative problem-solving skills.

Master’s Degrees in Liberal Arts with a Political Science Concentration Bring Theory and Practice Together

If you are looking for a role in advance policy development, it’s hard to do better than becoming a master of liberal arts with a focus in political science. Your academic credentials will be pristine when it comes to the theory of politics and policy. Your thesis or capstone projects offers the opportunity to laser in on hot topics of the day to develop both your expertise and your reputation. You can continue to operate in the rarified air of academia, or you can put your theories to the test by looking for work at think tanks or non-profits that shape policy and public opinion. Or you might want to throw your own hat in the ring, running for office yourself.

Politics Aren’t the Only Option for Liberal Arts Graduates with a Concentration in Political Science

Political team working togetherThe natural habitat for liberal studies graduates with a concentration in political science is, of course, politics. The American political industry is vast. The influence of money in politics is timeless, but there is more money in the system today than ever. According to Open Secrets, a non-profit group that tracks election spending, more than $14 billion went into political spending in 2020 for federal elections alone.

Employment is often cyclical. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published data in 2016 showing that employment by political organizations quadrupled in the run-up to congressional and presidential election years. Campaign hiring is a traditional entry point to the world of politics, offering a lot of experience quickly. Because of the ephemeral nature of these jobs, BLS doesn’t track salary data specific to campaign workers, but you can expect it to be on the low end… with long hours. But you’ll love it anyway.

Political science grads also tend to have an interest in, and get hired in, government jobs. That can include process-oriented positions like urban and regional planning jobs, which averaged $75,950 per year according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But it’s much broader than simply an ecosystem of campaign operatives or government policy wonks. Modern political operations require writers, social media experts, videographers, and office staff. Surveys are a major source of data in politics, and one job for poli-sci liberal arts grads that makes great use of their education is that of survey researcher, which pays $59,870 according to BLS.

There’s also the job of political scientist, which pays a princely $125,350 per year according to BLS.

The beauty of a liberal arts degree with a concentration in political science is that it gives you the flexibility to apply your education to all of those positions and more. Your energy and your ambition are the only limitations to your political career.


2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for Urban and Regional Planners, Political Scientists, and Survey Researchers occupations reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed October 2021.