Choosing a career is the result of a long process, and career goals may change while you are in college. Choosing a career involves several distinct steps. First, you must analyze yourself as completely and honestly as possible. Second, you must learn the basic characteristics of as many different careers as you can. Third, you must attempt to gauge the employment needs of our society. From all of this, some realistic career options should present themselves to you. Political science majors have found successful careers in all of the following areas.
The majority of all lawyers engage in private practice, alone or in law firms of various sizes. But many others are employees of corporations, labor unions, trade associations, interest groups, and, of course, government. Political science is one of the fields of concentration most frequently chosen by those who plan to go to law school, but it is far from the only appropriate choice. Fields such as History, Economics, English, Journalism, and Sociology are examples of other good choices that the pre-law student should investigate further for an appropriate major or minor. Certain goals must be kept in mind as the student prepares for a career in law. First, a lawyer must be able to communicate effectively in both written and oral expression. Second, a law student needs a critical understanding of human institutions and values. Third, a law student must develop creative critical thinking. Those interested should use the services of the Pre-Law Advisor in the Academic Advising Center (call 392-1521 for further information or an appointment). Students may pick up a copy of the official Pre-Law Handbook (which includes applications for the LSAT and the LSDAS) there or write to Law School Admissions Council/Law School Admissions Services; P.O. Box 40; Newtown, PA 18940 (215-968-1001 or LawPath voice response line 215-968-1300).
The political science graduate may find a public service job in nearly any agency or branch of the U.S. government. Jobs in state and local government are also available, especially in such fast-growing states as Florida. Examples of possible jobs include a junior intelligence specialist in the CIA; a program analyst for the EPA; a state case worker for HRS; a second lieutenant in the Air Force; or an aide on the staff of a Congressional Committee or in the office of a member of the State Legislature. The government-bound political science major is encouraged to master skills in mathematics, statistics and computer applications. The need for a mastery of written and oral communication is also essential. Many students may be interested in obtaining an advanced degree before seeking a government job. A Masters degree in public policy or public administration is most helpful. The Federal Office of Personnel Management is the agency to contact about jobs in the Civil Service. Interested students are encouraged to contact Professor David Hedge (304 Anderson Hall, 392-0262 x284) with regard to the Public Affairs Program.
Political science graduates who are interested in working in political campaigns will find a multitude of participation opportunities during election season, but will also find stiff competition for steady employment in this area. There are now several graduate programs around the country, including one at the University of Florida, which train students in various aspects of campaigns, including political advertising and polling. Students who wish to prepare for a graduate program in this area should familiarize themselves with the electoral process (through courses such as Political Parties, Political Behavior, Public Opinion, and Legislative Politics). For more information on the University of Florida’s Political Campaigning Program, students are encouraged to contact Dr. Stephen C. Craig (209 Anderson Hall).
Interest Groups and Associations
The educational and experiential background of the professional governmental affairs staffs of interest groups varies greatly. Social science and liberal arts backgrounds are common, especially among education, health, and other human- service related associations. Since most of the persons who are employed collect and analyze data before it is relayed to governmental agents and agencies, students wishing to be considered for jobs in this sector should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the policy process. Information about employment can be obtained by writing directly to the organization. A listing of public interest groups and their addresses can be obtained from Common Cause, 2030 M Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20036. Students may also refer to the Washington Information Directory.
A liberal arts education is still the single best preparation for many international jobs. Most jobs in this highly competitive market, however, go to candidates with graduate degrees. Graduate degrees are particularly useful in international studies with specializations in such subjects as economic development, comparative governments, regional studies, and political analysis. Knowledge of a foreign language is usually a “must” for most overseas jobs and an advantage for obtaining a U.S.-based job with international organizations A Guide to Careers in World Affairs, published by the Foreign Policy Association, 205 Lexington Ave., New York, N.Y., 10016, contains a useful list of these organizations and agencies, their addresses, and general descriptions of the types of job openings in each.
A political science graduate seeking a career in business must realize that he or she will be competing with a very large number of college graduates with diversified undergraduate educations. Those with graduate degrees (MBAs) in Management, for example, are nearly always in demand. An undergraduate degree in political science, particularly when bolstered by minors or concentrations in economics, and by courses in calculus, accounting, statistics, and/or computer science, is quite acceptable to professional business schools or to the business community. Those interested in pursuing careers in Business are especially encouraged to speak with Becky Ross in the Career Resource Center (JWRU, 392-7191).
An undergraduate interested in pursuing a career in political science teaching at the pre-collegiate level would do well to take courses in several disciplines. Political science and American, or world, history would be useful areas of concentration because most social studies programs emphasize these particular subject areas. Most “government” courses at the secondary level focus on American government; federal, state and local. Teaching at the pre-collegiate level usually requires certification. This means that several basic education courses must be taken. Contact the College of Education at 134 Norman Hall for more information regarding the Pro-Teach program. Those students interested in teaching at the college level are required to have a Ph.D. in Political Science.
Additional Information on career opportunities for political science majors can be obtained from the following sources:
- American Political Science Association 1527 New Hampshire Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C., 20036 [NOTE: Ask for a copy of the Careers and the Study of Political Science: A Guide for Undergraduates.] Access the APSA’s web site for the latest information
- University Counseling Center at 392-1575 or in person at P301 Peabody Hall. In addition to career counseling, the Center offers vocational interest testing, career workshops, and a career library. The Center also provides referral information to students seeking specific career information.
- The Career Resource Center at 392-7191 or in person at the J. Wayne Reitz Union. This is the central agency for career planning, job placement, and cooperative education on the University of Florida campus. Contact Becky Ross.
- The Office of Health and Legal Pre-Professional Advising (OHLPA) at 392-1521 or in person at the Academic Advising Center. This is the office which students planning to attend law school, medical school, dental school, and veterinary school can use for advice, information about testing and admissions, and for maintaining confidential recommendation letter files. All pre-professional students are strongly urged to use this service for handling their recommendation letters from faculty necessary for professional school admissions applications. OHLPA’s letter forms will substitute for any law school’s recommendation forms. Contact OHLPA for details.