The Strong Interest Inventory (SII) functions by channeling those searching for a new career into one or more of six categories of careers, called Theme Code Categories: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Collectively, these themes are referred to as the “RIASEC Hexagon.” Each Theme Code Category list careers with certain characteristics in common. For instance, Investigative careers, such as Political Scientists, share a focus on applying empirical data and logic to solving problems, developing new theories, or inventing technology. People attracted to Investigative careers tend to be “thinkers” who thrive in loosely structured environments where they can explore possibilities at their leisure.

Political Scientists are considered an Investigative career because they use research, facts, and empirical data to investigate how political systems originate, develop, and operate. Such systems might include national or even international governmental bodies, such as the United Nations or the United States of America, as well as smaller political entities, like local school boards or how smaller countries gain independence and establish their own independent legislative and judicial systems. Political Scientists may even delve into political campaign strategy, such as where a candidate should campaign and the kinds of messages that might gain traction among voters in particular regions. In some cases, private businesses may hire Political Scientists to provide insights into the internal functions of their business, such as how to facilitate a change in leadership or streamline how employees experience a merger. They may also be contacted for consultations with the media, political campaigns, or others who could benefit from their expertise.

Strong Interest Inventory Astronomer Career

Learn all about a career as a political scientist, including career stats such as media salary, daily tasks, required education, employment growth, and more!

Skills, Knowledge, and Education

Like other scientists, Political Scientists also follow the scientific research cycle. For example, they conduct baseline research, develop theories, collect data to test their theories, interpret and analyze the data, and draw conclusions. Additional topics of inquiry may include public opinion and how it changes in various circumstances, how political decisions are made and executed, and how political systems operate internally. Data collection and analysis are also essential skills for Political Scientists. To find the information they need, Political Scientists may need to conduct public opinion surveys with relevant populations, analyze the results of elections as well as any associated polling data, and collect and analyze public documents (e.g., newspapers, case law, historical papers, polls, and other sources.) Once their analysis is complete, Political Scientists are typically expected to report on their findings and make recommendations based on their results.

Because many Political Scientists are also university professors, many of them have instructional, research, and departmental responsibilities, including teaching classes, mentoring undergraduate and graduate students, serving as department chair, interviewing candidates for other academic positions, etc. Additionally, part of their job is writing and publishing academic papers, attending and speaking at research conferences, and otherwise serving as a public representative of their university and their department in their field.

Most Political Scientists use tools and technologies related to archival research and communication, such as office software (e.g., Microsoft Office Suite), information retrieval databases (e.g., ProQuest Worldwide Political Science Abstracts), statistical software (e.g., SPSS, SAS), and database software (e.g., Microsoft Access). Office tools (e.g., pens, pencils, highlighters, computers, copiers) and recording equipment (e.g., video and audio recorders, cameras, etc.) may also be helpful. In the modern, rapidly changing workplace, the ability to master new tools and technologies as needed is also essential.

To be successful, Political Scientists need to be well-versed in several related fields, including law and government, history, and sociology. They also need to be able to communicate exceptionally well in written and spoken English. Those who work with international populations around the world or immigrants within the United States may require proficiency or literacy in additional languages relevant to their research. Most Political Scientists develop this expertise during considerable education. 73% of Political Scientists hold a Ph.D., while 13% hold a Master’s degree.

Salary and Pay

The median salary for Political Scientists in the United States is $60.27 hourly, which comes to $125,350 as an annual salary. That said, there is significant variation in different parts of the country, depending on the number of research universities and the prominence of political campaigns. For example, the median salary for Political Scientists in western states like Washington and New Mexico is just $80,000-$90,000 annually. On the other hand, Political Scientists in Virginia and Maryland often earn more than $150,000 because of their proximity to Washington D.C. and its heavily political climate.

Below are some employment trends for Political Scientists:

  • Median Salary: $125,350 annually
  • Employment: 7,000 employees
  • Projected growth (2020-2030): Average (5% – 10%)
  • Projected job openings (2020-2030): 700
[Information retrieved from Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2018-2028 employment projections]

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  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data and 2012-2022 employment projections