How Much Does a Political Scientist Make in a Year?

The American political system is just one research topic for political scientists.
The American political system is just one research topic for political scientists. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Political scientists research and examine the political systems of various societies. Some political scientists work primarily as researchers, while others may work as advisors or as college professors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs for social scientists is expected to grow by about 22 percent from 2008 to 2018. The annual salary of political scientists tends to vary by location and employer.

Average Salary

The average salary of political scientists was $107,930 as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau reports that 4,470 individuals were working as political scientists in 2010. Those who worked as university educators made considerably less at $78,620 per year in 2010. These political scientists included 15,930 college and university professors, according to the bureau.

Pay Scale

The pay scale for political scientists and postsecondary educators in political science helps place the average pay for both in context. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the majority of political scientists made between $71,800 and $136,770 in 2010. By contrast, those working as college educators made between $51,050 and $95,670. At the high end of the pay scale, the top 10 percent of political scientists made over $155,490 per year, while the top university professors in this field made more than $132,180 in 2010.


Location provides another reliable indicator of the pay of political scientists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the 4,470 individuals employed as political scientists outside of academia, 2,670 of those worked in Washington, D.C., and made an average annual salary of $120,030 per year. The top-paying state for political scientists was Virginia. The 400 political scientists employed there made $125,110 per year in 2010. Postsecondary educators made the most money in the states of Rhode Island and New Hampshire, with average annual salaries of $106,990 and $100,660, respectively.


Political scientists' salaries also vary by employer. The federal executive branch of the U.S. government was the largest employer of political scientists with 2,610 employees in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salary for these political scientists was $115,890. Another 740 worked in scientific development and research services earning $104,390 per year. In academic circles, professors at four-year institutions made an average salary of $80,710 per year in 2010, while those at junior colleges made $69,800.

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