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Political scientist salary & career outlook

If you're politically active -- starting conversations with people at parties and writing letters to your local politicians -- then why not become a political scientist and get paid for it?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), political scientists "study the origin, development, and operation of political systems." This includes researching political ideas, analyzing government structure and operations, and evaluating the effects of policies and laws. To become a political scientist, according to the BLS, you typically require a master's degree or Ph.D. in political science, public administration, or a related field. It's also helpful to have critical-thinking skills, intellectual curiosity, analytical skills and writing skills.

Attending one of the many excellent political science schools in America may help to prepare you for this stimulating career.

Political scientist salary

According to the BLS, as of May 2012 political scientists in America earned a mean annual wage of $104,600, with the lowest-paying 10 percent earning an annual wage of $49,290 and those in the 90th percentile earning an annual wage of $155,490.

Those numbers, of course, can vary according to which industry you're in. According to the BLS, the top-paying industries for political scientists in America as of May 2012 were:

  • Federal executive branch -- OES Designation ($114,320 annual mean wage)
  • Business, professional, labor, political, and similar organizations ($108,410 annual mean wage)
  • Scientific research and development services (($107,340 annual mean wage)

Wages can also be impacted by the state you live in. According to the BLS, the top-paying states in America for political scientists as of May 2012 were:

  • District of Columbia ($112,780 annual mean wage)
  • Virginia ($111,970 annual mean wage)
  • Maryland ($110,680 annual mean wage)

The city you live in, as a political scientist, could also affect your income. According to the BLS, as of May 2012 the top-paying metropolitan areas in America for political scientists were:

  • New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division ($126,430 annual mean wage)
  • Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC ($118,340 annual mean wage)
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division ($112,410 annual mean wage)

Job outlook for political scientists

According to the BLS, employment of political scientists is expected to grow by 8 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is slower than the average of all occupations. That comes out to approximately 400 new jobs.

One possible reason for the growth, according to the BLS, is the need for political scientists to navigate increasingly complicated legal and regulatory issues and policies. Think tanks and advocacy organizations are expected to hire more political scientists, whereas the federal government is expected to hire less.

Though pinpointing geographically where the growth may happen is difficult, a look at the states with the highest employment level for political scientists in America may be an indicator. Those states as of May 2012, according to the BLS, were:

  • District of Columbia
  • Virginia
  • California

If merely discussing politics makes you giddy, this may be the career for you. By attending political science schools, you may be able to enter this sustainable and growing career field.

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Political Scientists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/political-scientists.htm#tab-2

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Political Scientists, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes193094.htm