Political scientist is an academic or researcher who studies the theory and practice of politics and government. They investigate the origins and development of political systems, analyze the behavior of political actors such as politicians, voters, and interest groups, and evaluate the impact of government policies on society.
Political scientists use a variety of methods, including surveys, statistical analysis, historical research, and case studies, to explore political phenomena and make informed conclusions about political events and trends. Their research often aims to inform public policy, shape political discourse, and advance our understanding of political behavior and institutions.
Types of Political Scientists
Types of Political Scientists are as follows:
- Comparative Politics: Political scientists who specialize in comparative politics study the similarities and differences between political systems and institutions across different countries and regions.
- International Relations: Political scientists who focus on international relations study the interactions and relationships between states and other actors on the global stage, such as international organizations, multinational corporations, and non-state actors like NGOs and terrorist groups.
- Political Theory: Political theorists examine the fundamental principles and concepts that underpin political systems, such as democracy, justice, and power.
- Public Policy: Political scientists who specialize in public policy analyze the processes by which policies are formulated, implemented, and evaluated at the local, state, and national levels.
- American Politics: Political scientists who focus on American politics study the institutions, processes, and actors that shape politics in the United States, including Congress, the presidency, political parties, and interest groups.
- Political Methodology: Political methodologists develop and refine the quantitative and qualitative methods used by political scientists to gather and analyze data.
- Political Economy: Political economists examine the relationship between politics and economics, exploring how economic policies and outcomes are influenced by political institutions and processes.
- Political Behavior: Political scientists who specialize in political behavior study how individuals and groups make political decisions and participate in the political process, including topics such as voting behavior, public opinion, and political psychology.
- Political Communication: Political communication experts analyze the role of media, propaganda, and other forms of communication in shaping political discourse and influencing public opinion.
- Political Geography: Political geographers study the spatial aspects of politics, including the distribution of political power and the relationships between political systems and geographic regions.
- Environmental Politics: Political scientists who specialize in environmental politics examine the intersection of politics and the natural environment, including topics such as climate change policy, environmental regulation, and sustainability.
- Gender and Politics: Gender and politics scholars investigate the ways in which gender shapes political behavior and institutions, including topics such as gender gaps in political representation, gendered policy issues, and feminist political theory.
- Race and Ethnicity: Political scientists who focus on race and ethnicity explore the ways in which racial and ethnic identities and inequalities shape political systems and policies, including topics such as voting rights, immigration, and racial justice.
What Do Political Scientists Do
Political scientists perform a wide variety of tasks, depending on their areas of expertise and the type of organization they work for. Here are some of the key tasks that political scientists may engage in:
- Conducting Research: Political scientists design and carry out research projects to investigate topics such as voting behavior, public opinion, government institutions, and international relations. They use a variety of research methods, including surveys, interviews, archival research, and statistical analysis.
- Analyzing Data: Political scientists use statistical and other analytical tools to interpret data and draw conclusions from their research findings.
- Writing and Presenting: Political scientists write research papers, policy briefs, and other types of reports that summarize their research findings and communicate their recommendations to policymakers, journalists, and the public. They may also present their findings at academic conferences, public events, and in the media.
- Teaching: Political scientists who work in academia may teach courses in political science, mentor students, and supervise graduate students’ research.
- Advising: Political scientists may work as consultants, advising government agencies, political campaigns, and advocacy organizations on policy issues and political strategy.
- Public Service: Political scientists may work for government agencies, non-profit organizations, or international organizations in various capacities, including policy analysis, program evaluation, and administrative roles.
- Media Analysis: Political scientists who specialize in political communication and media analysis may analyze news coverage and other media messages to understand how they shape public opinion and political behavior.
What Skills Must a Political Scientist Have?
Political scientists need to have a range of skills to succeed in their work. Here are some of the key skills that are important for political scientists:
- Critical Thinking: Political scientists need to be able to think critically and analytically about complex political issues, and to evaluate evidence and arguments in a rigorous and objective manner.
- Research Skills: Political scientists need strong research skills, including the ability to design and execute research projects, collect and analyze data, and draw valid conclusions from their findings.
- Writing Skills: Political scientists need to be able to write clearly and persuasively, whether they are drafting academic papers, policy reports, or other types of documents.
- Communication Skills: Political scientists need to be able to communicate effectively with a range of audiences, including policymakers, journalists, and the general public.
- Quantitative Skills: Political scientists who work with data need to have strong quantitative skills, including knowledge of statistical methods and data analysis software.
- Interpersonal Skills: Political scientists need to be able to work effectively in teams, collaborate with colleagues from different disciplines, and build relationships with stakeholders.
- Flexibility: Political scientists need to be adaptable and able to pivot quickly when new issues arise or research takes unexpected turns.
- Ethical Considerations: Political scientists need to be aware of ethical considerations, including issues of research ethics, bias, and conflict of interest, and ensure that their work is conducted in an ethical and responsible manner.
Where Political Scientists Work
Political scientists work in a variety of settings, including:
- Universities and Colleges: Many political scientists work in academic settings, teaching courses in political science and conducting research.
- Think Tanks: Think tanks are non-profit organizations that conduct research and analysis on a range of policy issues. Political scientists may work for think tanks as researchers or policy analysts.
- Government Agencies: Political scientists may work for government agencies at the local, state, or federal level, providing policy analysis, program evaluation, and other types of expertise.
- Nonprofit Organizations: Political scientists may work for non-profit organizations that focus on advocacy, lobbying, or community organizing around specific policy issues.
- International Organizations: Political scientists may work for international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank, or the International Monetary Fund, providing policy analysis and expertise on global issues.
- Consulting Firms: Political scientists may work for consulting firms that provide research and analysis to businesses, governments, and other organizations.
- Media: Political scientists who specialize in political communication may work in the media, providing commentary and analysis on political events and trends.
How to Become A Political Scientist
To become a political scientist, here are some general steps you can take:
- Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Most political scientists have at least a bachelor’s degree in political science or a related field, such as international relations, economics, or sociology.
- Consider Graduate Education: While a bachelor’s degree may be sufficient for some entry-level positions, many political scientists pursue a master’s or doctoral degree to advance their careers.
- Gain Experience: Political scientists can gain experience through internships, research assistantships, or volunteer work. These opportunities can provide hands-on experience in research and analysis, as well as exposure to different areas of political science.
- Develop Key Skills: Political scientists need strong analytical, research, writing, and communication skills, as well as proficiency in statistical software and other research tools.
- Consider Specializing: Political science is a broad field, and political scientists may choose to specialize in areas such as American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, or public policy.
- Network: Political scientists can build professional networks by attending conferences, joining professional associations, and connecting with other professionals in their field.
- Seek Employment Opportunities: Political scientists can seek employment opportunities in a variety of settings, including academia, government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector.
Famous Political Scientists and their Contributions
|Aristotle||4th century BCE||First systematic study of political science, including the classification of different forms of government|
|Niccolò Machiavelli||15th-16th century||Emphasized the importance of power, and the use of force and deception in politics|
|Thomas Hobbes||17th century||Developed the idea of the social contract, in which individuals agree to surrender some of their rights to a ruler in exchange for protection|
|John Locke||17th-18th century||Argued that individuals have natural rights that cannot be taken away by the government, and that government exists to protect those rights|
|Jean-Jacques Rousseau||18th century||Advocated for a social contract based on the general will of the people, and the idea of popular sovereignty|
|Montesquieu||18th century||Developed the idea of separation of powers, in which different branches of government have distinct responsibilities and powers|
|Karl Marx||19th century||Argued that political power is determined by economic power, and that the struggle between different classes is the driving force of history|
|Max Weber||19th-20th century||Developed the concept of bureaucracy and its role in modern society|
|Hannah Arendt||20th century||Examined the nature of totalitarianism and the conditions that lead to its rise|
|Francis Fukuyama||20th-21st century||Argued that liberal democracy and capitalism represent the endpoint of history and the final form of human government|
|John Rawls||20th century||Developed the theory of justice as fairness, and argued for a just distribution of social and economic goods|
|Robert Dahl||20th century||Contributed to the development of democratic theory, including the concept of polyarchy and the importance of political participation|
|Susan Strange||20th century||Analyzed the role of power and inequality in global governance and international relations|
|Samuel Huntington||20th century||Developed the theory of the “clash of civilizations” and its impact on international relations|