Politics Degrees: Graduate | Top Universities

To study politics at graduate level is to engage with some of the most pressing issues of the day. Read our guide to find out more.


Studying politics at graduate level

From the beginnings of democracy in the city states of Ancient Greece, to the extreme ideological stances of the 20th century and the modern world’s late capitalist consensus, politics has continued to fascinate us. Some of the world’s greatest minds have grappled with the subject, among them can be found the various ‘fathers of political science’: Aristotle, Niccolò Machiavelli and Charles-Louis de Secondat.

Today, the study of politics can be as varied and complex as the intrigues of policy making themselves. “Politics, as a subject, encompasses an extremely wide range of topics,” reflects Professor Alan Hamlin, head of politics at the University of Manchester, “including international relations, alternative political systems and institutions, the politics of particular countries and regions, the analysis of policy, and political philosophy. It also includes a wide variety of different approaches to each of these areas.”

Professor Hamlin goes on to explain the intrinsic value of studying politics. “Political forces affect us all and shape the world we live in. Studying those forces, and their inter-connections, helps us to understand the world and to think about our role in it. While there is great debate and disagreement in almost all areas of politics, there is unanimity on the view that politics is vitally important.”

To be able to study politics at graduate level, students must be flexible. It perhaps goes without saying that students of political science must be to a wide range of arguments.“They must also be willing to be critical of their own ideas, and committed to engaging in debate with both the literature and their colleagues,” says Professor Hamlin.

What does he feel are the benefits of a graduate qualification in politics then? “The ability to specialize in particular areas of politics and to develop indepth understanding in debate with specialized staff and fellow students,” Professor Hamlin says. “Graduate study of politics can also supplement undergraduate study in a range of different disciplines,” he adds.

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Politics specializations

At graduate level there are even more chances to specialize in particular areas of politics. Some common specializations include

    • Democracy
    • Development politics
    • Elections
    • International politics
    • National politics
    • Regional politics
    • Peace and conflict studies
    • Public policy (graduate guide can be found here)

For a more in depth look at these specializations, you might like to take a look at our undergraduate guide, found here.

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Careers in politics

As well as the specialized knowledge derived from the extensive study of one’s sub-field, the skills a student can attain from a graduate degree in politics are plentiful. Professor Hamlin cites the ability to clearly articulate ideas, think critically and engage in analysis as some of the skills the discipline requires and will improve.

These skills, and others, mean politics graduates are well suited to a wide range of professions. “Most obviously within political settings ranging from local government to international organizations and including non-governmental organizations, and pressure groups, but also within journalism, teaching and academia,” Professor Hamlin says. Any career in fact, in which you are required to synthesize large amounts of information and produce clear and critical reports would be suitable for a politics graduate, he concludes.

Studying politics at postgraduate level, is therefore a great way to open doors for those who study it, all the while allowing them to become an expert in the complex workings of those who run the world.

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Key Skills

Common skills gained from a politics degree include:

  • Ability to analyze different types of data, and identify patterns and implications
  • Understanding of academic publications and how to use them
  • Excellent written and spoken communication
  • Ability to approach issues from multiple perspectives
  • Ability to compose and defend an argument, using appropriate evidence and sources
  • Ability to conduct original research
  • Understanding of key issues and challenges in contemporary politics
  • Understanding of human cultural and political variability