Political science grad school: yes or no?
September 8, 2012 8:54 AM Subscribe
Political science grad school. Do you know anything about it? Liberal snowflakes.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have undergrad degree in Government and have been working various lefty causes and campaigns. After some time doing campaigns, I shed fantasies of working as a policy wonk or a lawyer and found my true love: I want to do quantitative work on elections. Polling, modeling, targeting. Tell 'em how to win, I don't need to be on TV. Here's the catch: I didn't figure this out early enough to get a strongly quantitative undergrad degree.
I currently work at an entry-level gig in a survey research shop, and have noticed that most people doing the work I want to do have master's degrees, and those that don't did heavy math for undergrad. Not just in my office, research on people in mid and upper level positions and up at other firms shows the same thing.
I'd like to do more complex work, but don't know if I can teach myself the skills. My contract will expire in November, so it's time to decide what to do now as deadlines for Fall admission are rapidly approaching.
It doesn't seem that not having grad school is a dealbreaker, but it seems to serve as a good credibility chip for when I try to move up the food chain into analyst jobs/fly solo and open my own shop. (One can't be entry-level forever.) I think I need a really good grounding in statistics and higher-level math, and don't know where else to get it. Is this a good enough reason to go?
1) Work training vs. grad school. Is it correct to think employers aren't there to teach, nor do they have the time? Grad school is expensive, but if I don't go I'm concerned I'll hit a wall in a few years. Do you think it's possible to pick up this sort of training through work experience instead of paying a fortune for it? I am not confident I'd be able to teach myself.
2) Admissions. How much does undergraduate GPA matter compared to work experience or field of interest? I had a fairly rocky start (leaving me with a middling GPA from a #3 state school) but will almost certainly ace the GRE if other standardized tests are any indication. I spent most of my undergraduate career focusing way more on internships and work I was doing, and didn't really think to establish relationships with professors or other positioning that grad school applicants need to do. I am less than 5 years out of school.
3) Debtor's Prison. If I tried to pick up these skills with grad school instead of work, I'd be forgoing a couple years of income and taking on tens of thousands in loans. Is there grant aid available for terminal MA students at all? I have no interest in academia, so funded PhDs won't want me. I am already carrying ~$14k in undergraduate debt, and am unmarried. I have never heard of employers sponsoring MAs in this field. Parents have indicated they are willing to help out some (without me asking), but I wring my hands with guilt and want to pay for it myself.
4) Consultants Needed? This is a lot for AskMe. Can you recommend a good counselors or consultant for the grad school process? I am willing to quietly hire a knowledgeable, objective sherpa whose job it is to guide me and bolster my application.
5) Your experiences. Any personal insights on good programs? Looking more for applied political science than public policy. Bonus if there's a data visualization/GIS component.
Location is US, willing to relocate anywhere within. (Willing to leave if it's cheap somewhere, but planning on staying in the US for life.) I will be asking some people I know inside the political bubble, but I think it would be useful to hear some perspectives from the rest of the world. This is the kind of thing my family or friends don't really know much about.