Politics as a subject covers a number of different areas – from political theory (you’ll study well-known thinkers like Marx) and different political structures to international relations and contemporary political issues.
What A-levels do you need?
The subject requirements aren’t too strict for most politics courses (and you won’t need to have studied politics at A-level), but some of the top universities will ask for at least one humanities or social sciences subject. In general, any subject that shows off your skills of communication and analysis (and demonstrates your essay-writing abilities) will probably be looked upon favourably. As you may expect, exact requirements will vary hugely between unis; SOAS want straight As for their
politics BA, while Swansea University’s politics BA requires a minimum of BBC.
What are your study options?
Most politics courses will be the typical three years in length, although some unis will offer the option to study abroad for a year (which could be particularly relevant if you’ve chosen to focus on international relations or global politics).
In your first year, you’ll probably find you have a selection of core modules to take (which will give you a broad overview of the different areas of politics); you’ll then get the chance to focus on the areas you’re most interested in as you progress on to your second and final years. The final part of your degree will usually involve writing a dissertation (a long, in-depth essay) on a topic of your own choosing. This – alongside other essays and exams spread over your last two years – will make up your final grade.
Why study Politics?
If you want to gain a deeper insight into how our country is run (and not just ours, but countries all across the world), a degree in politics is a pretty good place to start. Political issues obviously crop up all the time, and the government is always in the media and public spotlight to a certain extent – if you’re hungry for a real understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes, though, then studying on a politics course should give you a greater perspective on why our politicians act the way they do.
As politics is so critical to everything that goes on in society, it’s as much a useful subject as it is an interesting one. Your degree will also equip you with a range of handy transferable skills – you’ll be a proficient writer and analyst, as well as a thorough researcher, by the time you graduate – all of which will be valued by any employer.
“Studying politics allows students to learn about political systems at home and abroad, widening their knowledge of how political systems work and the effectiveness of government policy at local, regional and global levels,” says Dr William Sheward, Programme Leader for Politics and Global Studies at the University of Winchester. “It encourages them to think critically and knowledgably about contemporary issues and their historical contexts, which in turn allows them to be able to think for themselves as informed citizens.”
What key modules can you expect to cover in your first year?
“We cover broad areas of International Relations theory, International Political Economy, International Institutions, Political Philosophy and Ideology including conservatism, socialism, liberalism, Marxism, environmentalism, feminism etc, etc, theories of government, US politics and society, Human rights, contemporary History, corporate social responsibility and business ethics.”
- Dr William Sheward, Programme Leader for Politics and Global Studies at the University of Winchester
After your degree
Just because you’re studying politics, you don’t necessarily have to become a politician! Of course, your degree will make you well-suited to a job as a political researcher or work in the civil service, but your options are much more varied than that. Your writing skills will mean you can go into the likes of publishing, PR, and marketing, while your research and communications skills mean you’d likely fair just as well in the business and finance world, or the charity sector.
You’ll have plenty of options, to put it simply. And if you decide you’re not quite ready for the world of work, you can also consider staying on at uni to do a postgraduate course. Law conversion courses and PGCEs that give you qualified teaching status are both popular options, as is staying on to get your master’s qualification (if you have an area of politics you’re keen to continue researching, a masters is the perfect opportunity to do just that).
“In our experience there are no 'typical' [job] areas, but many have gone into public service in areas such as charities, non-profit organisations, and NGOs, as well as in research organisations (both independent think tanks as well as political lobbying),” says Dr William Sheward. “Others have gone into banking, travel, government (local and national), management etc.”
Top image via Pete Souza, via Wikipedia