Mixed Job Market in Political Science

Survey finds fewer jobs over all, but some subfields show increases.

August 26, 2013

There were fewer job openings in political science in 2012-13 than the prior year, but the job market continues to show signs of recovery from the economic downturn -- and some subfields appear quite healthy.

These conclusions come from data collected by the American Political Science Association, which convenes for its annual meeting this week in Chicago. The APSA data cover only postings listed with the association, and so do not include all jobs. However, the ups and downs of the APSA listings are generally considered to mirror overall trends in the discipline.

An analysis from the APSA also suggests that last year may have had unusually large gains as departments that canceled searches in 2009 and 2010, when many colleges were retrenching, pushed to resume hiring.

Here are the overall number of job listings and those seeking assistant professors (the key opening for new Ph.D.s) for the last five years.

Job Openings in Political Science

Year All Positions Assistant Professor Positions
2008-9 1,311 619
2009-10 1,080 445
2010-11 1,245 537
2011-12 1,376 586
2012-13 1,273 531

It is quite likely that some of those searches listed in 2008-9 (before the economy tanked) were not completed. And the prior year, with no impact of the downturn, featured 1,588 jobs total and 715 for assistant professors.

The political science job market varies among its subfields. The following shows the ups and downs over the last five years of the top three focus areas (for assistant professor openings). As the table below illustrates, American government was displaced by international relations in the prior two years from its traditional role as the most popular field for openings. In the data for this year's study, American government is back on top, showing modest gains from last year. International relations and comparative politics showed declines.

Top Subfields in Openings for Assistant Professors

Year American Government Comparative Politics International Relations
2008-9 150 103 124
2009-10 105 85 96
2010-11 120 94 123
2011-12 122 100 147
2012-13 124 84 103

Among subfields with far fewer positions than the top three, methodology, public policy and public law showed gains in the most recent analysis, while political theory and public administration showed declines.


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