Political Science Advising Guide

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What is Political Science?

Political science is a social science discipline that, according to the late Yale University scholar Harold Lasswell, examines the broad question of “who gets what, when, and how” in our society.  In more specific terms, political science is fundamental to understanding your rights and responsibilities as citizens, how the world works, the impact of global developments on your everyday life, and how law and politics interact.  Therefore, the undergraduate study of political science typically consists of courses in American politics, international relations, comparative political systems and institutions, political theory, and quantitative and qualitative research methods and skills that are applicable to many job settings.


Career Opportunities in Political Science

There are a variety of career opportunities in political science.  Popular career choices include:

Business:  Many political science graduates go on to a career in business.  Undergraduate political science training offers a good preparation for graduate programs in business.  Political science majors who have focused on international relations or area studies may find opportunities in international business and trade.

Public Administration, Public Affairs-- Domestic and International:  Although public affairs careers can be pursued with a bachelor’s degree in political science, we recommend pursuing graduate degrees that offer specialized professional training for careers in public affairs and public service.  There are also specialized programs in public administration, public policy, and political campaign management.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs):  There is a rapidly expanding employment sector in non-profit and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  There are thousands of NGOs at all levels of government and geographical areas that focus on virtually every conceivable public issue and policy area, including neighborhood housing and environmental renewal to national policy areas such as health, education, and civil rights, to global issue areas of democratic development, human rights, economic development, trade, and the like.

Journalism:  A political science major can give you the analytical and substantive expertise to pursue a career in print, broadcast, and electronic journalism.  In addition, most political sciences courses emphasis writing and speaking skills.

Law School:  Political science has been one of the most popular majors for those who wish to pursue a legal career.  In fact, a considerable proportion of undergraduate political science majors go on to law school.  We have a pre-law advisor to assist you if you are interested in going to law school.

Master’s and Ph.D. Degrees:  If you are interested in political science graduate study but do not wish to pursue a career in college teaching and research, there are several specialized Masters degree programs in political science.  Many of these professional Master’s degree programs are in public policy analysis, public administration, international relations, and political campaign management.  If you would like to continue to study political science and become a research/teaching political scientist, there are several Ph.D. options that you can pursue in political science graduate programs.


Salary Trends in Political Science

The salaries of political science graduates differ greatly by position and the geographic location of residence/work.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth in political science is estimated by be increasing by 21% between 2012 and 2022.  The following is the median yearly salary for some jobs for those with a B.A. in political science in 2015:

  • Paralegal: $46,000
  • Attorney: $80,000
  • Retail store manager: $42,000
  • Operations Manager: $66,000
  • Legal assistant: $45,000
  • Government affairs director: $81,000

If one combines all political science majors (B.A., M.A and Ph.D. holders), the BLS’s median annual salary (2014) for political scientists was reported as $104,920.

Unlike more vocationally-oriented majors, such as majors in business, engineering, or the health professions, A&S majors tend to study a greater range of topics outside of their immediate major area. This greater breadth provides an interdisciplinary perspective that complements the more linear education in the student’s major area. 

As a result, A&S majors are compatible with a wide-range of career options. A large 2012 survey of employers found that 81% of employers will consider any degree, so most employers do not require a specific degree. So A&S majors typically find post-graduate employment at rates comparable to more vocationally-specific degrees, Furthermore, longitudinal studies which have followed college graduates over time have shown that Arts and Sciences graduates' rates of salary growth often exceed those of more vocationally-specific majors. For example, a 2010 longitudinal survey of college majors after graduation found that:

“Occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth.

Another longitudinal study concluded that:

"Employment across educational fields is almost identical for individuals aged 35-44, and beyond age 45, humanities graduates actually have higher rates of employment than those in other fields. After age 45, humanities and social science majors’ salaries overtake those of counterparts in other fields."

Finally, A&S majors have on average the highest rates of increase from starting to mid-career salary, with Math, Philosophy, International Studies, Physics, Political Science, Chemistry, and Journalism all scoring in the top 10 among all majors in rate of salary growth to mid-career.


High School Preparation

No specific high school curriculum is required to prepare a student for an undergraduate degree in political science.  But students can consider taking high school AP classes in government or take a political science class in a community college.  Successful completion of these courses will allow students to transfer them to our University and thus expedite their graduation from the University of South Alabama.


How to Major in Political Science

You can declare a major in political science at any time.  The one-page form can be completed in the department office, 226 Humanities Bldg.

For Criminal Justice majors, please plan to enroll in CJ 105 Introduction to Criminal Justice in your first semester.
For Political Science majors, please plan to enroll in PSC 130 Introduction to US Government in your first semester.


Special Programs, Co-ops, Internships

Our numbers of students in internships was the highest in 2019. We have many active internship opportunities with local agencies and offices, and students have successfully applied for federal agencies as well. Although completing an internship is not required to receive an undergraduate major in political science, we strongly recommend that students do an internship, either in the Mobile area, nationally, or even internationally.  Internships are important components of undergraduate education in developing skills and knowledge in your field, as well as training and contacts that can be helpful in career planning and future employment.


Political Science Highlights

 We have had a long history of placing our graduates in law schools as well as top graduate programs. We value student success. Our faculty have won a number of awards for excellence in teaching, advising, and service. Our faculty are also research active and have supported students' research efforts. You will find active student organizations and a welcoming and encouraging environment.

Study Abroad Opportunities

Studying abroad is an exciting and meaningful experience that will contribute to your academic and personal development.  Participating on a study abroad program can be one of the most profound decisions of your college life, and can lead to many new and interesting opportunities.  It can help develop your critical thinking skills, sense of independence, and confidence.  When you depart on your study abroad program, you will go with excitement, trepidation, and uncertainty about the world and your place in it.  When you return home, your deep connection and affection for your host culture will be overwhelming, and will only be matched by a newfound respect and appreciation for your home.

Study abroad is the opportunity for USA students to spend time in a different country while earning credit towards your degree through taking classes, interning, volunteering, and more.  There are many different types of study abroad available to you at USA. They include faculty-led programs, international exchange programs, and direct-enroll and affiliate programs. 

Students on faculty-led programs will travel as a group led by USA professors and take classes in various locations. All courses taken on these programs are USA courses and offer USA credits that will apply to your degree. International Exchange programs are partnerships with specific universities around the world with which USA has a special, reciprocal relationship. Students enroll directly at the host university, and students from the host university attend USA. USA affiliate programs allow students to enroll at a partner university or program through a third-party provider. GPA requirements vary by program.

You should think of the Study Abroad Office as a one-stop shop for information related to your study abroad experience. The Study Abroad (http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/) team is excited to assist you as you navigate through the process of choosing a program, and will help you from the advising stage until you return from your program.  You can get started by coming to meet with an advisor during Walk-In Advising hours. During an advising session, you can gain general information about the many programs available, how the application process works at USA and general guidance on where to begin.

Be sure to visit the OIE Study Abroad website at http://www.southalabama.edu/studyabroad/ to begin your research.  The website contains information on how to get started, financing your program, and a comprehensive list of pre-approved study abroad programs and partners. While researching a passport or visa programs, consider the following: eligibility requirements, location, course offerings, and costs.  You should also meet with your faculty advisor for assistance in selecting a program based on courses related to your degree.

Studying abroad can be one of the highlights of your university career, giving you wonderful and challenging experiences that will allow you to grow both academically and professionally. Where will you study abroad?


Academic Plan

Academic plans are in place to help you stay on track to graduate in four years.

To see our academic plan for Political Science, please click here. Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.

For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.


For More Information

You can contact the department chair or secretary at (251) 460-7161, or contact Dr. Philip Habel, Department Chair habel@southalabama.edu for further information.  

You can find us on campus at:

Political Science and Criminal Justice
Humanities Building 226
Mobile, AL 36688

Department website