You often hear the question: “What are you going to do with a political science degree?” Answers may vary – lawyer, government worker, politician, etc. – but the common element is planning and preparation to reach that career goal. If you want to be a lawyer, then you’ll focus on admission to and success in law school. If you want to work in the federal government, your focus is more on policy skills and perhaps graduate school. Whatever your goal, below are a few steps that might be particularly helpful.
Learn About Your Own Interests and Skills
A starting point is to better understand your own interests and skills. It’s critical to better understand your interests and skills, and to then match them to different careers. Your answers to the following questions will help you determine a possible direction for your career:
- Do you enjoy working with people, or do you prefer working alone?
- Do you enjoy research?
- What kind of lifestyle would you like after graduating from college?
- Do you prefer a structured job, perhaps ’9-5,’ or are you comfortable with irregular work hours?
Self-assessment tools, like Myers-Briggs, can be helpful in answering some of these questions, and learning about the requirements of different careers also is important. Talk to people you know about their careers. Also, the Northeastern Career Services Office in 101 Stearns Hall provides many resources to learn more about yourself and different careers.
Develop a Relationship with an Advisor
A key step in career planning is to develop a relationship with an advisor who can be your mentor. Your faculty advisor in Political Science, in particular, can be an important person to provide insights on the steps needed to reach your career goal. Start to develop this relationship as soon as possible so both you and your advisor can understand the career challenges you face. Also, your advisor is likely to provide important letters of reference at some point in your career path. He or she needs to know you to write a good letter.
Take Advantage of Undergraduate Experiences
Your academic, coop and extracurricular activities are all testing grounds to learn more about career options. Political Science courses help you learn more about the setting for your likely career, and internships and coops, in particular, are opportunities to ‘test the waters’ for different careers. Working in a law firm, for example, might convince you that joining the legal profession is truly your goal, or it might dissuade you from that profession and point you in another career direction. Also, take advantage of the Student Organizations section of this website. And, in doing so, continue to develop networks with other students, faculty and others who can help you better understand yourself and your career goals.
Look for Career Resources
There are a number of resources that can help you better understand different career paths. The following are some within our department and outside the department.
Department Career Guides – the following are guides, several created by recent students with advice on pursuing careers in specific sectors related to Political Science.
- The Foreign Service
- International Career Options
- Those specifically looking to intern or work at the United Nations might want to watch this video,
Career Services –As mentioned above, the Career Services Office provides a number of workshops and services that can help you better understand different professional paths as well as your own career interests. They also have a job search function which you can utilize through your MyNEU account.
The American Political Science Association – publishes Careers and the Study of Political Science. This is a very useful booklet that describes many career paths chosen by Political Science majors. Copies are available in the department office in 301 Meserve Hall.
Pre-Law Advising and Law Schools
If you ultimately decide that you would like to pursue a career in law and will apply to law school, the Department of Political Science will guide you through the application process. Each year, a Pre-Law Advisor is designated and students who are thinking about law school or are actively applying to law school will want to work closely with the advisor. Many of our recent graduates have been accepted to some very fine law schools, including the University of Virginia School of Law, the Georgetown Law Center, the University of Michigan School of Law, and others.