Study American Government: Associate, Bachelor & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in an American government degree program? Read about requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and a bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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American Government Associate and Bachelor's: Degrees at a Glance

In an associate or bachelor's degree program in political science or history with this concentration, you could learn about the origin and development of U.S. institutions, national public policy and politics. You could qualify for positions in government, media, non-profit or for-profit organizations. Students might also use this major to prepare for law school or a political career.

Job opportunities in general were expected to grow 14% nationwide from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while the market research analysis field could grow 41%. With a bachelor's degree, you could apply this political-science specialty to survey research or polling. Students with associate degrees might become paralegals, a field expected to increase 18%.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this training for? Individuals interested in an entry-level position
Individuals who aspire to professional careers
Common Career Paths (with approximate salary) - Paralegal ($47,000 - 0-2 years of experience)*
- Government sales representative ($78,000 - with 2-4 years experience)*
- Market research analyst ($51,000 - with 0-2 years of experience)*
- Secondary American government teacher ($57,000 - with teaching certification and experience)**
- Government affairs representative ($81,000 - with 4 years of experience)*
Time to Completion 1-2 years full time
4-5 years full time
Common Graduation Requirements - Typically 60-80 credits
- Internship
- Capstone course
- Approximately 120 credits
- Internship
Capstone project
Prerequisites High school or GED
High school, GED or associate degree
Online Availability Online programs available but uncommon Available but uncommon

Source: * (2012 median salary), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 mean wage).

Associate Degrees in American Government

In a major related to American government, you could study the theoretical foundations of the U.S. Constitution, major concepts of democracy, political behavior, the impact of interest groups on public opinion and ideologies like liberalism and conservatism. Since related public-interest careers may require a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions, this liberal arts curriculum might be most appropriate for students who want a higher degree in this or a similar field.

A legal assistant option could be available in an associate degree covering American government. Although these students typically enroll in specific 2-year training programs, those contemplating a bachelor's degree or further studies might be interested in an American government associate degree that incorporates accredited paralegal training.

Pros and Cons


  • You could learn how to make a difference in your community.
  • You might understand the assumptions underpinning domestic and foreign policy.
  • You could join the workforce after a 2-year commitment.
  • You may be able to fully or partially transfer credits to a bachelor's program.


  • Associate degrees in this field may be most effectively used as a foundation for a 4-year program.
  • To be more readily employable, you may want to take additional skills-based courses in paralegal studies or business.
  • Two years of liberal arts studies may not provide enough elective course opportunities to develop expertise in an area.

Courses and Requirements

After completing core subjects like writing, humanities and science (like those required in a 4-year liberal arts curriculum), you might be able to take about 30 elective credits in your major. Your electives could be chosen to support your interests or career objectives.

You might take courses like these in an associate degree program:

  • American government
  • State and local government
  • American political systems
  • Business, government and society
  • U.S. government and politics
  • Social and political philosophy

Online Degree Options

Online degrees are available, mostly but not exclusively through 2-year schools. These programs may be convenient for students with work or other responsibilities, since they can be completed from anywhere on a flexible schedule. You'll need to meet the same standards as you would on campus. Students complete and submit their work using distance technology.

Standing Out with this Degree

Full- or part-time work experience or internships could help you prove your value to an employer. Your college may help you find a relevant position. Effective use of learning resources like tutoring, success workshops and supplemental instruction provided by your school may help you excel.

Good academic performance could help you enter a 4-year program at your school or elsewhere. Your applications for work or advanced study could be enhanced by leadership in student chapters of political party or advocacy organizations, or academic and social organizations related to your field.

Bachelor's Degrees in American Government

An American-government-related degree may combine an understanding of the nature of government with modern-day social scientific analysis techniques. Students in this field are often interested in government, not-for-profit or teaching jobs, or law or other graduate programs. You may develop the effective oral and written communication skills important to these fields.

You could learn about U.S. founding documents and the institutional development of its form of governance. Programs may address processes creating public policy and bureaucratic politics. You might learn research and analytical skills that help you understand theories of the state and competing scientific and theoretical approaches to political systems.

Pros and Cons


  • This degree could prepare you to evaluate issues confronting public sector leaders.
  • Schools may offer double major or dual degree options, including public administration, criminal justice, healthcare administration, journalism, public service and international or comparative government studies.
  • This program could be a good foundation for law school or politics.


  • Failure to focus or insufficient attention to quantitative requirements may lead to lack of hard skills to offer to employers.
  • The geography of opportunities may require relocation to an area with substantial government or justice-system employment.
  • Employers might prefer candidates with advanced degrees for some positions.

Courses and Requirements

This bachelor's program would generally require general curriculum courses in English, humanities and science. Core major courses might include macroeconomics and political philosophy. Your school might recommend a foreign language or quantitative courses in statistics, probability or calculus. Electives may depend on your career objectives. Your school may encourage internships.

Candidates for various American-government-related bachelor's degrees might take courses like these:

  • Contemporary government and politics
  • American national government
  • Western political thought
  • The Federalist Papers
  • Congress: politics and policy
  • American presidency
  • Law, politics and policy

Online Degrees

Online degrees are available. These programs can be completed on your flexible schedule, although requirements will be similar or identical to those of on-campus courses. Coursework and instruction will be accessed and completed over the Internet. Virtual programs emphasizing public policy processes and bureaucracy may suit students interested in postgraduate education or career options in government, the media, for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Ambitious students interested in academic or practitioner careers may have multiple career-building options. Future academics could access undergraduate honors or research programs leading to recognition and awards of interest to graduate schools. You could benefit from a dual degree program, or take courses that will qualify you for secondary teaching certification.

Students interested in immediate post-baccalaureate employment could lead societies and student organizations related to government and politics. Some of these may be sponsored by research centers and institutes. You might intern with a prospective government, policy research, public relations or media organization. Internships could be offered on Capitol Hill, or elsewhere in Washington, D.C or your state's capital city.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
      • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

      • Bachelor of Arts in History for Secondary Education (ITL)
      • Bachelor of Arts in History for Secondary Education (ITL)
  • Plainview, TX

    Wayland Baptist University

  • Baltimore, MD

    University of Baltimore

  • Kalamazoo, MI

    Western Michigan University

  • Akron, OH

    University of Akron Main Campus

  • West Point, NY

    United States Military Academy

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • BS in Liberal Studies Leadership

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Arts in History for Secondary Education (ITL)

What is your highest level of education?

Wayland Baptist University

University of Baltimore

University of Akron Main Campus

United States Military Academy