The following 10 Best Online Master's Degrees in Political Science help graduates understand the political systems that govern society.

The study of political science examines the theory of power dynamics and governing bodies through the lens of social science. Grad School Hub's 10 Best Online Master's Degrees in Political Science deepen graduates an understanding of, and research skills in, both general and specialized areas of domestic and international politics. 

The 15 Best Online Master's Degrees in Political Science include theory-based programs with a focus on political science and government, as well as those that take a more practical approach through political administration and public policy. Political science courses address topics such as American politics, comparative politics, and international relations. 

Many of the following programs also require students to complete courses in research methodology and a master's research thesis. A few programs listed include hands-on learning experiences. Each program can be completed either fully or partially online for affordability, convenience, and flexibility.

Individuals with a Master's Degree in Political Science often move into careers researching and analyzing political ideas, policies, systems, and trends. They may go on to pursue doctoral study or teaching careers. Political scientists typically need a master's or doctoral degree to be competitive candidates for jobs in the field. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, political scientists earned a median salary of $117,570 in 2018. The demand for political scientists is growing at a projected 10-year rate of three percent, which is slower than average. Today's younger generations are as politically engaged as ever, which could contribute to the number of political science candidates exceeding the number of available positions.

Methodology

The staff of Grad School Hub has compiled the following 10 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 10 Best Master's Degrees in Political Science for 2020 – 2021!

#10 – Eastern Illinois University

Master of Arts in Political Science, Public Administration & Public Policy Option

Charleston, IL

Website

Eastern Illinois University provides a Master of Arts in Political Science. The Public Administration & Policy option is designed to be completed entirely online. The degree program welcomes students with undergraduate degrees in a variety of fields. Online students who live close to the EIU campus may take certain classes on campus and apply for graduate assistantships. The degree requires 32 semester hours of graduate study, including a research methods course, a capstone project, and proseminars in Public Administration and Public Policy Research and Analysis. Elective offerings include Civil and Nonprofit Leadership and Environmental Politics and Policy. Students can finish the degree in as few as two semesters plus one summer session. Alternatively, students have the option to take one course at a time and move through the program at their own pace.

EIU is a public state university in the college town of Charleston, Illinois. It was established in 1895 as a teacher-training school and has since evolved into a comprehensive university. The EIU Department of Political Science emphasizes experiential learning in the field. It also emphasizes communication, faculty mentoring, the liberal arts, and the social sciences in its approach to political science. The department houses a Model Illinois Government, which prepares students for annual simulations in the State Capitol. The university's alumni include several members of the Illinois House of Representatives. U.S. News & World Report ranks EIU No. 38 in the Midwest, No. 37 for best value, and fifth among public institutions of higher education. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,176 in-state; $17,232 out-of-state 

#9 – American Public University

Master of Arts in Political Science

Charles Town, WV

Website

American Public University offers an online program leading to a Master of Arts in Political Science. Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, but it does not need to be in a related field. Students can begin the MA program in any month of the year. The program offers five concentrations: American Politics and Government, Comparative Government and Development, General, International Relations, and Public Policy. The core curriculum includes courses in Diversity in American Politics, International Political Systems, and Political Philosophy. Students may culminate in their studies in a capstone portfolio and reflection paper or a comprehensive exam. The degree program requires 36 credits of study, and it can be completed on a full-time basis in two years. 

The American Public University System is a private, for-profit institution that consists of American Military University and American Public University. It was founded in 1991 to train military personnel in areas such as counterterrorism and military intelligence. Today, APUS is an online institution with offices based in Charles Town and Manassas, Virginia. Despite its name, the institution is not a public school, nor is it affiliated with the United States government or military. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $6,300

#8 – George Washington University

Master's in Political Management

Washington, D.C.

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George Washington University offers a Master's in Political Management. Designed for working professionals, the degree program is offered entirely online with optional networking residencies. The field of political management is grounded in political science, but it takes a more practical approach, focusing on hands-on political engagement rather than theory. The core program curriculum includes courses in Applied Political Communications, Political Data and Analysis, and Principled Political Leadership. The curriculum culminates in a required capstone residency experience in which students can interact with political experts in Washington, D.C. All students must also complete an applied research report project in political communications. 

GWU's main Foggy Bottom campus is located in the heart of the nation's capital, within blocks of the U.S. Department of State and the White House. It hosts research centers including the Institute for International Economic Policy and the National Security Archive. The Princeton Review consistently ranks GW as one of the nation's "Most Politically Active" Schools. U.S. News & World Report ranks it No. 40 nationally in graduate political science programs.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $30,780

#7 – Sam Houston State University

Master of Arts in Political Science

Huntsville, TX

Website

Sam Houston State University offers an online program leading to a Master of Arts in Political Science. The degree program is suitable both for recent undergraduates and for current working professionals seeking advancement. It prepares students for a variety of opportunities relating to political science, including doctoral study, law school, teaching careers, nonprofit careers, or positions in the public sector. The curriculum includes three required courses: American Politics, Comparative Politics, and International Relations. The MAPS' thesis requires 30 credits of coursework and a written research thesis. The non-thesis option requires 36 credits and written comprehensive exams. 

SHSU is a public university and a member of the Texas State University System. Established in 1879 as the Sam Houston Normal Institute, it is the oldest teacher-training school in Texas and one of the oldest west of the Mississippi. Located in the college town of Huntsville, SHSU is also the third-oldest public higher education institution in Texas. The Carnegie Foundation classifies it as a ‘community-engaged' doctoral research university. The university is particularly noted for its College of Criminal Justice, and for being one of the most ‘wired,' or technologically equipped, universities in the nation.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,540 in-state; $13,010 out-of-state 

#6 – University of Nebraska at Omaha

Master of Science in Political Science

Omaha, NE

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The University of Nebraska at Omaha provides a Master of Science in Political Science. The degree program requires 30 credits of study and can be completed entirely online. Students have the option to concentrate in International Affairs or pursue a graduate certificate in Global Information Operations or Intelligence and National Security. The interdisciplinary curriculum requires seminars in areas such as the American government, constitutional law, research methods, and U.S. foreign policy. All students must also complete a political internship. Students can choose to culminate their program in a research thesis or capstone project.

UNO is a public space-grant research university. It is the Omaha campus of the University of Nebraska system. The university was founded in 1908 by members of a theological seminary. It was initially intended to provide Christian education, but it has always been a nonsectarian institution. The university prioritizes small class sizes. It is particularly noted for its computer science and information systems and its Firefly supercomputer. The Carnegie Foundation classifies UNO as a doctoral research university.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $5,053 in-state; $14,125 out-of-state 

#5 – University of West Florida

Master of Arts in Political Science

Pensacola, FL

Website

The University of West Florida provides an online program leading to a Master of Arts in Political Science. The degree program is designed for students who are particularly interested in comparative politics, international relations, and public policy. It offers specializations in Political Science and Security and Diplomacy. It requires 33 semester hours of study. The core curriculum includes seminars in American politics, comparative politics, and international relations. All courses are delivered synchronously, meaning students must attend live lectures via online video conferencing. The non-thesis program culminates in a written and oral comprehensive exam.

UWF is a public space-grant research university in suburban Pensacola, Florida. It was established in 1963. It is located on the third-largest campus in the 12-campus State University System. In addition to its main campus, UWF operates several coastal learning locations. Around a quarter of the university's students are enrolled in an online-only capacity. Several alumni have gone on to become members of the Florida House of Representatives. The Princeton Review consistently ranks UWF among its Best Regional Colleges in the southeastern United States.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,088 in-state; $22,166 out-of-state 

#4 – University of Illinois at Springfield

Master's in Political Science

Springfield, IL

Website

The University of Illinois at Springfield offers a Master's Degree in Political Science. The degree can be completed entirely online. It is designed for students who wish to pursue advanced degrees in political science or law, or careers in politics or teaching. MS students have the option to choose an area of emphasis in American National and State Politics, Comparative Politics/International Relations, Political Theory, or Public Law. The degree requires 40 credit hours of study, including two required courses: Introduction to the Graduate Study of Politics and Methods of Inquiry. Students can culminate their program with a thesis, comprehensive exam, or participant/observer case study.

UIS is a public land-grant liberal arts university in rural Springfield, Illinois. It was established in 1969 and is now a part of the University of Illinois system. The university's campus is located in the state capital of Illinois, near state political agencies and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. UIS has earned numerous awards for excellence in online education from organizations including the Sloan Consortium and the Society for New Communications Research. In its 2019 rankings of universities in the Midwest, U.S. News & World Report ranks UIS No. 55 for best value, No. 50 overall, and ninth among public schools. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $8,550 in-state; $15,247 out-of-state 

#3 – Liberty University

Master of Science in Political Science

Lynchburg, VA

Website

Liberty University offers an online program leading to a Master of Science in Political Science. The degree program approaches the study of political science from a Christian perspective. The core curriculum includes courses in Contemporary Political Process and Trends, Economics and Public Policy, Introduction to Geopolitics and International Diplomacy, and Political Philosophy. The curriculum culminates in a master's thesis proposal, research, and defense. 

Liberty is a private, non-profit, evangelical Christian university in suburban Lynchburg, Virginia. It was established in 1971 by two local Baptist pastors. It has since grown into the most significant private non-profit university in the United States and one of the largest Christian universities in the world. It plays a prominent role in American right-wing politics. The campus includes the Carter Glass Mansion, a historic national landmark built by U.S. Senator Carter Glass in 1923. The majority of Liberty students are enrolled in an online capacity. Niche ranks Liberty the second best online college in America. 

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $7,904

#2 – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Master of Arts in Political Science

Blacksburg, VA

Website

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University offer a 30-credit Master of Arts in Political Science. The degree program can be completed entirely online. Its approach to political science is rooted in research methodology and the social sciences. Course examples include Alternative Perspectives in Political Theory, Collaborative Governance and Civil Society, Identity Migration and Place, and Public Ecology. The curriculum culminates in a required, supervised independent research thesis. Each student must orally propose and defend their thesis.

Virginia Tech is a public land-, sea-, and space-grant research university. It was established in 1872 as an agricultural and mechanical college. Today, it is the second-largest public university in Virginia, measured by student enrollment. In addition to its main campus in Blacksburg, VT operates regional facilities statewide and a study-abroad site in Switzerland. It is designated as one of the nation's six senior military colleges. U.S. News & World Report ranks Virginia Tech No. 76 overall in the country and No. 30 among public higher education institutions.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $13,310 in-state; $26,825 out-of-state 

#1 – Harvard University

Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies, field: Government

Cambridge, MA

Website

Harvard University offers Grad School Hub‘s top political science graduate degree. Offered through the university's Extension School, the degree is a Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies in the field of Government. The program focuses on the complex role governmental organizations play in society. Its 48-credit curriculum consists of 12 courses, including three which must be completed on the university's campus. Online seminar options include Global Ethnic Politics, Transitional Justice and the Politics of Truth Commissions, and The Politics and Ideology of Post-Revolutionary Iran. Students may culminate their studies through a supervised research thesis, or a supervised group capstone course and analytical paper. Students may pursue an additional graduate certificate in an area such as American Literature and Culture, Nuclear Deterrence, or Social Justice.

Harvard is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It operates campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area. Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest universities in the U.S. Its rich history, academic influence, and substantial financial endowment help make it one of the world's most prestigious universities. The university is also home to the largest academic and private library system in the world. U.S. News & World Report ranks Harvard the second-best university in the nation, the second nationally for best value, and first nationally for graduate studies in political science.

Graduate Tuition/Fees: $46,384