If you’re looking to have a positive change in the world of politics, chances are you’re going to want a formal education. A degree can help you get a job in the field, but it also provides you with the tools you really need to understand the deeper political systems at play and make your mark on the world. But there are two distinct educational tracks in the world of politics. International relations and political science are two fields that have a lot in common but some substantive differences, and the one you choose could have a major impact on your future.
Political science is identified as a social science, and it tends to be a more analytical educational path than international relations. The science part of this field dominates the associated studies, and political scientists are often tasked with taking a concrete approach to studying political policies and ideologies. It’s a data-driven field that often requires a close statistical analysis of censuses, surveys, and demographic information. A political scientist provides the sort of empirical data that politicians, bureaucrats, and other members of the governmental apparatus can use to make informed decisions about policy and platforms. The career opportunities here are specialized but varied. A political science major may find work as a campaign operative, a lobbyist, a policy advisor, or a professor. In any case, the data they provide can shape the face of politics in substantive and meaningful ways.
While the field of international relations also qualifies as a social science, it tends to be less statistical and concrete than the information gathered by political scientists. While political scientists take discreet data sets and analyze them to produce discreet results, those in international relations tend to study political systems on a global scale and use that to make determinations about issues like human rights and trade policy. The social aspect of social science is more prominent with international relations graduates since they’re often charged with brokering deals between different nations and providing amenable solutions that might not always fall along statistically black and white lines. The opportunities are vast, and international relations students may find themselves working directly for governments on a global scale, assisting human rights groups, or working in the private sector helping negotiate deals with foreign actors.