This is our first interview in a series of interviews with people who have earned political science undergraduate and/or graduate degrees. We hope this interview series will provide a lot of realistic insight for students who are considering majoring in political science. Contact us if you are a poli sci graduate who would like to be interviewed.
What university did you attend and what degree did you receive?
I attended the University of Washington and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 2004.
Why did you choose to major in this subject?
Political Science degrees are often pursued by those interested in joining a political campaign, working for the government, or even running for office themselves.
I chose the subject simply because I found it interesting. I did not make a decision about what to major in until my junior year and was approaching the school’s deadline for deciding on a major. I had found politics interesting since I was about fifteen, so it seemed like the natural choice.
How did having a Political Science degree affect your job history after graduating from college?
I never had a specific job in mind where I wanted to apply my degree. My first two jobs after college had nothing to do with political science, but after that I began to work for a federal government agency. I stayed there for six years, before leaving several months ago to pursue writing opportunities. My degree certainly helped me receive my government job, and has also has helped me get certain writing assignments.
Other than job opportunities, are there any other ways in which your degree has enriched your life?
Yes, it has helped me understand and follow political campaigns and issues. I am still an avid follower of political campaigns, especially during presidential election years. I also own a large collection of books about politics. I even still have some of the books that I was required to read for my classes.
How was the overall quality of instruction in the political science classes that you attended?
It was good, for the most part. Many classes were taught by graduate assistants, rather than professors, but I rarely felt that the teachers were not knowledgeable or didn’t have a solid grasp of the subject matter. I also felt that the teachers tried very hard to be neutral and hide their own political views. I don’t have any major complaints about any of the teachers, but there was one teaching assistant who I had a poor experience with. She was very slow-paced in terms of grading and giving us feedback on our work. This TA was quite unpopular with all of the students. Other than that, however, I had positive experiences.
What were your favorite classes?
My all-time favorite was a class about the U.S. presidents. The presidents have always fascinated me and continue to do so today. I own several books about them. I find all of them interesting, from the famous ones like Lincoln and FDR all the way down to the obscure ones no one remembers like Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore. It’s fun to compare stuff that is happening now in the Obama Administration to past events in prior administrations.
My second favorite was a comparative politics class that discussed the governments of other countries. I remember being particularly interested in the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Japan. I knew virtually nothing about other countries’ governments before taking the class, and it was definitely an eye opener. There are certainly many different forms of government out there, and many disparate political systems.
Another very memorable class was about the U.S. Congress. The class actually simulated Congress (or more accurately the House of Representatives), with each student being a congressman or congresswoman. We created and attempted to pass bills, appointed a speaker, and passed or rejected legislation. Each student was assigned to their own committee (I was on Ways and Means) and we would meet to discuss the bills that came our way. It was fun, but it was definitely a class that would only appeal to people who were REALLY into political science. At the end of the class, we were assigned another student to run against and we campaigned against each other. Some of the students were hyper competitive and took it too seriously, but it was a good class. It really gave me a sense of what it would be like to be in a legislature.
What fields did you study?
There were several different areas of political science classes, and we had to take a certain number of credits in each one in order to receive our degree. I enjoyed the American Politics and Comparative Politics fields, but was less enthused by the political theory field. These classes would teach about famous political philosophers like Rousseau, Hobbes, and Locke. Many politically inclined people enjoy reading these authors’ works, but I found their writing very dry for the most part. Machiavelli was rather intriguing, however.
How was the difficulty level in terms of attaining your degree?
The political theory classes were the toughest, because they were the least interesting. The more interesting I found the material, the more motivated I was to do the reading and studying required. Overall, it wasn’t all that difficult compared to what people majoring in disciplines like law or medicine have to deal with.
Were there opportunities to receive additional help when required?
Yes, most classes had office hours for both the teaching assistant and professor. Any student could meet with them one on one during those times. There were two major libraries that were great places to study, read, and conduct further research. The library staff could occasionally be obnoxious and rude, but they were helpful for the most part.
Were there any political science clubs on campus?
Well, there were several groups that were politically oriented, and many of their members were political science majors. There were College Republicans, Young Democrats, Young Socialists, and College Libertarian groups. I was not a member of any of them. Most of them seemed rather quiet, but I do remember the College Republicans being very outspoken and pulling many stunts to get attention. For example, they held an animal rights barbecue and a “love your guns” day.
Did you take financial aid?
No, I was fortunate enough that I did not need to do this. I paid some of my tuition and book expenses myself (I worked part time on campus sorting mail) and my parents paid for the rest.
Overall, how do you feel about majoring in political science? Do you have any regrets?
No, I’m glad that I chose it as my field. It has enhanced my knowledge of an interesting and important subject. Everyone and everything is affected by politics in some way. Political science is crucial for understanding the world around us.