Studying Political Science
Political scientists deal with political processes and institutions.
An article by Kathrin Fromm in collaboration with Lisa Srikiow
That is what it’s about
Political Science students learn how political systems work in Germany, England and the United States, what differentiates them and how countries maintain ties. They also deal with the theory of politics, political economy and peace and conflict research. "Ultimately Political Science is about how social groups establish order to make life together possible – within a state, but also internationally," says Carlo Masala, Politics professor at the Universität der Bundeswehr in Munich and president of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Politikwissenschaft (German Society for Political Science). Another important component of the course is learning research processes, i.e. the methods that will be used for work. For example, students analyse political speeches or learn how to interpret poll results. The proportion of statistical methods has also increased in recent years. These are needed, for example, to better analyse the economic policies of different countries by comparing data, e.g. on income and health. "There are now specialist journals that are difficult to understand if you don't know specific mathematical models," says Masala. The universities set their own areas of focus, i.e. the content of the studies in Political Science as well as the methods may differ. Some institutions focus mainly on Europe while others concentrate on domestic policy or international comparisons, while others deal particularly intensively with Statistics. "It is advisable to inform yourself prior to the start of studies," says Armin Schäfer, professor at Osnabrück University and chair of the Deutsche Vereinigung für Politische Wissenschaft (German Association of Political Science).
suitability, obstacles, misconceptions
"Studying Political Science is not a good way to prepare for a career as a politician," says Carlo Masala. But it is still advisable to get a taste of political activities, for example through a work placement in the German Federal Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag), in an association or with a party. Theory dominates academic studies, focusing on analysing politics using scholarly methods. Students cannot be solely motivated by their enjoyment of political discussions. "It is important to have the ability to think analytically and distinguish between a single observation and a generalisation. This is difficult for many students," says Armin Schäfer. Students also have to read a lot, including in English, and should be interested in day-to-day political affairs: watching the news regularly is a must. Most Bachelor's degree courses in Political Science have course entrance restrictions which often require grades in the two range, but sometimes in the one range. A handful of universities require that candidates take part in a selection test.