Even if, as an international student, you have already decided on earning a graduate degree in Political Science, the decision making process isn’t over yet! You still have quite a few important decisions to make: Where do you want to study? Do you want to apply for a Masters degree in Political Science or enroll in a Ph. D. program? Find information about your various options on your path to a graduate degree in Political Science below!
Where to get a Graduate Degree in Political Science
Many colleges and universities that offer undergraduate degree programs in Political Science also offer graduate degree programs in the field. If you find that your dream school does in fact have a Political Science graduate degree program, be sure to look at what kind of program it offers. Not all schools offer Masters and PhD programs in Political Science; in fact, some only offer one or the other. For example, Villanova University, located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, offers a Masters degree program for students studying Political Science. However, its Political Science Department doesn’t offer a PhD program, and interested students would have to apply elsewhere to earn their doctorate. Conversely, the University of Southern California, in downtown Los Angeles, offers a PhD program only, which is in conjunction with the International Relations department. While the program has a lot of perks, including a five-year program that provides its students with funding, a two-year fellowships, and teaching and research assistant-ships, an international student only interested in pursuing a Master’s degree would not be best served applying.
So, which degree is right for you?
Masters Degree in Political Science
Getting a Masters Degree in any field is the next step for those international students who wish to become more competitive in the job market over their undergraduate degree-earning counterparts. However, an upper level degree may not be necessary depending on the career path you choose.
That depends primarily on your career ambitions. If you are looking into pursing a Masters Degree in Political Science, then most likely you aspire to work as a Political Scientist, campaign worker, or lobbyist. In these particularly lines of work, having a Masters Degree will better serve your career ambitions than a Bachelors Degree alone. Additionally if you want to teach Political Science at the junior college or community college level, or would be satisfied by a non-tenured position at four-year college, a Master’s Degree is a necessity.
A Masters Degree program in Political Science generally takes two to three years to complete, and is a more in depth study of the broader topics covered in an Undergraduate Political Science curriculum. The reputation of the school’s Political Science program, the caliber of its professors, and its location are all important points to weigh when selecting a particular program.
PhD in Political Science
A PhD in Political Science is primarily for the international student who aspires to remain in academia, either teaching in the field at the collegiate level, researching and publishing scholarly papers, or both. If you want to someday be a tenured Political Science professor at a four-year college or university, you should certainly consider applying for a PhD program, which commands more respect in the academic community than a Masters Degree. However, while more prestigious than having a Masters Degree, earning a doctorate in Political Science is no easy feat!
Most PhD programs in Political Science take from four to eight years to complete, depending on a school’s individual program and how long it takes the student to finish his or her dissertation through independent research. The good news is that with all those years of extra schooling comes extra financial aid; generally, there is more money available for PhD candidates through grants and need-based financial aid than those students pursuing their Masters. The bad news is that most starting salaries for college professors are low, and it is extremely competitive to get a higher paying position.