Political Management Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Class Info

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Master's degrees and PhDs programs that cover political management can lead to leadership roles in public affairs advocacy, electoral campaigns or related academic and research careers. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Political Management: Degrees at a Glance

Although graduate programs specifically in political management aren't typically offered, you can find a variety of programs that cover related topics, such as political science or public administration programs. You could find your specialty area by developing expertise in consumer and voter behavior, polling and survey analysis, strategy, marketing and fundraising or media management. A doctoral program in one of these related areas might lead to a research or an academic career.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that demand for related careers, such as market research analysts, would increase by 41% between 2010 and 2020. Over the same period, public relations specialists and managers were expected to see a 21% growth in employment, while employment for postsecondary teachers would increase by 17%.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in professional careers in political management Individuals interested in academic or advanced research opportunities
Common Career Paths and Salary (with approximate salary) - Public relations specialist ($46,000 - with entry-level experience)*
- Market research analyst - ($51,000 - with entry-level years of experience)*
- Marketing communications specialist ($58,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
- Lobbyist ($100,000 - with 5-8 years of experience)*
- Postsecondary political science teacher ($71,000)**
- Political scientist ($104,000)**
- Marketing professor ($143,000)***
- Political consultant - (salary unavailable)
Time to Completion 1-2 years, full-time 4-6 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Generally 30-40 credits
- Thesis
- Capstone project
- Internship
- Approximately 70-90 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree
- Oral and comprehensive examinations
- Dissertation
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's or master's degree
Online Availability Fully online certificates and degrees are limited but available Fully online programs rare to non-existent, though individual courses may be available

Source: *Salary.com (2012 median salary), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 median wage), ***The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (2010 mean salary).

Master's Degree Programs Covering Political Management

Degrees at this level may be interdisciplinary programs offered through political management, political science and public administration departments. You may learn how to conduct qualitative and quantitative research, as well as plan and execute campaigns.

Your program may cover various campaign methodologies, technology and tactics through hands-on experience. You may complete an internship opportunity with a political party or a consulting, polling, media, non-profit, marketing, strategic communication or advocacy organization that matches your interests. These experiential learning options could help you develop skills for management, advocacy or legislative affairs careers.

Pros and Cons


  • You can find a variety of programs that offer studies on political management
  • Flexible interdisciplinary programs could include courses in legislative affairs or strategic public relations.
  • Skills, such as market research and strategic communications, could be transferable to other fields


  • Programs specific to political management may be unavailable
  • Top programs may require significant time commitments for internships that could be unpaid
  • Employment may be cyclical, depending on elections

Courses and Requirements

Your curriculum may depend on your objective. For example, prospective public managers might choose different electives than those interested in electioneering. A future candidate or campaign director might take core courses in political behavior, research methods and traditional and electronic advertising and marketing communications. You might participate in a local campaign or advocacy initiative to meet curriculum or internship requirements.

These course topics might be included in a political management program:

  • Campaign organization
  • Lobbying
  • Public opinion dynamics
  • Crisis and issues management
  • Grassroots mobilization
  • Strategies and mechanisms of political communication
  • Fundraising

Online Courses

Although fully or mostly online programs are rare, they are available. Certificate programs in related areas, such as public administration, are also an option. With online classes, you might be able to complete your studies while pursuing employment in politics or a related field. Schools may also offer independent study courses that can be done remotely. You'll complete the same curriculum, but access and submit your work via the Internet.

Standing Out with a Master's Degree Program

Students interested in these programs may welcome leadership opportunities through citizen engagement and civic leadership projects and clubs. Program-sponsored service projects and awards, as well as international study options could be available. Some schools also offer special projects or institutes that support graduate programs and internships in areas like survey research. You might use campus resources, such as specialized libraries, conference series and academic institutes for campaign management and public advocacy, to develop training on a specific area of politics.

PhD Programs Covering Political Management

PhD programs could lead to an academic, advanced consulting or a research career. Although degrees specifically in political management may be hard to find, this topic could be covered in doctoral programs combining domestic or international politics and administration, governance, public relations or marketing. You could develop expertise in an area of interest through dissertation research or working with a supportive faculty mentor and committee.

Students in doctoral programs often fulfill teaching, laboratory or research assistant duties. They might be involved in programs or university projects that broaden their exposure and prepare them for academic careers. You may be expected to produce or co-author research papers, make conference presentations or contribute to the development of grant proposals.

Pros and Cons


  • Employment for postsecondary teachers is expected to grow about as fast as average (17%) between 2010 and 2020*
  • You may be able to supplement your income from consulting
  • Recognition for your expertise and the opportunity to provide academic and research-based thought leadership could be gratifying


  • A PhD program will require at least 4-6 years of studies with limited opportunities for outside work
  • Careful planning, such as using faculty recommendations, library and independent research to find a potentially in-demand niche, may be required to be competitive
  • Many political careers only require a master's degree, so you may be competing against applicants with a lower degree and experience

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

PhD candidates usually take several required core and research methodology courses, followed by electives and dissertation research. Your progress will be evaluated at several points, including written and oral comprehensive examinations, progress papers or a thesis, that could admit you to doctoral candidacy. You'll prepare a dissertation proposal and defend it, then complete and defend the final product.

You might take courses like these in a PhD program covering political management:

  • Public policy formulation and implementation
  • Analysis of American public policy
  • American political institutions
  • American political behavior
  • Math and democracy
  • Domestic politics of the United States
  • Political methodology

Online Class Options

Doctoral programs often have minimum on-campus residency requirements. Some schools offer a broad selection of online master's level courses relevant to political management. You might be able to earn some independent study credits virtually. Your research might require or permit travel or independent work from home under supervision of your faculty advisor and dissertation committee.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Your candidacy for academic or research positions may stand out if you've taught, published papers or successfully raised funds for your own or collaborative research projects. You may have opportunities to participate in institutes, programs and seminars supportive of campaigns and elections, government studies and public policy research.

Depending on your objective, you may find resources offered by organizations, such as the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, American Political Science Association or American Society for Public Administration. Their events and conferences could provide networking opportunities.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Northcentral University

    Program Options

      • DMFT - Military Family Therapy
      • Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)
  • New Haven, CT

    Yale University

  • Morgantown, WV

    West Virginia University

  • Saint Louis, MO

    Washington University in St Louis

  • Rochester, NY

    University of Rochester

  • Chapel Hill, NC

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Athens, GA

    University of Georgia

  • New Orleans, LA

    University of New Orleans

Featured Schools

Northcentral University

  • DMFT - Military Family Therapy
  • Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)

What is your highest level of education?

Yale University

West Virginia University

Washington University in St Louis

University of Rochester

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of New Orleans