By Brenlee Coates
Politics are everywhere – in everything. So what you do with a political science degree once again comes down to your political leanings.
It even “depends if you find government more a problem than solution,” says chair of the department of political science at the University of Winnipeg, Dr. Allen Mills. “There are a lot of community activists that have come out of this place.”
Whether you choose to get radical or take over one of the tens of thousands of jobs expected to become vacant in civil service over the next couple of decades is up to you.
In either direction, there are many different paths to explore.
There’s the stereotype of a “paper pusher” or bureaucrat working in government, but there are many positions within government that require political advisory or consultancy, great statistical and research sense, and – at times – political posturing.
“Politics is very much a team,” says Dr. Mills. Though political leaders are always the mouthpiece, behind-the-scenes activity is at the root of everything – down to what the leader says.
If you take an interest in political speech, there’s also a natural application of a political science education to careers in media or public relations.
“The media are very, very important to politics,” says Dr. Mills. “They provide an understanding of things to the public.”
Covering political events, as well as current events, requires an understanding of their political context and the ability to convey this to the masses. Public relations positions can see you penning speeches for a government official, soliciting positive media coverage and prepping the politician for interviews.
The pursuit of a law degree is sometimes preceded by a major in political science as well.
“There’s an obvious career path for any political scientist and that is to go into law,” observes Dr. Mills. Courses in the political science department delve into the Canadian legal system’s operations.
Outside of traditional political careers, there is “grunt work” with non-government organizations (NGOs), political and social movements to remark on (via blogs or media outlets), and supervisory positions in international elections to be had, says Dr. Mills.
Helping with reconstruction efforts in Haiti; handing out relief in catastrophes; supervising elections in Afghanistan; and reporting on elections for the United Nations are some of the important tasks undertaken by recent grads of political science at the U of W.
Though you don’t need a degree to do so, some students find their political thunder while learning the ins and outs of international politics and want to take a stand. When students come to Dr. Mills for advice on their prospects, he remains unprejudiced.
Depending on your future goals, he begins, “You can live on conceivably $15,000 a year and go and agitate if you like.” But if the white picket fence and family with two to three children is what you’re after: “the trick is in ‘how do you make money out of it?’”
Because of the diversity in the careers and paths for political science students, the program’s popularity hasn’t dipped with the state of current politics in general.
“Traditional, normal politics has a pretty bad odour right now,” observes Dr. Mills.
“The Iraq war would be part of it because it sort of convinced people that politicians lie.
“And we’re living in sort of a dismal world.”
The grim state of things and general distrust in politicians doesn’t always entice people to consider a career as politicians themselves, but some have come out of the institution, aiming to break the mould.
Dr. Mills taught courses to Vic Toews, and Bill Blaikie studied at the U of W. Plus, there’s that well-known former university president and political figure that just completed his tenure.
“(Lloyd) Axworthy is sort of the poster boy,” says Dr. Mills. “He’s sort of the perfect picture of what happens when you go to the university.
“It is that some become politicians.”
Public Adminstration facts
• During the recession, public administration careers fell by 2 per cent then followed up with a 5 per cent growth (Statistics Canada).
• Canadian Business rated public administration directors second on its list of the top 20 jobs in Canada in 2014. The median salary for the administrative bosses is $97,074. Salaries grew 21 per cent from 2007-2013, and there are 19,000 of them employed in Canada.
• Bachelor’s degrees are required to land the role of a public adminstration director, and graduate degrees in public policy or law, plus years of experience in government will put you in the best position to attain this top-ranking bureaucratic job in government. In higher levels of government, many of these jobs can pay over the $200,000 mark.
• The role of a public administration director includes supervising elections, maintaining relationships between the different levels of government and making sure legislatures function properly.