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Master of Political Management | Context - Context
Online Master of Political Management
Master of Political Management In Context

If the practical application of political strategies interest you more than political theories, a Master of Political Management degree might be a good choice for your career. Today’s political landscape needs highly skilled professionals behind the scenes, and this degree path can give you the skills, credentials, and confidence to stand out.

What is this degree?

Political management is a broad field that is ever-evolving to encompass a large number of professional political activities. It is often considered to be an applied form of political science, as it is about application and engagement rather than theory. The degree can include topics such as advocacy and electoral politics.

Who might pursue this degree type?

Whether you are a recent graduate of a bachelor’s program, an experienced professional looking to develop your abilities to push your career further, or someone from another industry looking for a career change, a political management master’s degree may help you stand out from your competition.

A master’s in political management is ideal for a professional interested in a competitive edge. According to the Department of Education, more than 40,000 political science- or government-related bachelor’s degrees were awarded in 2015, compared to a little more than 2,000 master’s degrees. [2] Politics is a highly competitive field, and having a graduate degree is a key way of standing out from the crowd and marketing yourself as a unique prospect. [13]

If you are looking to pursue a career in government, as a campaign manager, pollster, communications professional, speechwriter, legislative aide, lobbyist, opposition researcher, issue advocate, political consultant, new media expert, or political commentator, a master’s in political management may be beneficial. Those with a background in this sector are often involved in election campaigns.

A political management degree is an ideal choice for anyone looking to study applied politics; it can equip you with the tools, skills, and techniques needed to help make democracy work. In many cases, potential students consider this degree because they want to help effect change within the world and establish themselves as political leaders.

A political management master’s degree, and other similar political degrees, does not require you to have a specific educational background to apply.

How do I earn this degree?

You can earn your degree either by attending your classes on campus or with an online political management degree. You can also choose full- or part-time study. Which institution you choose to study at will affect how long the program is.

It may also take longer depending on whether your degree includes a research project. Studying for a political management degree may require a combination of research, analysis, and practical skills.

Similar degrees to the master’s in political management focus on topics such as applied politics or political campaigning. These each have their own differences; for example, a degree in political science can be more general and may be good if you want to learn more about research methods, policy formation, civic engagement, or statistics. [1]

Why earn a master’s in political management degree?

A master’s degree gives you the opportunity to hone your skills and knowledge to a higher standard. Students who have studied at the graduate level often benefit from greater employment opportunities, advancement, credibility, and financial growth. [4]

Earning a political management degree can help you develop a number of skills. These include:

  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Persuasion
  • Social perceptiveness
  • Negotiation
  • Management of material, financial, and personnel resources
  • Time management
  • Complex problem solving
  • Speaking
  • Writing
  • Learning strategies
  • Reading comprehension
  • Critical thinking

For an employer, a master’s degree is a clear indication of the level and standard you have worked toward. In a social sciences workforce where 2 million people have a bachelor’s degree, being one of the 900,000 with a master’s degree separates you as having more tailored skills. [5]

In many political science jobs, a master’s degree is a necessary requirement. [6] It indicates your knowledge level and ambition. It can also help you develop your practical skills to achieve your desired political outcomes — whether that is assisting in a winning election, advancing legislation, or helping to change public opinion.

For a large political campaign, the degree can prepare you to take on leadership roles, including handling budgets, communications, strategies, and advising the team.

A graduate degree can also lead to a salary increase. Applied politics can be lucrative, and some career paths report wages well above six figures. For example, the average political consultant earns $87,720, while the average senior-level political consultants earn approximately $117,395. [7] The average fundraising director earns $122,233. [8]

Master of Political Management Career Advancement

There are several career paths a master’s in political management professional can pursue upon graduation. There are many jobs available in all levels of government, both in elected positions and otherwise. Your goal will most likely be to create policy, effect change, and frame public opinion.

Whether you’re interested in careers such as legislator, lobbyist, consultant, public official, caseworker, legislative correspondent, press secretary, scheduler, speechwriter, or research assistant, there are many ways to work in politics once you have graduated with a master’s in political management degree. [11]

Working in politics includes:

  • Building strong working relationships
  • Media relations
  • Fundraising
  • Polling
  • Opposition research
  • Meeting and speaking with constituents and lobbyists
  • Researching and writing legislation
  • Influencing lawmakers
Salary expectations

A master’s in political management can do more than advance your career prospects — it can also increase your earning potential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary across all occupations was $37,040 in 2016. [12] Professionals holding a master’s in political management can pursue a variety of rewarding roles, including lobbyist, media strategist, political consultant, or pollster, though these salaries largely depend on location and experience. [13]

  • Lobbyist: Median annual salary of $106,938 [22]
  • Political Consultant: Median annual salary of $87,720 [7]
  • Pollster: Median annual salary of $35,764 [23]
  • Media Strategist: Median annual salary of $49,435 [24]

As with any career, the more experience and qualifications you bring to the job, the higher your earning potential can be.

Where can I expect to work with a political management degree?

With the flexibility and wide range of a political management degree, there are a number of different places where you can work, including:

  • For a political candidate or public official
  • Human resources (with a median salary of $63,522 as a human resources manager) [14]
  • Consulting (with a median salary of $86,093 as a management consultant) [15]
  • Law firms (with a median annual salary of $68,000 as an attorney, $37,130 as a legal assistant, and $50,868 as a public defender) [16]
  • Public relations (with a median salary of $61,282 as a public relations manager) [17]
  • Government
  • Nonprofits
  • Unions
Master of Political Management Curriculum

The courses available to you will vary depending on the university and program, but you can expect to take core courses in political strategy, analysis, and communications. Courses aim to impart the necessary professional skills to understand democratic processes, government institutions, and how this fits into the larger world view.

Possible course topics include:

  • Applied political analysis
  • Understanding public policy
  • The politics of social policy
  • International human rights
  • Public opinion and survey design
  • Political science
  • Media analysis for politics
  • Rhetoric in politics
  • Comparative political analysis
  • The politics of money and finance
  • Political parties and how they operate
  • Justice

You may be expected to submit a major research project or thesis — this could be a policy analysis project, a journal article, a research paper, or a public opinion project, for example. You may be required to defend your research proposal before a committee.

Concentrations and specializations

A concentration allows you to tailor your degree to a specific career pathway. It involves choosing a series of courses in your program with a particular focus.

Unlike an elective, which is a single class, a concentration consists of several classes to help you add focus to your program. In selecting to concentrate your studies in this way, it is important to consider your interests and career goals.

If you want to work in campaign communications, then focusing on the public relations side of politics may be useful. If you are more interested in tackling legislation, you might want to focus your degree on political analysis and policy writing.

Specializing your degree can help advance your career goals significantly, especially if you have a very clear idea of the direction you are looking to head in. Establishing yourself as an expert in a specific field can be of huge value to employers, who can recognize the strong skill set and experiences you bring.

Common specializations include:

  • Human rights
  • International politics
  • Elections and campaign management
  • Democracy
Master of Political Management Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

Master of Political Management Admissions Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Master of Political Management Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study

Similar degrees to the master’s in political management include applied politics, political science, and politics, which offer similar variations of the same topics.

There are some notable differences, however. Politics is a much broader degree that covers the sector in general, while political science is much more about the theory behind subject matters such as elections, campaigns, lobbying, and advocacy. In comparison, political management focuses more on the engagement with these activities. It is about finding practical solutions to problems through strategic tools and techniques.

Other degrees dealing with management or government that could be of interest include:

  • Master of Business Administration — focuses specifically on management in business, including accounting, finance, human resources, and marketing.
  • Master of Management — gives you the skills to work in business and learn about management responsibilities, business operations, and organizational behavior.
  • Master of Public Policy — develop analytical and critical skills that wil help you to understand the design, enforcement, and delivery of public policy.
  • Master of Public Administration — explore areas such as public finance, leadership, policy process and analysis, and managerial accounting.
  • Master of International Relations — may explore topics such as ethics and human rights, international political economy, globalization, security, political violence, and war.
  • Master of Public Relations — you will have the chance to gain the communications skills to speak effectively with individuals both within and outside an organization.
  • Master of Global Management — explore business from a global perspective.
  • Master of Arts in Elections and Campaign Management — learn how to influence elections and political campaigns, and gain the tools needed to take on senior-level positions.

If you are interested in becoming a lobbyist, the National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics offers a Public Policy certificate. This program has been created with the goal of providing the necessary professional education needed to keep up with the ever-changing political sphere. It is designed for those looking to work as a lobbyist or within governmental affairs, social media, public relations, grassroots, and corporate or association professions at all levels.

In taking this program, you would be able to explore a combination of core elements relating to public policy, alongside other courses that are more tailored to your exact career objectives. [18]

Master of Political Management Relevant Industry Associations and Organizations

Industry associations are a great place to find useful resources that will help you get a better understanding of political management, politics, and what you will be doing when studying and working in this field. They help bring together like-minded professionals in one space, offering opportunities to network and advance your career and education. Often the schools you are considering have connections with these associations and organizations. These may include:

  • National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics [19]
  • American Association of Political Consultants [20]
  • American Political Science Association [21]
Master of Political Management Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

History of the Degree

The concept of being a political manager is relatively new and came into being during the early 20th century when America was drifting away from the traditional party-centered politics into an arena in which the individual candidates were prized.

As such, candidates began looking to hire their own staff who were responsible for managing fundraising, strategic decisions, campaign activities, and public relations. Joseph Napolitan was one of the first professionals to be known as a political consultant, and this role began to expand and grow with many specializing in political campaigns. Nowadays, being a political manager is wide-ranging and can include lobbying, strategy, web design, and polling.

Master of Political Management Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Political management programs are generally designed to educate students about how to win elections, advocate effectively, and formulate sophisticated communications strategies in the world of politics.

While you will likely learn the same base set of skills, political management differs from political science and public policy because it focuses on application of the skills you learn and not just the theory behind them. Political science helps students to analyze and understand political behavior, while political management teaches you how to change political behavior. Public policy is the system and principles that governments follow to maintain order, and political management teaches students how to implement those policies.

Yes, all universities in the United States require evidence that an individual has completed an undergraduate program before they grant admission to a master’s degree program. [25]

While a master’s degree is not required to work in politics, obtaining a master’s degree can sometimes lead to career advancement or higher pay. [31] Pursuing a master’s will increase your knowledge in the subject matter and provide you with the tools to succeed in your field.

As political management degrees are broad, professional degrees, they appeal to a wide variety of individuals with educationally diverse backgrounds. Most schools encourage a mix of students from a cross-section of industry and occupational disciplines also, which inspires more interesting class and group discussions. Ultimately, a diversity of backgrounds and disciplines are welcomed and encouraged to inquire and apply for a master’s in political management.

This will depend on the school, though many regionally accredited institutions require you to have an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution or equivalent from an international college or university.

Most programs do not require any prerequisite courses for a political management degree. Students who pursue master’s degrees in politics come from a variety of backgrounds, with the majority coming from a political science undergrad. While not required, it would be beneficial to have some basic foundational knowledge in politics, advocacy, and government organization, as those skills are important to workers in politics.

The average length of time to complete the degree is 18 months to 2 years. However, some programs offer accelerated programs or part-time programs. Depending on the number of courses you enroll in during this time, some programs allow flexibility with your curriculum load, meaning you can take longer than two years if needed.

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

Key attributes to look for in an online political management degree include:

  • Accreditation: What accreditation(s) does the program or school hold (if any)?
  • Support Network: What support systems are in place to keep you connected with fellow students and faculty?
  • Delivery Method: How flexible is the program, and is it fully online, on-campus, or a hybrid?
  • Learning Experiences: Will the program offer real-world business experiences?
  • Affordability: Can I afford the program?
  • On-Campus Requirements: Are there any requirements for me to attend on-campus workshops or sessions?
  • Reputation: Does the school and program have a good reputation and ranking?
  • Faculty Experience: Are there faculty with a broad array of experience across multiple business disciplines?
  • Specializations/Concentrations Offered: What specializations or concentrations are offered in the program?

To be successful in political management, it is recommended that you possess the following skills, which will help you in your day-to-day political functions:

  • Communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Speaking skills
  • Writing skills

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a standardized test used to gauge the academic abilities of students looking to apply to graduate programs. [26] Some schools use it as a measure of an applicant’s readiness for graduate-level work and of their potential for success. Also, a GRE can supplement a GPA below 3.0 and demonstrate that the candidate has a foundational knowledge of the subject matter.

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

Many institutions offer political management degrees online.

Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.

Tuition can vary significantly based on a number of factors. Among a sampling of accredited online master’s programs, the average cost of tuition was $58,088.

Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid Office in the U.S. Department of Education. [28] They supply college-level or career school students with loans, grants and work-study funds, as needed. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA. [29]

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded.

Certain individuals who meet the qualifying criteria may be eligible for the federal government’s loan forgiveness program. Find out more through the Federal Student Aid office.[30]

Start with a cost-benefit analysis based on the price of the degree and potential ROI. Weigh the full cost against the positive outcomes you expect as a graduate, which may include a boost in earning potential, upward mobility, or job satisfaction.

What each university requires will vary, but generally, you will be required to submit the following documents with your application:

  • Completed online application
  • Application fee (cost varies)
  • Statement of purpose
  • Resume or CV
  • Recommendations
  • Official transcripts from all previously attended institutions

While the actual courses will differ from program to program, you can expect to find courses covering the following topics in most PR programs:

  • Political Data Analysis
  • Political Advocacy
  • State and Intergovernmental Relations
  • Issues Management
  • Fundraising/Budgeting
  • Communications

Accreditation helps determine if an institution meets or exceeds the minimum standards of quality set out by recognized regional or national accreditation agencies. A list of regional and national institutional accrediting agencies can be found at the U.S. Department of Education. [27]

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

Yes you can. Online programs tend to be designed to fit around your personal and professional life and often allow you to take what you have learned and apply it directly to your current role. Since you can access most online courses from wherever you have a Wi-Fi signal, online courses can allow for added flexibility around busy schedules. Although online, as a student you will still be able to communicate with your professors and peers through discussion boards, download course materials, take exams, and submit projects and written assignments without having to enter a traditional classroom.

Political management majors can find jobs in a variety of industries, including nonprofit organizations, corporate environments, professional services companies, government agencies, and educational institutions. A degree in politics can lead to a variety of job opportunities, including work as a campaign manager, elected official, lobbyist, advocate, and analyst.

As the political capital of the country, the highest concentration of jobs in politics (per thousand jobs) is in the District of Columbia, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. [31] Also high on the list are Virginia, California, Texas, and Arizona.

While there is no direct data specific to political management, the BLS states that jobs in politics as a whole are expected to decline slightly (by 2%) between 2014 and 2024. [32] It is important to note that job opportunities may spike as the country approaches an election year. Candidates with a graduate degree, strong writing and analytical skills, and experience researching or performing policy analysis should have the best job prospects.

The earning potential of a political management graduate will depend largely on the type of role you are looking to pursue. Here are some examples of salaries for different positions in politics: [33]

  • Campaign Manager — Average National Salary: $66,930 – $128,470
  • Development Director (Not-For-Profit) — Average National Salary: $66,930 – $128,470
  • Press Secretary — Average National Salary: $31,000 – $95,000
  • Politician — Average National Salary: $49,000 – $85,000

No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.

With most universities, the faculty are not only teachers but are political practitioners with years of experience in their fields. Generally the professors who teach the on-campus courses will be the same ones who teach the online courses, so you can rest assured that you will be getting the same value of education without being in the physical classroom. In some cases, alumni of the program come back to become professors.

Each university will have its own learning management system (LMS) that will enable you to communicate and liaise with your fellow students and faculty. [34] These systems generally allow you to chat or send messages direct to classmates and faculty, store and distribute course materials, and submit, collect, and review your graded assignments.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that crosses state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [35]]

Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.

Networking with one’s fellows in politics is extremely important for personal and professional development. Professional societies sponsor conferences, publish journals, and serve as reviewers or editors. They set professional and educational standards and provide job and career services for their members.

he primary association for people working in politics is the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC). The AAPC is a multi-partisan organization of political and public affairs professionals dedicated to improving democracy. [36] It is the largest association of political and public affairs professionals in the world. AAPC members consist of political consultants, media consultants, pollsters, campaign managers, corporate public affairs officers, professors, fundraisers, lobbyists, congressional staffers, and vendors.