35 Best Master’s Degrees in Political Science 2020

| Staff

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Political Science focuses on how power is gained and used. The following 35 Best Master’s Degrees in Political Science build an advanced understanding of power structures in America and beyond. 

An understanding of politics is an understanding of humanity. The field examines the ways in which humans exercise power in a variety of settings, societies, and structures. Political Science programs typically include four subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Others may also include economics, methodology, and public policy. Though Political Science obviously addresses the science of politics, most of the programs listed are Master of Arts degrees. Because political science is a social science, graduate political science programs are typically rooted in the liberal arts. In other words, they often incorporate philosophy, history, and universal principles, relating issues in politics to more significant matters in humanity.

Most of the graduate programs listed take a theoretical, research-based approach to political science. Graduates are therefore prepared for more academic and research-based careers in the public and private sectors. Generally speaking, political scientists examine the inner workings of political systems. They research and analyze political issues, ideas, structures, and trends. According to the 2019 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, political scientists made a median annual salary of $117,570 in 2018. The demand for political scientists is growing at a projected rate of three percent, which is slower than average. Though political science remains relevant and vital, the number of candidates is expected to exceed the number of available jobs in the field. Master’s degree holders may consider moving onto doctoral study to further advance their political science skills, understanding, and prospects. 

Top 10 Best Master’s Degrees in Political Science 2020

Rank School Location
1 Stanford University Stanford, CA
2 Duke University Durham, NC
3 Columbia University New York, NY
4 University of Wisconsin Madison, WI
5 Boston College Chestnut Hill, MA
6 Texas A&M University Killeen, TX
7 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
8 Northeastern University Boston, MA
9 Binghamton University Vestal, NY
10 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
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Methodology

The staff of Grad School Hub has compiled the following 35 Best Master’s Degrees in Political Science for the 2019-20 academic school year based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Data contributed from sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics, and the U.S. Department of Labor plays a significant role in how graduate degree programs are ranked because institutional transparency is essential for deciding which career path is right for you. Based on this data, GSH organizes information into five weighted categories, which are:

  • Alumni Feedback: 20% 
  • Continued Enrollment: 20% 
  • Degree Selectivity: 10%
  • Graduate Expenses: 25%
  • Projected Annual Salary: 25%

A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible through our Ranking Methodology page. 

Here are the 35 Best Master’s Degrees in Political Science for 2019 – 2020!

  1. Stanford University
    Location

    Stanford, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Stanford University allows students to pursue a Master of Arts in Political Science along with a doctoral degree in any academic department. The MA degree requires the successful completion of 45 units of credit, including at least three graduate seminars in Political Science. Students can choose from the Political Science fields of American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political methodology, and political theory. The master's degree does not require a thesis. Once the MA requirements are met, students can advance to doctoral study in their desired field. Political Science Ph.D. graduates are equipped for academic and research-based careers in the field.

    Stanford was founded in 1885 by politician Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane. It was initially located on the couple's farm in Palo Alto, California. Today, it is a private research university in Stanford, California, near Silicon Valley. The university often ranks among the top universities nationwide and is noted for its entrepreneurial spirit and success in fundraising. It is also one of the leading producers of company founders and personnel for the United States Congress. U.S. News & World Report ranks Stanford at seventh overall in the nation and fifth for both best value and innovation. The university's graduate-level Political Science studies are ranked first in the country, particularly in the areas of American politics, international politics, and political methodology.

  2. Duke University
    Location

    Durham, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Duke University offers a Master of Arts in Political Science through its Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. The degree program explores advanced analytic and methodological approaches to political science. Master's students focus on two fields of political science, with options including but not limited to Political Behavior & Identities; Political Economy; and Security, Peace & Conflict. The Political Science department's MA and Ph.D. students work alongside each other in the same seminars and have equal access to faculty mentorship. Students also receive expert guidance in writing their research theses. Students are also encouraged to take advantage of Duke's MELD program, which offers opportunities for training and paid internships. Graduates are prepared for doctoral study or careers in the public and private sectors.

    Duke's modern campus covers three sub-campuses in Durham, North Carolina. The university also operates a marine lab in Beaufort and locations in China and Singapore. In recent years, the Wall Street Journal has consistently ranked Duke as a top college for graduate outcomes. U.S. News & World Report ranks Duke at No. 16 in innovation, No. 13 for best value, and eighth overall in the nation. The university's Department of Political Science is also ranked seventh nationally at the graduate level.

  3. Columbia University
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Columbia University offers a Master of Arts in Political Science degree program. The program is designed to train students in theory and research methods in political science. Each student builds their program of study around a specific area of interest. The program is built around the four subfields of American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Many faculty members work in more than one of these subfields, and some focus on areas such as methodology or economic theory. Most master's students choose a primary and secondary subfield to build their program around. The program does not require a thesis. It is designed to be completed in two semesters of full-time study.

    George II of Great Britain chartered Columbia in 1754. After the Revolutionary War, the university became headed by alumni Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. Located in Upper Manhattan, the private Ivy League research university often considered one of the best universities in the world. Columbia research developments include the laser, the first evidence for continental drift and plate tectonics, and the initial phase of the Manhattan Project. U.S. News & World Report ranks Columbia sixth for best value and third overall in the nation. The university is ranked seventh nationally in graduate-level Political Science.

  4. University of Wisconsin
    Location

    Madison, WI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Wisconsin - Madison does not admit students for terminal master's degrees in Political Science. It does, however, offer a Master of Arts in Political Science as a step toward the Doctor of Philosophy degree in Political Science. The MA degree requires a minimum of 30 credits of study, all of which must be completed in residence. Course requirements include Empirical Methods of Political Inquiry and Political Science as a Discipline and Profession. No formal assessments or exams are required. The Department of Political Science contains subfields of American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political methodology, and political theory and philosophy. The program also offers students opportunities to participate in advanced interdisciplinary research in the field.

    UW - Madison was established when Wisconsin achieved statehood in 1848. Located in Madison, the public research university is the state's official university and the flagship campus of the University of Wisconsin system. U.S. News & World Report ranks UW at No. 49 in National Universities and No. 15 in Top Public Schools. The university is ranked at No. 15 in graduate-level Political Science.

  5. Boston College
    Location

    Chestnut Hill, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Boston College provides a Master of Arts in Political Science through its Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences. Each student must complete ten courses, totaling 30 credits of study. This includes a course in three of the four fields of Political Science: American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory). Students may take two to three courses in other university departments. The curriculum culminates in a comprehensive exam. Students may alternatively choose to culminate their program with a final paper project or to take eight courses and complete a master's thesis. The program spans two years of study.Established in 1863, Boston College was the first Jesuit institution of higher education in the Boston area. The university's research centers include the Center for Corporate Citizenship and the Weston Observatory. Located in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, the main campus is a historic district featuring early collegiate gothic architecture.

  6. Texas A&M University
    Location

    Killeen, TX

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Texas A&M University provides a Master of Arts in Political Science through its College of Liberal Arts. The degree program is designed to build broad-based preparation in political science through creativity and research. Students can follow a thesis plan, which requires 30 credits of study, a written research thesis, and a final oral exam. Alternatively, they may select a non-thesis plan, which requires 36 credits - with a minimum of six in a supporting field - and a comprehensive exam.

    Texas A&M opened in 1876 as the first public institution of higher education in Texas. It has since grown into the largest university in Texas and the second-largest in the United States by student enrollment. Located in College Station, the university is the founding member of the Texas A&M University System. The public research university is a designated land, sea, and space grant institution.

  7. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Location

    Champaign, IL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign provides a Master of Arts in Political Science. The degree program admits a small group of students each year. It requires 32 graduate credit hours of study and a master's research paper. Students can choose a thesis or non-thesis option. The non-thesis option requires a research project and independent study. Course offerings include Campaigning to Win; Democracy and Identity; and Sex, Power and Politics. Most students publish research articles while enrolled in the program. The degree program can usually be completed within three semesters. Graduate students also have the option to pursue a graduate teaching certificate.

    Founded in 1867, U of I is one of the land-grant institutions created under the Morrill Act. Formerly an industrial school, it is now a public land-, sea-, and space-grant research university. The school is also noted for housing the country's second-largest university library holdings. U.S. News & World Report ranks U of I at No. 46 in National Universities and No. 13 in Top Public Schools. The university's Political Science studies are ranked No. 24 nationally at the graduate level.

  8. Northeastern University
    Location

    Boston, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Northeastern University offers a Master of Political Science through its College of Social Sciences & Humanities. The degree program trains students in areas including American government, comparative politics, international relations, and public policy. The program also offers signature concentrations in European Studies, Middle East Studies, and Security Studies. The program requires a course in Quantitative Techniques and provides the option for students to complete a co-op work experience and experiential integration. The program can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis in as little as one year. Graduates of the program are prepared for doctoral study or careers in government, nonprofits, or the private sector.

    Established in 1898, Northeastern traces its origins to The Evening Institute for Young Men, which was housed in a YMCA in Boston. Today, the private university has satellite campuses in California, Canada, North Carolina, and Washington. Noted for its cooperative education program, NEU consistently ranks at the top of the Princeton Review 's "Best Schools for Internships" list. U.S. News & World Report ranks NEU at No. 72 in Best Value Schools, No. 44 in National Universities, and No. 8 in Most Innovative Schools. The university's Political Science department is ranked No. 81 at the graduate level.

  9. Binghamton University
    Location

    Vestal, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Binghamton University provides a Master of Arts in Political Science. The degree program offers two tracks: one that culminates in a written thesis and another that culminates in a comprehensive exam. Each track trains graduates for careers in areas such as journalism and policy analysis, as well as in academia and research. Each student must choose a focus area in American politics, comparative politics, or world politics. The department's faculty research areas include campaigns and campaign finance, human rights, international relations, foreign policy, political parties, and religion. Political Science students are also offered opportunities for interdisciplinary learning through other departments. The program has small class sizes and carefully planned course sequencing.

    Binghamton was established in 1946 to serve veterans returning from World War II. Originally a two-year satellite school of Syracuse University, it has since become a public research university. It is one of four members of the State University of New York system. It operates campuses in the New York towns of Binghamton, Johnson City, and Vestal. U.S. News & World Report ranks SUNY Binghamton at No. 80 in National Universities, No. 62 in Best Value Schools, and No. 32 in Top Public Schools. The university ranks at No. 51 for graduate-level Political Science.

  10. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill awards a Master of Arts in Political Science. The degree program is designed to train students to become professional political scientists. The graduate coursework is mostly qualitative, with an emphasis on research, teaching, practice, and administration in political science. Each student is required to write a master's thesis and complete an oral exam for the thesis defense and on the student's major field of interest. Potential areas of study include American politics, comparative politics, and international relations. Course offerings include Mock Constitutional Convention; Race, Immigration, and Urban Politics; and United States National Elections.

    The UNC campus spreads through downtown Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It marks one corner of the region's Research Triangle, along with Duke University and North Carolina State. UNC is counted among the nation's "Public Ivy" universities, meaning it offers a quality of education comparable to those provided by the private Ivy League. U.S. News & World Report ranks UNC at No. 30 in National Universities, eighth for best value, and fifth among public schools. The university is ranked at No. 11 in graduate-level Political Science.

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