For the above premise to be true would mean that the majority of jobs for political science majors are in politics. Washington, D.C. is synonymous with the federal government and associated agencies. Therefore, it is logical to assume that there will be more employment opportunities in the nation’s capital. Again, for this statement to be valid, one supposes that most jobs for polisci graduates are related to politics.
Political science is a broad field that applies to an assortment of professions – some utterly unrelated to politics. It is a popular degree for individuals who proceed to law school because of the typical topics covered in a polisci program. American Constitutional law, comparative governments, policy analysis, Congress, civil rights, foreign policy, and political law are examples. You may never apply the coursework directly to a career in public service. Academics and graduates attest that polisci teaches critical and analytical thinking, communication, rhetoric, and problem-solving. All of which are the top soft skills or attributes that Fortune 500 employers seek in applicants.
Some jobs in the political arena are more prevalent in Washington, for example, a lobbyist. The duties of a lobbyist involve communicating with government representatives, officials, and legislators on behalf of clients. The clients could be individuals, charities, corporations, school districts, and various government agencies at different levels, such as local and state. In the U.S., there are roughly 9,500 lobbyists or about 18 for every member of the House of Representatives.
The most influential lobbying groups are the National Rifle Association (NRA), the AARP, and the National Association of Realtors. As a whole, lobbyists spend over $3 billion every year trying (or buying) influence with members of Congress.
Another job for polisci graduates living in or around the capital is a legislative assistant. These professionals work in a branch of government, such as the U.S. Congress. Some of the responsibilities include legal research, perform constituent surveys, prepare and proofread correspondence, and liaise with other legislators, state officials, and interest groups.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported employee data in April 2019 for Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area. Total nonfarm employees were 3,341,900, with 710,900 of this category working in the government sector. Only the category of Professional and business services (774,400) exceeded the number of governmental employees.
Nation’s largest employer
Statistically, the federal government is the largest employer in Washington, D.C., followed by the public school systems, according to the Washington Business Journal. The feds employ around 2 million full-time civilians with the Department of Veterans Affairs at the top of the list, with about 385,000, followed by the Department of the Army with 239,000. However, when you examine the percentage of employees in federal government jobs, the D.C. metro area places fourth. This geographical area has 14.1% of its workforce as federal employees. At the top of the list is Colorado Springs, with 16.4%, second is Virginia Beach at 16.1%, and then Honolulu with 15.4% of its total workforce in federal jobs. The data is from the Government Executive article published in November 2013.
As mentioned in the opening paragraph, a degree in political science doesn’t relegate one to a job in local, state, or federal government. Some graduates opine that the communication and analytical skills have boosted their career in sales. Analyzing policy carries over into the analysis of a client or customer’s needs, which can enhance the success of the salesperson.
Instead, look beyond the nation’s capital to where employment opportunities are plentiful. Houston, for example, is the largest city in Texas with numerous jobs in energy, health care, manufacturing, and government. This sector employs 15% of the workforce, making it the number two industry in the city.
Atlanta, with a workforce of over 2.7 million, has the highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies. The city is home to several government district agencies or regional headquarters, namely the Federal Reserve’s District Six, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Region II, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 4. Atlanta is also home for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Not all positions at the CDC are directly related to health care. Job postings exist for budget analysts, public affairs specialists, and government information specialists.
There’s an old maxi: Beggars can’t be choosers. In other words, college graduates cannot afford to be too selective as to where they work or the preferred sector. A November 2019 article in Forbes magazine painted a bleak picture for college graduates aged 22 to 27. For the first time in thirty years, the unemployment and underemployment rate for recent grads is increasing at a faster rate than the overall workforce. The unemployment rate for graduates at the time of publication was over 6%, compared to the unemployment rate of 3.6% in late 2019 (pre-COVID19).