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What Is a Political Scientist? Key Roles and Duties

Political scientists can be an asset to any organization working in government or public policy. With their expertise, they can help your company develop strategies for accomplishing business goals or changing public opinion. Use this guide to research the duties of a political scientist and browse sample hiring materials before hiring a political scientist.

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What is a political scientist?

A political scientist studies political concepts and analyzes how politics influences societal development. They research past trends to provide insight on the possible effects of different policy decisions or events. Many political scientists work for the government, andthey can work in almost any field, including education, non-profit work and technical services.

Political scientists can also perform many roles, often specializing in a particular area of politics like international relations, political philosophy or civics. Some common jobs for political scientists are:

  • Lobbyist
  • Campaign manager
  • Market researcher
  • Public relations specialist
  • Journalist
  • Political analyst
  • Professor
  • Political consultant

Politicalscientist responsibilities

The specific responsibilities of a political scientist may vary depending on where they work, but most political scientists have similar duties overall. Political scientists stay up-to-date in their field to advise others and provide an overall analysis of politics as they relate to their organization. The key duties of a political scientist include:

  • Researching the current political climate
  • Looking for patterns and trends in policy
  • Publishing books, articles and reports based on political research
  • Giving strategic advice on policy
  • Collecting and sorting data
  • Predicting social and economic trends based on policy
  • Staying current with changes in government policies and regulations
  • Generating public support for an idea or policy

When conducting research, political scientists analyze historic documents, public records, election results, surveys and economic data. They identify trends in information and make recommendations on how those trends could influence their employer.

Political scientist qualifications

As experts in their field, political scientists should have a master’s or doctoral degree in political science or a related field like public policy or law. During their education, political scientists build their understanding of policy through internships, research assistantships and independent studies. In addition to their formal degrees, political scientists should have a history of demonstrating several key skills:

  • Communication:Political scientists must be able to explain complicated political concepts. They often collaborate with lawmakers, researchers, activists and community groups, which requires clear verbal and written communication.
  • Analysis:Political scientists use their analytical skills to notice trends and patterns, then make informed suggestions based on the data. Political scientists should be proficient in gathering statistics and interpreting their meaning.
  • Problem-solving:Political scientists use their understanding of politics to improve political systems and further the goals of their organization. Creative problem-solving is an essential skill for political scientists who want to make policy changes.

Why should you hire a political scientist?

Government agencies and private companies can benefit from hiring political scientists. Political scientists can bring specialized expertise into a workplace, giving company leaders insight into possible strategies for growth. Because political scientists have an in-depth knowledge of policy and public opinion, they can tactfully manage professional relationships based on well-researched data.

Related:How to Hire Employees: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to hire a political science expert

If your company or organization could benefit from the knowledge and skills of a political scientist, here’s how to start looking for qualified candidates:

  1. Write down the goals you’d want a political scientist to accomplish on your team.Decide what requirements candidates need to have in order to complete those tasks.
  2. Create a job description to post to job sites.When writing the job description, include things like the job title, a summary of your company’s mission and values, your policy area, key duties of the position, education requirements, minimum years of experience, job location and whether the role can be done remotely.
  3. Consider asking for professional and academic references or samples of published work.Most political science students perform some original research during graduate school, and the types of articles they publish show employers their area of expertise, critical thinking skills and writing ability.

Related:How to Write a Job Description

Sample interview questions

When interviewing candidates, ask open-ended questions that encourage them to relate their skills to the job. Create specific questions about the job and general questions to determine their working style and subject knowledge. Here’s a list of sample questions that you can use to guide an interview for a political scientist:

Describe a project where you had to work with large amounts of data and report your findings.

This question can show you concrete examples of how the candidate categorizes data and discovers trends.

What is your experience with public speaking?

Political scientists need to share their insight with others, so top candidates should have polished public speaking skills.

How would you create a cost-benefit analysis of a new company policy?

Having the candidate explain a common type of analysis can show their ability to present concepts to others and confirm their expertise.

What interests you about working in politics?

Asking about what inspires each candidate may help you choose a political scientist who would support your organization’s mission.

Related:Interview Questions and Answers

Frequently asked questions about political scientists

How much does a political scientist earn?

Political scientists can earn an average annual salary of $57,237 up to $107,299, depending on their area of work.

What degrees do you need to be a political scientist?

Political scientists usually need a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in political science, public policy, public administration or public affairs. Some political science jobs require a Ph.D. in political theory, national politics, comparative politics or international relations.

How long does it take to become a political scientist?

It can take between six and eight years for a political scientist to complete graduate school and enter the workforce.

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