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Political Science Subject Guide

Thinking about studying politics or political science at postgraduate level? It’s an exciting subject that lies at the heart of many of the critical issues and current affairs occurring around the world, and shaping the different aspects of our lives. 

With a variety of routes into political careers, and a number of sectors that make good use of the key skills cultivated by political scientists, there are plenty of choices ahead of you as a prospective postgraduate of political science. 

You might be wondering what type of course will be best for your goals, whether you meet the entry requirements, how you’ll learn and what careers you could go on to. This guide has all the answers to these questions and more. 


Why do a political science degree? 

Political science is a popular postgraduate subject, open to students who are graduating from undergraduate degrees in areas ranging from politics to history, sociology, geography and more. This subject is dedicated to understanding, analysing and contributing to national and global affairs, political issues, and theories around society and government. 

As a subject, it provides students with a grounding in the political landscape of their chosen country or region, exposes them to real case studies and an in depth knowledge of the theories and practices that underpin much of modern nations’ function. 

It’s a great way to prepare for political science jobs, in sectors ranging from the political establishment itself to the civil service and local government, PR and marketing, journalism and media, and more. 

What qualifications can you get? 

As a prospective postgraduate student in political science, there are a few types of qualification worth considering at postgraduate level. Each one offers a distinct approach to learning and training in the field of political science, suited to students of different backgrounds, ambitions and current experience levels. 

Taught master’s degrees in political science, including MA and MSc type courses, are the most common choice of postgraduate qualification following undergraduate study. This course will help you build an advanced understanding of political science, international affairs or development in your chosen niche. Students of relevant non-politics backgrounds are usually able to move into this courses as well, powering their transition into political science. 

Research qualifications, like the MRes and MPhil at master’s level or doctorate, such as the PhD, allow students to focus more on building research skills and conducting innovative new work into a chosen area within the field. 

What jobs can you do with a political science degree? 

There are plenty of political science jobs open to postgraduates in this academic field; not only in politics itself, but in a number of adjacent industries including the civil service, local government, public relations, finance, human resources and more. There are plenty of options open to graduates looking to boost their political science salary and reach for the highest paid jobs in politics. 

You could consider roles such as: 

  • Politician 
  • Policy advisor 
  • Policy officer 
  • Social research officer 
  • Political risk analyst 
  • Personal assistant 
  • Public affairs consultant 
  • Charity officer 
  • Diplomatic service worker 
  • Human resource officer 
  • Marketing executive 
  • Journalist 
  • Public relations officer 

The transferable skills you develop during your studies, your naturally analytical approach to solving problems, and awareness of the importance of stakeholders in enacting change will allow you to turn your hand to an even wider range of jobs than the ones listed here. 

What are the political science degree entry requirements? 

While entry requirements vary between political degrees at postgraduate level, a masters in politics usually requires a minimum 2:2 grade at undergraduate honours level, in a discipline related to politics. 

Doctoral students will usually need at least a 2:1 at undergraduate level, in a relevant area, and often a master’s degree in a related subject too. Lesser qualifications in combination with relevant professional experience may be considered in many cases. 

What political science courses are there? 

There are plenty of different political science master’s, research degrees and doctorates to choose from as a prospective postgraduate in this field. You could consider study pathways such as: 

  • MA Politics 
  • MSc International Relations 
  • PhD Politics 
  • MA Global Affairs and Politics 
  • PhD Global Political Economy 

What topics does a political science degree cover? 

While each political science degree will have its own unique combination of compulsory and optional modules, you can normally expect to study topics such as: 

  • Critical thinking 
  • Citizenship, democracy and political theory 
  • Statistical data analysis 
  • Philosophy, methodology and research design 
  • Resilience in international systems 

What do you learn in a political science degree? 

Political science degrees bring together elements of social sciences, history, geography, data, and more to produce a truly interdisciplinary study option at postgraduate level. 

As a political science student, you’ll develop a range of skills and competencies that will help you thrive across roles, both in the policy sphere as well as a number of related industries. 

Critical thinking, logic and in-depth analysis skills will be some of the key capabilities developed during your studies, as you grapple with complex and multifaceted policy problems and explore efficient solutions. 

Communication, report writing and presentation are other important skills that you’ll cultivate, learning to translate complex information and policy recommendations into practical, easily understood forms. 

A deep knowledge of political history, social and cultural phenomena, economics and other related areas will help you thrive as a well-rounded expert in the political sciences. 

How will you be taught and assessed? 

Teaching for political science taught master’s is most often through a combination of lectures, seminars, and other classes. While lectures deliver core course content and help understand theory, classes and seminars gives students the chance to work through problems, examine case studies and contribute to in-depth discussions. 

Assessment in political science postgraduate courses is typically through completion of coursework, including exercises, essays and exams. 

How long is a political science degree? 

A political science degree at postgraduate level will vary in length, depending on whether you’re studying a master’s or PhD, whether you’re studying full or part time, and the university offering your course. 

Typically, political science master’s will last one year if studied full time and two years if studied part-time. Some master’s courses, like LLM variants, may last longer. Shorter PGCert and PGDip courses can both be completed in under a year, if studied full time. 

MPhil and PhD courses will usually last between two and four years full time, and around twice that if studied part-time. 

Where can you study political science? 

With nearly 900 postgraduate degrees to choose from, on offer at more than 115 universities in the UK, there’s a dizzying array of choice when it comes to political science master’s and doctorates. Our university search tool can filter and browse courses with ease to find the best universities for political science for you. 

What similar subjects are there to political science? 

If you’re interested in the forces shaping society and how it functions, there are several other subjects that may interest you at postgraduate level, such as: 

  • Economics 
  • Sociology 
  • Anthropology 
  • Geography 
  • History 

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