Department of Political Science
The University of Houston
447 Philip Guthrie Hoffman Hall
Houston, TX 77204-3011
Tel: (713) 743-3890
Fax: (713) 743-3927
This site is designed to help the students at the University of Houston gain a better understanding of the jobs available in government agencies.
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
- 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
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:
- House of Representatives Job Line: 202-225-2450, press option 4, then option 2. For other contact information.
- Senate Job Line (recording of Senate Employment Bulletin): 202-228-JOBS
- House Human Resources Vacancy Announcement Books: 263 Cannon House Office Building
- Senate Placement Office: Room SH-142, Senate Hart Office Building, 202-224-9167. Publications such as The Hill, Congressional Quarterly, Roll Call, and National Journal may also list positions that are vacant or provide leads on staff who are leaving.
- Job seekers for jobs on Capitol Hill can post resumes and search for political jobs at www.gop.com and www.democrats.org.
- The Library of Congress
- Congressional Research Service
- Government Printing Office
- General Accounting Office
- Architect of the Capitol
- Congressional Budget Office
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.
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.
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.
- Public Technology, Inc.
- Washington Area State Relations Group
- State Government Jobs
- State and Local Jobs
- Govspot Network
- National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration
- State and Local Government on the Net
- National Conference of State Legislatures
- National Association of Counties
- Local Government Institute
- International City/County Management Association
- National Governors Association
- National League of Cities
- US Conference of Mayors
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.
- Networking is very important to land a job with an interest group. Ask everyone you know if they know someone who works for an interest group.
- Contact the American Society of Association Executives for information on local positions.
- The current year's issue of Washington Representatives lists several thousand organizations. The same publisher also puts out National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States, State and Regional Associations of the United States, and National Directory of Corporate Public Affairs.
- The Yellow Book Series - especially the Government Affairs Yellow Book and Associations Yellow Book can help.
- Encyclopedia of Associations
- The American Society of Association Executives maintains the Career Headquarters Resume database.
- Look for notices of job openings in publications such as Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Roll Call, and The Hill.
- For internships, APSA is preparing Storming Washington: An Intern's Guide to National Government
- Internship Programs
- Intern Jobs
- The Washington Center
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.
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.
You should take some steps to ensure that you have the appropriate skills because business is a competitive field.
- 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.
- University of Houston
- University of Kansas
- University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
- Purdue University
- University of Utah
- International Association for Management Education
- Career Builder
- America's Job Bank
- For executive jobs or information about future promotions, the Wall Street Journal offers Career Journal
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.
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.
1) International Internship Programs:
- CDS International (mostly German-based internships)
- Intern Abroad
- The UN Public Outreach Fellows Program
- The Global Services Corps (for internships in Africa and Latin America)
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
- 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.
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.
- American Association for Public Opinion Research
- Center for Responsive Politics
- Freedom Channel
- Politics 1
Here is a list of universities that offer specialized seminars, institutes, and degrees in campaign management:
- The American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies offers the two-week Campaign Management Institute and other courses.
- The Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, University of Akron, offers a Master of Applied Politics and Certificate of Applied Politics.
- The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard's Institute of Politics provides internships, speakers, fellows, study groups, and conferences.
- The Women's Campaign School at Yale University conducts annual four-and-a-half-day comprehensive sessions.
- The Graduate Program in Political Campaigning at University of Florida has a Master's in Political Science with a certificate in political campaigning.
- The Graduate School of Political Management at the George Washington University offers a Master's in Political Management, Master's in Legislative Affairs, and the Semester in Washington programs, as well as short-term certificate programs
- The American Association of Political Consultants offers information on conferences and political consulting, polling, and campaign management.
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.
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.
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.
- Teach for America - a prominent competitive program for recent college graduates interested in teaching in under-resourced schools.
- The American Political Science Association website has information about teaching resources and professional associations.
- National Alliance for Civic Education
- International Teaching Jobs
- World Teach at Harvard - www.worldteach.org/
- Moffatt, Courtney W. and Thomas L. Moffat. 2000. How to Get a Teaching Job. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
- APSA Civic Education Page
- American Federation of Teachers
- National Council for the Social Studies
- National Center on Education and the Economy
- ERIC Clearinghouse on Social Studies/Social Sciences Education
- Social Sciences Education Consortium
- American Bar Associations-Law Student Division
- Center for Civic Education
- Close-Up Foundation
- Constitutional Rights Foundation
- The American Educational Research Association
- Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
- National Association of State Boards of Education, state profiles
- National Association of Independent Schools
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.