Political Scientist

A political scientist studies different aspects of political behaviour, such as the origin, development, operations and interrelationships of political institutions. This knowledge is applied to formulating and developing political theory.

Political scientists need to maintain current knowledge of government policy decisions.  They interpret and analyse policies, public issues, legislation, and/or the operations of governments, businesses and organisations.  They develop and test theories, using information from interviews, newspapers, periodicals, case law, historical papers, polls, and/or statistical sources, identify issues for research and analysis and disseminate research results through academic publications, written reports or public presentations.

They write drafts of legislative proposals, and prepare speeches, correspondence and policy papers for government use.  Other tasks are to consult with and advise government officials, civic bodies, research agencies, the media, political parties, and others concerned with political issues.  They also provide media commentary and/or criticism related to public policy and political issues and events, and forecast political, economic and social trends.

Using information available on governments, laws, political parties and international law, political scientists conduct research into political philosophy and theories of political systems. The results of these studies are analysed, interpreted, and then compiled into reports setting out the findings.

Conducting public opinion surveys and interpreting the results is another task that political scientists may be called upon to perform, and some of them teach political science at tertiary institutions.

Personal Requirements

  • interested in politics and human behaviour
  • curious and have an inquiring mind
  • persistent
  • able to communicate ideas clearly both in speech and in writing
  • able to work independently and as part of a group
  • logical and analytical thinker
  • good judgement

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Complete your National Senior Certificate (Matric) or equivalent with a Bachelor's pass. In addition, meet the university minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended subjects: Mathematics

What to Study

Degree: an appropriate degree majoring in Political Science and other relevant subjects - e.g. UP, NWU, UJ, US, UKZN, UWC, UNISA, UFS, UZ, RU, Wits

Post-graduate study: Honours, preferably a masters degree is required for research positions - UNISA, UZ, NMMU.


  • research units attached to universities
  • HSRC
  • market research companies
  • government departments

Further Information

Any of the above-mentioned universities or potential employers

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a research organisation
  • arrange to speak to political scientists about this type of career

Programmes by Study Institutions


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