Career Guide to JMU Majors: Political Science
The Political Science major offered by the Department of Political Science, one of two departments in the School of Public and International Affairs within the College of Arts & Letters.
Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.
Description of MajorPolitical Science is offered as a major at JMU. Students are required to take courses across the sub-fields of political philosophy, U.S. government, international relations and comparative politics, but there is considerable flexibility within this major. Core course work introduces students to career opportunities, the conduct of political inquiry in the major areas of the discipline, an awareness of global issues and cultural diversity, and the application of research techniques. Emphasis is also placed on students developing analytical and computing skills relevant to social science research and to the analysis of information in pursuit of improved decision-making. As good citizens, all educated people need to know about the nature of government and their own political system. Today, reasoning and analytical skills and competence in oral and written communication are essential to most careers. Political science, like other fields in the arts and sciences, will help students develop these skills. Students who expect to have jobs representing the political system in any way have an obligation to get more than a minimum knowledge of how government works. The Political Science major is offered through the Political Science Department. This department also offers a major in Public Policy and Administration, a major in International Affairs and minors in Political Science, Public Policy and Administration, and Political Communication (in coordination with the Department of Communication Studies).
Tell me more about this field of studyPolitical Science in the broadest sense is the study of how power is used in collective decision making. Governments are the formal structures for making and implementing decisions and settling disputes, but other entities are also involved in this process. Thus political science has many facets. Political scientists are interested in the various styles and the preconditions for effective decisions, the growth and evolution of governments, and the kinds of problems that all societies face. Relations among countries as well as the diverse characteristics of different governments are important to the discipline. Political scientists also are interested in the tensions between group decisions and individual desires, and between liberty and order and between rights and responsibilities. They seek answers to both normative questions (what should be) and practical questions (what can be). Political scientists also study how individuals think and act politically examining their values and positions on issues and candidates and their willingness to engage in political activity.
Tell me more about specializationAs with any discipline, the scope and emphasis of academic concentration change to some degree in response to the needs of the times. However, those individuals interested in political science usually study within specific sub-fields such as: political parties and voting behavior, interest groups, bureaucracies and administrative procedures, international politics and organization, executive politics and legislative behavior, courts and the administration of justice, intergovernmental relations, political socialization and political recruitment, political personality, mass movement and revolutions, political philosophy, community organization and urban politics, policy studies, the political systems of foreign countries and political economy.
Common majors or minors that complement this major
Political Science combines easily with a second major or a minor. Some common combinations are: Africana Studies, American Studies, Communication Studies, Computer Information Systems, Conflict Analysis and Intervention, Criminal Justice, Economics, English, English as a Second Language, Environmental Management, Environmental Studies, History, Human Resource Development, Human Science, Humanitarian Affairs, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Logic and Reasoning, Management Science, Middle Eastern Communities & Migrations, Modern European Studies, Modern Foreign Language, Nonprofit Studies, Philosophy, Political Communication, Public Policy and Administration, Sociology, Statistics, Urban and Regional Studies, Women’s Studies or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.
Naturally success in our program comes more easily to those students with an interest in politics and government. Students who enjoy keeping up with current events and getting involved in political, government or community agencies also tend to enjoy the political science major as well as those interested in the philosophical questions concerning the relationship of the individual in society. Those students who are able to understand complex arguments and apply broad concepts systematically to concrete situations can expect to do well in this major.
Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
Campaign Organizations, Colleges/Universities, Consulting Firms, Corporations, Court Systems, Embassies, Environmental Organizations, Federal Government Agencies, (i.e. CIA and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), State/Local Government Agencies , International Agencies, Labor Unions, Law Firms, Lobbying Firms, Media Organizations, Magazine Publishing Companies, Network/Cable/Public Broadcasting Stations, Nonprofit Organizations, Political Interest Groups, Political Parties, Polling Organizations, Radio Stations, Research Organizations, Special Interest Groups, and Think Tanks.
The department has a very strong internship program that has earned a regional reputation for quality. Consequently, employers actively seek out our students for these opportunities. Students earn 4 hours of academic credit through an approved internship in POSC 495. Students have completed internships on Capitol Hill, with political parties, federal, state, and local government offices, in law offices, with law enforcement agencies, with lobbying organizations, and with firms doing international consulting. A unique opportunity is the Washington Semester Program. Here students study in the nation’s capital under the supervision of a JMU professor in residence. This program integrates the academic experience with practical application. The Fall Washington Semester focuses on U.S. government; the Spring Washington Semester emphasizes a global experience.
View our list of internship coordinators for each major.
What are JMU graduates doing with this major?
Political Science Teachers, Post-Secondary
A Day in the Life of a Lobbyist
A Day in the Life of a Political Aide
A Day in the Life of a Political Campaign Worker
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A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center.
A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:
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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from JMU Career & Academic Planning. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to the Career Guide editor, Barbara Daniel.