Best Online Political Science Degree Programs 2024

Table of Contents

Why Choose an Online Political Science Degree Program?

When considering higher education, students often weigh their options based on factors such as flexibility, cost, and the relevance of the program to their career goals. An online political science degree program offers a unique combination of advantages that cater to a wide range of needs and aspirations. Here's why you might consider pursuing your political science education online:

  • Flexibility and Convenience: One of the most significant benefits of an online political science degree is the flexibility it offers. Whether you're balancing work, family commitments, or other responsibilities, online courses allow you to access your studies at any time and from any location. This means you can tailor your education around your schedule, reducing the stress of balancing multiple priorities.
  • Broadened Access: Geographic barriers can limit access to quality education, but online programs transcend these limitations. No matter where you reside, you can enroll in a top-notch political science program without relocating, saving on housing and transportation costs.
  • Interactive Learning Environments: Online learning platforms have evolved to offer dynamic and engaging learning experiences. Virtual classrooms often feature interactive discussions, multimedia content, and opportunities for real-time engagement with peers and professors, fostering a collaborative learning atmosphere.
  • Technological Proficiency: As political processes increasingly incorporate digital tools and platforms, technological proficiency has become more important. Online political science programs inherently include training in digital communication and research skills that are directly applicable to modern political careers.
  • Diverse Perspectives: Online programs typically attract a diverse student body from various backgrounds and locations. This diversity enriches class discussions with multiple perspectives on political issues, providing a more rounded understanding of global politics.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: An online degree can be more cost-effective than traditional on-campus programs. Not only can tuition fees be lower, but you also save on commuting costs, campus fees, and sometimes even course materials, as many resources are available digitally.
  • Continual Advancement: For those already employed in the field of politics or related sectors, an online degree allows for continuous professional development without the need to take a career break. You can apply new knowledge directly to your current role, potentially opening doors for advancement and increased earning potential.
  • Expert Faculty: Many online political science programs are taught by the same esteemed faculty who teach on-campus courses. This means you'll receive the same high-quality instruction and expertise as traditional students while benefiting from the accessibility of an online format.

Choosing an online political science degree program thus combines the rigor of academic study with the practicality needed in today's fast-paced world. It provides a pathway to understanding complex political systems, theories, and behaviors while offering the adaptability required by many prospective students.

Types of Online Political Science Degree Programs

Online political science degree programs offer a flexible and accessible way for students to pursue an education in the field of political science. These programs are designed to cater to a variety of educational needs and career goals. Here, we will explore the different types of online political science degrees available to prospective students.

Associate Degrees in Political Science

  • Duration: Typically, an associate degree takes two years to complete.
  • Curriculum: Courses may include introductions to political theory, American government, international relations, and comparative politics.
  • Career Pathways: Graduates can pursue entry-level positions such as legislative assistants, campaign staff, or continue their education with a bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s Degrees in Political Science

  • Duration: A bachelor’s program usually spans four years but may be completed sooner with accelerated options.
  • Focus Areas: Students can often specialize in areas like public administration, political theory, or international relations.
  • Career Outcomes: Degree holders may qualify for roles in public service, non-profit organizations, or private sector positions that require strong analytical and communication skills.

Master’s Degrees in Political Science

  • Advanced Study: Master's programs offer a deeper dive into political science research and analysis.
  • Duration: These programs typically take one to two years to complete.
  • Career Advancement: A master’s degree can lead to higher-level positions in government, diplomacy, or academia.

Doctoral Degrees in Political Science

  • Pursuit of Expertise: Doctoral programs are geared towards those seeking to become experts and contribute original research to the field.
  • Academic Careers: Graduates often pursue careers as university professors or high-level research analysts.
  • Duration: Completing a PhD can take several years, depending on the dissertation requirements and pace of study.

Certificates in Political Science

  • Specialized Knowledge: Certificate programs allow students to focus on specific areas such as electoral politics, policy analysis, or international governance.
  • Professional Development: These programs are often short-term and can enhance a resume or complement an existing degree.
Each of these online political science degree programs incorporates various teaching methods, including asynchronous coursework, live discussions, and interactive assignments. The flexibility of online learning enables students to balance their studies with personal and professional commitments while gaining valuable knowledge and skills applicable across a broad spectrum of careers.

Online Political Science Degree Admission Requirements and Application Process

When considering an online political science degree, understanding the admission requirements and application process is crucial. Educational institutions in the United States have set criteria to evaluate prospective students' readiness for their programs. These requirements ensure that students are well-prepared to tackle the rigorous curriculum and engage fully with the course material.

Standard Admission Requirements

  • High School Diploma or Equivalent: Applicants are typically required to have completed high school or possess a GED certificate. Proof of this education, such as transcripts or diploma copies, must be submitted.
  • Minimum GPA: Many programs require a minimum high school GPA, often around a 2.0 on a 4.0 scale, although more competitive programs may require higher GPAs.
  • Standardized Test Scores: Some colleges may request SAT or ACT scores, although an increasing number of programs are moving towards test-optional admissions policies.
  • Letters of Recommendation: These letters should come from teachers, counselors, or other individuals who can attest to the applicant's academic abilities and potential for success in a political science program.
  • Personal Statement or Essay: A written piece that gives insight into the applicant’s interests in political science, career goals, and reasons for choosing the particular program.
  • English Proficiency: For non-native English speakers, proof of English proficiency through exams like TOEFL or IELTS may be required.

The Application Process

Navigating the application process for an online political science degree requires attention to detail and awareness of deadlines. Here is what prospective students should expect:
  • Researching Programs: Start by identifying accredited institutions that offer online political science degrees. Consider factors such as faculty expertise, course offerings, and tuition costs.
  • Gathering Materials: Compile all necessary documents including transcripts, test scores, recommendation letters, and any written materials like personal statements or essays.
  • Filling Out Applications: Complete the application forms provided by the institutions. This may involve creating an account on the college's application portal and following their specific instructions.
  • Submitting Applications: Once all parts of the application are completed, review them for accuracy and submit them before the deadline. Keep in mind that some schools have rolling admissions, while others have strict cutoff dates.
  • Paying Application Fees: Most colleges charge an application fee, which must be paid for the application to be processed. Fee waivers may be available for eligible students.
  • Awaiting Decisions: After submission, there will be a waiting period during which the school reviews applications. During this time, it's important to monitor emails and application portals for any updates or requests for additional information.

Additional Tips for Applicants

  • Contact Admissions Counselors: If you have questions about the application process or requirements, don't hesitate to reach out to admissions counselors for clarification.
  • Proofread All Materials: Before submitting your application, ensure that all documents are free of errors and clearly present your qualifications and motivations.
  • Plan Ahead for Deadlines: Mark your calendar with important dates to avoid last-minute submissions that could compromise the quality of your application.
Adhering to these guidelines will help streamline your application process for an online political science degree. Ensure that you follow each step carefully to maximize your chances of admission into the program of your choice.

Online Political Science Degree Program Curriculum and Specializations

When you enroll in an online political science degree program, you'll delve into a curriculum designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of political structures, processes, and theories. The coursework is crafted to cultivate critical thinking, analytical skills, and a deep knowledge of political systems both in the United States and across the globe.

Core Curriculum Components

The core curriculum of an online political science degree typically includes:
  • Introduction to Political Science: An overview of the discipline, including key concepts, political theories, and the role of politics in society.
  • American Government and Politics: Examination of the United States government structure, political behavior, policy-making processes, and the Constitution.
  • Comparative Politics: Analysis of different political systems around the world, exploring how they compare and contrast with one another.
  • International Relations: Study of global politics, international conflicts, foreign policy, and the role of international organizations such as the United Nations.
  • Political Theory: Exploration of classic and contemporary political theories and philosophers, from Plato to modern-day thinkers.
  • Research Methods in Political Science: Training in qualitative and quantitative research methods used in political analysis.
  • Political Economy: Investigation into the relationship between economics and politics, focusing on how they influence each other.

Electives and Specialization Areas

Beyond the core requirements, students have the opportunity to choose electives or specialize in areas that align with their career goals or personal interests. Common specializations include:
  • Public Policy and Administration: Focus on the development, implementation, and analysis of public policy, as well as the functioning of government agencies.
  • Political Campaigns and Elections: In-depth look at electoral processes, campaign strategies, voter behavior, and the impact of media on politics.
  • Civil Rights and Liberties: Examination of civil rights issues, constitutional protections, and the balance between individual freedoms and government power.
  • Global Security: Study of national security policies, terrorism, conflict resolution, and peace studies.
  • Environmental Politics: Exploration of environmental policy-making, sustainability issues, and the politics of natural resources.
  • Law and Legal Studies: Analysis of legal institutions, constitutional law, judicial behavior, and the legal system's role within politics.

Culminating Experiences

Many programs also include a culminating experience towards the end of your degree:
  • Capstone Project: A comprehensive research project that allows students to apply their knowledge to a real-world political issue or topic of choice.
  • Internships: Some programs may offer or even require internships to provide practical experience in government agencies, non-profit organizations, or political campaigns.
  • Thesis Option: For students interested in pursuing graduate studies or careers in research, some programs may offer a thesis option that requires original academic research under faculty supervision.
Choosing an online political science program offers flexibility without compromising on the quality or depth of education. Students can tailor their learning experience through elective courses and specializations that best suit their aspirations. Whether aspiring to enter public service, advocacy work, education or further academic research, an online political science degree equips students with a versatile foundation to pursue a variety of career paths.

Online Political Science Degree Accreditation and Quality of Online Programs

When considering an online Political Science degree, accreditation stands as a pivotal factor in ensuring that the education you receive meets rigorous academic standards. Accreditation is a process by which an external body evaluates the quality of an educational institution or program. In the United States, the importance of selecting an accredited online Political Science program cannot be overstated for several reasons:
  • Academic Recognition: Accredited programs are widely recognized by other colleges and universities, which is crucial for transferring credits or pursuing advanced degrees.
  • Employment Prospects: Employers often regard degrees from accredited institutions as more credible, thereby potentially improving job opportunities.
  • Federal Financial Aid: Students enrolled in accredited programs are typically eligible for federal financial aid, scholarships, and grants.
  • Professional Licensure: In fields where licensure is required, graduation from an accredited program may be necessary to sit for professional exams.

Identifying Accredited Online Political Science Programs

To verify the accreditation of an online Political Science degree program, prospective students should:
  • Consult the database of the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which list all recognized accrediting agencies and institutions.
  • Check the school’s official website for its accreditation status, ensuring it includes specific accrediting bodies relevant to Political Science.
  • Contact the admissions office directly to ask about the program's accreditation.
It's important to distinguish between regional and national accreditation. Regional accreditation is typically considered more prestigious and widely accepted in academia and the professional world. National accreditation may be more common for vocational or technical schools.

Evaluating the Quality of Online Political Science Programs

Accreditation aside, assessing the quality of an online Political Science program requires examining several key aspects:
  • Faculty Credentials: Look for programs with experienced instructors who hold advanced degrees in their field and have a record of research or professional involvement in political science.
  • Curriculum Rigor: A strong curriculum should cover a breadth of political science topics such as political theory, comparative politics, international relations, and American government.
  • Interactive Learning: High-quality programs facilitate student engagement through discussion boards, group projects, and opportunities for real-time interaction with faculty.
  • Technology: The platform should offer robust educational technology tools that support a dynamic learning environment and easy access to course materials.
  • Student Support Services: Effective advising, career services, library access, and technical support are indicators of a program's commitment to student success.
  • Outcomes: Investigate graduation rates, alumni success stories, and whether the program has a strong network of graduates.
Prospective students should also consider whether a program aligns with their career goals and offers specializations or elective courses that cater to their interests. Understanding these factors will help ensure that the chosen online Political Science degree provides not just academic knowledge but also practical skills and professional preparation.

Online Political Science Degree Program Tuition & Financial Aid

Understanding the costs and financial aid options for an online Political Science degree is a crucial step for prospective students. Tuition for online programs can vary significantly based on several factors, including the type of institution (public vs. private), residency status for state schools, and the specific program structure.

Breakdown of Tuition Costs

Tuition costs for an online Political Science degree program can be outlined as follows:
  • Per Credit Hour Pricing: Many institutions charge tuition based on the number of credit hours a student enrolls in per semester. This can range from approximately $300 to $800 per credit hour.
  • Flat-Rate Semester Pricing: Some schools offer a flat rate for full-time students taking a certain range of credits per semester. This can simplify budgeting but may not be cost-effective for part-time students.
  • Differential Tuition Rates: Certain universities may implement different tuition rates for upper-division courses, which are typically more advanced and specialized.
  • In-State vs. Out-of-State: Public universities often have lower tuition rates for in-state residents. However, many online programs offer in-state tuition rates to all online students, regardless of residency.

Additional Fees and Expenses

Beyond tuition, additional costs are associated with pursuing an online degree:
  • Technology Fees: Online courses may require a technology fee to support digital learning platforms and technical support services.
  • Books and Materials: While some resources may be available digitally at no cost, students should budget for textbooks and other course materials.
  • Graduation Fees: Some schools charge a fee to process graduation applications and diploma printing.

Financial Aid Options

Financial aid can play a significant role in funding your education. Here are common types of financial aid available to online Political Science students:
  • Federal and State Grants: These need-based funds do not have to be repaid. Students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility.
  • Scholarships: Scholarships are awarded based on various criteria such as academic merit, leadership, or specific interests related to political science. They do not require repayment.
  • Student Loans: Federal student loans typically offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private loans. It's crucial to borrow only what is necessary and understand the terms of repayment.
  • Work-Study Programs: The Federal Work-Study program provides part-time employment to help students finance their education while gaining relevant work experience.

Navigating Financial Aid

To effectively navigate financial aid opportunities:
  • Start Early: Begin researching scholarships and grants well before the academic year starts, as many have early deadlines.
  • Maintain Eligibility: Ensure you meet the academic performance requirements to continue qualifying for aid each year.
  • Consult Financial Aid Advisors: Financial aid advisors at your institution can provide personalized guidance on funding options and application procedures.
Prospective students should carefully review the tuition and financial aid information provided by each institution when considering an online Political Science degree program. By understanding the full scope of costs and available financial resources, students can make informed decisions that align with their educational goals and financial circumstances.

Best Careers for Degree in Political Science in 2023 by Salary

Data sourced from the U.S. Department of Labor via the ONET Web API.

Career Opportunities with an Online Political Science Degree

Earning an online political science degree opens the door to a wide array of career paths. Graduates are equipped with a deep understanding of political systems, critical thinking skills, and the ability to analyze complex issues. These capabilities are highly sought after in various sectors, including government, law, international relations, and beyond.

Government and Public Service

  • Policy Analyst: Policy analysts research, analyze, and develop policies for government agencies, think tanks, or political organizations. They often specialize in areas such as healthcare, education, or environmental policy.
  • Legislative Assistant: Working for elected officials or legislators, legislative assistants help research, draft, and understand legislation. They also communicate with constituents and stakeholders.
  • Public Affairs Specialist: These professionals manage communication between government entities and the public, often crafting press releases and managing media relations.
  • City Planner: City planners work on developing plans for land use in urban areas, balancing community needs with sustainable growth and environmental concerns.

Law and Advocacy

  • Paralegal: Paralegals support lawyers by conducting legal research, drafting documents, and organizing files. A political science background is beneficial for understanding the legal system.
  • Civil Service Officer: Officers within the civil service carry out governmental functions at various levels. They often implement policies and ensure the effectiveness of government services.
  • Advocacy Group Manager: Leading campaigns or initiatives for non-profits or advocacy groups, managers in this field leverage their political knowledge to promote social change.

International Relations and Global Development

  • Foreign Service Officer: These diplomats represent their home country abroad, working on matters of trade, peacekeeping, and cultural exchange.
  • International Development Consultant: Consultants work with organizations to develop strategies for improving living standards in less developed countries through policy implementation and program management.
  • Intelligence Analyst: Intelligence analysts gather and assess information related to national security for government agencies like the CIA or NSA.

Business and Private Sector

  • Market Research Analyst: Political science graduates can apply their analytical skills to understand market trends and consumer behavior for businesses.
  • Public Relations Specialist: Crafting the public image of corporations or individuals, PR specialists use their knowledge of public opinion and media to shape perceptions.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Manager: These managers oversee a company's ethical practices and community engagement efforts, ensuring alignment with societal values.

Education and Research

  • Political Science Professor: With further education at the graduate level, political science degree holders can teach at colleges or universities and conduct scholarly research.
  • Educational Program Coordinator: Coordinators design and implement educational programs for institutions like museums or nonprofit organizations focusing on civic education.
  • Data Analyst: Specializing in quantitative research methods learned during their studies, data analysts can work in academic settings or for research firms analyzing political data.
The versatility of a political science degree allows graduates to pursue careers that align with their interests in various aspects of political systems and public affairs. The skills acquired through an online political science program are applicable to many roles that contribute to the functioning of society and the global community.

FAQ's About Online Political Science Degree Programs

What Can I Expect to Learn in an Online Political Science Program?

In an online political science program, you can expect to learn about the theory and practice of politics, government structures, public policy, international relations, and political behavior. The curriculum typically covers:

  • Foundations of political theory
  • Comparative politics
  • American government and politics
  • International relations and global politics
  • Political analysis and methodology
  • Public administration and policy
  • Political economy

Courses aim to develop critical thinking, analytical skills, and a deep understanding of political systems and processes.

How Long Does It Take to Complete an Online Political Science Degree?

The duration of an online political science degree varies by program and individual student pace. Generally:

  • An associate degree typically takes two years of full-time study.
  • A bachelor's degree is usually completed in four years of full-time study.
  • Part-time students may take longer to complete their degrees.

Accelerated programs or those offering summer courses can shorten the overall time to graduation.

Is an Online Political Science Degree as Respected as an On-Campus Degree?

Yes, an online political science degree from an accredited institution is generally respected just as much as an on-campus degree. Employers and graduate schools often recognize the validity of online education, especially when the institution has a good reputation. Accreditation is key in ensuring the quality and respectability of the degree.

Can I Work While Completing My Online Political Science Degree?

Absolutely. One of the benefits of pursuing an online degree is the flexibility it offers. Many students choose online programs specifically because they can balance work, personal responsibilities, and their studies. Online courses often have asynchronous elements allowing students to access materials and complete assignments on their own schedule.

What are the Technical Requirements for an Online Political Science Program?

To successfully participate in an online political science program, you'll need:

  • A reliable computer or laptop with up-to-date software
  • A stable internet connection
  • Webcam and microphone for live discussions and presentations
  • Access to the school's learning management system (LMS)
  • Basic proficiency in word processing and presentation software

What Career Options Are Available With an Online Political Science Degree?

An online political science degree opens up a variety of career paths including:

  • Government service or public administration
  • Policy analysis or research
  • Lobbying or advocacy work
  • Campaign management or political consulting
  • Journalism or media related to politics and government
  • Further academic pursuits in law or graduate studies

How Do I Choose a Reputable Online Political Science Degree Program?

To choose a reputable online political science degree program, consider the following:

  • The institution’s accreditation status
  • The program’s curriculum and how well it aligns with your career goals
  • The qualifications of faculty members
  • The resources available to online students such as library access, academic advising, and career services
  • The feedback or reviews from current students or alumni

Are Internships Available in Online Political Science Programs?

Many online political science programs offer internships as elective courses or as part of the curriculum. Internships provide practical experience in government agencies, non-profit organizations, or political campaigns. Schools typically assist in securing relevant internships for their students.

Can I Pursue Graduate Studies After Completing an Online Political Science Bachelor's Degree?

Yes, graduates of accredited online political science bachelor's programs are eligible to apply for graduate studies. Students who maintain a strong academic record should meet the prerequisites for most graduate programs in political science or related fields such as public administration, international affairs, or law.

What Financial Aid Options Are Available for Online Political Science Students?

Online students have access to various financial aid options similar to traditional students. These include:

  • Federal grants and loans through completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
  • Scholarships from the institution or external organizations
  • Work-study programs where available
  • Military benefits for eligible veterans and active-duty service members

It's important for prospective students to research and apply for financial aid opportunities early in their application process.