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Thursday, 23 January 2014

Is a degree in Political Science worthwhile?

by Megan Semaniuk

Political science is the study of governance and related institutions. The Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta boasts approximately 1200 undergraduate students and over 100 graduate students.  Through their studies, these individuals aim to answer a variety of questions related to politics and governance. From elections to war, taxation to health care, political scientists are able to apply their knowledge – both academically and practically - across a variety of different fields. Perhaps you even know someone who is taking a political science degree!

Three things you should know about a degree in Political Science:

  1.  Political Science graduates focus on different areas of study. Universities across Canada generally divide the discipline into Canadian Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. Each of these perspectives has a slightly different approach to the study of political life.

  2.  A degree in Political Science is applicable to academics and practitioners alike. Understanding how politics work involves a thorough investigation into both theory and “the trenches.” In an attempt to improve and engage citizens in the process, political scientists aim to use this knowledge to motivate and educate those around them to connect with current events, elections, public policy, and much, much more.

  3. Political Science is a highly applicable degree which benefits society as a whole. The study of politics, institutions, and social life is all around us. Learning how and why these mechanisms work ensures efficiency and productivity for all those involved.  

Three myths about a degree in political science:

Myth #1: What in the world does one do with a Political Science degree? There are many opportunities available to political science graduates. These include (but are not limited to) local, provincial, territorial and federal governmental positions, largely in the public sector. In addition, there are many programs and forums in place to help Arts graduates (and thus, political science graduates) find employment and further the study of politics and political structures, as well as opportunities in the private sector. 

Myth #2:  Political science graduates all want to become politicians or go into law school. While it is true that many students do pursue a political science degree as the foundation for studies in other fields, many individuals go on to become involved in public administration, private industry, or not-for-profit endeavours. Some jobs available for graduates include policy analysts, educators, research, humanitarian development, human resources, and more!

Myth #3: Political science graduates exist in “Ivory Towers” and know little about how to apply their knowledge in practice.  On the contrary, there is a current movement to increase the relevancy of a political science degree in the real world. While it is important for these academics to keep on top of the most recent research in their respective fields, it is equally important that they be able to engage with this material in the context of a globalized and ever-changing world. Breaking down the “ivory tower” myth is crucial to this project, as is forging pathways into the public service and non-University community. 

Megan Semaniuk is in the process of completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta with a major in Political Science. She hopes to further her enthusiasm for the study of Canadian Politics and Canadian Intergovernmental Affairs through a Masters Degree in Political Science. Upon graduation, she hopes to become a full-fledged “pracademic” applying her theoretical knowledge to the public sector in an effort to improve citizen responsiveness and engagement.  

1 comment:

  1. Great post! As a political science graduate working in government, I can attest to the fact that there certainly is a place for us and that we do (I'd like to think) bring value. In addition to some valuable subject matter knowledge (Westminster democracy, bicameral legislatures, etc.), a good political science program will teach you how to think critically, research efficiently, and write effectively. These are skills valuable in any number of work forces.