Political scientists conduct research pertaining to modern political systems. Their work helps institutions better understand the strengths and weaknesses of our political systems. Government agencies, schools and political organizations employ political scientists for various reasons, such as to improve citizen participation in elections or to improve the chances of a particular political candidate. This is a relatively high-paying job, but some political scientists earn more than others.
National Salary Range
A career as a political scientist usually requires at least a master's degree. According to the 2012 salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, students who graduated with a master's degree in political science reported an average starting salary of $57,700. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that all political scientists in the U.S. earned an average salary of $104,600 in 2012. The highest-paid 25 percent brought home $136,140 or more per year, and the highest-paid 10 percent made $155,490 or more.
As of 2012, the BLS reports that the highest-paying employer for political scientists is the federal government. These jobs pay a mean salary of $114,320 per year -- about $10,000 per year more than the national average. Other high-paying employers for political scientists include political, business and labor organizations ($108,410), research and development firms ($107,340) and consulting firms ($106,860). These jobs tend to pay far more than employment with local government agencies ($73,180) or with colleges and universities ($69,060).
Given the high salaries for federal employees, it's perhaps unsurprising that the highest-paying states for the occupation are clustered around the capitol: D.C. itself at $112,780, Virginia at $111,970 and Maryland at $110,680. New York rounded out the top four with an average poly-sci salary of $108,590 per year. However, those living in the greater New York metro area reported the highest salary of any metropolitan area at $126,430 per year. Pay for political scientists in other parts of the country tends to be below the national average: $70,530 in Washington state, for instance, or $59,450 in Ohio.
Political science is not an easy field to break into. Only an estimated 5,600 Americans were employed as political scientists in 2010, and the BLS predicts that only about 400 new political science positions will be created between 2010 and 2020. Unfortunately, this is not nearly enough positions to employ all of the students who graduate with degrees in political science. For this reason, aspiring political scientists should expect strong competition for jobs, and may end up finding employment in a related field such as law.