Professor Jeffrey Becker, who has done a great deal of work developing Pacific’s course on careers and professionalism for political science majors takes a bold stand and defends mom while considering the usefulness of the political science major:
Recently, a friend’s son, frustrated about his perceived diminishing job prospects during a second year in law school, accused his mother of bad parenting; confronting her with the following: “why didn’t you tell me a political science major can’t get me a job?!” But underlying this outburst is the anxiety inducing question all undergraduates will face: what does my major prepare me to do, and what jobs can I get with my degree?
She asked, “What should I tell my son?”
As a political scientist, here is my response:
- Political science is a major where you learn how to think. At its core, political science aims to teach students the difference between knowledge acquired through empirical study and thoughtful reflection, and opinions based on parroting back half-thought-out positions one hears on the radio or television. Determining whether an opinion is supported by reasonable argument, empirical data, or careful historical study is what sets political knowledge apart from opinion.
- Political science asks students to reflect on why and how they should participate in the political life of their nation, state, county, and community.
- Political scientists, at least at the University of the Pacific ask their students to write essays that 1) present a problem to be addressed, 2) express the student’s interpretation of course materials, and 3) support that interpretation with appropriate arguments and evidence.
What about the job market?
Political science does not have an automatic career track. Political science is not accounting; vast numbers of Fortune 500 companies do not line up to hire college graduates to work in the political science divisions of their corporations.
Because the career track of a political scientist is not obvious or self-evident, the courses in the political science major at Pacific demand that students craft their own focus to their major. And this self-created focus is the challenge and the reward of a degree in political science. At Pacific, the political science major fosters a culture of learning and collaborative thinking, bringing the classroom knowledge closer to students through practical internships, and the active participation of students in the classroom.
As a major that has as its learning objectives the broadening of one’s mind, and the refining of one’s skills as a researcher, writer, and thinker, political science expects, maybe even insists, that students consider their coursework as it relates to the responsibilities one has as a citizen. Teaching the obligations of citizenship is also the promise of a liberal arts education: to highlight the responsibility students have to continue the best traditions of their broader community; thinking critically is not just about interrogating ignorance, but also about understanding the commitments one makes to fellow students and members of one’s polity.
Practically, a degree in political science opens doors: doors to law school, lobbying, government service, business and management, marketing, survey research, issue advocacy, and graduate research—to name a few. But, buyer beware, students have to choose and make their own path; students have to take responsibility for their careers, and in small measure live off your wits; political science is not a major students can take on auto-pilot, blithely waiting for someone (like your mother) to hand you a ready-made career as if it were a chocolate-chip cookie.
Were I to respond to my friends’ son directly, I might say the following: “You are currently in law school. It appears your major provided you with the critical thinking and reasoning skills for you to earn acceptance to law school. So, please stop blaming your lack of job prospects on your major, and your mother.”
- “I Like (Political) Science and I Want to Help People” (thehealthcareblog.com)
- 9 reviews of Political Science (rateitall.com)
University of the Pacific has joined ICPSR, the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Here is how ICPSR describes itself:
Established in 1962, ICPSR is the world’s largest archive of digital social science data. We acquire, preserve, and distribute original research data and provide training in its analysis. We also offer access to publications based on our data holdings.
In short, whenever social scientists develop useful datasets those datasets are archived with ICPSR where the data are available to faculty and students from member institutions. Pacific faculty and students will have access to any of the datasets archived by ICPSR. This will provide great opportunities for teaching, learning, and research, including undergraduate research.
In fact, ICPSR sponsors two annual undergraduate research competitions
The first competition, sponsored by the general archive at ICPSR, requires a research paper supported by quantitative analysis of any dataset(s) held within the ICPSR archive or any of its special topic archives. The second competition is sponsored by the Minority Data Resource Center (MDRC). The paper must address issues relevant to underrepresented minorities in the United States including immigrants, and data must be drawn from the MDRC.
Pacific’s strong social science programs, like political science, just got stronger.
Toby Ross, the City Manager from West Sacramento, spent four days on campus recently, visiting classes and talking about career opportunities in local government. The program, organized by the International City Management Association, hopes to facilitate conversations of all sorts between local government and universities. Among his class visits was a stop at Professor Jeff Becker’s Internship and Career Preparation course, where Dr. Ross participated in mock job interviews for political science students
Toby Ross has served as West Sacramento’s City Manager since November 2002. Ross brings three decades of experience in local government in California and Utah to the challenges of West Sacramento. His professional interests include planning, community development, budget and public finance. He earned a PhD and Masters degree from UC Berkeley; and a BA degree in from UC Santa Barbara. Ross has also held part-time faculty positions at the University of Utah, Cal Poly, the University of Hawaii and CSU San Francisco.
I love my job! With the Presidential caucus coming to Nevada this was the PERFECT time for me to want a political job. I’m working for the Democratic party as a caucus organizer, and I love it. I work like 60 hrs a week and not a whole lot of pay, but I love what I do and who I work with, so it makes up for it. Since this has never happened here, it’s all so important to the state, which only makes me even more excited.
Political Scientists have a way of turning up in interesting places.
Here’s a terrific opportunity for Pacific Political Science students. Junior Adam Ellison (pictured at left, really trust us, he’s there) participated last year and hasn’t stopped raving about it since.
The United States Model House of Representatives will be held May 28-June 2, 2007 in Washington, DC. This unique program provides the foremost experience and education in policy making, relationship building, and negotiation skills, within the Halls of Congress.
The U.S. Model House of Representatives will bring together students from across the country for a simulation of the House of Representatives. This prestigious event will be held at the Capitol Complex, in the Congressional Committee Rooms, the U.S. Capitol building, and the Floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. This momentous event will also include visits to the National Archives, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial. The final day culminates with presentation of the Bills, debate and full House vote proceedings on Capitol Hill.