Careers

This site is designed to help the students at the University of Houston gain a better understanding of the jobs available in government agencies.

Federal Government

With more than 1/3 of federal employees eligible to retire by 2006 many young people will be recruited, enabling them to move up ranks quickly. The political science graduate may find a job in nearly any agency or branch of the US government. The maority of federal jobs are located outside Washington D.C., throughout the nation and world. Federal Jobs Intended for Students - Opportunities abound for students to work in the federal government. They include:

Student Educational Employment Program - This program has 2 components - student temporary employment and student career experience. It is available to all levels of students from high school all the way through graduate and professional degrees. Under both components, students may be employed year round and have flexible work schedules. You are eligible under the SEEP if you are enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a degree-seeking student, are at least the minimum age required by federal, state, or local laws, taking at least a half-time academic or vocational course load in an accredited school, and are a U.S. citizen or national. Non-citizens may be eligible for employment, but U.S. citizenship is required for conversion to permanent employment under the student career experience component. Summer Employment - Summer job opportunities are available in federal agencies throughout the U.S., and cover a wide variety of positions. Use the OPM's web site to locate summer job opportunities.

Women and Minority Student Internship Programs - The federal government is interested in finding people from diverse backgrounds who have the skills needed to meet its future employment needs. There are many organizations that offer internships. Here are just a few: Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities' National Internship Program (HNIP); Presidential Management Intern Program (PMIP); Minority Leaders Fellowship Program (MLFP); Workforce Recruitment Program for College Students With Disabilities (WRP); White House Fellows Program; Asian-Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies' Summer Internship Program; Organization of Chinese Americans' Congressional and Government Internships; and the Women in Public Policy Internship Program (WIPP). Go to http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/ei13.htm

Executive Branch

Resources:

  • The U.S. Government Printing Office publishes annually the U.S. Government Manual.
  • The Office of Personnel Management - www.usajobs.opm.gov OPM - The Bureau of ATF; Bureau of Labor Statistics; Bureau of the Census; Commodity Futures Trading Commission; Consumer Protection Agency; Export-Import Bank; FAA; Federal Communications Commission; FDA; Immigration and Naturalization Service; NASA; National Archives and Records Administration; National Institutes of Health; National Park Service; Amtrak; National Science Foundation; Peace Corps; SEC; Small Business Administration; and Social Security Administration are all under the OPM jurisdiction.
  • The CIA, FBI, and NSA have their own selection procedures. Students interested in applying for such jobs should contact these agencies directly.
  • Defense-related organizations include the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Ballistic Missile Defense Organization; Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency; Defense Logistics Agency; Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board; Defense Security Service; Defense Threat Reduction Agency; and National Imagery and Mapping Agency.
  • Careers in Foreign Countries - Info about Foreign Service selection procedures can be obtained from the Department of State and its web site - www.state.gov

Legislative Branch

There are good opportunities for recent college graduates to work in Congress, on the staff of an individual member of Congress, or for a committee. The Congressional Staff Directory and the web sites of the House (www.house.gov) and Senate (www.senate.gov) identify members of Congress and their key office staff as well as the congressional committees and their staffs.

Job placement resources include:

Judicial Branch

Many political science graduates work in the judicial branch of government (www.lib.lsu.edu/gov/judicial.html) often in the "executive offices" that service federal courts. These include the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the federal Judicial Center, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the U.S. Tax Court, the Court of Federal Claims, the district courts, the courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court.

Although many positions require a law degree, these jobs may be suitable for those political science graduates who are thinking about going to law school or are already enrolled.

Additional Resources:

State & Local Government

State and local governments function in almost every area that has an impact on the lives of citizens. States have responsibility for equal opportunity, consumer protection, highway safety, water pollution, soil conservation, education, and welfare among other public concerns.

Educational Preparation

If you are interested in a career in this sector, you will benefit from courses in state and local government, public policy, and public administration. Public financing, budgeting and intergovernmental relations are also recommended. A student aspiring to a career in state and local government ought to intern as part of his/her undergraduate program. The University of Texas has developed a database of city, county, state, and Federal intern programs at http://www.utexas.edu/lbj/osap/career/students/links/mip.html, and the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration web site has a list of internship databases at http://www.naspaa.org/publicservicecareers/internship_resources.htm.

Resources:

Non-Profit

The vast expansion of attention to the policymaking process has resulted in the need for employees who understand how governments function, and whose skills include the ability to analyze and assess public policy as well as to plan ways to affect favorably the outcomes of political processes.

There are approximately 25,000 national associations and 65,000 state, local, regional, and international associations in the Washington DC area, New York, and Chicago. Terminology: NGO (Nongovernmental Organization) usually refers to a nonprofit group that works in a policy area. There are NGOs at all levels of government.

Educational Preparation

Pursue internships with interest groups while in school! NGOs are often understaffed and anxious to employ people with education in political science and policy analysis.

Resources:

Law

Preparing for a Legal Career: Undergraduate Education

Things to understand:

  • A lawyer must communicate effectively in presentations and in writing. Words are the tools of the lawyer's trade. Training for communication skills and mastery of the English language are a must.
  • You need critical understanding of human institutions and values. Political science, economics, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology are good majors to help with this skill.
  • You must develop critical thinking. A lawyer must be able to reason closely from given premises and propositions to tenable conclusions. Pay close attention in your logic and math reasoning classes.

Preparing for a Legal Career: Admission to Law School

The two most important law school admission criteria are:

  • Undergraduate GPA
  • Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score.

The LSAT is given 4 times a year. It measures reasoning skills, the ability to read and understand complex texts with accuracy and insight, the ability to think critically, the ability to organize and manage information, and the ability to analyze and evaluate the reasoning and arguments of others. To prepare you should choose courses that sharpen analytical reasoning and writing skills and give you some understanding of what shapes human experience.

Other things the admissions committee will look at in considering your application:

  • Trend of grades
  • Amount of outside work or extracurricular activities undertaken while an undergrad.
  • Recommendation letters.
  • Quality of applicant's undergrad college or university.

Resources:

Business

A large number of political science undergraduates have found employment in the business sector. Non-traditional jobs such as working on proposals for federal contracts or health care benefits administrator place a high value on a political science degree. Private sector businesses can be large-scale, complex, bureaucratic organizations, or they can be small "mom and pop" operations. When these enterprises interact with government through contracts or regulations, they often need employees or consultants who understand the complexities and the nuances of economic and regulatory policies as well as public administration.

Educational Preparation

You should take some steps to ensure that you have the appropriate skills because business is a competitive field.

You should:

  • Be able to communicate easily in written English.
  • Have some familiarity with mathematical and economic concepts.
  • Be able to make oral presentations in a competent manner.

The job placement office on campus is the best place to begin looking for a job. Go to career fairs and get to know the people in the placement office.

Resources:

International Careers

There are growing international employment opportunities for persons trained in political science, because so many social and economic problems require political intervention in the forms of public policies, outlays of public funds, and regulations enacted and enforced by political and governmental bodies.

Educational Preparation

A liberal arts education is still the single best preparation for most international jobs. Undergraduate training in political science, combined with courses or degrees in areas such as law, economics, public health, engineering, area studies, and business administration will produce the kind of "profile" that agencies in both the public and private sectors will find attractive.

Resources:

1) International Internship Programs:

2) Some experiences analogous to organizational internships include:

  • Participation in organizations such as Amnesty International, the League of Women Voters, or the Foreign Policy Association's Great Decisions program.
  • The Peace Corps
  • Careers-in-Business
  • The YMCA and the YMCA WORLD SERVICE
  • The Rotary Foundation, which offers many opportunities and funding for travel and humanitarian or educational work abroad.
  • Study-abroad programs, which may lay a good foundation for future international careers, especially if they aid in the development of language skills. Most colleges and universities have access to these programs.

3) Other resources:

Campaigns and Polling

Traditional Campaign Jobs

Each candidate running for political office in the US must put together his or her own campaign organization. As candidates seek higher offices, poling and campaign techniques usually become more sophisticated, with the inclusion of election professionals such as media consultants, professional fund raisers, and pollsters.

Campaigns require people who are willing to work long hours, often for little or no pay and often who are willing to travel. This profession is not for someone who wants regular, stable office hours, but rather seeks the excitement of electoral politics.

A typical career pattern in this field begins with volunteering on a campaign at the local or congressional level, progressing to a paid position, moving to a statewide or national campaign, and then ending at a consulting firm. Flexibility and openness to new opportunities are important.

Non-electoral politics

Examples - staff member for an elected official or political action committee, lobbyist at a trade association, policy analyst for a nonprofit organization or think tank, or pollster for a public opinion research firm or marketing research company.

Political Action Committees (PAC) are sponsored by corporations and trade or issue groups to gather contributions from members or employers to give to political candidates. Via their donations, PACs are highly effective in influencing officeholders.

At the state and national levels, there are many nonprofit groups called think tanks, some of which have an issue orientation particular to a party's philosophy.

Media groups such as ABC, CBS, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and USA Today conduct issue polls. Polling firms such as Gallup hire people to write questions, format polls for the internet or print, analyze data, and more. There are also thousands of marketing research firms and web-based polling operations that value opinion polling, in which methodological and analytical skills may be put to good use.

Resources:

Academic Preparation

Here is a list of universities that offer specialized seminars, institutes, and degrees in campaign management:

Job Placement

The best way to get a job on a campaign is to demonstrate campaign experience, and the best way to get experience, apart from taking one of the specialized seminars mentioned above, is to volunteer on a campaign. Volunteering is an excellent way both to obtain campaign experience and to make connections. Getting involved in the local Young Republicans or Young Democrats, or involved in student government is also a good idea.

Resources:

Journalism

A political science major gives you the substantive and analytical expertise necessary for a career in journalism if you so choose. Seasoned journalists claim that employers value a liberal arts education with a major in the humanities or social science discipline and that a political science major prepares a journalist to cover public affairs, politics, political institutions, and more. If this is something you are interested in, you should consider a job with the college newspaper, radio, or television. An internship with the Houston Chronicle is also a good idea.

Resources:

Pre-Collegiate Education

This field includes high school and middle school teaching as well as non-classroom teaching. If you are interested in teaching, you need to speak with the College of Education to find out what you will need for a teaching certificate.

Resources:

The Bottom Line

  • Sharpen your written English skills.
  • Sharpen your communication skills.
  • Sharpen your analytical skills.
  • Internship, internship, internship!
  • Get involved in on-campus organizations to develop leadership skills!
  • As you build your resume, focus on the well-roundedness of your education as well as the leadership experience and work experience you have gained while in college.