Best Online Master's Degrees in Political Science

By Taneia Surles | Updated 8/19/2022
2020 Best Online Master's in Political Science Badge

The following 11 schools offer the best online master's in political science programs, based on their low tuition rates and high mid-career salary potentials. Graduates of the #1 school, The George Washington University, report earning a median salary of $155,900. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, ranked #2 on the list, costs $29,559 annually for an online Master of Arts in Political Science, with alumni reportedly earning median salaries of $113,576.

Alumni salaries were provided by PayScale. View our methodology for more details or learn more about OnlineU.

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RankSchool Annual Tuition Mid-Career Salary
# 1 #1 The George Washington University $15,030 $155,900
# 2 #2 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University $29,559 $113,576
# 3 #3 Fort Hays State University $4,604 $99,100
# 4 #4 University of Illinois at Springfield $8,145 $98,360
# 5 #5 Johns Hopkins University $55,530 $110,700
# 6 #6 The University of West Florida $15,700 $89,500
# 7 #7 Bellevue University $10,530 $82,632
# 8 #8 Sam Houston State University $7,769 $71,400
# 9 #9 Liberty University $13,560 $71,987
# 10 #10 Rutgers University-Camden $29,232 $66,900
# 11 #11 University of Nebraska at Omaha $9,000 $56,893
Salary data provided by Payscale Logo

2020 Online Colleges Offering Political Science Degrees - Ranking Details

#1 The George Washington University

  • Annual Tuition: $15,030
  • Median Salary: $155,900
  • Locations: Washington D.C.
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

The Master of Arts in political science at The George Washington University offers students the opportunity to further their education with a well-rounded and varied curriculum in the discipline. Students are instructed on a range of topics, including U.S. space policy, constitutional law, and Japanese politics. The online political science degree program also offers three tracks: American politics, world politics, and law and politics. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue a career as a political analyst, professor, or political campaign strategist.

#2 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

  • Annual Tuition: $29,559
  • Median Salary: $113,576
  • Locations: Blacksburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University offers an online Master of Arts in political science degree that aims to give students a broad and foundational understanding of the discipline. Students receive instruction in the fundamental topics of political science and an understanding of social issues. The curriculum includes coursework in public policy analysis, international politics, and women and globalization. Graduates of the program have gone on to careers in government agencies and political organizations.

#3 Fort Hays State University

  • Annual Tuition: $4,604
  • Median Salary: $99,100
  • Locations: Hays (KS)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Fort Hays State University offers an online Master of Liberal Arts with a concentration in political science for students who wish to pursue advanced understanding and higher-level career opportunities in the discipline. The 31-credit hour program focuses on providing students instruction in the fundamentals of thinking critically and asking the right questions to see politics differently. Students in the master's program at Fort Hays State University complete coursework on policy analysis, the administration process, American civil liberties, and political behavior.

#4 University of Illinois at Springfield

  • Annual Tuition: $8,145
  • Median Salary: $98,360
  • Locations: Springfield (IL)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The University of Illinois at Springfield's online master's degree in political science offers working professionals the same curriculum and tenure-track faculty as their on-campus program. Concentrations are available in American national and state politics, comparative politics and international relations, political theory, and public law. Program courses explore topics such as the history of political structures, civil liberties, political theories and philosophies, and international relations. The degree requires a total of 40 hours, with 28 hours of electives and eight hours of core courses. The remaining four hours are devoted to a closure exercise; students can fulfill this requirement by completing a thesis, a case study, or a comprehensive exam.

#5 Johns Hopkins University

  • Annual Tuition: $55,530
  • Median Salary: $110,700
  • Locations: Baltimore (MD)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Students in the online Master of Arts in Government program at Johns Hopkins University can concentrate their studies to best suit their interests and goals in the field. The tracks offered include democracy studies and governance, political communication, and security studies. The government program faculty at Johns Hopkins University are experienced academically and professionally in politics, with professors who have worked on the staff of US senators and presidents. Graduation requires the completion of three core courses, eight electives, and a course in research and ethics.

#6 The University of West Florida

  • Annual Tuition: $15,700
  • Median Salary: $89,500
  • Locations: Pensacola (FL)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The University of West Florida offers an online master’s in political science program with an option to focus on International Relations. Applicants may start in spring, summer, or fall. The program length is 24 months. To graduate with an MA in political science, students must complete 33 semester hours with a 3.0 or higher GPA. Students must complete a thesis or a comprehensive exam. Core classes cover topics such as comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. This fully online political science degree is synchronous, meaning that students attend live classes via a video conferencing system. This allows for real-time interaction with professors and classmates. While most core courses are in the evenings or at lunchtime, electives are during daytime hours. Requirements for admission are a GRE or MAT score that ranks in the 50th percentile or higher, a bachelor’s degree GPA of at least 3.0, and a sample research paper. The test requirement may be waived for students with an undergraduate degree in political science with a GPA of 3.25 or higher. Online students can access library services, tutoring, technical support, and the writing lab.

#7 Bellevue University

  • Annual Tuition: $10,530
  • Median Salary: $82,632
  • Locations: Bellevue (NE)
  • Accreditation: HLC

Bellevue University offers a Master of Science in Intelligence and Security Studies for students seeking a career in security. With open enrollment, students can begin at nearly any time throughout the year. The MS degree requires 36 credit hours, with 27 required courses and 9 electives. Class sizes are kept to 24 students or less, and faculty have real-world experience. The curriculum focus is on global and national security, major military and geopolitical issues, intelligence systems, and the research skills and critical thinking for assessing threats. Through the program, students build a professional electronic portfolio showcasing their knowledge and skills. Bellevue uses the Cyber-Active online classroom, which allows students to attend lectures and discussions on their own time, interact with classmates and professors, turn in assignments, and conduct research. For admission, students must have a 2.5 or higher undergraduate GPA or a 3.0 or higher in prior master’s level coursework. Some programs require letters of recommendation and essays. MS graduates will earn the following certificates of completion: Intelligence and Security Strategy, Strategic Intelligence, Strategic Deterrence, and either a certificate in Regions, Geopolitics and Strategy, or Security Policy and Conflict.

#8 Sam Houston State University

  • Annual Tuition: $7,769
  • Median Salary: $71,400
  • Locations: Huntsville (TX)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

The Master of Arts in Political Science at Sam Houston State University has two degree options: a thesis option with 30 credit hours and a written thesis, and a non-thesis option with 36 credit hours and a comprehensive exam. All students are admitted as non-thesis students, but those wishing to pursue a doctorate, or who simply prefer to write a thesis, should petition to switch after finishing initial coursework. The curriculum is designed to serve teachers or those who want to teach, future law students, and individuals looking for careers or advancement in nonprofits or government. Prospective students need to fill out a graduate studies application, for which a fee is required. Other application requirements include official transcripts from prior degrees, a statement of intent, a scholarly or professional writing sample, at least two references, and an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA or other evidence of academic and professional potential, such as GRE scores or an explanation for why the GPA does not reflect the student’s true potential. New 100% online students receive $1,000 scholarships. Online classes allow for a flexible work schedule, and SHSU provides 24/7 support for eLearning.

#9 Liberty University

  • Annual Tuition: $13,560
  • Median Salary: $71,987
  • Locations: Lynchburg (VA)
  • Accreditation: SACS COC

Liberty University offers an online Master of Science in Political Science with 36 credit hours, which students typically complete in 1.5 years. There are eight different start dates per year. The curriculum follows a broad, theoretical approach, demonstrating how contemporary and historical ideas impact politics and government and exploring the accompanying biblical and philosophical influences. Course subjects include interactions between public policy and economics, markets and market failure, and American foreign policy. The curriculum also incorporates international concerns. Courses are eight weeks long, and students are able to complete their assignments as their schedules allow. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 GPA or higher, an application, and official transcripts. Liberty has video tutorials on all aspects of e-classes and also offers other resources and tools for online students. If they have any further questions, an IT help desk is available for individual support. Liberty also offers a range of discounts to active and retired military, military spouses, veterans, and first responders.

#10 Rutgers University-Camden

  • Annual Tuition: $29,232
  • Median Salary: $66,900
  • Locations: Camden (NJ)
  • Accreditation: MSCHE

Rutgers University – Camden offers an interdisciplinary, 30-credit online Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) with a concentration in World History and Politics. Working students with full-time jobs can complete their degree in two and a half to three years while taking no more than two classes a semester. Students able to take three classes per semester can graduate in two years. At the end of their coursework, students demonstrate their analytical, research, and critical skills through a capstone project unique to their interests. The Rutgers’ online MALS degree offers students the chance to design a highly personalized curriculum that targets their individual goals. The coursework is 100% online with small classes designed to be flexible enough to accommodate any schedule. Responses to readings, class discussions, and submissions of papers all take place online. Admission requires the student to have a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 or higher GPA (or an explanation of why the GPA is lower), a writing sample, two academic recommendations, and a personal statement. GRE test scores are not required.

#11 University of Nebraska at Omaha

  • Annual Tuition: $9,000
  • Median Salary: $56,893
  • Locations: Omaha (NE)
  • Accreditation: HLC

The master’s in political science online program at the University of Nebraska at Omaha requires 30 credit hours, has a thesis and non-thesis option, and offers concentrations in International Affairs and American Government. Working students typically finish in two years, but full-time students taking classes year-round can finish faster. The online Master of Science in Political Science program has the same courses and the same faculty as the on-campus program. Students can specialize by taking at least 12 hours of coursework in another discipline, such as criminal justice, economics, social work, or urban studies. Asynchronous coursework can be accessed 24/7, and approved internships may be completed in students’ home areas. For admission, students need two letters of recommendation, the application and fee, official undergraduate transcripts, a resume, an academic writing sample, a letter of intent, and two professional or academic references. Although 15 hours of undergraduate political science coursework is preferred, some students can be provisionally admitted without. MS students can choose to take additional coursework to earn a Certificate in Government (18 credit hours) or a Graduate Certificate in Intelligence and National Security (15 credit hours). Online student support services are the same as on-campus services and include tech support, the writing center, the library, and academic advising.

Overview of an Online Political Science Degree

An online master’s degree in political science can be a stepping stone into the world of politics. However, if you’re not looking to become a politician, there are many other career opportunities: economist, urban and regional planner, and postsecondary teacher, to name a few.

A bachelor’s degree is typically required to apply for a master’s program. Students must also meet GPA and ACT or SAT score requirements. As with most master’s programs, prospective students can expect to spend at least two years in a full-time program to obtain a political science master’s degree.

Can You Get a Political Science Master’s Degree Online?

Yes, you can obtain a political science master’s degree online, although it’s essential to attend an accredited program.

An accredited program indicates that an institution meets or exceeds the minimum quality standards in delivering postsecondary education programs. Our list provides you with the best online political science degrees from accredited institutions.

Common Courses for a Political Science Master’s Program

An online master’s degree curriculum in political science provides the foundation for students to excel in the field. Alongside courses, prospective students can expect to complete a thesis — non-thesis tracks are available at some universities — and a capstone course, if applicable.

Below are some of the most typical core courses you can expect in a master's program online or otherwise:

Introduction to Political Theory

This introductory course explores Western political ideologies. Students examine political themes from well-known philanthropists and theorists, like Aristotle, Plato, Locke, and Hobbes. In addition, the course discusses methods to govern a society, including ethics, law, and economic relations.

Political Philosophy

This course introduces students to the history of political psychology. With a mixture of political and psychological components, the course explores the association between human behavior and politics, using social and cognitive behavioral theories.

Urban Politics

This introductory course discusses the politics and governance surrounding U.S. cities. Students can expect to learn about urban community issues, such as housing and development, environmental justice, finances, and poverty. The goal is for students to understand better how the government affects the character and development of American cities.

International Law

This is a popular core course for an online master’s degree in political science, as it provides a general introduction to international law and its role in the modern world. Students can expect to gain a deeper understanding of international laws and regulations across the globe. Limitations of liability, charter parties, and treaties are a few topics covered in the course.

International Relations

This course explores the fundamental theories, principles, and concepts of international relations. Some potential topics that the course may cover include imperialism, nationalism, developing nations, and ideology. In addition, case studies across various governments may be examined during the course.

What Can You Do With a Political Science Master’s Degree?

With an online master's in political science, you have a variety of career directions that you can take. While many assume a political science degree is solely to obtain a career in law or the government, graduates have a variety of industries they can work in. Education, government, law, and business, are a few examples of industries where graduates with an online political science master’s degree may find employment.

Political Scientist

Annual Median Salary: $122,520
Job Outlook: 9%

For those who enjoy conducting research in the political realm, a career as a political scientist may be the best fit. Political scientists study political systems by examining their origin, development, and operation. They typically work in an office, which can vary depending on each company’s work environment.

Economist

Annual Median Salary: $105,630
Job Outlook: 13%

For an economist, a typical work day involves analyzing and interpreting data to solve economic issues that may affect a country’s resources. In addition, they’re responsible for drafting and preparing tables, charts, and reports on socioeconomic data to forecast potential problems that may arise in the future. Economists work in an office setting and may collaborate with biostatisticians to complete projects.

Urban and Regional Planner

Annual Median Salary: $78,500
Job Outlook: 7%

Urban and regional planners help plan, design, and develop residential and commercial facilities. These professionals aim to revitalize urban communities by building additional housing and community buildings within a specific neighborhood or city. Urban and regional planners often have a full schedule and may occasionally work weekends to finish projects and attend community events.

Postsecondary Teacher

Annual Median Salary: $79,640
Job Outlook: 12%

For those who have a passion for educating others on political science, a career as a postsecondary teacher may fulfill their need. This teaching profession is at the collegiate level. Professors may find work at local community colleges and four-year institutions.

Is There Money in Political Science?

Yes, though it depends on which career path master's graduates take. For example, a career as a political scientist can bring in over six figures for graduates with a master’s degree. As exemplified above, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that political scientists earned a median salary of $122,510 in 2021, and this position has a 9% job outlook within the next eight years. Even the other political science jobs listed above have annual salaries and job outlooks above the U.S.average across all jobs, which is $45,760 and 8%, respectively.

In addition, many graduates use a master’s degree in political science as a stepping stone to becoming a politician or lawyer, which are positions that also may lead to annual salaries between six to seven figures.

Certification and Licensure H3

While certification and licensure are not required to have a career in political science, they can help those who want to amp up their resume with a public policy and analysis certification.

The Academy of Certified Political Analysis offers certificates to become certified in political science and political legal analysis. Applicants must have a degree in politics and 18 credit hours of relevant coursework from a graduate program.

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Online Students

Paying for a graduate program can become pricey without help from financial aid to cover the costs of tuition, books, and other necessities. In addition, many students may want to acquire as many grants and scholarships as possible before applying for student loans.

Thankfully, many scholarships are available to offer financial assistance to students pursuing a master’s degree in political science.

For tips about how to receive free money for college, see our 2022 Guide to Scholarships.

Is a Master’s Degree in Political Science Worth It?

Before applying to one of the best online political science degree programs above, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of this specialty:

Potential Benefits

Many political scientists have a high earning potential. As mentioned earlier, careers as political scientists or economists often lead to six-figure salaries for graduates with a master’s degree in political science.

A master’s degree in political science is a great stepping stone toward law school. While a degree in political science is not required to apply for law school, it provides the foundation of political theory and ideologies that can benefit future lawyers.

Career opportunities are abundant in this field. Graduates gain writing, research, and analysis skills throughout the program that can be applied to many careers beyond working in government and law.

Potential Cons

Some graduates may experience a poor work-life balance. Depending on which career path a graduate from a master in political science online degree takes, they may have higher stress levels. As with most careers in politics, professionals can endure a lot of high-pressure situations. In addition, many jobs in political science require working overtime and weekends to meet deadlines.

An online degree can delay the development of strong interpersonal skills. With an online degree program, making personal connections with your virtual peers is harder. Strong communication skills, such as public speaking, are a significant aspect of many political science careers. Thus, those with an online master's degree in political science may face more difficulties with this skill set after graduation.

Master’s graduates compete with PhD alumni for certain professions. In political science, it’s much easier to move up the ladder with a doctorate. Many graduates with an online master’s degree in political science may be overlooked for specific roles, such as a college professor. For those interested in a teaching career, particularly at the collegiate level, a PhD may be the best route.

Bottom Line

A master’s degree in political science is designed for students looking to expand their expertise in politics, economics, human behavior, and more. In addition, an online master’s degree in political science can be a stepping stone toward a rewarding career in politics, law, development, or economics. There are many job opportunities to pursue with this specialty, and it can provide a strong foundation when applying to law school.

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