Career Guide


The Political Science major is offered by the Department of Political Science, 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 Major

Political 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 the conduct of political inquiry and scholarship 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. Additionally, the Dept. of Political Science provides guidance for all majors and minors with regard to career opportunities in public service. Moreover, responsible citizens need to know as much as possible about the nature of politics and their own government. Today, reasoning and analytical skills and competence in oral and written communication are essential to both good citizenship and successful careers. Political science, like other fields in the arts and sciences, will help students develop these skills. Students who expect to land jobs in an official (political or governmental) capacity have an obligation to acquire knowledge of how government works and what political activity involves. The political science major is offered through the political science department. This department also offers a major in public 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).

More About the Field 

Political Science in the broadest sense is the study of our shared public life, and how we engage in collective decisions in the rational and just direction and improvement of that shared life. 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, the purpose of political activity in the pursuit of a meaningful public life, the uses and abuses of power, and the kinds of problems that all societies face. Relations among countries and international organizations as well as the diverse characteristics of different governments are important to the discipline. Political scientists also are interested in the tensions between group needs and individual desires, 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.


As 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, minority politics, environmental policy, 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, theory and ideology, community organization and urban politics, policy studies, the political systems of foreign countries and political economy.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

Political Science combines easily with a second major or a minor. Some common combinations are: African, African American & Diaspora 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.

Characteristics of Successful Students

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.

  • Account Executive
  • ATF Investigative Assistant
  • Bank Officer
  • Business Consultant
  • Campaign Manager
  • Chamber of Commerce Director
  • Claims Representative
  • Congressional Aide
  • Consumer Advocate
  • Contract Specialist
  • Corporate Lawyer
  • Corporate Recruiter
  • Crime Intelligence Analyst
  • Demographer
  • Documentation Specialist
  • E-Communications Director
  • Editor
  • Election Supervisor
  • Environmental Activist
  • Event Coordinator
  • Executive Assistant
  • FBI Investigative Specialist
  • Field Office Manager
  • Campaign Finance Analyst
  • Foreign Correspondent
  • Foreign Services Officer
  • Government Officer
  • Imagery Analyst
  • Intelligence Agent
  • International Trade Specialist
  • Journalist
  • Judicial Clerk
  • Labor Relations Specialist
  • Law Enforcement Officer
  • Lawyer
  • Legal Assistant
  • Legal Document Analyst
  • Legislative Assistant
  • Legislator
  • Litigation Clerk
  • Lobbyist
  • Management Analyst
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Mortgage Adjuster
  • National News Aid
  • Negotiator
  • Newspaper Reporter
  • Paralegal
  • Peace Corps Officer
  • Policy Staff Assistant
  • Political Consultant
  • Politician
  • Probation/ Parole Officer
  • Professor
  • Program Evaluator
  • Public Interest Group Director
  • Radio/ TV Broadcaster
  • Researcher
  • Sales Representative
  • Software Engineer
  • Speech Writer
  • Teacher
  • Technical Writer
  • Urban/ Regional Planner
  • Victim/ Witness Officer
  • Website Designer
  • White House Special Assistant
  • Worldwide Media Specialist

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.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

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.

Career Profiles 

Political Scientists
Political Scientists Summary
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

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. 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

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