Degrees to Help You Get Into Politics


Has the presidential election sparked your interest in a political career? Check out degrees that could help you prepare...

By Simon Herbert

Has the upcoming presidential election sparked your interest in politics?

Good news! Running for public office isn't the only way to get involved. There are many different political career opportunities that help you contribute back to society, says career expert Katharine Brooks, director of the Liberal Arts Career Services for the University of Texas at Austin.

Check out these degrees that could help you take that first step onto the political stage.

Degree #1: International Relations

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, it’s never been more important to understand what is going on outside of the United States. If you're ready to brush up on your international knowledge, a bachelor's degree program in international studies could be a good fit.

Students usually learn more about complex issues ranging from the effects of war on foreign trade, diplomacy, intelligence, and how nations interact on economic, military, and cultural issues, according to the College Board.

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Political path: With a bachelor's in international relations, you could pursue a career as a foreign service officer, government executive and legislator, or news analyst, says the College Board.

Those who have gone before: President William Jefferson Clinton studied international relations at Georgetown University, according to the White House website.

Degree #2: Business Administration

As President Calvin Coolidge once observed, “The chief business of the American people is business." So it's no surprise that many political figures have studied the dynamics of business management.

According to College Board, a bachelor's degree in business administration could help students develop skills in arranging, directing, and managing an organization's objectives. Courses might range from topics such as accounting, marketing, economics, managing, sociology, and business policy.

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Political path: A bachelor's in business administration could come in handy as you prepare to enter into a management career in government (like the Treasury Department), says the College Board. Other non-political opportunities might be found in finance and marketing. Of course, in most fields, you'll need experience, too.

Those who have gone before: President George Walker Bush received his master's in business administration (MBA) at Harvard University, according to the White House website.

Degree #3: Public Administration

The Oval Office isn't everything. There are plenty of political offices that need filling at the local and state levels. A bachelor's or master's degree in public administration could set you on the path to politics by teaching you how to work with neighborhoods and organizations within your own community, something our current president knows a thing or two about.

In a public administration program, you might learn how to effect real change in policies at the local, state, and federal levels, says the College Board. Some common courses in this program include public budgeting and financial administration, public policy, and community analysis.

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Political path: A bachelor's in public administration could serve as the jumping off point for your political career. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, this degree could help prepare you to pursue work as a social and community service manager. Get a master's in the field and you could pursue a related career as a political scientist, where you might analyze government policies for various private and public organizations.

Those who have gone before: Current U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell received a bachelor's in public administration from Miami University, and current U.S. Representative James Patrick Moran, Jr. earned his master's in the field at the University of Pittsburgh. And although he didn't study public administration specifically, President Barack Obama spent several years as a community organizer in Chicago before starting down the road to the White House.

Degree #4: Communications

Politics is about communicating a clear message, which has never been more critical than in the 24/7 news reports we've seen during this presidential election season.

With a bachelor's in communications, students might study journalism, marketing, public relations, communication and rhetoric, mass media (television, radio, print media, Internet), and how media impacts our laws and culture, according to the College Board.

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Political path: A bachelor's in communications could enhance your knowledge of communications and help as you pursue a career as a news analyst, says the College Board. Other less-political options might include program director, manager for advertising or marketing, or a public relations specialist.

Those who have gone before: Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo with a bachelor's degree in mass communications, according to the Colorado State University-Pueblo website.

Degree #5: Economics

Money makes the world go round, so a clear knowledge of how it works is essential, whether you’re raising funds for a campaign, or working to cut the national deficit.

Economics students, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, may study how society distributes resources (land, labor, raw materials, and machinery) to produce goods and services. They might also conduct research, collect and analyze data on energy costs, exchange rates, business cycles, inflation, interest rates, taxes, and employment levels.

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Political path: Those with a bachelor's in economics could be prepared to pursue a politically-minded career in public policy consulting, says the College Board. Other potential opportunities might include financial analyst, management consultant, or market and survey researcher.

Those who have gone before: President Ronald Reagan studied economics at Eureka College in Illinois, according to the White House website. President George Herbert Walker Bush, his successor, graduated with the same degree from Yale University.

Degree #6: Political Science

Want to learn more about the development of government bodies and public policy? Pursue a bachelor's degree in political science, and you might study the mechanics of politics, including the origins and operations of political systems, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Other topics covered might include public policy, political theory, and political ideology, says the College Board, an organization that administers academic aptitude tests like the SAT.

Political path: A bachelor's in political science could help you pursue a career as a political scientist or policy analyst, says the Department of Labor. Non-political opportunities might include research assistant or teacher.

Those who have gone before: President Barack Obama received his degree in political science from Columbia University. President Woodrow Wilson was a professor of political science at Princeton, according to the White House website.

Degree #7: Education

While perhaps not an obvious choice, with the recent low performance of U.S. schools on the world stage, a background in education could present one possible path to a political career. And we can think of at least one major U.S. political figure who has proven this to be true.

In addition to providing you with the skills to be an effective teacher, a bachelor's degree in education could teach you about how people learn, covering topics like educational psychology, says the College Board. Common courses include philosophy of education, instructional technology, and teaching methods.

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Political path: Although a degree in education does not necessarily offer a clearly defined political path, all of those hours in front of the class could get your public speaking skills tack sharp. To qualify for a public school teaching position at any level, you must have a bachelor's degree and a state-issued certification or license, says the U.S. Department of Labor.

Those who have gone before: President Lyndon B. Johnson earned his bachelor's from Southwest Texas State Teachers' College and taught for several years in South Texas before going into politics.

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