Political science majors learn much more than the institutions and processes of government. Students majoring in this field develop communication and administrative skills, analytical abilities and critical thinking skills. These skills make a political science degree applicable to a broad range of career options, including government service, business, law, national and international nonprofit groups, journalism and teaching. With so many career options, a political science major's salary after graduation depends on career choice, other experience and skills. However, students can expect competitive salaries. In 2008, "Forbes" magazine ranked political science ninth among the most lucrative college majors.
In the "Forbes" ranking, political science rated behind engineering, computer science, economics and finance majors but ahead of marketing, which came in 10th. Forbes used data from Payscale to support its findings. In 2010, Payscale reported that political science majors had average starting salaries of nearly $41,000 a year, while those with less than five years of experience earned an average of $41,105 a year. Payscale data indicate that salaries continue to rise with experience. Political science majors with five to 19 years of experience had salaries averaging $55,274 to $69,346, while those with more than 20 years of experience earned average salaries of more than $78,000 a year.
Payscale also reported average salaries for political science majors by job type. Jobs listed by the website included attorney, paralegal, legal assistant, administrative assistant, program manager for a nonprofit organization, operations manager and intelligence analyst. Attorneys had the highest average salaries, at $76,291 a year. Political science provides excellent preparation for law school, which students must attend to become an attorney. Intelligence analysts had the second-highest salaries, averaging $68,750 a year.
Other Job Types
Among other job types listed by Payscale, legal assistants and paralegals earned from $36,602 to $44,640 a year, on average. Administrative assistants and nonprofit organization program managers had the lowest salaries among the jobs listed, at $31,220 and $36,583, respectively. Operations managers received average annual salaries of $55,063 a year.
The website of the American Political Science Association contains a long list of career options for students with degrees in the field. These options range from activist and attorney to university professor and urban policy planner. Salaries for these and other professions vary widely, with some occupations requiring additional education and training beyond the bachelor's degree. What is clear, however, is that an undergraduate degree in political science provides a foundation for a successful career.